Fish Are Expendable As Pets, There, I Said It


This was easier to find on Google than you think.

GateHouse — First, a confession: I murdered about eight fish this summer.

It wasn’t my fault, and by that I mean it was entirely my fault. The tale is long and tragic, but the short version is that when you’re driving a moving truck, it’s best to not leave Tupperware containers full of goldfish on the floor of the cab, because that floor gets hot. And that makes the water hot. And that makes the fish hot, and dead, mostly dead. If there was a bright side, though, the cab smelled delicious. (And if it makes you feel better, the frogs survived, right up until I transferred them into my new fish tank and they immediately perished, presumably from comfort.)

Second confession: I don’t have much experience with taking pets for operations. I’ve only done that once in my life, and it was with a dog, and it was less an “operation” and more “the last walk she ever went on, if you’re catching my drift.” But I do know this: Cutty’s non-operation would have been expensive, prohibitively so, and as much as we loved her, and as cold as it sounds, it wasn’t feasible. And that was for a dog, an animal that can interact with you, slobber on you, provide “unconditional love and companionship” or whatever for you. I can’t imagine what our financial cutoff would have been for a fish. Wait, yes I can. It’s zero.

Because fish, let’s be honest, are expendable. There, I said it. I realize I’m inviting volumes of hate mail from the nation’s lively lobby of fish fans, but I’m not too worried. Their influence lately has been… scaled back. I pretty much think they’re… fin-ished. Do you see what we just did there, how veered from an emotional moment about euthanizing the dog of my childhood to idiotic fish puns? We’re all about versatility today.

I bring this up because a goldfish in Australia is currently recovering from surgery to remove a life-threatening tumor from its brain. This is, in actuality, the only time it’s OK to read a sentence containing the phrase “life-threatening tumor from its brain” and giggle a little bit.

The fish, whose name is George, had “a large tumor on the top of his head… and it was beginning to affect his quality of life,” said Dr. Tristan Rich to Melbourne’s 3AW radio station. Yes, with the surgery complete, the fish can go back to his richly rewarding existence of swimming in pointless circles and occasionally eating green flakes.



Because if fish in general are expendable, goldfish are the front lines, the pawns, the foot soldiers, the regular Vipers, animals so forgettable they are sold in carnivals. BAD ONES. Not the ones with elephant ears, the ones that happen at like churches and next to rib burnoffs. If your ownership of animal depends on your ability to knock over metal milk cans with a sandbag, it is not a particularly worthwhile animal. And yes yes I know, all God’s creatures, etc., but GOLDFISH. It’s like having a pet rat. You can call it a pet, but no one believes you. I had a goldfish in the third grade — well, I was in the third grade, the goldfish kept having to repeat kindergarten — that slipped down our garbage disposal during a botched aquarium water-replacement operation. My mom dealt with this problem by engaging in the most mercenary behavior I’d ever seen her do: she turned on the garbage disposal ON. Like RIGHT THEN. Like she didn’t even wait for him to ASPHYXIATE. Just WHIRRRRR and minuscule fish parts started flying all up out of the sink drain. The point is, this goldfish was not getting surgeries financed, people.


Related, sort of


George’s owner, by contrast, who would punch me in the face if she ever read that story, was given a choice between OKing the operation or putting the fish to sleep (or, one imagines, going with the third option: flinging it into a toilet). The fish, if you are interested in details of such things, was put under anesthetic, and the operation cost $200. This is one blessed fish, people. I bet he got to ride home on the passenger seat.





About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

7 responses to “Fish Are Expendable As Pets, There, I Said It

  • insanitybytes22

    LOL! That was hilarious. Thanks for the laugh. I hope the efforts of the fish police continue to be scaled back. I wouldn’t want you to get any hate mail.

    It’s kind of funny, in pet stores they like to call gold fish “feeder fish.” That’s because you’re supposed to feed them to the better, higher quality fish. What can I say, it bites being on the bottom of the food chain.

    I know somebody who put some gold fish in their pond and got them to grow and it was quite lovely for a while. Then a raccoon came along and ate them. No moral to this story just, well, it is what it is 😉


  • Jeff Vrabel

    Thanks for stopping by, Insanity! On the plus side, all hate mail would be all wet and soggy and probably very hard to read. I didn’t know that about “feeder fish,” although the fact that fish eat each other does account for the wildly fluctuating numbers in my fish tank. Either that or we have a raccoon infestation?


  • Paula Hendrickson

    OMG. I’m rolling on the floor here-loudly:)


  • Your Moderate Mama

    We had a fish for 3 weeks… it sucked!

    Anything… man or beast… that will add to my currant work load and takes money from my purse is not welcomed here!!

    I don;t care if it’s cute, good for my children and totally awesome… no no no!


  • Jeff Vrabel

    For three weeks! That’s shockingly long, really


  • Wisdomizer

    If confronted by fish-loving humans, you could just say that you taught your fish to rollover :]
    Loved your stuff. You have quite the resume there. I wish I could do humor columns like that. It would be my dream job.


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