Top 10 Tales of Terrified Goldfish


Goldfish are the earliest fish to be domesticated by humans, approximately 1700 years ago in China. They also have the longest lifespan of any domesticated fish, typically between 8 to 30 years, though a record 45 years has been established. The notion that goldfish have a three-second memory span is a myth. They can recognize their owner and can be trained to do simple tricks such as pressing a lever to get food. Some people love their pet goldfish and are loved in return, like this butterfly goldfish that reacts to petting and climbs onto the hand of its owner:

However, other encounters between people and goldfish can have terrifying consequences – for the goldfish.

10. Goldfish Liquidized in Art Exhibition


Danish artist Marco Evaristti created an artwork where ten food blenders were exhibited. Each contained a goldfish swimming in water. Visitors to his exhibition in the Trapholt gallery in Denmark were invited to press the “on” button and liquidize the live goldfish.

Marco Evaristti, said he was trying to test visitors’ sense of right and wrong. He wanted to force people to “do battle with their conscience”. The idea was to “place people before a dilemma: to choose between life and death.” Evaristti stated: “It was a protest against what is going on in the world, against this cynicism, this brutality that impregnates the world in which we live.”

Animal rights groups were incensed and the artist and museum director were taken to court. Evaristti explained that the moral of his work of art was to force people to “do battle with their conscience.” They had to decide whether to kill, or not to kill. The Danish association “Friends of Animals” were not amused at what passed for art by Marco Evaristti and they filed legal charges against the artist and the director of the museum, Peter Meyer, for their cruelty to the goldfish. When the exhibit was taken to Austria, Animal Rights activists broke into the gallery, liberated the goldfish and smashed the blenders. While touring with his goldfish exhibit, Evaristti has had several death threats and two bomb scares.

In the subsequent court case a technician for the blender company and a veterinarian both testified that, due to the high speed of the blender, the fish were “killed painlessly”. The court acquitted the artist and museum director and today, in Denmark, you are legally free to murder as many goldfish as you please in your blender. Should goldfish wonder if something is rotten in the state of Denmark?

9. Goldfish Crime Witness


A teenage burglar, just before leaving with his loot, first paused to poison three goldfish with ketchup, mustard and spices, which he poured into their tank. The police reported that the burglar told his friends, (aged 15 and 16): “We can’t let them live, they’re witnesses.” A police spokesman, Sgt. Mike Hernandez, stated: “He wasn’t remorseful. It was disturbing. Certainly something they didn’t need to do.”

The boys allegedly broke in and stole a video game system, CD player, 30 video games, 30 DVDs, a BB gun, jewelry and a safe. These were sold to local pawn shops, which allowed detectives to track down the culprits. A 16-year-old has been charged with burglary and cruelty to animals. His two friends were also charged with burglary.

8. Goldfish Kidnapped


Kevan Fraser, 17, kidnapped three goldfish from Lybster Primary School. Kevan did not demand ransom money for the fish. He did not even seem to know what to do with the fish once he had kidnapped them, so he flushed them down the toilet. Kevan was out on a bail order at the time he kidnapped the goldfish, so this was not his first run-in with the law.

The case went to court and the prosecutor, David Barclay, said: “One view might be, that there are more serious crimes, unless you are one of the goldfish, of course.” Kevan admitted to the police that he had been stupid. He was found guilty and ordered to perform 100 hours unpaid community service.

This is not an isolated incident. Goldfish have been discovered floating in sewers before, and in at least one instance a goldfish was found alive in a sewer and saved. The three fish Kevan kidnapped are still missing. Should you spot three kidnapped fish in your local sewage system, please report the incident to your local police station.

7. Goldfish Eaten Alive by Owner


28 year-old Louis Cole was investigated for animal cruelty after posting a YouTube video of himself eating a live goldfish. Viewers see the 4-inch long fish being eaten and hear crunching sounds as the tail of the fish swings desperately from side to side. He commented: “That was really, really bitter, the most bitter thing I’ve ever eaten.” The RSPCA launched an investigation. Cole faced a £20,000 fine and up to six months in prison. He hired a lawyer to keep him out of jail.

The video has been removed from YouTube but is still available elsewhere. In a bizarre classroom incentive, a school teacher ate a live goldfish to motivate her students, who filmed the good deed for posterity. The YouTube poster wrote: “My 6th Grade Teacher challenged us to do our homework every day for 10 school days and she would eat a LIVE goldfish! We all did our homework for 10 days and she had to eat the goldfish! Ewww!”

6. Goldfish Granny Restrained


Joan Higgins (66) and her son, Mark (47), owned a pet shop. Mark sold a goldfish to a 14-year-old boy and all hell broke loose because the boy was fronting for Trafford Council Officials, who trapped them into an illegal transaction. A new law specified that a child younger than 16 had to be accompanied by an adult in order to purchase a pet. What the goldfish suffered is not precisely known, but since the court found the accused guilty we can assume that being sold to an underage minor was absolutely terrifying to the goldfish.

The accused were sentenced after an 8-month court case. Joan was fined 1,000 Pounds (about $1,500 USD) and fitted with an electronic tag to ensure that she adhered to her curfew order. Mark was given a 750 pound fine (about $1,100 USD) and ordered to perform 120 hours community service. Mark referred to his persecutors as “legal lunatics.” An outcry from the local community rapidly followed after the sentencing and the story spread worldwide. Following the worldwide publicity, the court case was re-opened and it was decreed that Joan’s tag was unnecessary and Mark’s community service was quashed. The fines and convictions remained.

5. Goldfish Magic

Hundreds of millions of people in China watched a magic trick by Magician Fu Yandong, where goldfish performed an incredible synchronized swimming act. This happened during prime-time, China Central Television’s (CCTV) gala – the most watched broadcast of the year – on January 30, the eve of the Lunar New Year festival. Fu Yandong had hit the big time with his amazing goldfish performance.

Animal activists in China claim that magnets were implanted in the goldfish bodies and urged CCTV not to promote such cruel practices and not to broadcast such an event again. Fu Yandong denied that he implanted magnets in the fish. He claimed that he had tamed the fish through “Magic Manners.”

Unfortunately for Fu Yandong many animal activists are not strong believers in magic. Their concern that the fish had been abused and were perhaps in continuous discomfort or even pain cannot be discounted, but China’s animal protection laws are not what they should be.

Fifty three organizations have now protested at the alleged goldfish abuse. It is not clear at this stage whether China Central Television will ultimately side with the goldfish, or with magic.

4. Kill Goldfish for Jesus


PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) tells the following story of a “mass execution” of 200 fish on their website. Pastor Stephen Bishop of Indiana conducted a sermon titled: “Finding Nemo.”

On Pastor Bishop’s own Facebook page the following is stated: “We had a mass execution of 200 feeder fish that I pulled out of a fish tank and then threw all over the floor. The kids were in shock and then started to pick them up and put them back into the fish tank. Obviously, most of them died in the effort…the point however was made that they cared more about .15 cent feeder fish then they do about their friends dying without Christ.” Pastor Bishop’s Facebook told how the event was planned: “Preaching a sermon called “Finding Nemo” this morning and will be having a mass execution around 10AM. Tell you more later!”.

Animal lovers were incensed by the “mass execution” and PETA received several complaints. It is not only Pastor Bishop that kills goldfish for Jesus. In Florence, the First Assembly of God Church conducts a “Fear Factor” reality TV show, in which contestants compete in dangerous activities or eat stomach turning foods – for cash prizes. Youth Minister Anthony Martin said: “We need to be realistic about what the Bible says about fear and not be afraid to share our faith in school. We can’t let that fear rule our lives.” One method for participants to conquer fear is to pull a number — between one and three — from a bowl that indicates how many live Comet goldfish should be swallowed.

3. Goldfish Shots

There is a huge market demand for drinking live goldfish, according to several pub owners who are delighted to market the Goldfish Shot. Patrons are invited to swallow the little fish whole, all at once, in their drink. This appears to be a particular favorite with university students, such as in New Zealand with students of Waikato University. Agenda bar owner, Logan Hughes, said the fish would suffer minimal discomfort because they would be swallowed whole.

Canadians, not to be left out, can also partake of the goldfish fest in Calgary, Alberta, where a spokeswoman for the SPCA said: “Obviously, the only use these fish have is for entertainment purposes, and as a society, we don’t believe animals should be killed for the purpose of entertainment, which is what is happening here,”

Bookers bar owner in Canada, Bruce Claypool, said “We were never promoting or advertising the shots — it’s not even on the menu”” He said the bar actually kept the goldfish to feed its piranhas and catfish, and only offered them to humans on request. The local health inspector ruled that Goldfish Shots were not permissible and Bookers have now backed down and no longer offer Goldfish shots to their patrons. Nevertheless, this fishy practice is spreading and practitioners should beware of the watchful eyes of animal rights groups who are not amused.

2. Goldfish in Games


From goldfish racing where the fish are chased with straws to goldfish scooping, there is much fun to be had at the goldfish’s expense.  It is not just the sport itself, but transport for these creatures is often in plastic bags or foam packing boxes. In case you are wondering, how do goldfish race? You place a few hapless goldfish in a few long plastic gutters, then let the contestants use squirt guns, squirt bottles or straws to propel the petrified fish to the finish line.

Interested? There is a “Worldcup Goldfish Racing” page on FaceBook, where one post states: “Ok racers, tonight is going to be fun at Paradise lounge n grill on Midway dr.” Goldfish racing is obviously loads of fun. One website states: “Goldfish Racing, Great for Corporate Events!” Haven’t heard of Goldfish Racing? It’s the flippy cup of the future, involving two straws, two goldfish and acrylic racing lanes. It’s pure fun. Each player encourages harasses the goldfish by blowing bubbles and chasing them from one end of the racing tank to the other. The winner makes the other chug a beer.

Predictably, animal rights groups are frothing at the mouth and have shut several “goldfish racing” venues down. PETA says the game itself is not all that is cruel: “Making matters worse are reports that drunken patrons have impaled some fish with cocktail straws and have swallowed others alive.” Several bars and restaurants nationwide hold the contests and they list contact details of offenders in Seattle, Kansas City and Southaven, Miss. so that activists may pressurize the offenders.

1. Goldfish Tattoos


A new craze that began in China is sweeping the world. Tattooed goldfish. No longer is the allure of the goldfish the main attraction, but a picture or word etched into the creature for which people are prepared to pay. Whether your fancy is polka dots, stripes, hearts, a letter or (on larger fish) a word, this is the latest bumper sticker fashion. No fish tank is complete without a cute tattoo swimming around.

Unfortunately tattooed fish have a low survival rate. Lasers and injections damage the protective surface layer on the fish which leaves them vulnerable to infection. The unhygienic use of tattoo guns is a further concern. A spokeswoman for the SPCA in New York, Gina Browning, says “Morally and ethically what we’re looking at is incorrect. Any animal lover would agree, it’s so unnatural.”

A pet shop owner, Steve Lane, also from New York, says; “My hope is if it gets more people into the hobby it’s a good thing. If a kid comes in and sees a fish with a heart on it and says I want a fish tank and learns how to care for it, I think it’s a win”. He imports his fish from Singapore, not well known for its animal protection legislation.

There are several ways to dye or tattoo, none of which are good for the fish. Until 2005 the tattoos were mostly temporary and a few months later you are left with a blotchy sickly fish. On the other hand, most people who end up with one of the survivors, are generally not in the animal protection fraternity.


So far as is known no human has ever been killed or injured by a goldfish. Therefore, encounters between these two species remains a very fishy – and one sided – affair; cruel, fascinating, but definitely entertaining. Perhaps one day goldfish won’t need Valium or Prozac medication to survive human interaction. Maybe all neurotic people will change into bunny huggers, (good luck waiting for that). But there is a ray of hope from the strangest source: inventors. Leighton Naylor has invented a life preserver for his pet goldfish that had Swim Bladder Disorder. Swim Bladder Disorder is nearly always fatal to Goldfish. Their ability to float is affected and they sink to the bottom of their tank to die.

By: Edwin Clarke

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  1. ha ha I remember Steve-o swallowing a goldfish then throwing it back up in Jackass. Good times with people doing dumb things before youtube…