Last update: March 15, 2024

🐠 4 Steps to Humanely Euthanize Your Pet Fish (With Clove Oil)

I have something terrible to tell you…

There may come a time when you need to kill your beloved pet fish.

I know, it’s heart breaking. But sometimes it really is the only option.

Trust me, it’s never easy.

But if you have to do it, I want you to do it correctly so that your fish does not suffer.

So today, I will show you how to humanely kill your pet fish.

For the record, no fish were harmed in the making of this guide.

See these products to euthanize your pet fish without making them suffer:

When And Why Do You Need to Kill A Pet Fish?

It’s funny, isn’t it? You and I are in this hobby to keep fish alive, and if you have no experience, it’s hard to think there may come a time when you need to kill your pet fish.

Well, your fish tank is actually a pretty dangerous place. Aggressive fish can brutally injure other fish, diseases can leave your fish too sick to go on, pests like hydra, planaria, columnaris, and freshwater ich can seriously hurt your small fish…

And, that doesn’t include any accidents on your part, such as adding untreated tap water or not realizing you need to cycle your aquarium.

When I put it like that, an aquarium sounds more like a torture chamber than a home for your pets, right?

Fortunately, these instances are few and far between. But they can happen – leaving your fish on death’s door.

So, what do you do if your fish are dying, and there is no hope of recovery?

You have one option:

1. Euthanize Your Fish.

The act of humanely killing your fish, or any other animal for that matter, is called euthanization.

Think of euthanizing as a mercy kill – rather than leaving your fish to die over days, possibly suffering. Wouldn’t it be better to humanely put your fish out of its misery?

I am sure most of you will be nodding your head yes.

Now, you could take your fish to the veterinary clinic to be put down. But not only does it leave you without a fish but short on cash as well. Seriously, vet bills are expensive.

And if you speak to anyone in the hobby or interest in marine life, they will tell you that it’s only a matter of time before you will need to euthanize at least one of your fish.

That’s why most aquarium owners choose to do the dirty deed themselves. It may sound gruesome, but it’s a useful skill to have. If you want to be a fish keeper for life, this is all part of the job.

And today, I will show you the best way to euthanize a fish.

How Do You Humanely Kill A Pet Fish?

Disclaimer: All the fish in my tank are currently healthy and happy, so don’t worry! I won’t be killing one of them for the purpose of this guide. Instead, I will be using Angus, the stunt double…

Angus the stunt fish for euthanasia example

He doesn’t look happy about it, does he? It’s almost like he knows his fate.

There are two commonly used methods to euthanize fish.

While both are considered humane, one is less gruesome than the other.

So, let’s start with the easy method:

Method 1: The Clove Oil Bath

If you don’t like gore, then this is perhaps the best way to euthanize your fish.[1]

You only need one product…

Clove oil. I personally use this one…

Clove oil used as an anesthetic to euthanize fish

This stuff works wonders and is recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association as a humane way to kill fish.[2]

You see, it works like the anesthetics that vets use, which are not available to the public. It puts your fish to sleep before killing it without suffering.

If you plan on keeping fish for life, then I highly recommend keeping a bottle of clove oil nearby, just in case.

Okay, now that you have a bottle of clove oil on hand, follow these steps to humanely euthanize your fish…

Step 1: Catch Your Fish

Fish in bucket of water about to be euthanized

Fill up your bucket with water from your aquarium – a gallon will do for most fish, although larger fish might need more.

Catch your fish and place it inside the container. Be gentle and cause as little stress as possible.

Step 2: Mix The Clove Oil

Adding clove oil to a separate container to mix thoroughly

You can’t add your clove oil just yet. You see, it’s an oil. And if you add it now, it would simply float on the surface of the water.

So, grab a small container – pill containers work great. Fill the container with water from your tank and add 4 drops of clove oil.

Note: This is for fish less than 4 inches in length, increase the amount of drops for larger fish.

Put a lid on it and give the container a good shake, until the water turns a milky white color. Your clove oil is now mixed.

Step 3: Add The Clove Oil Mixture

Adding clove oil to water with fish inside to put it down

Slowly add the clove oil mixture to the container with your fish while stirring gently with your hand. You should see the milky mixture spread throughout the container.

After a few minutes, your fish should stop moving. It may even go belly up…

But it’s not dead just yet… It’s simply knocked out. If you look closely at your fish’s gills, you should see them still moving – a sure sign that your fish has been put to sleep.

If your fish is still swimming around after 5 minutes, add a couple more drops of the clove oil mixture.

Step 4: Add A Stronger Dose

Euthanized fish floating belly up in bucket of water

Now that your fish is asleep, it’s time to put him to rest for good.

Scoop some water out of the container with your fish and add another 12 drops of clove oil mixture. Just like before, shake it up until the clove oil mixes thoroughly.

Add the clove oil mixture to the container with your fish and wait.

It should take less than 30 minutes before your fish’s gills stop moving. Once the gills don’t move for 10 minutes, the fish has been successfully put down.

If you still see gill movement after 30 minutes, add more mixture.

It may take some time, but many aquatic life experts find this the most comfortable method of euthanizing a sick or injured fish and in accordance to ethical standards.

Now, let’s look at a quicker way to euthanize your fish. Be warned – if you have shaky hands or a weak stomach, you should probably stick to using clove oil and skip this second method.

Note: If you have a much larger fish, overdosing on clove oil might not kill it. If this is the case, you will have to perform the next method while it is sleeping.

Method 2: The Stun and Stab

The stun and stab is the quickest way to dispatch a dying fish. And, it works just how it sounds. You hit your fish with a blunt object, and then stab it with a knife.

Now, I know that smacking a fish with a blunt instrument doesn’t sound humane, but if done correctly, it’s quick and painless.[3]

The reason a solid whack does the job is that it disables the nervous system so that your fish doesn’t feel anything.

Now, it’s possible that the force from the blunt object will kill your fish outright, especially if it’s a smaller fish. But just in case the hit only knocked it unconscious, make sure it is dead by stabbing its brain with a knife blade – see, I told you it was going to get gory.

Best of all, you have all the tools you need for this hiding in your kitchen…

  • Aluminum foil
  • A blunt object – I use a rolling pin
  • A sharp knife

Read over these instructions before you attempt this technique. Just how humane it is entirely depends on your ability to work quickly.

Step 1: Grab Your Fish

Fish in the middle of aluminum foil ready to be euthanized

Place a square of aluminum foil down on a flat surface.

Quickly remove your fish from the tank, place it in the center of the aluminum foil and fold it over.

Fold the foil over the top of your fish. This is to prevent blood, guts and brains from flying everywhere. Putting down your pet fish is bad enough without being covered in its bodily fluids… Trust me, it’s a mistake I will never make again.

Step 2: Hit Your Fish With A Blunt Object

Fish inside aluminum foil being euthanized with a blunt object

Next, you are going to hit your fish as hard as you can through the aluminum foil. You are aiming for the head. If struck properly, this will cause your fish to immediately lose consciousness.

Now in some instances, this might kill your fish outright. But it’s no guarantee. That’s why we are going to follow up with one last step…

Step 3: Stab Your Fish

Pet fish being euthanized by pithing with sharp knife

Now, you are going to slice into your fish through a process called pithing. The idea is to pierce through the brain of your fish, which will kill it instantly.

Don’t worry… Because your fish is unconscious, it won’t feel a thing.

Where is the brain of your fish located? Just behind the eyes.

The brain location of your fish diagram

In order to accurately hit the brain, I recommend piercing just above the eyes horizontally, pushing your knife blade through.

It was gruesome, but you have now successfully put down your fish.

How NOT to Kill Your Fish

The methods listed above are humane ways to euthanize a fish. A quick search on the web reveals many ways that you can kill your pet fish. But very few of them are actually humane.

Yes, I know that scientists still debate as to whether or not fish can feel pain…[4]

But if they can, do you really want your fish to experience agony in their final moments?

I know that I don’t.

So, let’s take a closer look at how you shouldn’t kill your fish.

1. Flushing Your Fish to Kill it – Don’t do it

Flushing a fish down the toilet to kill it

Will it kill your fish? Maybe.

Is it humane? No.

It’s sad to say that this is probably the most common method used to deal with a dying fish by a vast majority – often by beginners who bought a betta fish as a novelty while waiting in line at checkout.

Why people think that flushing a toilet will instantly kill a fish is beyond me. Sure, the change in water temperatures, chlorine and other toxins might kill it, but it’s not unknown for cold water fish to survive.[5]

And even if it doesn’t, is a slow death surrounded by human poop a humane way to go?

2. Carbon dioxide

Using CO2 carbon dioxide bubbles to euthanize a fish

Will it kill your fish? Yes.

Is it humane? No.

Carbon dioxide when injected into the water can cause fish to suffocate. However, the process is not instant, and fish are aware that there is not enough oxygen in the water and spend their final moments stressed.[6][7]

3. Using an ice bath to kill your fish

Aquarium fish euthanized with an ice bath

Will it kill your fish? Yes.

Is it humane? Maybe.

Okay, so this one might be humane, but it depends on the size and type of fish you are dealing with.

One scientific study on Zebra Danios found that a cold water bath (less than 39 degrees Fahrenheit) can be an effective and humane method of killing your fish, so this method may work on tropical fish less than 2 inches.[8]

However, if ice touches your fish, then ice crystals can form on the gills, which may cause pain. Also, this method is not suitable for any cold-water tolerant fish, such as koi or goldfish, which can survive at cold temperatures.

Other scientists state that cold water euthanasia should be skipped completely, stating that this method has the potential to cause unavoidable pain.[9]

So, the jury’s out on this one.

Oh, and obviously throwing your fish in the freezer an ice bucket and waiting for it to ice over counts as inhumane.

4. Leaving your fish to suffocate – Don’t do it

Suffocating a fish to kill it

Will it kill your fish? Yes.

Is it humane? No.

It might surprise you to learn that fish can breathe oxygen. But only when it is dissolved in water.

Outside, on dry land, your fish will suffocate. And, it isn’t a quick process. As its organs slowly fail, your fish will suffer. It’s a painful and horrible way to go as its outright asphyxiation, your fish deserve better.

5. Using vodka to kill your fish – Don’t do it

Fish being inhumanely killed with vodka

Does it work? Yes.

Is it humane? No.

While an alcohol bath will kill your fish, it also burns the gills during its final moments. [10]

6. Boiling water

Fish being euthanized in pot of boiling water

Placing your fish in boiling water?

Just… No.

Seriously, don’t use any of the methods in this section – your fish will suffer if you do.


Just to make it clear… I only advocate euthanasia as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted.

I do not condone the killing of fish just because they are an unwanted pet. You can’t just kill an animal when you are bored of it… That’s horrible and fish slaughter.

If you have a healthy, unwanted fish – don’t kill it. Contact your local aquarist community first. There are also numerous Facebook groups dedicated to rehoming fish. There are plenty of people who will be happy to take your fish off your hands!

Okay, with that out of the way…

I know it can be sad to say goodbye to a much loved fish, especially one that has been with you for years.

But if you have to euthanize your fish, the least you can do is make sure the final moments of your fish-buddy’s life are pain-free.

And remember… Your fish is now in fish heaven and is likely very happy. So you don’t have to feel too sad about it and have it as a reason not to have any more fish.

Have you ever had to euthanize a fish? Let me know in the comments below.

Ian Sterling

Ian Sterling, founder of, began his aquarium journey over 30 years ago, driven by a deep fascination for fish and their diverse personalities. His website,, is dedicated to making fishkeeping accessible and enjoyable, offering beginner-friendly guidance, expert insights, and a community for aquarists to connect and share experiences.

Comments (293)

I recently had to put one of our beloved Oranda Goldfish to sleep and it was not a pleasant experience. Not for ‘Girly’, who was soothed into a clove oil slumber before her final moments and stroked gently as we would during hand feeds, but for me as I took a life that had brought so much pleasure for me and my young family. Also in my thoughts was ‘Mogwui’ who now has 30 gallons all to her lonesome self without the company of her life partner to keep her company. Thank you for the advice and with all remedies for bladder problems exhausted, there was no other options to explore. At least she went peacefully.

Hi Rob,

I’m so sorry to hear about Girly. It’s never easy saying goodbye to a beloved fishy friend – they basically become a member of the family. It sounds like Girly was truly blessed to have an owner who cares as much about her as you did. Wishing you all the best 🙂

Very sorry to hear. but you should NEVER touch a fish (unless its a moray eel). That probably caused bacteria to enter the fish and made it ill.

Hi Alana,

I understand that this is a touchy subject. Unfortunately, euthanasia is a part of fish ownership. It would be doing readers a disservice if I did not cover the topic and instead pretended it didn’t happen.

I tried to cover the topic in a way that was both lighthearted yet informative. I’m sorry that your take away was me advocating for the death of fish. It was not my intention.

Don’t even bother giving them the trouble of a reply. Anyone suggesting there is anything wrong with this webpage eithet

A) Hasn’t read it properly
B) Would prefer to see their fish suffer a slow painful death eg being eaten alive by bacteria

I recently had to euthanise my 12 year old 60cm matsuba koi. I cried and cried. It was the hardest decision i ever made.

I had spent £450+ in various attempts to save her but in the end it was obvious she wasn’t going to get better.

I used an overdose of Kusuri Koi sedate. No pain. No fear. No stress. Just drifting off to sleep.

Kusuri Koi Sedate is a more controllable substance than clove oil in my opinion. IDK if it would work on non-koi though.

Hi JLo,

I completely agree with your thoughts, It’s likely that many of these commenters have never even owned fish.

I’m so sorry to hear about your Matsuba, they are a beautiful strain. After 12 years, that must have been so hard to say goodbye – they basically become a member of the family.

Thanks for the recommendation of Kusuri Koi Sedate. I have not come across it before. It does not look like it is available in America, every site I look at is UK based. I wonder if we have a similar product here that could be used instead.

No my “friends”. What gives us the right to take the life of fish or other animals. Next it will be done to humans- as it already insidiously is, i know from a real Doctor who had to whisper to me and is well known. For your info i have both fish which i love and mant diferent pets. Leave it in God’s Hands not ours. You mean well i know BUT nevertheless it is just wrong . How do we know what suffering is for a fish or that know as you say, they did not suffer? The only positive thing you say is the dear fishes are in Heaven . May God in CHRIST help the dear fishes all animals and us humans which He did in Christ . Amen

Hi Alex,

While I respect your religious beliefs, I also respect people who make their own informed opinion and act accordingly. As always, Euthanasia as an absolutely last resort. While I attempted to write this article in a light-hearted way, euthanizing a fish is not something to be taken lightly.

Your website made saying goodbye to our beloved class pet, Max, much easier. I even enjoyed a chuckle or two. 😉 We will be keeping the clove oil on hand hoping not to have to use it again anytime soon. Until we need it, we can put a few drops in our classroom diffuser, smell the cloves, and remember our good buddy, Max. Thanks again!!

Hi Sarah,

I’m sorry to hear about Max. My elementary school had three goldfish which the entire class adored – Pickle Pants, Hot Wheels Barbie and Mr Orangey (Our class got to submit and vote on the names.)

I remember returning from school holidays to an empty tank. Our teacher said that the fish ran away. We later overheard the teacher telling a parent that the fish got sick so she flushed them.

You sound like an awesome teacher for taking the time to do it properly!

Hi Ally,

While I appreciate your obvious passion on this touchy subject, murder and euthanasia are two very different things.

Murder is unacceptable, and I don’t condone it. If that was your take-away from the article then I apologize.

Euthanasia on the other hand is a part of keeping fish. While I’d love for that to not be the case, I would be doing readers a disservice by pretending it doesn’t exist.

My giant black moors right eye has become 4 to 5 times bigger than the other, I had to euthanize another one few years back, started with 4 moors an inch long 6-7 years ago, and now Meenie is the last one, they were eenie meeine miny and mo, I have all I need I just needed to know how many cloves drops to start, and then how many to send him on his way? I used 4 drops to sedate the last one, and then like 7 or 8 more, I covered him with a towel, 10 minutes later he was gone. I have a 2 or 3 gallon plastic container to use. I don’t want to do this, but I don’t want him to be suffering with a bad eye, my other 3 are in the freezer, I’ve been trying to get them buried for a long time, maybe now they can all be together again, I cared a lot for my fish, they all got to be the size of a small mouth bass, but I enjoyed them many years

Hi Susan,

I am terribly sorry to hear about your loss. Losing one fish is never easy, much less 4. In captivity, the average goldfish lives for 5-10 years, so it sounds like you gave them a long and good life.

If our beloved “sunny” who is a bubbly eyed fancy goldfish and 10 years old makes it until I can get clove oil I will use that. I have felt it must be suffering but did not know what to do, I have been hand feeding it for months but it has one eye collapsed and one fin which is disfigured and not working, as it is always on it’s side because it can’t stay upright. I consulted a fish expert when it started on it’s side and have been thawing organic peas and peeling them and hand feeding them mashed to it. It’s tank mate Stormy just stays by it and it breaks my heart. I wish there was more I could do. I do not know if it is suffering and you do not put a person down just because they are disabled but I feel it has to be and it seems to be getting worse. 🙁 Thank you for you detailed advice and for trying to make something so stressful a little light hearted to ease the sadness.

Hi Sandra,

Sunny sounds lucky to have you as an owner. I do not envy the decision that you have to make. It is never easy. Wishing you the best in the trying time.

This was very helpful, thank you so much. My boy had dropsy and I knew there’s no coming back from it, but I was so afraid of hurting him even worse, I didn’t want to put him to sleep. Knowing he didn’t feel anything and wasn’t scared via the clove oil was a huge comfort. It didn’t make this easy by any means, but it did help it to feel like the right think to do.

Hi Haley,

Ugh, the dreaded dropsy. More often than not, your fish isn’t coming back from that. I’m terribly sorry to hear that you had to put your fish down. It is never easy, but at least you did it in the most humane way possible. Thanks for sharing your experience.

I stumbled across this article looking for a fish vet. There are none in my area. My betta has dropsy. I have tried a few things but it is not working. I am worried he is suffering. I will pick up clove oil tomorrow. It breaks my heart but I do not see him getting better. Poor little guy. I am glad I found you. I just wish I could find an article that would make this hurt less

Hi Diane,

Oh no! That’s devastating to hear about your little betta. If it is dropsy, i’m sorry to say that it’s a disease very few betta come back from. Deciding to euthanize is one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make and I am glad you are not making it lightly. I wish you all the best in this trying time.

Hi Fran,

I’m glad you found the information useful and that Bloaty was able to pass on with out suffering.

I believe after4 days my 2 year old Angel’s, Goldie and Blindie are not going to make it….they have a horrible parasite attacker and while look better after 2 repeated treatments, their little heads are now getting sores and they are not eating. Thanks for your article. I’ll see what tomorrow brings

Hi Jude,

I’m glad I can help. Hopefully Goldie and Blindie are able to pull through this. I have my fingers crossed that you don’t have to resort to euthanasia.

I had to put down a red oscar because he was a complete bully and killed three fish. The place I buy fish from didn’t want him and I don’t know anyone else that had a large enough aquarium for him. It was strange because he was never aggressive until recently. But when he killed my favorite electric blue jack dempsey and was trying to kill my other one it was time for him to be put down. I used the stun and stab method. I wish I could have kept him alive but he had to come out of that tank and he had to do it quickly

I have a hefty15″ long albino channel cat that got injured somehow . Seems to have cut his tummy and entrails are pushing out. My son raised him from a fingering but fish surgery, while available in our area, is both logistically and financially impossible for us. I would prefer the clove oil option. 2 probs: wrestling him out of the tank, and finding the effective dosage. He’s alone. Ate all his friends years ago. How many bottles of clove oil to do the sad deed the tank? (18″ wide x48″ long x20″ tall. No idea of gallon capacity. Can you advise?

Hi Mary,

That sounds like an awful situation.

Your tank is around 75 gallons. I’m not sure how many drops are your bottle, but you’d need 1200 of ’em in a full tank. If you can remove most of the water, you can get away with less.

Thanks so much for your prompt reply! Wow…that’s a lot of drops! I’ll get to work lowering the water level. Sure appreciate your help.

Not a problem. Larger fish have a higher tolerance than smaller fish. You’ll likely need around 16 drops per gallon to put an end to your fish. However, I would recommend having slightly more on hand, just in case.

Hi Ian. After reading this article, I thought you might be the right person to go to with this question. My betta was healthy, swimming/eating, a few weeks ago. I did a partial Water change, then the live plant in his tank started to disintegrate and clogged the filter his five gallon tank. I then had to resort to complete water change, and had to use conditioned tap water. I usually use osmosis Water, but I didn’t have enough on hand. Over the past few weeks, I’ve done some 10% Water changes. His color never got bad, but he won’t swim and has hardly eaten. He’s sleeping most of the time, either at the bottom of his tank or inside his “hiding place.” He hardly comes to the surface enough to take food. I keep the water temp between 78-82. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

Hi Janet,

If you are using RO water in a freshwater tank, are you re-mineralizing it, to add hardness and alkalinity? RO water on it’s own doesn’t have the trace elements needed for fish to be healthy and thrive.

I’m sorry, but based your description it would be impossible to pin-point the cause of this behavior.

The first thing I would do is test your water parameters with a good aquarium test kit, to make sure that everything is normal in your tank – this unusual behavior could be your fish warning you that the water isn’t quite right.

You will be the right person to ask! My goldfish is swimming (kind of) on its side. Just hangs out at the bottom of the tank. He is missing a few scales and it seems as though as his back fin is tore. What could possibly be done to save my little fella.

Hi Maria,

If your goldfish is swimming on his side, it sounds like swim bladder disease. As always, whenever your fish looks ill, the first thing you should do is monitor your water with an aquarium test kit. Swim bladder disorder is often treatable, however, your missing scales sound like another concern.

8 years ago my son won 2 goldfish at fair-fantail white has battled growths and sickness that I’ve spent hundreds to treat. He’s 17” long-the only way he has stayed alive was extremely warm water 82+. Low temperatures he gets red lumps. Now his tankmate-common gold (9”) has severe pop eye that I’ve treated 4 times. I do weekly water changes-60gallon tank…they swim and eat and seem happy. Unsure of when to say you’ve had a great life but watching you suffer is killing me. I know it’s a personal choice and I’ve battled fungal, bacterial etc with success…they just aren’t great. And like previous post, I would have to do whole tank so I appreciate knowing how much to buy. It’s just so hard.

Hi Leigh,

Considering the average lifespan of goldfish in aquariums is 5-10 years, it sounds like you have given them an amazing life.

It’s a tough decision you face. Whatever decision you make, it’s the right one. I wish you all the best in these trying times.

My Betta Rutu has been living for 3 years. I gave in my full effort to let her have the best life possible. I gave her live brine shrimp I culture along with bloodworms. She lived in a 7 gallon tank, with 10-15% water change every week. Today I noticed weird white stuff coming out from her ‘pie hole’ (if you know what I mean) and looked it up, I couldn’t find a remedy. But I saw the signs already. A few weeks ago, I noticed she kept missing her shot at eating her bloodworm. Bloodworms are easy to see. So I thought, well maybe the water is cloudy. I changed the water. Nothing happened. I ran ammonia tests, water tests, and even tried a new culture of shrimp, yet nothing changed. Every day, it go worse. I am crying. I can’t get clove oil, because my parents won’t let me. I am a teenage girl. I actually take care of Rutu all by myself. Treatments I all tried. NOthing changed. It has been about 6 weeks of suffering, because of my treatments. I am thinking I should freeze her, but I don’t want to see her dead body. It would rip my heart and make myself think to kill myself and go with her. What do I do? I don’t want to let her suffer.

Hi Mary,

I am so sorry to hear how distressed you are. Unfortunately, any method that you use will result in you seeing the body of your dead fish. If you are confident your fish is sick and there is no coming back, it’s something you will have to overcome. If I was in your position, I would consider asking your parents perform the stun and stab technique as outlined in this guide, disposing of the body so that you do not have to see it.

Thank you so much for your very helpful advice. I had to euthanize my 16 year old goldfish Hermione this evening. It was the last thing I wanted to do but she went very peacefully using clove oil. She had been unwell for quite a while and it would’ve been very unfair to have her just sit at the bottom of the tank until she died. I had tried everything but to no avail. I’ll miss the old girl but I am pleased that she died calmly and not in distress.

Hi Alec,

Wow, 16 years? That’s quite a milestone for a goldfish in a home aquarium. You surely gave her a very good life for her to live this long. I am happy to hear that she passed quickly and calmly. I hope you are doing okay!

Hi Anna,

I list in the article the two methods of euthanization I think are humane. An ice water bath is not one of them.

My poor Anglefish has developed in the last 2 days red lines near the base of his dorsal fin & red streaks going into his tail & this morning when I woke up I noticed his lateral line is now red also. The water paramaters are PH 7.2 Ammonia 0, nitrites 0 & nitrates are just giving a slight colour change in the test water, so very low.
I have always done a weekly water change & vacuum. He was in a 167litre tank but has been moved to my 40litre quarantine tank with the same paramaters as the above tank.
He was living with 2 other angel fish & 3 swordtails whom seem unaffected so far.
I fear it’s Viral hemorrhage septicemia.
I’m treating him with a broad spectrum antibiotic by Blue Planet called Aquari-cycline
but I’m not sure he will pull through. This article has been very helpful should the need arise that I have to put him to sleep. But I really don’t want to lose him.
Do you think this could be VHS disease? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Cheryl,

My only knowledge of VHS comes from aquaculture. Here in the states it is basically unheard of in farms over 64˚F (18˚C) That’s well below the recommended temperature for an angelfish tank. If it’s not accompanied by other symptoms then It’s possible that your fish is suffering from something else. The good news is that you may not have to euthanize your angel fish. The bad news is that it doesn’t solve these mysterious red streaks.

I sadly think I will need to do this to my beloved fish. His jaw is stuck open and has gone red, bloody and swollen. I have tried many treatments but they all have failed. He cannot not eat and slowly starving to death.i just want to end his suffering but really don’t want to let him go. Every time I look at him I end up bursting into tears as I hate to see him like this. Do you think I should euthanise him?

Hi Amber,

Unfortunately, I know it’s difficult, and I really feel for you, but it’s a decision that you only can make. If he cannot eat, his time is limited as it is. Whether you let him go naturally or not is up to you. However, it might be easier on you if it ends sooner rather than later.

I’ve been struggling with my beta fish Waldo for well over a month now. He’s has scales falling out and rotting from the inside out and it’s progressed to more scales missing and white stuff coming out. He had gotten better with treatment, then got much worse again even when being treated and complete water changes. He hasn’t eaten for over a week now. He swims mainly near the surface and blows bubbles a lot. Sometimes behind the right Gill a bubble comes out. He’s still clinging on but I don’t want him to suffer..
Is this a sign to put him down? What should I do?

Hi Amber,

Only you know if it’s right to euthanize. It’s a decision that no one else can make for you. Based on what you are saying though, I don’t like his chances of recovery.

My almost three year old betta fish is suffering from fin rot and almost has no fins left, is completely blind, tired, sore and cannot swim. I am really close to him and I know his personality(yes fish have different ones) so I know that when he refuses to eat, he has given up. he has been suffering for over three weeks and I don’t think he should suffer any more and probably has no chance of recovery. He hasn’t eaten in six days. Is it a gout time to but him down?

Hi Anonymous,

Unfortunately I cannot tell you whether you should or shouldn’t put down your fish. Based on your description, things don’t sound good. But it’s a decision only you or a qualified vet could make.

I euthanized my fish with clove oil tonight. She was a betta, 2 years old with dropsy. I euthanized only after I did everything known to man to save the fish, and to let her continue to decline was inhumane. I’ve never done this before. I did mix the oil in warm water first but not until it turned white. She did however pass away with only 2 drops. I waited 10 minutes after the 2 drops then mixed and added 10 more. I waited 10 minutes after the gills stopped. I hope I didn’t cause additional pain but am worried I did.

Hi Audrey,

I’m sure your betta went quickly and easy. You did what you had to and now she is no longer suffering. I know it can be hard coming to terms with euthanizing your fish, but if there wasn’t anything that could be done to save here then you did the right thing.

We have a goldfish that my daughter won at the fair. He is such a sweet fish and has been a joy to watch. 5 days ago he suddenly stopped eating. He would do a large yawning action every once and a while so i became concerned that he had a rock stuck in his mouth. I held him in the water with his mouth sticking out and carfully opened his mouth with a rounded pair of tweezers expecting to find something there to grab. Unfortunately, there was nothing. He goes up to food as though he is so excited and doesnt open his mouth to eat it. He has stopped pooping as well. Im am very worried he has fully swallowed the rock and now has a blockage that will either kill him or starve him to death. I have the clove oil and am ready to euthanize him if i need to. My question to you is, can this be used as a sedative to really get a good look in the mouth while he is sedate, or is it, that once you administer any of the oil, you are on the path to euthanasia?

Hi Haven,

I personally wouldn’t use clove oil on any fish that you do not plan on putting down.

It’s unlikely that your goldfish had a rock stuck in it’s mouth, especially if you didn’t see it with a manual inspection. Goldfish will “yawn” to flush their gills. However, they can also excessively yawn when their tank water is poor quality, which is an early warning sign that something is not right. Have you used an aquarium test kit to determine the water parameters? It’s possible something is amiss here.

Yes, we have done daily testing and everything is within a healthy range. It is very perplexing. It is as though he is unable to open his mouth on his own to eat. Have you ever encountered this?

Hi again Haven,

I have only seen goldfish refuse to eat when they are terminally ill. It’s possible that your fish was just unhealthy. I know it sucks, but sometimes even when we do everything right, nature has another plan.

Thank you very much for these useful and humane instructions! I have a trochus snail that is almost dead, do you know if this approach would work as humanely for a snail?

Hi Liz,

I have no experience using clove oil for snails. I do know two people who have euthanized snails before, and you are not going to like how they did it… Quickly place it in a plastic bag and hit it with a hammer.

What is the best way to put a fish down that you caught while fishing out to sea and which you plan to eat for dinner?

Hi Cubo,

Unfortunately, I can’t help you here. You would be better off asking this question on a fishing website – our expertise is pet fish, the type you don’t eat.

Well, for what it’s worth, I might be able to help you there when it comes to eating fish. For one thing, the amount of pain or stress a fish experiences will actually effect it’s flavor. The typically undesirable ‘fishy taste’ that occurs when fish is not fresh, is result of a protein, that fish rapidly produce, it seems, in a flight or fight response? Not really that of course, just something similar, it goes to their muscles. (Which is the part we eat, in the form of fillets.) The less stress your wild-caught fish experiences, the better they will taste. – This is why the ‘smell of dead fish’ in places where they just leave fish out in the air to suffocate, is so potent. That’s the smell of fish pain more than it is the smell of fish. You can smell your aquarium, and a happy aquarium probably doesn’t have a smell seeping out of it like the smell on a fishing dock where tuna are hung up on metal hooks on display, ect…
I am not against eating fish, I mean, fish eat fish too. But we have nothing to gain from causing them pain in it, really.
This being said – I love to go fishing and eat fish, and I also keep fish as dear pets, and I work at a large-scale aquarium. Fish are a big thing to me on many levels.
I know the ice-water-bath was forbidden in the above article, and I do know that it would do nothing for a cold-water species for sure. But if you’re fishing in a warm place, like the Gulf of Mexico or anything like that, ice is very effective for many of the species accustomed to warmer water. (Note that it is not effective on flounder. Probably because they live in colder areas at times.) I do not suggest putting them in any water as, fish large enough to eat, will quickly breathe up the good oxygen in the water and then suffocate. Suffocation seems to be a bit inevitable for fish we plan to eat, and putting clove oil in there could effect the meat.
Many fishermen do the ‘stun and stab’ as suggested in this article and it’s possibly a much more reliable method than putting the fish in an icebox, because it works for cold-water fish as well as warm-water. Be sure to execute the fish as soon as you make the decision to keep and eat it, as you want to prevent it from spending too much time suffering on land.
If you think you can use ice to kill the fish, which can be the case – A fair few fish actually go into ‘hibernation mode’ when winter sets in, so ice does calm some of them, particularly the species around here that I like to catch…. But if you choose to do ice, don’t put them in ice water, since they’ll just breathe out all the oxygen. Put them directly on the ice. Not terribly comfortable but better than nothing. Bring an icebox with you no matter what method you choose – After using a ‘stun and stab’ method you will want to put the fish on ice to preserve freshness.
Stun and stab is the suggested method for dispatching fish you intend to eat. Afterwards, ice is a fine idea.
…In my unfortunate experiance with flounder, it seems like nothing ever kills them fast enough. But certain animals (Ex: Chickens) continue movement even with the head cut off, it may be that stabbing the brain does not instantly kill flounder.
I also do not claim to know everything. I’ve done my best to report what I know to be true, but I could be wrong for all I know!

So I have this common pleco, about 7-8 inches, that isn’t doing too well. #1, he’s acting very lethargic. #2, he has outgrown his tank by a lot (A LOT a lot) #3, he isn’t eating very much, if any at all. #4, there is not pet shop where I live to return him to if they would accept it. The nearest pet shop that would even accept him is about 3-4 hours away. I’m worried that the clove oil won’t work, as it’s quite a big fish. Do you know if mixing in vodka after the fish is unconscious will work? Or should I do the stun and stab after its unconscious from the clove oil (which I really wouldn’t have the stomach to do).

Hi Nathan,

It always surprises people just how big plecos can grow. I don’t condone putting down healthy fish but if he is sick, then there isn’t much choice. Mixing in vodka would be a nasty way to go. You should still be able to use a bottle of clove oil to put down a fish of this size. You’ll need a fair amount more than the instructions in this guide, though. Just follow the steps, and keep adding it until the gills stop moving.

This article was very helpful, I have been taking care of axolotls for +10 years and one of just started to get sick and getting infections on his gills and it was killing me to watch him suffer. I used the clove oil method on him with upperdosages and it seemed like a very quiet and non stress ful way for him to go. This article helped me a lot putting him down

Hi Rich,

Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry for your loss and am happy to here that your axolotl went peacefully. I was unaware that you could also use this method for an axolotl – I have only ever used or seen it be used of fish.

Hi there. I bought a house in July that has a koi pond that came with 15 koi. My neighbor two houses down has a pond with koi and I’m in good standing with the previous owners. I live in Iowa so I had to winterize my pond which my neighbor and previous owners assisted. I have one very large koi not doing well. Been on his side for two days now and floating at the surface. Every time I pull him out I think he is a goner, but nope, still breathing. I’m hoping he just snaps out of it but I think that’s very unlikely. The pond doesn’t have ice on the top yet, but when it does, he will be frozen in it. Thoughts on what I should do? My neighbor who has a pond and fish told me to just whack it over the head with a shovel. I’m just holding on and hoping he turns it around. Thoughts??

Hi Kelly,

It doesn’t sound good for your Koi. Your neighbor is correct with hitting it on the head with a shovel, this is the same step as stunning it as outlined in the directions above. Koi can get big so it’s possible that you will just stun and not kill it, you may also have to pith (stab the brain) with a knife, while it’s stunned.

Hi Kelly!
I have experienced this with my koi during the first few winters, and have had some successful saves with a few changes. Koi’s metabolism slow down as the temperature drops, and sometimes if they are being fed/have a food source they are not able to process and this creates issues with their ability to regulate their air bladder and position in the water. If food is not the issue, some fish can experience shock as the temperature changes. In both cases, warming the water with a heater and adding air bubbles has helped a few of my fish. It is always better to see them at the top rather than stuck on the ground in terms of air bladder, however with freezing (and the above options may not be an option!) euthanasia may have to happen. I personally use a 150 gallon stock tank as a quarantine/over winter tank in the garage in the winter time that keep pond water/filter media in for these types or scenarios. I lost many koi my first few years, have learned so much through the errors. Best of luck to you!

Thank you for the clear instructions. My Koi angel got sick while I was out of town for five days. I tried an epsom salt soak that others recommended, but it did nothing for her. She was no longer eating and mostly upside down, so I knew I should do something. All went peacefully for both of us.

Hi J R,

That would have been an awful experience to return home to. I’m glad to hear you were able to euthanize your koi peacefully!

I am not sure what is going on in my tank. But I could use some advice. I have 4 zebra danios and 5 platys. Today I noticed that we have 2 fry (platy) swimming in the tank which is great! One of the platys (now pregant) was actually born and grew up in this tank. I put the sponge on the filter intake and all is well as far as they are concerned.

While watching the new babies, I noticed something strange. One of the zebra danios looks… like his spine is broken. It is curved like an S and there is a little red dot on the part where the fin connects to the body. It kind of looks like he has a cut there and he has a couple more red “cuts” on its belly. He is swimming with his head lower than his back and when still, he tilts to the left, then corrects himself upright. He is swimming around and eating okay, but the poor thing looks so uncomfortable. There is literally a crease on his side from the way it is bent. He was hanging out around the bottom swimming in circles but now he’s near the top. He has moments of calm and then moments where it seems like he is freaking out.

The culprit: I noticed one of the red platys has what looks like a cut on her side behind her fin and another on the other side near the top of her back. This could be the mother of the two fry as she matches one of their coloration. We’ve never had a tank fight before and these fish have been together for about a year, but that seems to be what happened. The platy is acting fine, she isnt swimming differently, she is eating well and seems to have won the fight if that is what happened.

What is going on with my poor S shaped guy? Do you think he has a chance of recovery? I bought the clove oil just in case…

Hi Kristin,

Before you go any further and blame bullying, have you determined whether or not it’s actually Tuberculosis? Common symptoms is a bent or curved spine and open wounds. If it is the case, it’s usually always fatal and I would suggest euthanizing if you confirm it’s this disease.

If your fish is still eating normally and swimming around, and you suspect it’s a physical injury, you can wait and see what happens – if something is actually broken, it is unlikely your fish would swim normally. There are many reported instances of Zebra Danios developing curved spines on their own, particularly among glofish, so it’s possible it’s just a deformity and your fish isn’t actually in pain. Unfortunately, I cannot say which is the case for your fish and you will need to do a little more research based on his symptoms.

my gold fishes are very happy and vibrant and came a long way from me knowing nothing about taking care of them. I came around to thinking that they would never die and I must euthanize them and what would be the harm in that since I take care of them. but is it due to inconveniences when people ask me why I have so many grown-up 20 cent fishes that the frogs are supposed to eat? I just feel like my fish are disrespected and they deserve a better life which won’t happen from Craigslist or anything. i think in the end people can be mean, and it means people get hurt and i don’t want my fish to hurt.

My exhusband dad Ron Harvey flushed 5 goldfish that were healthy that my son left at his house why?I would have taken them he is just A hateful heartless person that did it out of spite because my son owed him money.

Ron should suffer the same end as causing suffering in a aminal. It takes a cold, heart less person to get off watching animals suffer. In many cases this is a sign of mental illness.

Many people don’t care that all creatures, when necessary, should be euthanized humanely. These people have no regard for kindness. Probably has been like this since childhood. Yes this could be a serious mental illness. Possibly a Sociopath.

I have a Dwarf Gourami that I’ve had for a few years that has been acting very uncomfortable. It keeps laying at the bottom of the tank and only when I try to touch it does it quickly swim up to the surface to get a breath of air. I tried an epsalm salt bath, but it hasn’t done anything. I really didn’t want him to go, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to pass no matter what happens. Do you think euthenizing him is the best choice?

Hi Jonathan,

Unfortunately, I cannot make that call – only you can. You need to look at his symptoms and if you think he won’t make it, then euthanizing is an option. Have you asked your local fish store as to what they think it could be? Independent fish stores can be incredibly helpful when it comes to diagnosing.

Tonight we put down Myrna, our 21 year old goldfish. 10 years ago I purchased a heater for her old bones and she became a new fish! Since then, she lost more and more gold color, her eyes went bad and her spine became crooked but overall she seemed pretty happy. Recently she started exhibiting almost ‘epileptic’ spasms and would frantically race around the tank, spinning and thrashing, coming to a listless halt in the corner, clearly spent. It was not a happy, chasing bubbles-type thing at all. This became more and more frequent and upsetting and I could only think that she no longer had any quality of life. Thank you for your clear step by step process using clove oil. We found the exact brand at our local healthy grocery store and followed your directions – it worked just as you described. Of course, I cried but I feel slightly better knowing that she received the most humane end I could perform. Thank you.

Hi Roslin,

It sounds like you gave Myrna an amazing life. 21 years is incredible, especially for a goldfish in captivity. It’s never easy saying goodbye to a beloved pet and I’m glad she went without pain. Well done on your part, it’s hard to make the decision and even more difficult to carry it out. Wishing you all the best.

So I have this one rainbow fish that just keeps getting ill over and over again. All of my other fish are fine and I don’t want to risk losing other fish and shrimp by having to treat one fish with medication. I unfortunaly don’t have a spare tank I can put him in. Is euthanization an option here or not?

Hi Borito,

Depending on his size, you can use a make shift container or anything else that holds water to treat him. If the disease has your fish past the point of return, then euthanasia is an option, but the ideal is to treat him as many diseases are curable in their early stages.

Thank you so much for your advice, my large orfe was suffering from dropsy and had not been well for some time. I did not want it to die in the pond, so used clove oil as you advised.
Clove oil is readily available in the UK in Boots and is very cheap.
I had him for many years and he will be missed.

Hi Jean,

Hi Jean, I’m sorry to hear it – Golden Orfe are beautiful fish. I hope the process was easy for you. Also, thanks for the advice on where to find clove oil in the UK.

I just have a question about whether my method is inhumane or not. I don’t feel it is, but haven’t found any info about other people doing it at all. Keep in mind that all of my fish are under 3.”

I use a net to catch them, quickly put them in a baggie (usually a snack size sealed with as little air and water as possible) and quickly put them on the ground and stomp on it quickly and firmly. The entire process-from catch to confirmed death-takes a maximum of 5-8 second and results in enough “gore” in the bag that the fish is unrecognizable.

I sure don’t like to euthanize anything but I grew up on a ranch and learned at a young age that you do what needs to be done and you do it quickly while causing the least pain possible. It can be tough, but you need to have a no-nonsense attitude.

From various accidents I’ve read about involving humans with similar outcome (unrecognizable from trauma) most of the Dr’s have reported that they believe the person felt no pain.

What is your opinion?

Hi Katie,

This is basically a variation of the “stun and stab” method. It could be humane as long as you are aiming for the head – the blunt trauma here will hopefully kill them instantly. The reason I suggest using a heavy object instead of stomping is it’s easier to aim for the head. It may be gruesome, but if you are hitting the head then I don’t see this as inhumane.

It’s interesting, I’ve noticed a common trend in my years people who grew up on a ranch or farm are much more open to the concept of euthanization than those who grew up in the city.

Thank you. I just had to put down my first fish, like 10 minutes ago. Really, my first fish. He was a .29$ feeder goldfish, from PetSmart, I bought to test my pond’s ecosystem. He flourished, grew to 11”, and had quite a few offspring in only 3 years. I named him SpeedRacer because he darted around like a crazy fish. He was the first fish to eat from my hand and the one that showed the others I was ‘ok’, when I had to be in the pond. I did my best to heal him, twice over two months, but at the end, I knew I was doing it more for me than him. As much as I’m mourning his loss at this moment, I can’t thank you enough for your simple, easy to follow guidance, at a time when emotions take hold. Rest In Peace Speed.

Hi Holly,

It sounds like you gave that Speed an amazing life – especially considering what was otherwise his fate, should anyone else have bought him. 3 years and offspring is no small fete. You should be proud of yourself as a fishkeeper!

I’m wishing you all the best in this trying time.

Holly, sorry to hear about Speed.
Ian, thank you for guidance on how to euthanize my 7 years old goldfish. I lost one two days ago and I could see the other one was not at all well and was going to die. I used the clove oil and he went to sleep and died very quickly. Both were kept in a pond with a filter.

Hi Leslie,

Never heard of this before. It very likely isn’t and I wouldn’t suggest experimenting to find out. Not when there are known humane methods. Please refer to the above article for humane methods.

My Betta fish was always a very small fish from the start, but now (after about 3 months), he is not eating, laying at the bottom of her tank, in the corner, and not going up for air at all. This has been happening for about a week. He has also not grown at all since we got him. Do you have any idea what’s going on? I don’t know if he needs to be euthanized or not.

Hi Stella, I would start by testing your water parameters with an aquarium test kit, this will clue you in as to whether or not you need to take things further. Water quality if often a problem with fish becoming sick or ill and in these cases, improving the water quality may be all that’s needed to see your betta happy and healthy.

I want to thank you very much for this article. I just had to put down my approx 4 year old betta and used the straight clove oil method. He did seem to fight it a bit around the ten minute mark (thought he was passed out, but then started to move around in a twitching motion), are you aware of fish having residual movements as they pass? (I know these “reflex” type motions can happen in mammals). He appeared to go relatively painlessly, and of course I hope that was what happened for him. He was a good fish and will be missed.

Hi Kiki,

4 years is old age for a betta, you did well as an owner 🙂 Even so, it’s never easy to say goodbye to a pet and I’m sorry for your loss. I have personally only ever seen a fish “twitch” once when I was confident I used the correct amount of clove oil for it’s size and that it was in a comatose state (Neon Tetra) I have heard stories about other peoples fish moving slightly too. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if this is unconscious muscle movement.

I had to use clove oil to euthanize a beloved 4 year old Betta, Leviathan, three years ago. I suspect that he had a brain tumor. He was refusing food, swimming in circles on his side, appeared to be having seizures, and his eye began bulging. I have to say that even having previously been a veterinary assistant, his death seemed to be one of the most peaceful that I’ve witnessed. I know it may sound crazy, but he seemed to have known it was coming, and to have accepted it. The few moments before he fell asleep, he seemed more relaxed than he had for days. I really think it was way more painful for me than it was for him.

Unfortunately, my sister now has a Betta that isn’t doing so well. I believe it’s his swim bladder, and heaven knows what else. She’s been treating him for months with no improvement, and he is now refusing food to the point that he’s only eaten twice this week. He’s clearly miserable. It’s heartbreaking. Since my sister doesn’t feel that she can do it, I’ll also be euthanizing my poor fin nephew soon. I want to thank you for this article, as I needed the unfortunate refresher; and also for helping me to remind myself that clove oil is the right choice. As long as I (or my sister) have a Betta, I’ll be sure to have some on hand.

Hi Gloria,

Thanks for sharing your story. I’m sorry, but I had to laugh at the name Leviathan, it’s a funny name for a small fish, like a Betta. I’m glad you are there for your sister, It sounds like your vet background has made you more resilient. Still, I feel for her, saying goodbye to a pet is never easy.

I am so sad… my 13+ year old black convict cichlid appears to have swim bladder. I have done all of the things recommended and he is not improving. I am now prepared to purchase some clove oil. 🙁 I hate to see him like this… he has been with me for years and years…I glad to know there is a way to let him go without getting gruesome. Ty, Alana Stevens

Hi Alana,

13 years! You must have been a great owner, you should be really proud of your efforts. I’m sorry to hear it had to end like this, it’s never easy.

Thank you for your advice on how to euthanize a betta fish in a humane way. I had to euthanize my betta today, and it was pretty difficult ????
But the clove oil method felt like it was the best procedure, after doing a little bit more research an what clove oil is and what it’s used for.

Hi Anne,

I’m sorry for your loss. Saying goodbye is never easy, but rest assured that your little fishy will have passed peacefully.

Today I had to say goodbye to my almost 3 year old female Jack Dempsey. A few weeks ago she was injured by swimming into the glass away from one of my Oscars. After 2 weeks in a hospital tank with frequent water changes, she decided to stop eating. After a week and half of not eating I realized today was the day. Thank you for this blog. She went peacefully.

Hi Mia,

It sounds like you did all you could. I’m sorry for your loss. I’m glad she went peacefully. Wishing you all the best!

My boyfriend and I have two goldfish. They were both fine until we noticed one of them had managed to wound himself on an ornament in the tank. Since then they both seem lethargic, he has lots of white fluffy stuff on him and black spots and she’s lost all of her colour and appears to be quite large as if she’s beginning to develop dropsy. We’ve tried cleaning the tank more than once a week, using aquarium salt, anti bacterial drops and nothing works. Can anyone help?

Leanne Hi. I have a pond goldfish (with 21 others) that I think is showing similar signs with the white cotton wool appearance on its back. I searched for a solution on line and everything pointed to various forms of fungus all with a very expensive remedy which stated that the remedy might not even work !!!! I came across this site with regrettably euthanasia in mind as a last humane option. I know it will not be easy for me to do but along with a poodle, a cat and a hamster of mine long ago all of which were put to sleep by a vet and their thoughts and reasoning at that time was that if we could see the suffering and pain that a pet goes through we wouldn’t hesitate to end the suffering. Hope my thoughts help you and I know now that through this site I will have made the right decision and a big THANK YOU to Ian Sterling for having the forethought to start up this web site.

I had an angel fish that had this same problem! It started off as a little spot that looked like a little wound on his upper back then slowly started growing fuzzy stuff on it. Sadly he passed away before I found a solution but my other angel started showing similar signs. I tried a $20 anti fungal treatment pack and it cleared it all up!

I’m faced with the decision of euthanizing my black moor goldfish. She shares a tank with a fantail and they were both extremely stunted when I got them (my fantail is the largest at almost 3″) so I naturally didn’t expect them to live long. I’ve had them both for 7 months and have noticed that my black moor is refusing food and is struggling to swim, floating around the tank on her side.. I have gotten rather attached to the both of them and in return, I am able to handle and hand feed them. I’m worried that she may have an infection that could spread to my fantail so I am planning to euthanize her with the clove oil method as a way to prevent this from happening as well as preforming a large water change for my fantail. I’m new to this hobby and I honestly didn’t see myself getting upset over a fish but, here I am.

Hi Haila,

I completely understand where you are coming from, fish soon become our own little friends with their own distinct personalities. Letting go is never easy. When fish refuse food, it’s generally a sign that something is wrong, unfortunately, only you know what’s right in this circumstance. Wishing you all the best in this trying time!

Thank you for the info. Today I will euthanise my betta fish. I got it almost 4 years ago and is really hard to say goodbye to my fish. My fish is in a lot of pain I can see it and it make me feel so bad.

Hi Angy,

4 years is about the average life of a betta in captivity, so you did great caring for your fishy friend over the years. I’m sorry to hear it has come to this, it’s perhaps the worst part of being a fishkeeper. Stay strong!

Thank you very much for your article. We have had Bubbles, a goldfish, for four years. We noticed that her eyes became very cloudy a couple of months ago and we suspect she couldn’t see. She’s been eating less and less, is lethargic and has lost weight. We have another fish in the same tank that was purchased at the same time and is thriving to this day. Since yesterday Bubbles has been lying on the bottom of the tank barely moving. Her gills open sporadically so we know she is still alive. We leave for vacation in a few days and will be gone for a week. It would be terrible for her to die while we’re away. We are considering euthanizing her before we leave if she doesn’t improve. Do you think she’s suffering?

Hi Bubbles’ Grandmom,

I’m terribly sorry to hear about bubbles condition. Unfortunately, I’m not a vet and I am not qualified to give advice in this regard. You’ll have to make a judgement call here.

Thanks very much for the well-written article. This morning we said goodbye to Mr. Fish, an 8+ year old goldfish. Not a bad run considering he started his journey with us by being won by my daughter at a school carnival. He had a tumor that made it progressively harder to breathe and eat and finally he began to suffer. The clove oil appeared to cause no pain at all.

Hi Chris,

Firstly, hats off to you for being an exceptional fishkeeper – most people who win fish from a carnival have no idea what they are in for, and before long, the fish is dead. It sounds like you did the right thing for Mr. Fish.

Lol mine lasted a night from a carnival…and now all my fish in my new tank except for three(on there way to death) are floating around aimlessly and staying against the filter and on the tank floor…help me…why am I so bad at taking care of little feesh

Hi Help me,

You have not given me much to go off here but it’s most likely because you haven’t researched the basics. You need to cycle your tank, add an appropriate amount etc. I cover all these points in the article above.

I have a 10+ inch placo with a cauliflower looking outer tumor and wanting to know the best.. Hopefully painless way to send him on to fish heaven.. I have had him for 6yrs. Pls help.. Ty.

I wonder if you can help. On Monday I found my tail spot Blenny floating on the surface of the water. I thought he was dead but on closer inspection just unable to stay upright or swim down from the surface.

I put him in a small breeder tank half way down the tank so that the other fish would not stress him out but he hasn’t moved much and is still unable to swim down.

His gills are moving and he is looking around but not eating. His colour is still good, eyes bright and has a little ‘yawn’ now and again.

I can’t understand what could be wrong as he is a ferocious little eater and has always seemed very healthy for the past 2 years.

If I take him out of the box he just goes back up to the surface.

Any idea what could be wrong or how to help the little guy? I have done several water changes and the parameters are fine.

Thanks in advance

Hi Abi,

Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to diagnose fish online. It’s possible it’s swim bladder disease.

My Betta acted that way and she was just constipated. I didn’t feed her for a few days and she returned to normal.

My poor Eve has dropsy. At first I thought she might have eggs and was preparing to lay them. But she just got bigger and bigger. I put her in a hospital tank and did EVERYTHING. I fasted her, fed her peas, treated her with Kanaplex…twice. Now she looks like a beach ball with a tail. I can’t watch her suffer anymore so now I’m sitting in front of my local drug store waiting for them to open so I can get some clove oil. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Hi Gayle,

I’m terribly sorry to hear about Eve. It sounds like you did all you could. Sometimes, despite trying everything, we just can’t save our fishy friends. I hope it all goes smoothly, stay strong!

So after going to 5 stores, I was finally able to find some clove oil. I gave Eve a last meal and did the deed. I found a jewelry box and we buried her in the bleeding hearts in our garden. It went very quickly as I hardly needed to give her the second dose. She was a real fighter and I know that if I didn’t help her, she would have lasted a long time, but she was clearly suffering.

Hi Gayles,

That sounds like quite an ordeal – I have never had difficulty tracking clove oil down, that would have been the last thing you needed while thinking about the task you need to do. I’m glad that she went quickly, and I like the little memorial you gave her!

Thank you for your advice. We have a beautiful fan tail who developed a tumor on his head about 2 years ago, but was going ok. About 3 months ago his playmate in the tank started eating the tumor. Pretty gross, but he seemed ok. We got a new plant about 2 months ago, and discovered it was hiding 6 baby freshwater snails inside. We think all the extra waste may have made our fantail sick. Perhaps the wound has got infected (but no sign of this) He has been lying on the floor of the tank for 2 days now. I have done a 30% water change 2 days running and filter change also, but no improvement. He is twitching and gasping. It’s breaking my heart to watch him. I really hope I can find clove oil here in Tokyo. I will have to end his agony tomorrow. So sad. We will have one fantail left. I will put the snails in the local pond. Will the fish be lonely, or should we get him another friend?

Hi Meg,

First, please don’t put the snails in your local pond. They could grow in numbers and spiral out of control. I know it sounds extreme, but fishkeepers have been responsible for the spread of many destructive species like this. You might save the snails but kill many other creatures in the process. I highly advise that you kill the snails. Dropping them in a bleach solution will do it.

As for your betta, many fish have survived on their own and lived a full and happy life. If it’s a male, then this is generally the norm.

I think my angel fish swallowed a snail. She has a bulge on her side and can’t swim. She’s floating at the top of the hospital tank, which is submerged in the larger fish tank. It provides support for her. She can right herself for only seconds at a time before floating on her side. She’s been like this for 7 days. I treated her for swim bladder to no avail. What is it with snails?

Thank you for this article! I’m so glad the clove oil will put our “what up fish” (my son was 3 when he named him) to ease.

Hi Halim,

I love that you let your son name your fish, that’s adorable! I’m sorry to hear that you need to resort to clove oil but rest assured your fish pass quickly and painlessly.


I have a telescope fish that is 1 year old, for a month or more he has a little red blood mark on his right eye (down side of right eye), I’m not sure if he hit something swimming or is it bacteria but can you suggest any kind of treatment because it just won’t go away?

Hi Andrea,

Unfortunately, I am not qualified to diagnose fish, you would best off posting pictures on an online forum. It could be harmless or it could be more severe, it’s hard to say.

I have this blue gourami. She is just mindlessly floating around the tank, she has fin rot, ammonia poisoning, and idk maybe swim bladder diesease. I was preparing to move my fish tank to my room, but forgot to put dechlorinator in and she has been doing worse and worse. She looks lifeless and is making me cry. Do I humanely put her down, would that end the suffering?

Hi Payton,

Ammonia poisoning and fin rot are often caused by a poorly kept tank. Have you been testing your water with an aquarium test kit? If your fish is beyond the point of return, then euthanasia is an option, but it’s a judgement call that only you can make.

I have a beta fish, got him in 2017. He is started out fine and happy then with the fact that he couldnt stay afloat and he would hit the bottom of the tank. Now this month he has been at the very bottom ofthe tank and loosing parts of his tail and fin… I dont know what to do… He has been an emotional support for me and i just can’t loose him. But i dont want him to hurt ….

Hi Dawn,

If you have tested your water parameters with a test kit, and everything is normal, and you have ruled out all treatable diseases then unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot you can do. I get that this is hard, especially with him being an emotional support animal, but it’s a call that only you can make.

Hi Dawn! I’m not a vet and I can’t diagnose. But it sounds like he might have a case of fin rot. It’s usually caused by bad water. But there are plenty of tutorials online for treating fin rot at home! I treated one of my betta fish who was one year old, and now he’s 3 and a half and his fins grew back! I personally upgraded his food and did a very diligent and careful one week of low dose salt water baths in a hospital tank. + added a little medicine to his tank. But be very careful and follow the instructions EXACTLY when you find them.

Hi Peter,

Don’t beat yourself up too much, I’m sure you did the best with what you knew at the time. Now you know better if there is a next time 🙂

Hi mate I shot my fish with my air gun straight through the head do you think it would of suffered ? Was one shot then it stop moving but shot it again just incase. Was over in seconds

Hi Johnny,

If you hit in in the head, the shock could possibly have stunned it and killed it in a swift motion. However I wouldn’t suggest that this method is humane, there is too much room for error.

Hi New Guy,

It varies from fish to fish, but it’s most treatable in it’s early stages. If you have just noticed the spots appear then there is a good chance your fish will make it.

Hi Newguy,

It could be touch and go, but if they are still swimming around and acting otherwise normal, then it’s possible ich medication can save them. Unfortunately this cannot be guaranteed.

We have a department fish, Mr.Fin (we work in Finance-and he has fins) who is at least 4 years old. About 3 weeks ago he started acting as though he wasn’t feeling too well. Sleeping more and eating less, having difficulty finding the food, so we figured age related. Then he started acting like he had swim bladder symptoms so we read up on that. We reduced the amount of water to provide more surface area (he’s only in a one gallon bowl) and was in the process of fasting him. An unknowing co-worker saw the low water and added untreated spring water to the bowl. Since then he has seemed to really take a turn for the worse. We figured he wouldn’t last too long, but that was about a week ago and he’s still hanging on. We bought clove oil based on your article, but since he’s still hanging in there, wondering if it’d be worth a shot to test/treat the water and him? We’re new at Betta’s and understand he’s getting up there in age. His fins aren’t the pretties, his eyes are dim, color much darker, and now developing yukky white slime as well as staying pretty much to the bottom. So not sure if it would help? Any thoughts?

Hi Kim,

I LOVE Mr. Fin’s name. Unfortunately, I can’t diagnose. However, 4 years about average in terms of betta life expectancy. It’s possible that this is just him getting ready to give up the ghost, in which case there might not be a whole lot you can do for him. Of course, the first step is always to test the water for ammonia nitrite and nitrate and pH. If everything looks normal there, and there are no obvious symptoms, then this one might come down to a judgement call.

This all helpful fish information; however, what about killing “pest” snails? I recently upgraded my tank, including new plants. During the first month I kept finding pest snails. I kept removing them and put them in my old small tank (now known as the snail tank) that is still set up. I would like to disassemble it, but I have about 2 dozen pest snails (bladder & ramshorn) and one nerite snail in it now. Now the pest snails are reproducing!
My upgraded tank already has all the snails I would like in it (3 mystery + 1 nerite). (I only wanted one nerite snail because I was sick of all the white eggs/dots everywhere. Even ON my mystery snails! Fingers-crossed one nerite will not lay eggs.)
How do I humanely kill them (pests & nerite) so I can disassemble my small tank?

Thank you in advance. My apologizes if this subject has already been discussed. There are a lot of comments to read. 🙂

Hi Stacy,

Excellent question.

Copper Sulfate should wipe out the snail population. This should be readily available from your pet store as a snail killer or in the gardening section of your local hardware.

Hi. I have a beautiful angelfish who has started swimming upside down and spiraling like crazy. Have treated for possible swim bladder issues but with no success. Her crazy movements almost look like whirling disease. My water parameters are right on and the rest of the tank, including my other angelfish, are just fine. Are there any other things that could be causing this that I could treat or is euthanasia the best option?

Hi Anonymous,

Whirling disease is very rare. If you feel there is no saving your fish, you will have to make a judgement call. Unfortunately, I cannot do that for you.

Thank you for the article!

My beloved Black Moore is suffering badly and I’ve tried everything. It’s time to say good bye… He’s bent in half, turning light brown, eye lids are nearly transparent. He’s swirling around on top with slits in his fins. His gills are moving and he’s looking around but can’t eat or steer himself. I suspect my nitrates got too high and then I failed to realize a full water change was not the best option for Nitrate poisioning. I think I made him worse! So I’m feeling AWFUL that he’s feeling Awful, But now I don’t have Clove Oil and won’t be able to get any for a couple days as I live fairly remotely. Is there anything else that I could SUBSTITUTE? I have a lot of oils, just not clove. 🙁 I want to stop his suffering asap. I can’t smash / stomp him, I just can’t.

Thank you!

Hi Toniel,

Unfortunately, Clove Oil is pretty unique in it’s properties that allow it to be used as a sedative. If you are talking about other essential oils, I am unaware of any other oils that would have a similar effect, without causing suffering first.

Unfortunately, your best option might be to have a neighbor or someone else without the same attachment to do the deed. It’s still humane, but I can understand why you would not want to do it to your own pet.

I have a golden comet fish, still in his prime at around 5 years i am told. He stays with this little fish all the time. This morning a awoke to find something weird. He was lying on the vent of my filter. Physically on the filter. I assumed he was dying and turned off the filter. He moved away. Swam up and the spirled back down to the filter to return. i Tryed it again and the same result except he landed on the floor of the tank. I saw that he had gotten a red underside and fins. He went completly white around a year ago so i dont know how he went red. I went out as i had to and when i arrived home in the evening he was still alive to my suprise. At first i thought it may be from when i cleaned the tank a week ago. But a thats a long time ago and B the other fish wasnt effected at all. I have called around and waiting on replys from some companys that supply this type of fish. He now the red appears to have spread out over his body and now it covers i rekon half of it. I would really like to find out what this is and why it happened. I am planning on getting some Betta fish soon so i dont want to make the same mistake again. He is around 2 inchs and a golden comet fish.
I am putting him down as its terrible to see him suffer so badly.

Hi Hanna,

Thanks for sharing, it’s possible your fish has red pest disease – it matches the symptoms of red patches appearing. It usually takes hold in poor water conditions. It is treatable and doesn’t mean he needs to be euthanized. Once you sort out that, I would get your water tested to make sure ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all at acceptable levels (You should already have an API Master Test Kit on hand if you keep fish!)

Thank you for your helpful advice. Had to put my 20yr old Silver Dollar down tonight. She was one of a pair, her partner passed a couple months ago but she started showing all the same end of life signs as the other and I knew it was time and couldn’t let her suffer.

Hi Amy,

20 years? I think that must be the longest I have ever heard that a silver dollar has been kept in a home-based aquarium setup. You must have really taken care of her. I’m sorry to hear about your loss.

I have a standard generic goldfish. My son ‘won’ him at a school carnival in 2nd grade – and he has survived, along w/ others, for about 7 years now. He is about 3 inches long w/ a magnificent tail. Unfortunately, years ago he started developing a tumorous growth behind his head. It grew to about a half-inch or so, and then stabilized for a long time. Suddenly over the past several months it has been growing fairly rapidly. It is now over an inch long and swollen, and has gradually enveloped his left eye.

He has remained quite vibrant throughout all this. Sadly, of late when I turn the filter pump off during feeding, after feeding aggressively until the flakes are gone, I have been finding him floating upside-down motionless, except for his beating gills. When I turn the pump back on, he quickly rights himself and begins to swim again. However, in the last couple of days I have found him floating belly-up occasionally even w/ the pump on. I thought for sure he was finally on his way out – but he still becomes quite active at feedings. Not sure what to do.

Hi JM,

Firstly, congratulations for keeping a carnival goldfish for so long, they typically live for 5-10 years in captivity, so you have obviously been a great carer. That’s awesome! It does sound like the tumor is getting large enough that it is impacting your fishes life. Unfortunately, euthanizing is a judgement call that only you can make, you know your fish better than anyone. If you feel your fish is suffering then there may be no other option.

I have a neon tetras with neon tetras disease, I removed him from the tank but another one is starting to become colorless, can I send in a picture and ask you if he’s infected?

Thanks, Amy

Hi Amy,

Unfortunately, I am not qualified to diagnose fish. I would recommend posting a photo to an online forum for further advice.

I based the method of putting my betta down on this clove oil article. This is not a humane way of putting down a fish. It was the worst experience to see and my poor fish suffered.

The clove oil made it so he could not breath and was basically suffocating and gasping for air.

This was excruciatingly painful to see. I loved my fish and had waited to put him down because I didn’t want to hurt him… and guess what ….I did anyway, no thanks to this inhumane advise.

My fish had multiple tumors that were big and bloody.

Hi Anonymous,

I am sorry to hear about your experience. Clove oil is considered humane by both vets and fishkeepers worldwide. If you followed the steps in the article above, your fish should have passed as peacefully as possible.

I had an aggressive minnow that was chasing/tail biting all the others, and one of the others in particular. Tried blocking the line of sight/ changing the tank around. No luck.
Then tried separating him out for a bit then reintroducing, but same behaviour. In the end it was either Darwinism (let him chase the other fish to death); Life in Prison (in tank on own forever); Or euthanasia.

In the end, I went for the latter. Did the foil-bash-stab method. Not pleasant but, well… save the detail…must’ve worked instantly.

On the plus side, the other fish are much happier now.

X RIP Timmy. X

Hi TS,

I’m sorry to hear that euthanasia was the final decision for Timmy. It’s never easy. Especially doing the bash and stab method – it takes a courage and a steady hand for that. I hope that it restored order to your tank.

F*** all you people. Fish are not toys. Know what you are doing before you buy anything alive. Seriously to even mention these methods makes me sick. Just stick a Jew in a gas chamber….. Oh wait we evolved beyond measuring the worth of any life……or did we. Every name and commenter on this list I have reported to my local animal/aquatic no-kill rescue. Welcome to the database. Good luck with adopting a mammal.

Hi Adam,

You appear to be a horrible person. I am disgusted that you would compare humanely killing a suffering fish to a war crime. Perhaps if you read the article instead of jumping straight to the comments to attack others, you would understand that there is a difference between the two.

Why telling us to go screw ourself when we are trying to do the right thing for our animal, you are sad sir. Really sad in your head. I recommend I psychiatrist. It could help you man. In the meantime, thanks everyone for your shared experience. It helped me a lot.

I came across this website when trying to find out why we aren’t able to keep our daughters goldfish alive. I was told to place a fish in a cup of water and into the freezer and they just fall asleep. Thoughts?

Hi Jeanette,

My thoughts are pretty clear in the article. Ice crystals form over their gills, which would be painful and is considered inhumane.

Best method for small fish I have found is the insinkerator method. Just flip on the switch, turn on the water, and drop your sick little friend in. Instant shred. No pain!

Thank you for the information about clove oil. I used it yesterday on our dying 8-yr-old goldfish. I used the oil in his acrylic tank and now there is a film on the floor and walls of the tank that I can’t soak, scrub, or scrape off. Any tips?

Hi Jaci,

Unfortunately I don’t have any experience here, I normally use an old bucket, All my tanks are glass and I have never added clove oil to directly to them. Can anyone else here with experience help Jaci out?


Clean the tank with DAWN dish washing detergent, it takes grease out of your way! Use hot water also, just like cleaning your Tupperware!

Clove oil not working “add a stronger dose” – drip drop wait repeat drip drop wait repeat. Really? Use a stronger strongest dose to begin with. . Spare the Clove oil spoil humane euthanasia.

Hi Goonch,

Thanks for your thoughts, but I would advise against this. Fish come in all different shapes, sizes and, tolerances. Because of this, I can’t give a “strongest dose” that is also humane. If you were to simply dump a bottle of clove oil in, the fish will know something is up and panic, which isn’t humane.

Another option if you don’t want to use chemicals (or can’t because you have shrimp or other sensitive species in your tank) would be to introduce Darwinism with a few Assassin Snails. They eat the pest snails, reproduce very slowly, and spend the rest of their time eating old fish food and algae.

– – –

Just used the clove method to put down 2 of my many platys that I’m almost 100% sure have fish TB :/

I’ll be keeping on top of the water parameters but every source says to remove the ones with symptoms asap to prevent infection of the others, so I appreciate the humane methods with detailed directions. They both went gently and quickly to sleep.

Hi Randy,

I’m sorry to hear about your fish, it sounds like you did the right thing. Thanks for sharing the suggestion about Assassin snails, that is a great way to all those tiny snails that quickly breed up in tanks!

I tried to use the clove oil method to put down my beloved betta. Hes clearly suffering tremendously and he seems to be past the point of no return. I’ve tested the water 1000 times and everything came back normal. He seems to have ick as do the other fish in the tank, but hes the only one that isn’t recovering. Perhaps I put the clove oil in too fast, but he began thrashing and I couldn’t bare to see him suffer like that, so I immediately took him out and placed him back into the tank. I dont know what to do. I need help.

Hi Alissa,

Have you read my guide on how to cure ich? If your betta is too far gone, then euthanizing may be the only option. If you leave the betta in the bucket for longer to get used to it before slooooooowly adding the clove oil, you may see better results.

This is so useful thank you. I’m currently watching my 8 year old (isolated) white mountain minnow belly up, still alive but struggling. All it’s wee pals in the tank appear to be healthy. Old age I think (hope?) Off to the chemist for the clove oil.

Hi Susan,

You must really look after your fish, 8 years is ripe old age for a white mountain minnow. If it isn’t showing any other symptoms, then it could just be his time to go – not that this makes saying good bye any easier, but you must have given it a really good life for him to reach old age.

I’ve been wanting a new pet but my fish doesn’t seem to die so I’ve been wanting to kill him without my parents knowing. Any Ideas?

I know you are young so might not understand what you are saying here, but this is a terrible mindset. You don’t just end something’s life because you are bored of it. Imagine if your parents wanted a new kid so they killed you?

Thank you so much, we have had our fantail for nearly nine years. It got very poorly over the past few months, and no medicines worked. It was sad to watch him suffering, but we didn’t know what to do. Found your article on the clove oil and decided it was time to try it. It worked straight away and there was no suffering. Thank you again

My calico fancy goldfish managed to get stuck in between some slate which I had specifically positioned so no fish could get in between the rocks, it looked like she had been stuck there a while, only recently took on the fish 2 months ago, anyways, she got stuck, I removed the rocks, and it seems she has a damaged tail, a cloudy eye and quite a few scales missing, this only happened today, she’s sluggish and looking quite unhappy, I don’t know how on earth she got stuck, but I cannot bear to see her suffer any longer, and I cannot afford any expensive treatments right now, I think the clove oil is the only way out of this. ????

Hi Arthur,

I’m so sorry to hear that, if your fish isn’t eating and doesn’t appear to be recovering then euthanasia is an option. Unfortunately, it’s a judgement call only you can make. I’m sorry to hear about your situation.

Hi, I had a betta fish named “Princess Ayako” for about a year. After having her for 8 months, she began to develop fin rot. Thinking little of it, I cleaned the tank, the gravel, and ensured that the water quality of the tank improved, but the fin rot didn’t go away. I resorted to using bettafix, I think that’s what it’s called, to try and help because my local pet store suggested it. Nothing helped. The water was fine but she didn’t get better. Eventually, she stopped swimming around and would lay down on the gravel while still breathing. She stayed like this for three days before in hopes of a miracle before putting her down. Thank you so much for providing me with a humane way of going about it. The only issue was that, about 30 seconds after adding the clove oil, she started spasming for 15 seconds before calming down again and eventually falling asleep. Did I pour the oil mixed with water in too quickly?

Hi Blake,

I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s likely that she went really calmly, it might have been that she freaked out about being in a small bucket or that the movement from your hand scared her. It can be traumatic, but this is still considered one of the most humane methods by fishkeepers and vets. I hope you are doing okay!

Thank you so much for this post. I was able to use the clove oil to put to sleep my little betta George. I feel so much better knowing he’s not going to suffer anymore and that he just slipped peacefully away.

*sigh* my 1.5-2 year old albino Oscar (he’s bigger than my hand) got fin rot and stopped eating about a month ago. He’s hanging out at the bottom of his tank doing nothing 90% of the time and he’s developed a weird circular white looking patch near one of his fins. Our guess is either HITH or a tumour.

We took all the stuff out of the tank tried treating with Pimafix and now trying aqua-cyline. But when do you give up? Where do you draw the line and say “he’s suffering too much”

He’s huge and I don’t even know how I’ll catch him to put him down but I know it’s coming to the point where I just may have to do it.
For almost 2 weeks he’s had a guppy in with him. I’ve tried raw prawn, worms, his usual pellets. His water parameters are okay too.

When is it time to give up? How long can an Oscar go without eating before they die?

Hi Angel,

If it’s ongoing and the condition appears to be getting worse then it’s a judgement call only you can make. Most fish can go a week without eating, some more some less. It’s not an easy decision, and I really feel for you here. You can only do what you think best given the information you have available. You know your fish best.

We had to put our fish down today and it was suggested that we do the flush down the toilet method. I decided to Google a humane method and thankfully found your wonderful help. We couldn’t handle the idea of flushing or stabbing and I have Clove oil on hand. We followed your directions and it worked exactly as you suggested and we felt like we had time to say goodbye. Thank you so much.

Hi Sara,

I’m glad that you did your own research on humane methods, your fishes passing will have gone easier because of it. I’m glad to hear it went well and I hope you are holding up okay!

Ok so, I have a fish that likes to murder its tank-mates for fun. In the last few months he has murdered four, and I worry that his killing-spree with keep up if I don’t do anything. I adopted him from a friend of mine, but he’s ugly and he’s a crazy phyco so if he suffers I couldn’t care less. (RIP Fork, Carole the Canister, Avacado Jr., and Spoon) My friends and I have discussed almost every single one of the methods you said definitely NOT to use, and when I was reading your article, I couldn’t stop laughing at how much of a terrible person I am. I know that it’s cruel to make anything suffer, but my serious problem is that I think this fish deserves to, and is definitely going to fish HELL instead of fish heaven. Any ideas on how to murder my fish before he murders another of the ones I spent so long naming?

Hi Arnold,

What breed is your fish? Typically when fish murder other tankmates, it’s a result of the tank owner not understanding which fish are compatible and which fish are not. Some fish need to be kept in schools of a specific size while for others, to small a tank can set off territorial bullying. It depends on the fish, but it isn’t his fault for doing what comes naturally. I would advise you read up on fish compatibility and care – your murderer might just be misunderstood. As for euthanizing, I have outlined how to do that in the guide above.

Thanks for the guide using clove oil, my little buddy was blind and struggling. Your guid worked perfectly, sleep first then he died.

Will use this method again if i need to.


Hi Lee,

While I’m sorry to hear about your circumstances, I’m glad to hear you found success euthanizing your fish!

hi ian, just another person grateful for your guide with the clove oil. i used the eugenol tooth liquid which was all i could find (red cross brand tooth kit) and it worked like the clove oil.
i never knew the toilet method was inhumane, i never even considered it. my 5 year old was devastated and was not okay with me flushing Boris the tetra so i hopped on google and after some traumatizing suggestions thankfully i found this page .
also thank you for the dose of humor in the article, i appreciated that! -it’s important to balance a sad moment. although i could do without the stun and stab!!! that’s some serial killer s*** haha

Hi Jo,

Thanks for the feedback, I hadn’t considered eugenol tooth liquid but I’m glad to hear it had the same effect. It was lucky your5 year old objected so loudly! I completely get the choice to skip the stun and stab, I don’t think your little one would ever forgive you!

Thank you so much for this.
I have a beautiful cuckoo plec , about 7 inches long, who is 19 years old (yes you read that right), named Gollum. He shares an aquarium with my Mbuna cichlids and has seen many come and go in his time, and been happy and healthy all that while.
Over the last month he’s become increasingly reluctant to come out and feed. Today he is belly-up, floating, then suddenly having a spasm of movement, then sinking, repeat. The other fish are all fine – clearly his time has come.
After all this time he is like an old friend and to have a gentle way of easing him out of his distress means so much to me. I have sent my husband out to buy some clove oil.
Thank you again – sad, but very grateful.

Hi Bee,

Wow, that’s impressively old for a pleco kept in captivity. That speaks wonders for your skills as a fish keeper. That’s awesome. I can imagine how hard that would have been to say goodbye! He must have felt like part of the family. I am glad to hear you are using the clove oil method – it’s the most peaceful way to send this old fish on.

Thank you for the advice! I have a 75 gallon aquarium with a lot of fish and I guess it just seems like the water got too dirty and wasn’t maintained enough sadly. My poor goldfish, Sapphire, had been laying at the bottom for 2 to 3 days with fin rot and a bent body at times, so I wanted to take her out of her misery even though it was hard. I pretty much followed all of your steps except I forgot to initially mix with my hand after adding the clove mixture to the bowl where the fish was. I also noticed my fish got a little excited and start moving bit when the mixture was initially added. With all that in mind, do you think she was still able to have a pain-free quiet death? Sorry if it seems like I’m a little paranoid, but I just wanna make sure she went out peacefully and wasn’t in pain any longer. Even though some people might say they’re just fish, I grew an attachment to her and loved her. I had her for 2 and a half years :-(.

Hi Sara,

I’m sorry to hear about the loss of Sapphire. I’m on your side, they are much more than fish, they become little members of the family! Your fishes natural reaction when you added the clove oil would be that you were a predator reaching for her, so it’s possible she did become skittish. But on the going to sleep part? She wouldn’t have suffered. You did the right thing, it sounds like she was suffering immensely before. I hope you are holding up okay an I wish you all the best!

I’ve had a sunburst wag platy for 3 years now, and she’s gone through 4 pregnancies. (some of the babies are still in the tank with her) Unfortunately she contracted Ich recently, and a lot of it. I tried a number of treatments, none working. Fearing that she might infect the whole tank I put her down with some clove oil, and it worked. So sad to see her go, but glad it was painless.

Hi Brad,

Unfortunately, ich can be a difficult disease to come back from. It sounds like you did the right thing. At least she left you with some kids to remember her by! I hope you are doing okay!

Wow! I can’t believe you replied to the thousands of comments on this thread! Lol! Thank you very much for the help and reading the comments section helped a ton too!

I hope to have the dedication you have in helping others one day.

Hi Mike,

Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m sure you’ll go far. I’m glad to hear this article helped you!

Clove oil BURNS! I cannot believe that this is said by some crank to be painless! It burns your tongue if you use it on a sore tooth, and accidentally get some on your tongue, yes it deadens, but horrific ally. Take your dying fish to a decent vet who uses the clear anaesthetic. That does not BURN. It anaesthetises it, and within a minute your beloved fish has lost conscious ness, then their big hearts and brains go peacefully to sleep.

Hi Gina,

I would appreciate it if you did not refer to me as a crank, especially when such an uneducated statement follows. Clove oil is recommended by the AVMA (you know, veterinarians) and the RSPCA as a humane way to euthanize your fish.

I’ve had my beta, Handsome, for close to 4 years. I purchased him to keep me company at work, then brought him home a year ago when the office was being painted. I even had a ‘fish sitter’ when I took a vacation! About 6 months ago he developed a tumor on his side but was still eating and playful. The past couple of weeks though, he has rapidly declined; he couldn’t swim to the top to eat and was just leaning against the side of the tank.

Thankfully I found your article. I had to drive around town to find the clove oil. GNC was the only place to carry it, but all they had left was the sample. When I explained why I so desperately wanted some, he gave me the sample bottle! Though it was difficult, Handsome is now in fish heaven. Thank you so much for giving me the way to humanely let him go.

Hi Cyn,

It sounds like Handsome had a geat life thanks to you. That’s really awesome to hear about your local GNC helping you out like that. I’m glad you were able to track down some clove oil and that the whole pocess went smoothly.

P.s That’s a really cute name for a betta!

Hi Rachel,

Unfortunately, there isn’t really a substitute to clove oil, due to it’s specific properties. You might have to do the more gruesome stun and stab (or have someone else do it for you)

My Betta Patrick has the same exact problem as Handsom. I’m so sorry to hear you and Handsom had to go through this too, but I’m happy to he’s there is a way for me to help Patrick move on without causing him pain.

Hello Ian

After just losing my baby Luna I wish I was coming to you with better news but I need your advice.

Do you remember my other female Sassy I told you about? A few weeks ago she jumped out of the tank and took a huge fall about feet, I let you know that all seemed well, her fins wore torn but have grown back.

Anyways off and on she has been showing signs of what I was convinced has to be swim bladder. I never over feed my fish especially her since she’s pretty small but I treated her for it anyways. I have done everything from fasting to jungle cure with kanaplex and after her getting better then worse and better and worse I found something called fin and body cure by api

I see it treats many external and internalal bacteria diseases and it talks about something called hemorrhagic septicemia which is an infection that caused red blood patches in the gills and localized swelling which makes sense since she suffered a major fall!

I did the full 4 treatments for that exactly as the directions described and she seemed to get better. Then she went back to not being able to swim, very swollen, and laying on her side- I poured the powder in her tank and within minutes she wAs better.

However today (right now) she is hiding under her internal filter laying her her side. She literally stays in her castle all day 24/7 unless I shake it to make her come out- she will try to swim but then just get either tired or annoyed that she can’t and go to her side.

She’s looking at me so sad. I have tried everything because euthanizing her is the last thing I wanna do. I can’t say she’s in pain but she looks very sad. I can only imagine she’s not comfortable especially since before she was such a lively active girl.

Do you think I should try another round of another medication?

Do you agree with me that it seems to be something other then swim bladder since I don’t over feed. I have fasted and treated?

I thought that if it was something going on inside from the fall I would have noticed right away but maybe something slowly crept up?

I know you wouldn’t tell me to euthanize a fish or rather tell me what to do in any case as it is up to me but given everything I told you what would you suggest? Right now she’s looking pretty hopeless and I don’t want her in pain or to die, i would rather put her to rest and not be in pain :;(

Hi Dominique,

It’s really hard to say here. The fall might have caused sever injury that was not immediately noticeable but is apparent in the weeks after. If this is the case then unfortunately, based on what you have said, it sounds like another round of medication is going to put off the inevitable. While I would love for it to be the cure, I am not convinced you would see different results. The last thing I want is for you to lose another fish, but in this case it might be the only solution.

With that said, if you want to try for another round of medication, just in case, then go for it. I mean, you have the medication on hand. You know sassy best, the call is yours to make. There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. It’s going to be hard whichever way you go.

Wishing you all the best.

My pore beta (Snow) has a tumor on his left side, it started as just a bump really small behind his swimmer finn with a slight color difference then his normal white.. . but in a matter of a short time (1 1/2 weeks or so ) the growth has taken over most of his side and his gills have started getting dark. I called the pet store I adopted him from and they said it’s a tumor and I should put him to sleep forever because they can’t help me. I am so sad I had him in a 20 gl tank with every thing to make him happy… I am afraid to kill him he’s still young. And I know he loved being out of his prison cup they keep them in till they get adopted or die so this makes me so sad . I looked up ways to cut “it”(the growth) off but it’s too late they said because it looked like the issue is internal not just the large growth that I can see . So I wanted to say thank you for the knowledge of “the nicest way to let my baby pass with no pain. ” Thank you.

Thank you so much for this. My betta had been clinging to life for a couple weeks but just kept getting worse until he basically spent all his time floating near lifeless int he tank. I could not stand to see him suffering anymore. He was three years old and caught something I could not identify and did not respond to any of the medications I tried to treat him with. I feel better knowing that he lived a long life as the king of his 20g aquarium and it was over quickly and humanely thanks to you.

Thanks for your informative article. I have a 15cm goldfish with dropsy. I can’t handle whacking the fish, but imagine clove oil won’t be strong enough. Was thinking I might put him/her to sleep with Clove oil first and then do step 2 (knife). I have 15 other goldfish so want to do this before any others get sick – is a mixed methodology like this still humane?

Hi Laura,

Absolutely. In fact, for a fish that large, my concern would be it bouncing around as you try to stun it. Sedating it first would be the most humane thing to do in this case.

I’m sorry it had to come to this. Wishing you all the best!

I would like to thank you for this article! My Homer, a 12 almost 13 year old gold fish, ended up getting ill. His tank mate, Pete, passed this summer and since Homer was never the same. I didn’t know what to do but i knew that once Homer started going belly up and what looked like a tumor or lump got bigger that it was time to say goodbye. I came across this article and it helped reassure me that i wasn’t a monster for ending his suffering. Thank you for writing this article.

Hi Shennandoa,

I’m sorry to hear about Homer, it sounds like he lived a nice long life. You must have been a wonderful owner! Wishing you the best.

I agree. Your article was well written and compassionate. It’s currently desperately needed. So I, too, thank you for this article. I did want to say that the promo for chopped added a humorous rub. I know you don’t control that. It just lightened the mood.

Thank you for your kind words, Suzanne. I’m sorry to hear that you needed to use this advice. You got an advertisement for chopped? Oh dear, that is some dark humor right there. Thank you so much for sharing that, I had a really good chuckle 🙂

My baby betta appears to be suffering for the last few days so if it’s suffering would you recommend humanely euthanizing it. It’s been laying on the bottom sideways for 2 days breathing fast. I’ve had 3 bettas and they have all lived 3-4 year lives and so this is a first for me seeing them suffer like this.

Hi Jacob,

Unfortunately, it’s not my place to tell you whether or not you should euthanize your fish. You will have to use your own best judgement.

Ian – thank you for this. I had to sadly put our Ruby to sleep as she was unhappy, floating, unable to eat successfully and so this was the kindest thing to do. She went to sleep as per the first steps then we put her to sleep. Thanks again

Hi, Ian,

can you please tell me precise dose of clove oil/water ratio?

Many thanks. Can take your advices and translate it to other language?

or there is another option, i can translate it, and you can put it on your page, so i can share it to people in my country that need it.

Take care, Jiří

Hi Jiří

What language are did you want it translated to? Google Translate does an exceptional job for many languages when it comes to translating content from english.

HA! I told my parents and friends time and again that flushing isn’t humane. My fish doesn’t need to be put to sleep yet, but it’s good to know I was right about flushing sometimes not instantly killing them. The thing is that I got 2 little (one was big) goldfish named Luni and Anuket and due to lack of knowledge, Anuket died soon after we got them. Luni is still alive, but doesn’t like her tank anymore. Luckily I now have a new and bigger tank with a good filter and I think after I get her settled into it, she’ll be a lot happier. I think Anuket passing might’ve changed her in some way, because she used to be a happy little fish that just swam around, until her tank mate was gone. She’s always stressed, so I want to look into getting another fish, I want to get some neon tetras but I don’t have a single clue if goldfish and neon tetras can live together.

Hi Pixel,

I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your fish. You were certainly right that this is not the ideal way to get rid of a fish. It sounds like you are in a better position to care for your fish now. Don’t forget to cycle your tank before moving Luni over, it will keep here happy and healthy. Here is a guide on how to do that:

On the fish compatibility, Neon Tetra prefer warm water while goldfish prefer it colder. They are not a good mix for each other.

Will the clove oil method work with larger fish if you multiply the dose? If so, what would you recommend for a larger Pleco about 10”? Mine is dying slowly and I’m really stressing on it! I hate the thought of any living thing suffering and want to help put him out of his misery but don’t want to pith or spike the poor guy either…

Hi Ian,

Obviously its something none of us ever want to do but it’s something that we all need to be prepared for. Its nice that there are some very humane and simple methods (e.g. clove oil). Me and my other half breed reptiles and its a shame there are no similarly simple and humane methods to dispatch them.

I’ve read from a few different sources that some people combine the clove oil and alcohol methods. Clove oil as you’ve suggested to anesthetize the fish and then adding alcohol to euthanize it. What do you think about that? I’m wondering what the most simple and reliable method to dispatch the fish once its unconscious would be? Is the clove oil “overdose” fairly reliable?



Hi Stuart,

Interesting idea. Given one already has a bottle of clove oil on hand, I don’t see a need to add alcohol, especially given that it is one of the least humane ways of euthanizing a fish. However, I understand the thought here is that the fish is essentially comatose and that it shouldn’t feel the alcohol. The clove oil method is very reliable, you can read through the hundreds of comments here from people who have used it with success. I echo those sentiments in the times I have unfortunately had to do the deed. I’ve only had to use the stun and stab method on Koi that were too large to be euthanized by clove oil.

Yeah that’s the theory behind it, so it makes sense.

I was just wondering if any method was quicker and more reliable, but I guess everything has its lethal dose so as long as you get that right and make sure the fish id deceased then it should be fine 🙂

I just used this method for a tetra with swim bladder. He lived for about 3 years, it was sad to let him go. He went pretty quickly.

Thank you for posting this method.


Hi Amber,

I’m sorry to hear about your Tetra. I’m sure he lived an amazing life and I’m glad that he went painlessly.

Hi Ian.
I have a goldfish I’ve had for about 10 years, (ryunkin or however u spell it.) Her name is Trudy. Trudy has had recurring swim bladder issues n usually the frozen peas thing has worked, (peel the skin off, dice the peas up small). However, Trudy is no longer eating them n has been floating for over a week. I hate to see her suffer. I think I’m going to try the clove oil thing…shes been a very sweet girl n has lived alone in my 45 gallon tank with my 12 yr old placo, “Free Willy From The Crabs”, or Willie for short. Willie has started trying to snack on Trudy n I shoo him away, but I cant stand seeing her like this.
Thanks for the humane method suggestion. I dont want her to go thru anything else…shes a pretty fish n I will miss her swimming up into my hand. *sad face*
Thanks again n God bless.

Hi Suzen,

It sounds like you have done all you can. You seem knowledgeable given your past experiences treating the issue, so I trust your judgement here that you are doing the right thing. I’m sorry to hear it’s come to this and I’m wishing you all the best!

P.s, I had a laugh at Willie’s full name!

Willie came from walmart. He was tiny then..the only placo in a tank with crabs. Hence the name. Hes a cool dude,too. At night, I feed him a “tank nibbler” n say “willie willie willllllieeee” n he comes out of the log n comes up to the top of the tank. I tell him what a pretty boy he is…he knows his name. My hubby says “only YOU would have a fish that comes when u call him..”…lol
Gonna get clove oil today for my poor Trudy. Thanks for your help n God bless.

That is adorable. It sounds like you certainly have a unique pleco there. Mine are much more stubborn and prefer to hide when I come near.

Wishing you all the best with Trudy. It’s never easy to say goodbye, especially to a pet of 10 years. My thoughts are with you.

Trudy went peacefully n actually pretty quickly.
I know shes “just a fish”, but I loved her.
Thank u so much for your help. I truly appreciate it.

My hubby is so sweet…he buried Trudy for me, (she was a big girl ) , n then drove me to town to get 2 angel fish, (after we totally cleaned my tank n gravel, 100% water change n all decor thoroughly cleaned). Willie seems to like them. Haven’t named them yet…
Thanks again for your help. Have a blessed day. *smile*

Hi Suzen,

I’m glad everything has gone well. I just want to ask, you didn’t crash the cycle when cleaning out your tank did you? I’m sure you are all over this, but just want to make sure since it’s a common mistake made when doing a total tank clean

I’ve had a hybrid orange parrot cichlid for 5 years now. He was in A 250 tank with a pair of Red Devils (I know) . Still they tolerated the parrot for the most part. Over last week or so the fish developed heavy stress signs and started to have fun disintegration. He was very sluggish and was getting beat up. Tonight I knew if I let this go on he would be dead by morning. He hardly fought the net at all. I did the stun and stab and buried him with the rest of my passed pets in their area of the back garden. Thanks for the tip. About the stun part. It’s so much better the fish tonhurry the process up than wait till nature took the long course for it to expire. Sad to see it go though.

Hi Brian,

I think you are the very first reader here to use the stun and stab method. I must commend you, it’s not exactly a nice experience. It’s never easy saying good-bye, especially when it’s by your hand but it sounds like you did the best thing in your judgement and that there really was no alternative. Wishing you all the best!

Hey Ian.
I’m sorry..I was a bit misleading in my post about cleaning the tank. I had Willie in a 5 gallon bucket of tank water, the “100% ” water change was the water in the tank. I had 5 gallons from the tank to keep some of the established balance in there. So far, the water is testing great n everything is leveled off nicely. I gotta say, so far, I like the 2 Angel’s better..they arent nearly as “dirty” as my poor Trudy was. I didnt plan it this way, but it’s looking like I have a Male n a female angel fish. Willie is the only other fish in with “Gabriel & Ruth”. Everybody is doing great. Thanks so much for all ur help. God bless.

Hi Suzen,

Oh, perfect. Sorry, I always like to er on the side of caution and give advice *just in case* – it’s hard to know whether commenters are beginners or experts. Sounds like you know exactly what you are doing. I’m glad to hear that all your fish have settled in, and with adorable names to boot! Wishing you all the best!

Hey Ian. Quick question. My 2 angel fish ,(Gabriel n Ruth) are the striped variety..why do they change color? They go from dark stripes to very faded stripes. No aggression issues going on..everybody seems to get along very well n these fish have grown RAPIDLY since I brought them home. They are very friendly n come up to the glass anytime I pass by.
Got the standard tropical fish food n also the dried blood worms. They like the tank nibblers,too.
Is it normal for them to go dark to light like this? Read a few articles online, but no real info. Figured u might know.
Any info greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Hi Suzen,

It’s hard to say, it may be that they are stressed (too much light, high ammonia, nitrite or nitrates, fluctuating ph etc.) however your test kit should reveal if this is the case. Otherwise it’s mood and nothing to worry about. They can fade at different times of the day or even if a dominant angel fish is nearby.

Well, the water is testing pretty good n there is only the 2 Angel’s n Willie in the tank..45 gallon, tall tank. I guess they might be fussing at their reflections in each end of the tank…lol..
I turn the white light off at night, generally around 9 pm n turn on moonlight. They get moonlight til bout 6am. But I have noticed the darkening is mostly at each end of the tank. They must be looking at themselves…lol
I’m really enjoying my aquarium again. Poor Trudy…I miss seeing her beautiful colors n long, silky fins, but the tank isnt sad anymore. Everyone is happy n healthy…Willie has gotten really active since Gabriel n Ruth moved in,too.( Hes a GORGEOUS pleco, btw. Tall fins n all. His coloring is most always deep n rich in color. Hes a happy boy.)
Thanks Ian. Ur da best! Are u, by any chance, on Instagram? Would love to compare aquarium pics! Have a great evening n thanks again. God bless.

That all sounds really positive. I don’t think the color changing is anything to worry about then.

I know it will never be a substitute for Trudy, but I am glad to hear you are enjoying your tank – it sounds really lively!

instagram? I’m a little old fashioned and have not adapted to the internet very well so have avoided things like facebook and those other social things. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I still have one of those old cell phones that isn’t all screen – the nokia 3310!

Hello Ian
My red eye tetra has been laying at the bottom of the tank for two weeks now but still living, breathing and trying so very hard to get up. I’ve had him over a year, all other fish are fine. The tank water is fine, no ammonia, Nitrates or Nitrate, ph good also. Water always seems to stay alil hard and been that way for the 3 years I’ve had the tank…. I did the swim bladder treatment 1st, no change, I did a antibiotic treatment for the entire tank, no change, I separated him and did a parasite cleanse still no change, he hasn’t eaten and I try to push the pea to him but no change, every time I come near the tank he starts to try to get up w/o success, I’m at my wits end. I got the magnifying glass to examine him, no white spots, no cloudy eyes, no inflamed gills, no missing fins….I’m trying my best to save the lil guys and I see him turn his eyes to look over at me when i go close to the tank & he really tries to get up, flapping tail and all fins, opening up gills wide and some times pops up only to fall back to its side. but no swimming at all. Any ideas please. ‘Im a punk & can’t do the mercy kill.

Hi Lisa,

No nitrate is often a sign that something is wrong. In a properly cycled tank it should typically be forever increasing. It’s absence can be a clue that something is amiss in the tank.

Even so, It may just be this fishes time to go. Tetra are often bred in pretty bad conditions and to have one with a defect that shortens its life is hardly unusual. This is pretty sad as it means you can do everything “right” and still be unable to save your fish. If you cannot find a cause otherwise, it is possible that this is the case.

Only you can make the judgement call as to whether or not euthanasia is right in this situation. However, if you can’t do it, is it possible you know someone who would do it for you?

Hello Ian, I lost him/her two days after my post. I tried everything it tried so hard to just get up. was deeply sadden for the lost. The nitrate was below 20 that’s why I said none, that’s considered great.

Thx for your reply.

Completely agree that under 20 is fine. I just ask as a lot of beginners assume zero is normal. It sounds like you know exactly what you are doing.

I’m sorry you had to go through this and I’m wishing you all the best.

Hello Ian. Well …in my perfect little aquarium, I now have a problem I’ve never had before. Willie, (pleco I adore), has a white bump right on the end of his nose! What is it n how do I cure it? I love my Free Willie from the crabs! I’ve had him forever n hes never had ANYTHING wrong with him!! Help!! I’m stressing! I’m thinking the Angel’s I got from petsmart brought some kind of weird germ in..n of course they are fine. Any suggestions? I GOTTA help my Willie…

Hi Suzen,

If you look closely, does it look like salt? If so, it could be ich. Unfortunately, fish diseases are really hard to diagnose online, especially if that white dot is the only symptom. Your best bet is to google fish diseases then google photos of each and try and match them up. Also, can it be wiped away (be gentle!) it might even be he has just scratched himself.

I’m so sad. I had to put my betta down and it was like he knew. He had a tumor and i had no idea what to do with him until i came across your page. I think I made the initial mixture a little strong because he didn’t go to sleep peacefully and slowly but he did go quickly so at least he’s crossed the bridge. Thank
You for this article.

Hi Julie,

I’m sorry to hear about your loss. I’m sure you did a great job and that your fish went as peacefully as possible.

I tried the clove oil method and my fish BLED from the gills and was still breathing im severely dissatisfied with these supposed humane treatments.

Hi Elojah,

It’s possible something else was wrong with your fish, which is why you needed to euthanize, such as parasites in the gill plates. Clove oil does not cause the gill plates to bleed if administered as per this article.

Hi Ian,

I just want to thank you for this information, I only wish I had known about it sooner.

One of our large goldfish got sick and I treated the tank twice. The symptoms seemed to dissipate for a couple days but then it appeared to develop dropsy.

Rather than let it suffer and struggle to swim, we just performed the clove oil method. It was peaceful and fast and now it’s buried in the garden.

I will never be without the stuff!

Thank you again!


Hi Naomi,

I’m sorry for your loss but am glad to hear it went as smoothly as possible. Dropsy is nasty and unfortunately, euthanizing is often the only option. Wishing you all the best!

Thank you for allowing me to give the kindest gift to my poor sick tetra. Two months of treatment and I just couldn’t cure a nasty fungal infection. As the infection progressed, the poor fish began to lay on the gravel and swim sideways. It was time to do the kind thing and let him go, peacefully.

I just tried the clove oil method for the first time and I’m horrified that before I reached step two (12 drops), my poor gourami was frantically swimming in circles and poking its head out of the water, obviously trying to jump out. At first he had just gone to the top for air (about 2 minutes after adding the first 4 drop treatment) and was just moving very slowly. But then he was so stressed that I went ahead and added the 12 drop mixture because I wanted him to stop suffering. I did exactly what you said so I’m not sure what went wrong. I had to walk away. He’s dead now, but I’m scared to use this method again. He was only about 2 inches long so…what did I do wrong?????

Hi Lisa,

There are too many variables here. He could have been perfectly healthy, the container may have been too small, he could see you hunched over the container etc. I understand it may not look like it, but this is the most peaceful method possible for euthanizing a fish.

I know you can’t possibly know everything about my situation since you’re online and not right here with me. I understand that and also believe you’re trying to help. I’m not mad at you, I’m just traumatized and very uncertain about trying this ever again…obviously I didn’t do something right.
He was definitely not healthy though. He had a large white spot on his side that had spread across his ‘shoulders’ and had also made an identical spot on his other side (like a saddle back). I think if I had put too much clove oil in initially, he’d have reacted earlier, but he was pretty calm for a while and I thought he may be going to sleep. That’s why I was so shocked when he got violently erratic.
Also the tank was 1 1/2 gallon. Can you think of anything else I may have done wrong? I don’t trust myself to try again with another fish at this point. Obviously it’s worked for lots of people who commented…I had to have made some serious error.

Hi Lisa, I completely get where you are coming from. Euthanizing is a horrible experience as it is, without seeing your fish show signs of stress.

It sounds like your fish may have had columnaris, but it’s really difficult to diagnose diseases online.

Everything you have listed here is right. I do have a couple of thoughts, these may or may not be relevent.

– was the water dechlorinated?
– was this a new tank and was it bare? If so, he may have seen his reflection in the glass and mistaken it for a predator.
– Something spooked him, shadows, movement.
– I cant tell how bad the sore was on his back, but it’s possible it was to the flesh, past the slime coat and scales and the clove oil stung (this is just a theory, I have never euthanized a fish with an open wound, I’ll need to follow up on this)

Based on what you have said, those are my suspicions. If none of those are possible, then it sounds like you did everything perfectly right, in which case it might have just been this specific fish. If that’s the case, I’m not sure there is a solution here except for the much more gruesome stun and stab method.

I’m sorry that you had to go through all this, but from what you are saying you made the right decision given the information available.

I truly wish you all the best in this trying time!

Yes Ian. I think you’re probably right about the stinging…the water was 2/3 from the tank he’d been in and one third new (conditioned) water. He’d been a bit lethargic and not skittish about much before then… I think I’ll have my husband do the “gruesome” method next time. He’s okay with that. Thanks for your input. I do appreciate it.

Thanks for clarifying Lisa. I have my fingers crossed that there isn’t a “next time” but I’m happy to hear that you have a solution just in case.

Lisa, thank you for posting. I have a fish with an open wound, missing an eye, and swimming erratically. Researching humane ways to euthanize and saw this post. So thankful for your comment so I can keep looking for the best solution. Take care, stay safe.

Hi. I’ve had my little betta boy for almost a week. He hasn’t eaten a single bite of food since I got him though. He just lays on the bottom corner of the tank with his face in the gravel. I’m very sure he doesn’t have swim blatter. When he’s not on the bottom corner he’s hiding behind the filter or the heater. I have plenty of hiding places. I just got a few harlequin rasboras and they are doing perfectly fine. When I touch my betta with my net he gets away and goes to the other side. I just did a 25% water change today and cleaned all the decor and cleaned up the gravel. He sleeps all day and moves very little. I’m worried about him. I keep my water temperature around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve also noticed his color is a lot less vibrant when he sleeps and a few scales are kinda white. Please help me! I don’t want to lose my Azur, especially since I just got him!

Thank you for the advice. The clove oil seemed instant to me! My betta went out in about ten seconds and the gills stopped moving almost right away. Maybe I put in too much clove oil right away (and I added more, to be sure) but I was glad it was so fast. A horrible thing to have to do but I’m glad it was so quick and seemed humane.

Hi Katie,

I’m glad to hear the process was quick and painless. Some fish are more sensitive than others to clove oils, especially smaller fish. I’m sorry for your loss.

I just had to euthanize Marcello, my beautiful male betta. It was a hard and sad thing to do. I followed the steps using clove oil, which worked well. The whole process took about 20 minutes. I just couldn’t have done the other methods and the oil was the best thing I could use to help Marcello pass. Thank you for your advice.

Hi Amy,

I’m sorry to hear about your loss. I’m glad that Marcello wen quickly and painlessly.

Hi Ian,
Thank you so much for this article. I had to euthanize my first fish buddy “Gill” about six months ago, and used the clove oil method. It was very peaceful and I am grateful to have had the information.

One thing I learned and wanted to share with others, was that (at least here in Wisconsin in the U.S.) the drug stores don’t always have it anymore (they used to carry oil of clove as a toothache remedy.) So in a stressed state, I had to wait around while they looked for it and couldn’t find it. I also felt weird when they gave me that look like what do you want it for (they were looking it up in the database and coming up with Burt’s Bees lip stuff(!) so I explained that I needed just the essential oil. I didn’t want to say it was to put down my fish, so I said I needed it for a toothache. Honestly I was afraid they wouldn’t want to sell it to me if I said what I wanted it for, so yeah, a white lie for the good of my fish.

But anyway, the food co-op is the the place to go. They will have it! Also, they only had “clove bud oil” so I was a little nervous wondering if that was the same thing, but it is. It is just made from the buds only and not the stem parts, so it has a slightly lower percentage of the active ingredient, but I didn’t find that it mattered in your dosage.

Anyway, tonight I had a little Cherry Barb who has been sick (everyone else is fine) and after trying General Cure, he wasn’t improving and I hated to see him struggling and suffering. Thanks again for a great article and for the help!

Hi Sondra,

I’m sorry to hear about Gills passing and your Cherry Barb, I hope you are doing okay.

Thank you so much for sharing your tip on where to get clove oil and that clove bud oil is as effective.

I have a white male betta fish that I got about 3 yrs ago. He has cloudy eyes that are large and look like balloons. A few months ago, I noticed that he wasn’t eating a lot because we had two other fish in his tank which kept eating his food before he could get to it. They also annoyed him, so we moved our betta to another tank (5 gallons) and put in some decor that he loved. At first, he seemed happy, and one day, I was just looking at betta pictures on the internet when I discovered Popeye. A lot of the bettas in the pictures looked like my betta and I realized that my betta had popeye. I treated him with medicine but he hasn’t gotten any better, even after I tried it again and even once more. He is becoming very lethargic and he sometimes sticks to our filter, which he always does. I don’t know what to do. Should I stop his suffering?! Also, the medicine was API bettafix.
Thanks, Charlotte

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