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Spitz to Meet the Big Toilet Bowl in the Sky

Photo credit: Terry O'neil

No, not the Olympic gold medalist, Mark Spitz. My fish, Spitz.
But please don’t tell him he’s getting the big flush. Not yet. My worry was confirmed on Sunday morning when my daughter, Nell, noticed it too.
“Ew,” she said, peering into his tank.
“You mean Ick,” I told her.
“Ew. What’s Ick?” she asked.
At first, I didn’t know either. All I knew was Spitz’ sleek, inky black skin suddenly started showing flecks of white. The only explanation I could come up with was that perhaps the father fish had a little thingy thing with a goldy on the side? And that perhaps Spitz was a white fish trapped in a black fish’s body? And that it was finally time for him to come out of the tank? As his fish mother, I would love him no matter what. A quick Google search revealed the truth: Ichthyophthirius multifiliis! Or what’s commonly known as freshwater white spot disease.

I called an exotic animal vet who specializes in anything small that doesn’t say “meow” or “woof.” She said “plenty of people” bring in their fish for Ick.

“Really?” I said. “People would spend $98 to have their fish seen by a vet?”

“Oh, all the time,” she told me. “And that doesn’t include the medication.”

The moral dilemma lasted for a whole two seconds. Let’s see. Do I buy groceries this week or take the goldfish to the vet. Humph… I’ll skip the obvious joke of feeding them these crackers for a week:










After a friend said fish flushing was an environmental hazard and not to do it, the question became how to do it.

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you haven’t. WikiHow actually has a page on how to “humanely” euthanize your fish, complete with graphics.

Some of the suggestions include killing the fish barehanded like the Boston Strangler.
strangle fishThe page reads: “WARNING: Unless you’re experienced with fish anatomy, practice on dead fish first so you can perform these quickly and without mistakes.” I’m sorry but who would possibly practice killing fish before killing a fish?

kill fish
Option Two? Under Knock the fish unconscious, it says to “Stun the fish by clubbing it just above the eyes, with an appropriately sized, hard object. Repeat with more force if the fish is still conscious. There is evidence that at least some fish species can remain conscious after decapitation, so this step is highly recommended.” You’re kidding me, right? Club it to death? Who in the hell wrote this article anyway? 
decapOr how about plain old decapitation? I could just lure him to me by calling, “Here, Spitzy, Spitzy, Spitzy” to which he does come, knowing I have food. Only this time, I’d slip him the knife.
Here’s how the article said to do it:

“Hold down the head and sever it with a powerful motion from a sharp knife, just behind the skull. Alternatively, you can insert the knife behind the skull and sever the spinal cord and vertebrae.  Then pith the brain immediately. Even after decapitation, the fish may still be alive for a short time. Ensure a rapid death by immediately inserting a sharp spike or knife into the brain, between the eyes. Push forward and backward to destroy the brain and the end of the spinal cord.”

Here’s more handy advice.

728px-Humanely-Kill-a-Fish-Step-8-Version-2Prepare a Euthanasia Bath. “Unless all the fish in a tank need to be euthanized, you’ll need a second container. Transfer some of the water from the current tank to a new, clean container, preferably with a similar aeration and temperature control setup. Using water from a different source or at a different temperature can stress the fish, or cause an inhumane death,” it says as if decapitating a pet fish is humane in the first place.

Then it says to drug it with something you can pick up at the pet store called MS-222.

“Use 5–10 times the amount the label recommends for anaesthesia (this is how it’s spelled in the article, not my bad).”

Or you can just give it one for the road.

“Vodka will work as well, if you increase the amount based on the strength. For example, 63% vodka requires 1.5 times as much by volume to reach the same alcohol concentration,” the article reads.

WARNING: “Any euthanizing drug can send the fish to sleep if too little is used. Death often takes 30 minutes to arrive, and you may need to wait 2 hours  to be sure.”

It goes on to tell readers to “Watch carefully for the following signs of death.” They include:

“No movement of gill flap for 10 minutes. Usually following spasms 1 minute apart.

No movement of eye when fish is rocked from side to side.

Very slow heart rate. The heart may continue after death, but a strong, persistent beat means the fish is alive.

If you do not see these signs within an hour or two, or if the fish wakes up again, add more of the drug.

If you want to be certain the fish is dead, kill it with the physical methods below, or freeze it in ice water. These should not cause pain if the fish is deeply anaesthetized (spelled wrong again).”

And the last but not least resort, it says, is to Macerate the fish (meaning put it in a blender).

Can you imagine putting your favorite fish in a blender? And on what setting? Puree or chop?

I’m opting for the good, old-fashioned way, thank you very much.

R.I.P. Spitz.

Black moor, Carassius auratus, in front of white background

Photo credit:


  1. Kate says:

    Sorry about the pretty fish, Laura. But thanks for the good laugh!

  2. Suffice to say, your kids would be positively HORRIFIED to think you would ever consider these “alternatives.” Not to mention the PTSD you would surely suffer from having carried them out (and the commensurate amount of vodka you’d be consuming to battle it). The environment be damned. Bon voyage, Spitz. RIP.

  3. Peter Shafran says:

    Ich-out is pretty inexpensive and I’ve had pretty good luck with it. Try it before resorting to the Final Flush.

  4. amy says:

    cute-very, very cute!!

  5. Ted Fahrenthold says:

    There are Ich treaments for under 8 bucks. I have also had good luck with name brand treatments from the pet store.

  6. Vicky Bugbee says:

    I tried to save COCO, our sweet pet goldfish, who looked like she was ready to die. I moved her into a little dish with water covering her and used a juice container straw and breathed into her gill. Then I gently massaged her and put her back in the tank. She swam around for 2 or 3 more days and then went to fish heaven.

  7. Laura says:

    Poor Coco.
    Spitz is doing a little better… He may not have to RIP after all.

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