Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How to Humanely Euthanize a Fish

Yesterday, I wrote about a black angel that has dropsy (shown here), which occurs when the intestines are blocked. I know this post won't be for everybody but I am writing about this unfortunate circumstance to help other fish owners.

You see, about a year ago I had a sick betta named Butch Cassidy. (The Sundance Kid was in an adjoining tank.) He was old (nearly three years old) and simply began to go downhill. My first preference is to allow nature to run its course. If he had been ill with something that could be diagnosed and treated - such as the ick - I would have been transferring him to a hospital tank right away to treat him. In fact, I keep an arsenal of medications here in the event of common, treatable problems. Because if something goes wrong, it will happen when the pet store is closed and it's an emergency!

But this betta didn't pass away. He curled up so his nose touched his back fin. He lay on the bottom of the tank, motionless. Each morning and each afternoon I thought he was dead but when I put the net in, he made a determined effort to swim to the surface for air.

This went on for THREE WEEKS. Obviously, this fish was suffering. He wasn't eating. He wasn't swimming. He was lying on the gravel. He was dying. Only his suffering was continuing day after day after day. (He is shown here in happier days when he felt so good he made a bubble nest to attract a female.)

I knew he wasn't going to get better. So the only humane thing to do was help to put him out of his misery - quickly.

I researched this issue all over the web. Suggestions from experts ranged from putting him into a ziplock bag and putting him in the freezer to placing him in a bowl filled with chemicals. In each case, it was going to take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours for him to pass away. I couldn't do that to the little fella. I couldn't put him in my freezer and check on him periodically to see if he was frozen solid yet. Just couldn't do it.

And for God's sake, don't ever flush a live fish down the toilet.

So as bad as this sounds, this was the only way I could ensure that his suffering ended as quickly as it possibly could. And I want to state for the record that this was an action of last resort, not something I would have willingly done if there had been any other way to help him.

If you face this situation, you'll need three things: a net, a ziplock bag and a hammer.

I timed it - from start to finish, this took 8 seconds:

I netted the little fella and placed him into a ziplock bag (without water.)

I sealed the ziplock bag shut very quickly to prevent unnecessary suffering.

I laid the bag on the counter and I hit it once with the hammer.

Trust me, he was dead.

I think the most important thing was to do it quickly. I hated doing it but once I decided it was the only humane thing to do, it needed to be done swiftly to prevent more unnecessary pain.

Then he had a proper burial.

God rest his soul.