What to Do With Unwanted Goldfish?

Considering they can live for several decades, buying a goldfish is a long-term commitment. But sometimes Life happens. You move to an apartment that does not allow pets. You have a job that’s taking you overseas. Or some other issues arise where your fish needs a new home.

What to do with unwanted goldfish? Let’s take a look at the options you have for rehoming your poor fish!

Why Shouldn’t I Release My Goldfish Into the Wild?

a goldfish jumping from a small aquarium to a larger one

You might think you are doing your unwanted goldfish a favor by moving it to such a big new environment. But truthfully, aquarium-bred goldfish are better off in a home pond or fish tank.

Most of the time, a fish dies when it is released into the wild. Larger fish, herons, frogs, snakes, and other animals end up eating it because goldfish haven’t developed the right habits to avoid predators. Worse, they are extremely visible thanks to their golden scales. A pet goldfish cannot stay hidden even among aquatic plants.

The Impacts of Invasive Species

Invasive species are animals not from local waterways that find their way there thanks to human action. Unfortunately, lazy pet owners are a major source of animal invaders. And these fish can have massive impacts on local fish communities.

For example, aquarium fish released into the wild can spread diseases to native fish that eat or come into contact with them. They carry parasites like ich and bacteria that local fish may not have a natural resistance to.

Also, remember that it’s not just you releasing fish into Mother Nature. There are hundreds of people with the same idea doing it yearly. A few goldfish survive and breed, which is a problem because they eat the aquatic plants native fish need for habitat. Goldfish can cause other issues like clouding the water by rooting around the bottom or eating endangered snails and native fish eggs.

with multiple goldfishes in the pond what to do with unwanted goldfish

Lastly, releasing non-native species into a local lake is illegal for the above reasons. If the Fish and Wildlife service catches you, they will write you a citation or worse.

Taking Your Unwanted Fish to the Pet Shop

The most popular option is to take your aquarium fish to a local pet store. Local fish stores have so many aquariums that a few are bound to be open and accept healthy fish in need of a home!

You will have more success rehoming a goldfish if it is impressive in size, vibrant in color, or an ornamental breed. This is because pet stores don’t want to be stuck with caring for your unwanted goldfish forever – they want to sell it to fish collectors!

a goldfish in an aquarium

Local stores are one place to check. But many nationwide chains, including Petsmart and most PetCo locations, are more than willing to accept a fish that’s about to be homeless. You should check in-store with the staff beforehand to see if they will take your pets. And if they say yes, ask for some plastic bags to transport your fish with!

You aren’t likely to get paid bringing them to a fish store since they are doing you a favor and likely have plenty of other fish for sale. Not unless your goldfish happens to be a rare variety. But at least you won’t be harming a local lake or feeding a heron with your fish!

Pet Fish and Local Fish Clubs

Another way to get rid of a goldfish is to find other fish owners through the internet. Most major cities will have at least one local fish club where aquarists gather to trade live fish and discuss feeding, breeding, and other care aspects. By joining a meetup, you may find someone who has a nice big tank or even a mate for your lucky goldfish!

A member of a local aquarium society may also offer you something in trade when you surrender fish. They might provide you with food, plants, books, other fish, or something else that pet shops usually won’t do!

Other Ways to Find Fish Owners Online

The connectivity afforded by the Internet makes it easier than ever to rehome pets as needed. Any online forum dedicated to fishkeeping will have sections for sales, meetups, and free fish giveaways.

Craigslist is a top-rated public service where folks can rescue goldfish from ending up in a lake! In the Services section, you can post under the Pets subsection to find someone willing to take in your aquarium fish. You will often see goldfish alongside other pets like birds, snakes, hamsters, and other small animals.

magnifying glass focusing the word craiglist on its site

Businesses With Aquariums

One last place to check is with businesses that have aquariums. Dentist offices, nursing homes, and restaurants are a few places that tend to have fish tanks to relax waiting customers and patients.

Ask the staff or manager if they have room for one more pet in need! Many will eagerly take in a healthy goldfish you’re looking to get rid of! And by offering your fish to a place like a nursing home or school, you may be providing people with a source of relaxation, joy, or education!


What to do with unwanted goldfish or extra goldfish? As it turns out, you have several humane options that are better than releasing them into the wild, which can damage waterways and disturb wildlife.

Most local fish stores will occasionally take in goldfish; the bigger and rarer, the better. And you should definitely look into a local fish club or meetup group as well since these are the folks most likely to care well for your goldfish!

Online sales forums like Craigslist can be a place to find a new home, as are local businesses with aquariums. In short, there are plenty of ways to find a new home for your unwanted fish!

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Kelly Stanley