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Can You Eat Aquarium Fish? Important Facts & Precautions

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

aquarium fish

As strange as it may seem, some people want to know if they can eat aquarium fish. We often think of aquarium fish being fish like Bettas, Tetras, and Danios, which makes the thought of eating aquarium fish especially strange. Obviously, these small fish wouldn’t make much of a meal.

The reality of the situation is that there are several types of aquarium fish, and some of them get large enough sizes to make sizable meals. So technically, yes, you can eat aquarium fish, however, there are a lot of precautions you need to consider. Keeping your own fish for food in a home aquarium is a lot of work and is definitely not something that most people would even have an interest in attempting.

If you have ever wondered about eating your aquarium fish, here are the things you should know.

Can You Eat Aquarium Fish?

You can eat aquarium fish, but it is not advisable to consume them raw. Also, be aware that potentially negative health concerns are associated with fish that have not intentionally been bred and raised to be food. If you are considering eating any of your aquarium fish, you should be familiar with options for humane killing. You’ll also need experience with proper filleting, cooking, and storage of freshly caught and killed fish.

You’ll also need to know for sure that the fish you are eating are not toxic to humans. Toxic fish are more common in saltwater fish than freshwater fish, but you should still thoroughly investigate this before eating any fish from your aquarium. On top of some fish being unsafe to consume, some fish just aren’t worth eating, whether it’s due to taste, size, or risk.

xray tetra_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pixabay

What Precautions Should You Take Before Eating Your Fish?

The first big consideration before eating aquarium fish is whether or not they have been raised to be food. There are some medications and tank treatments, including antibiotics and ammonia reducers, that can build up in the fish’s system and enter your system if you eat it. Some of these products can build up in the fish’s system for months or years, making them potentially unsafe to eat for a very long time.

If you purchase a fish from a pet store or aquatics store, you can’t know for sure which medications and chemicals it may have already come into contact with. If you intend to keep aquarium fish for the purpose of eating them, it’s a good idea to purchase them from someone who keeps a stock of food-safe fish. Once you have your fish, make sure all tank additives and medications are labeled as safe to be used with fish intended for human consumption.

Keep in mind that fish can carry zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Fish, especially those raised without consideration for human consumption, may carry diseases you can get from them, even if they’ve been thoroughly cooked. These diseases can include parasitic infections, fungal infections, and bacterial infections.

What Kind of Fish Are Good to Eat?

The main reason people consume aquarium fish is to help control so-called “tankbusters.” These are fish that are large and powerful enough to break a tank. There are several fish in the aquatics trade that shouldn’t be taken into just any home due to the size they reach or the care they require.

If you’ve ended up with a tankbuster that you don’t have space for or can’t keep safe from itself anymore, it may be worthwhile to eat it. Certain types of large catfish are great examples of tankbusters that may inappropriately end up in the normal home aquarium. Just remember all the precautions mentioned above before eating your fish.

Goldfish are edible, although they are typically not particularly tasty fish to consume. Tilapia, Plecostomus, and Piranhas are all examples of primarily freshwater fish that end up in home aquariums and are edible. Lionfish are a great example of a saltwater fish commonly kept in home aquariums that can be eaten. They are difficult to keep due to their temperament and environmental needs, which means that some people may tire of keeping them over time.

piranha fish
Image Credit: anncapictures, Pixabay

In Conclusion

If you are considering eating your aquarium fish because you want to get rid of them, the best option would be to talk to your local fish store to see if they are willing to rehome your fish for you. Never release your fish into the natural environment! This leads to hardy fish becoming invasive species that damage ecosystems and, in some cases, lead to the death and extinction of native species.

Eating your aquarium fish isn’t a very advisable option for disposing of fish. If you are equipped to care for food-grade fish and are able to find some to purchase, you could eat your aquarium fish. Ideally, it’s best to leave raising fish for food to fish farms that are fully equipped for this purpose. This will reduce the risk of you acquiring a zoonotic disease or encountering medications or chemicals that are not safe for you to consume.

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Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

Brooke Billingsley

Authored by

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping...Read more

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