Few things are more upsetting to goldfish keepers than the sight of goldfish being given away as prizes at funfairs to ill-prepared new fish owners.
In truth, as a child I won two goldfish at a funfair but not without a degree of prior preparation. Rather than paying the extortionate amount the fair was asking for a bowl (yes, a bowl!), my parents assured me that I could come back and win a fish once we had a tank set up. This was a long time ago when bowls, no filters and no chlorine remover were still deemed acceptable. A few days later, I returned and won Frank and Bruno. They did live for a quite a while but I have since very much learned the error of my ways.
The fish won at funfairs are far from the best quality. This doesn’t mean that they don’t make for great pets and might not live for a long time. While I wouldn’t normally post something from the Daily Fail, they do have an interesting article here. For once, it isn’t an article vilifying anybody! Some goldfish have been reported to live for over forty years! The truth is that these fish were probably bred just to die, either at the funfair, shortly after being won, or as a ‘feeder’ fish for a carnivorous fish. Yes, there is the ‘circle of life’ philosophy and that without these fish, the carnivorous fish would perish. As a (reluctant) meat-eater, I don’t really have a leg to stand on here… but as it’s in my head, here’s the video to the song 😉
(I cried when I saw this live! I may also have exclaimed ‘there’s an elephant!’, completely forgetting where I was and that it wasn’t a live elephant… I still get shivers even now!)
Keeping goldfish in bags like that just isn’t healthy for the fish. Who knows how long they’ve been there before you take them home?
Every so often, it will pop up in the news that there is discussion of making it illegal to give goldfish away as prizes. It is already illegal to give them to children under the age of sixteen. This is a welcome move in the right direction, the fight isn’t over yet.
Taking on a live animal is a great responsibility and isn’t something that can be dished out as a prize on ‘hook-a-duck’. It isn’t just the potential for irresponsible people giving the fish away, but irresponsible new owners too. I have read stories where people have found full or empty bags once used to keep these fish in, in the bin. Some people will take their fish on rides at the fair with them, rather than taking them straight home to be properly cared for away from the flashing lights and noise of a funfair. In one horrifying case, a man actually SWALLOWED his ‘prize’ in front of his friends.
Do the people giving away fish as prizes really care about the well-being of the living creatures they see fit to give away? Probably not.
Ensure you have the correct size tank (not a bowl!) for your fish, and a decent filter. If you’re in a pickle and can’t afford a tank (about a minimum 120 litres per fish!) or to establish a pond, put the money into getting a good filter and buy the largest storage tub you can afford. It may not look as pretty but it is in the best interests of the fish. A bowl just wont cut it! You’ll find yourself doing hourly water changes to cope with the breakdown of ammonia. Even with a large tub, if it is quite a large fish, you’ll still being doing really regular water changes. Water conditioner is a must, either that or you’re going to have to store massive amounts of water somewhere other than your tank for 24 hours before you change the water. Moreover, get educating yourself! Read anything and everything you can on the internet. Read forums, join Facebook groups – anything to get you fully prepared for the ownership of your pet.
If in doubt, you could also try rehoming your fish to someone with a pond. Fish can live alone but they are actually very sociable creatures. Living in a pond with a fishy family will make them really happy and, if you know the person with the pond, you can always visit. I’ve known people who have to rehome their beloved pets and it takes a great deal of love and courage to be able to do so. I really admire anybody who rehomes a pet they can no longer care for. It isn’t something I would ever want to do, but if you truly love your pet and there’s no better option for the welfare of your pet, he/she will thank you in the long run.