What Can I Do With Unwanted Pond Fish? (Solutions)

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What Can I Do With Unwanted Pond Fish? (Advice, Tips & Solutions)

A fish pond
There are many ecological, economical, and personal reasons for having to get rid of your pond fish. Steve Slater, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rearing pond fish comes with ethical responsibilities, too. Every fish pond owner has a duty toward his/her pet fish, regardless of the cost or means involved in acquiring them. Unfortunately, there may come a time that some fish or an entire pond can no longer be supported.

There are many ecological, economic, and personal reasons for having to get rid of pond fish. Avoiding these can sometimes be as challenging as evading the curveballs that life naturally throws at us.

While having excess or unwanted pond fish may be unavoidable, even for experienced pond keepers, an acceptable solution can often be found with a little creativity or openness. Rehoming fish in a non-harmful manner will always be a possibility as long as pond owners can communicate their needs and challenges with others who share a love for animals. Keep in mind, however, that you may seldom receive monetary compensation for your fish.

Reasons for Getting Rid of Pond Fish

Largemouth bass in an aquarium
You may need to remove fish if they are harmful to others, for example, largemouth bass may eat goldfish if they’re feeling hungry. wsimms8518, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Like other pets, fish must be purchased or obtained with the future in mind. Over-eagerness without ample consideration and judgment can often lead to animal abandonment. As much as possible, try to evaluate your pond situation and future plans before stocking up on fish.

More often than not, no one is at fault for unwanted fish as there are truly many scenarios that can lead to having them. Some common scenarios are listed below.  

  • Overcrowding – Ponds that are initially overstocked or have breeding pairs of fish can often lead to overcrowded conditions. This can lead to poor water quality, sick fish, and an endless string of pond management issues. Oftentimes, the simplest way to combat overcrowding is by getting rid of excess fish. This way, you can at least be selective about which fish you would like to keep in your pond.
  • Harmful to other fish – New pond owners may sometimes rear incompatible freshwater species alongside one another. Some species may attack or attempt to eat other fish, especially if your pond is devoid of hiding places. For example, largemouth bass may not hesitate to feed on smaller goldfish when they feel hungry. On the other hand, some small fish have a tendency to peck at the fins of larger fish. Those causing a ruckus in your pond may have to be separated and rehomed.
  • Starting a new pond – If you feel as though your pond system needs to be renovated, revamped, or redesigned, and your fish community is in need of being refreshed with trendier, more attractive species, you may find yourself wanting to get rid of your old fish.
  • Moving elsewhere – You may have to quickly empty out your pond and opt to rehome your fish if you are moving to a new location or house with/without a pond. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy (or wise for that matter) to transport fish over long distances. Though this is possible, it can cause fish to become extremely stressed and can compromise their immune systems. Only risk doing so if you have previous experience or can consult an expert.
  • Costly pond upkeep/lack of time for maintenance – Managing a pond system can be extremely costly and time-consuming. Sometimes, reducing the density of fish may aid in lowering costs associated with heavy filtration or aeration. Less fish can often be tantamount to less pond waste, which can lead to reduced pressures on your water filter. Remember that you can always opt to keep a wildlife pond with low-maintenance/cheaper fish and pond plants instead of an ornamental fish pond. A wildlife pond is more likely to sustain itself without the aid of machinery and frequent maintenance.
  • Restocking a recreational fish pond or aquaculture pond – Leftover fish from a fishing season or grow-out period may need to be culled prior to restocking in preparation for the coming year. In recreational or aquaculture ponds, these unwanted fish are seldom even accounted for as the entire pond is simply treated with pesticide.

How to Deal With Unwanted Fish

Pond stores, fish collectors and even public water gardens may be willing to take on unwanted pond fish if they’re in good health. Marlin Keesler / CC BY-SA 2.0

Here are some simple ways to deal with your unwanted fish. Once you’ve decided on a means to get rid of your fish or have found a new home for them, carefully fish them out of your pond and prepare them in an appropriate manner. If you intend to transport your fish, make sure that you have a suitable holding tank or transport container and are able to provide them with oxygen to survive the journey.

  • First, ask your friends or family if they are interested in caring for fish or adopting a new pet. Those with children may be keen on the educational value that a smaller pet fish can provide. Do ensure that they are able to care for the fish appropriately, and for larger species, such as koi, they would need a pond. Pond fish may take some time to acclimate to new conditions, especially those in fish tanks. They may also need to be quarantined beforehand if they must be transferred to a tank with existing fish.
  • Get in contact with pond hobbyists or fish collectors in your area. This is also a great way of establishing communication with local experts. They can help lead you to other persons who could potentially benefit from your unwanted fish. These people may also have acquaintances in the garden or pet store industry. If you are able to offer your unwanted fish for free and can make flyers or posters to put up in local shops, you might just be surprised to find that there are a lot of takers out there.
  • If you just recently bought your fish from a local pet store, personally speak to the owner or manager and share your concerns. Ask them if they are willing to take the fish back. If they are unable to, don’t be afraid to seek advice from them or gather ideas about how to find a new home for your fish.
  • Take advantage of the internet! Advertise or auction your unwanted fish online. There are so many social media portals that you can use to get information out there. Be clear about what you are offering and provide accurate details about the species, length, age, and condition of the fish.
  • Consider euthanasia as a last resort if no one is willing to take your fish or help you with your issue, but only under the guidance of a professional veterinarian. If your unwanted fish are old, have parasites, or can potentially be riddled with disease, this may be the more sensible path to take. Try not to be ashamed about having to consider euthanasia, especially if you’ve done what you could to avoid it.

Important Things to Remember

Hertford Union canal
Don’t dump unwanted fish into urban waterways, canals, or natural bodies of water. Your fish may grow to be invasive and compete with wild fish communities. Sludge G / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Do not dump your unwanted fish in natural bodies of water, urban waterways, or canals. Your fish can introduce new diseases or parasites to these shared systems. They could also grow to be invasive and compete with wild fish communities.
  • When you purchase fish, you are legally obligated to care for them. Owning animals comes with responsibilities. Though fish may be less interactive or intuitive compared to other domesticated pets, they can’t simply be disposed of once they are no longer needed or after the initial excitement of having one wears off.
  • There are more humane ways of getting rid of fish than leaving them to die under the sun or flushing them down the toilet. These are things we grow up seeing in movies or in cartoons, but they shouldn’t even be options in real life. Flushing fish can also introduce them into your local waterways – that is, if pollutants and water treatment chemicals don’t kill them first.
  • Do not place your unwanted fish in someone else’s pond or aquarium without their permission! It may be extremely tempting to get rid of your fish this way, but this could endanger both your fish and disrupt the balance in the other system.
  • Try to ask questions or vet those who are willing to take your fish for free. Don’t simply give the fish to someone who wouldn’t care for them properly. If any kids or teens offer to take your fish, make sure that they have consent from a parent or guardian.

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3 thoughts on “What Can I Do With Unwanted Pond Fish? (Solutions)”

  1. Good afternoon.
    my wife and myself live in Cambridgeshire and are looking at redeveloping our fish pond and are looking to rehome our assortment of fish ranging from
    2 x sturgeon to various carp and a few koi. Were not looking for any money just good homes if anybody is interested then please contact us
    Steve and Debs

  2. I have alot of baby fish that need a home I’ve offered for free on social media and word of mouth but with no luck. The fish are shubunkins and I have over 20 to give to a new home


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