How to Dispose of Dead Fish (the right way)

Every aquarium keeper dreads the sight of a dead fish in their tank. What are you supposed to do when it happens?

How are you supposed to dispose of the dead fish? People assume that flushing the dead fish is the way to go. But is that truly the best way to handle the body?

Read on to find out how to dispose of dead fish!

How to Dispose of Dead Fish

Here are the steps that you need to follow to dispose of your dead fish:

Take the Dead Fish Out of Your Aquarium Right Away

This is the most essential step of proper disposal. As soon as you spot a dead fish in your tank, take it out right away.

You simply cannot let your dead fish stay in the tank a moment longer. This is because dead fish tend to smell and decompose exceptionally quickly.

This decomposition process emits toxic compounds, such as ammonia, into the water. Such toxins can be quite dangerous to the health of your other fish.

They might cause perfectly healthy fish to fall ill. Moreover, if your fish died from a contagious illness, then your other fish can contract it as well.

When taking the fish out of the water, it’s best if you don’t use your hands. This is to prevent the spread of diseases and germs.

If you take it out of the tank with your bare hands, then make sure to wash them thoroughly afterward.

The best way to take a dead fish out of the aquarium is to use a net. Just remember to sanitize the net afterward so that you don’t infect your other fish.

Also read: How to Catch Aquarium Fish without a Net (5 Easy Alternatives)

Put the Fish in a Zip Lock Bag

Place the dead body in a high-quality zip lock bag and seal it tightly. It will help you carry the body of your dead fish easily.

It will also prevent the spread of germs, diseases, and smell. While you arrange a way to dispose of the fish, you can put the bag in your freezer.

It will halt the decomposition process and give you ample time to prepare for the disposal method.

Dispose of the Dead Fish

There are various ways to dispose of dead fish. These include burying it in your backyard, cremating it, disposing of it in the trash, and burying it in a large planter.

Let’s explore them all in detail!

Bury It in your Backyard

To bury the fish, choose a final resting spot for it in your backyard. Burying it under a tree, flowers, or bushes is a great idea. They will act as a marker for the grave.

You need to dig the soil with a knife or scalper. Dig at least 4 to 5 inches deep into the soil. This will ensure that the body doesn’t get discovered by stray animals or the lifting of soil.

When burying the dead fish, make sure to remove it from the zip lock bag. This is because burying them inside the plastic bag will be harmful to the environment.

It will also enable the dead fish to become a natural fertilizer for your soil.

The nutrients released during the decomposition stage will provide ample sustenance to the surrounding plants.

It also acts as a great way to help your kids deal with the death of the fish. You can tell them that the fish is helping the environment even in death.

You can also work with your kids and create homemade grave markers to grieve the loss of your pet. A new plant will also act as a great grave marker.

Try to come up with creative ways to pay tribute to your pet. It will help create empathy in your kids’ hearts. It will also help them deal with grief in a constructive and healthy way.

Bury it in a Large Planter

If you want to bury your dead fish but don’t have a backyard, then you can bury them in a house planter.

Houseplants act as a great resting place for dead fish. You might be grossed out by the idea of your pet decomposing inside your house. You might also be worried about the smell and risk of germs.

However, it’s a sanitary and humane method of disposal.

If the planter is large enough and the soil is deep enough, then you won’t have to worry about any smell. The plant will effectively absorb the nutrients from the decomposing body.

Burying your fish in your favorite planter will ensure that it doesn’t die in vain. It will help your plant by providing it the sustenance it needs to grow.

The best part of burying your fish in a houseplant is that you can easily carry them with you. This means that even if you have to change houses you can always take your dead fish’s resting place with you!

Put the Body in Your Waste

This is certainly a less conventional method to dispose of your dead fish. However, if you’re in a hurry and burial is not your thing, then you can dispose of your fish this way.

When throwing your dead fish in the trash, make sure to use a biodegradable material to wrap the body.

You can wrap the body or put it in a cardboard box. This will prevent sanitation workers from coming into contact with your dead fish.

It will also help alleviate the smell. This method of disposal might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly better than flushing the fish.

Cremate the Dead Fish

Cremation is another ethical and safe way to dispose of dead fish. This is because burning the body will help you destroy all potential diseases and germs.

However, you certainly should not cremate the fish at home. Cremation requires the use of proper equipment and a safe space.

If you want to cremate your fish, then you can talk to your vet about it. They will be able to guide you in the right direction.

Alternatively, you can reach out to a pet crematorium. Simply look up one that is closest to your house and get in touch with them to cremate your dead fish.

Why You Should Never Flush Your Dead Fish Down the Drain

Now, let’s talk about why you should not flush the fish down the drain. Even though it’s the quickest way to dispose of the dead body, it’s certainly not the safest.

Flushing the fish won’t cause any damage or blockage to your plumbing.

However, once the fish enters the main sewage system, it can cause harm to local wildlife and waterways.

This is because not all sewage drains lead straight to a septic plant. Some drains go straight into the rivers and oceans.

When you add your aquarium-raised fish into a new ecosystem, you are advertently exposing wild species to potential diseases.

This can destroy wild fish populations. This is because the immune systems of wild fish aren’t attuned to fighting diseases that your captive fish came into contact with.

Diseases such as parasitic infections and ich can easily wreak havoc on an entire ecosystem. Native fish that haven’t been exposed to the diseases that your captive fish was carrying can die if exposed to them.

This is why you should not flush your dead fish down the drain.

Figure Out How Your Fish Died

Once you find a dead fish in the tank, you need to figure out how it died.

This will help you prevent your other fish from dying. Here are some possible causes of an aquarium fish’s death:

  • Death by a Predatory or Aggressive Fish: This is certainly one reason why your fish could have died. Novice aquarium owners sometimes make the mistake of pairing predatory or aggressive fish with meeker ones. This ultimately results in the death of the weaker fish.
  • High or Low Aquarium Water Level: Make sure to check the water level of your fish tank. If it’s too low to too high, then your fish can end up dead.
  • The Quality of the Tank Water: You also need to test the water’s pH level. Also, test it for nitrate, ammonia, and other salts. Everything should be perfectly balanced or the habitat will eventually kill your fish.
  • Hazardous Food or Overfeeding: Sometimes, the food that you feed your fish might not be good for its health. If that’s not the case, then keep a check on the amount of food you’re feeding your fish. Overfeeding a fish can result in its death.
  • Small-Sized Aquarium: The wrong aquarium size can also result in your fish’s death. If the aquarium is too small, then your fish might not have ample space to swim freely. This might make them fall sick. It might also lead your fish to fight amongst each other to claim their territories.

Protect Your Other Fish from the Same Fate

After you have disposed of your dead fish, you will need to protect your other fish from suffering the same fate.

Here are some things that you must do to keep your other fish safe:

  • Change the aquarium water right away. This step will ensure that the water is not toxic for the fish that have survived. It will get rid of all the harmful bacteria and germs left behind by the dead fish.
  • Check for signs of any parasite or infection starting to form on the bodies of the remaining fish.
  • Invest in an aquarium filter and a gravel vacuum to keep the aquarium water and habitat as clean as possible.
  • If you have tropical fish in your tank, invest in a heater to keep the water warm and nice.
  • Use a probiotic bacteria supplement to get rid of the bad bacteria introduced to the tank water.
  • Inspect the fish for signs of illness. If you suspect that one fish is sick, then take it to the vet right away. Also, keep the sick fish in a separate tank so that it doesn’t infect the others.

The best way to dispose of dead fish is to bury it. This is because it ensures that the fish does not harm the environment in any way.

It also helps the fish provide sustenance to the vegetation that surrounds its burial place. You can also cremate the fish or throw it with the rest of your waste.

Just make sure to wrap it in a biodegradable wrap before disposing of it.

Other fishkeeping articles you may also like: