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How to Euthanize Your Fish Humanely
Learning how to euthanize your fish is a must for the aquarium hobbyist who takes an active role in the healthcare of the pets. There are a number of suggestions when it comes to euthanizing fish, but only a few are truly humane.
Why You Need to Learn How to Euthanize Your Fish
Fish feel pain. Even though they do not scream, the very fact that they have nerves makes it obvious that euthanizing fish the wrong way will greatly increase their suffering. A second aspect of learning how to go about killing a pet fish involves the understanding when to do so.
An animal that is merely unwanted or aggressive to its tank mates should not be killed; instead, just like with warm-blooded companion animals, euthanizing fish is a step to take when the animal's quality of life is adversely impacted by serious health concerns and no amount of medicine or care has helped. Unless you have exhausted all available veterinary medicine options at your disposal, do not opt for euthanasia.
Adding Carbon Dioxide? Freezing Fish? Euthanize Them the Right Way!
There are a number of methods that should be avoided when deciding how to euthanize your fish. One method is freezing the animal to death in a small cup of water that is then placed in the freezer. Although it is touted in many online forums as a good solution, it takes hours to accomplish and can actually cause pain as ice crystals form within the tissues, especially in coldwater fish. The sole exception is the quick freeze of a completely anesthetized fish.
Another method to avoid is the addition of carbon dioxide. The AVMA(1) warns that fish "may have extraordinary tolerance for CO2." This may cause the animal to unnecessarily linger for extended periods of time (even though it may be unconscious). Remember that the goal of the procedure is the humane ending of the animal's life; speed and absence of pain are of the essence.
How to Euthanize Your Fish the Right Way
Obtain tricaine methanesulfonate. Margaret Wild, DVM - associated with the Colorado Division of Wildlife in Fort Collins(2) -- advises to dissolve the drug at a ratio of ¼ teaspoon for each two cups of water. Death should take place in about 15 minutes.
Another substance that is sanctioned by the AVMA is the aquatic anesthetic 2-phenoxyethanol at a concentration of 0.5 ml/L. The AVMA warns those euthanizing fish to keep the pets in the solution for 10 minutes of time starting at the point that visible breathing ceases.
What About Clove Extract to Euthanize Fish?
It is interesting to note that there are plenty of online guides that teach how to use clove oil to euthanize fish(3). Despite the fact that the use of clove extract to euthanize fish does appear to result in the animals' demise - especially when coupled with a dose of pure alcohol after unconsciousness or numbing set in - there is the very real danger of 'burning' the animals' gills. The AVMA does not find euthanizing fish with clove oil acceptable, in part because it does not have the studies background to issue the recommendation.
Although not a pleasant topic, knowing how to euthanize your fish the right way spares it unnecessary suffering at the hands of Internet lore and clove extract. To euthanize fish that are substantially larger than the average aquarium dweller, discuss the process with a veterinarian or have a professional do the deed.