Fish Are Friends, Not Disposable Party Decorations

Fish require more care than generally considered necessary. (Photo: Amanda M. Gordon)

by Dana Hirsch


Goldfish are pets kept for companionship or pleasure. They have a heartbeat, they can feel pain, yet they often end up being treated as table centerpieces at weddings or, as in the case of the WEB event Festival of Lights, as decoration and party favors after the event.

Seventeen comet goldfish were kept in a large kiddie pool filled with water and handed to select attendees afterward, according to Christine Fils-Aime who planned the event.

“The fish were part of our pond simulation that we had at the event,” Fils-Aime said. “Usually, in the cultures that celebrate lights, they do something with lanterns that go in the river and they also see fish as prosperity [and] good luck. It was just a resemblance of that.”

Jessica Baizan who helped plan the event initially took it as a joke to get real fish but then agreed.

“I said sure why not. But I was thinking fake fish,” Baizan said. “Christine actually wanted real fish and it was a last minute kind of thing.”

According to Fils-Aime, the fish were given away on a first come first serve basis and handed to students in cups after plastic bags ran out, advising them to take them home immediately.

“We gave the fish away as a good omen and with instructions, if they weren’t followed that was out of our hands,” Baizan said.

I took five of them home–one that had been kept in a water bottle and four that spent all day in cups filled with water until they were given to me.

After a quick stop at petco to purchase fish food and a water filter for the 10 gallon tank I had at home, they all were transferred into their new home gradually by letting them sit in a plastic bag filled with the water they had been kept in to allow for temperature adjustment–just as advised by the petco employee.

I was also advised to purchase a larger tank for them as a 10 gallon tank is only big enough for a single fish longterm. But this didn’t turn out to be necessary.

Four of the goldfish, the ones who were kept in cups for hours, died overnight.

The fish had been purchased the night before the event, according to Fils-Aime, and kept in a bucket as suggested by the person who sold her the fish at petsmart. The next day the 17 goldfish were transported to campus in a plastic bag filled with water before being transferred into the pool.

The care from pet store to the event was adequate enough to keep them alive. However, on the Friday after the Wednesday event, someone brought two fish to me in a small container that had been fed with pringles crumbs because someone “had forgotten them at school.”

“People know how to take care of fish,” Baizan said. “I”m sorry to hear that some fish have passed, but as I mentioned that was beyond our control.”

As soon as the event was done, these live fish were given away like one would give out leftovers of a party. This is not a way to treat animals. Is it fair to put the lives of pets at risk for a few hours of fun? Hardly.

According to Independent, an online magazine in the U.K., the “[p]et fish are currently protected from cruelty” by law in the United Kingdom.

“They are just goldfish” is not a valid reason for animal abuse.

Surely, Fils-Aime and Baizan took care of the fish as well as they could, but the point is that fish are not a party decoration or trick and even goldfish lives aren’t a price worth paying for cultural authenticity.

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