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Can You Eat a Goldfish? Is It Edible?

Renee Whitmore
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by Renee Whitmore

What if you are hungry and craving some fish and have no other option other than your pet fish? Can you eat goldfish?

Many people keep goldfish as pets in an aquarium or a pond, but they don’t really use them for consumption. They are freshwater fish that belong to the carp family, native to East Asia.

Keeping goldfish can be an incredible learning experience, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and even keep you feeling alert and relaxed.

However, you might be tempted to eat them out of curiosity. But, should you eat goldfish, and if you do, are there risks involved? Let’s find out.

Can You Eat Goldfish?

Holding goldfish

Yes, you can eat goldfish. Being a member of the carp family, they have a lot in common. Carps have been a popular food in Asian countries for a while.

However, if there’s one inefficient source of food, think of goldfish. Apart from being scaly and hard to clean, the fish is tiny and hard to debone. You’d spend a lot of effort preparing a small amount of food.

Even though goldfish are edible, there are several reasons why you probably shouldn’t eat them.

Are Goldfish Poisonous?

No, goldfish are not poisonous or toxic in any way.

However, they usually host parasites and bacteria, which don’t change how they look or harm them in any way but can be dangerous if ingested by humans.

Even if the fish looks healthy, they can be suffering from these parasites and pass them to you. Worse still is that the bacteria can survive cleaning and cooking.

Why Goldfish Don’t Make a Great Meal

If you’re still pondering about the question, can you eat goldfish, here are the top reasons why you should not consider cooking goldfish:

1.    Tastes Like Flakes or Mud

If you want to eat your goldfish, be sure it’ll taste like what you’ve been feeding it. If you’ve been feeding it pellets and gross flakes, that’s most likely what your fish will taste like.

Pet shops (where almost all the goldfish come from) don’t keep them for consumption. As such, they intend to keep the fish alive but not make it taste better.

So whether you get your goldfish from a pet shop or your aquarium, you’ll discover it’ll not taste like the traditional type of fish you’re used to but will taste like flakes and pellets.

What about wild goldfish?

If you are serious about eating a goldfish, catching a wild one is your best option. Wild goldfish can grow to more than 30 pounds

You can find them in rivers and lakes as either former pets or wild populations. However, even if it’s your best option, you’ll probably not like it either.

Like carps, goldfish like to swim in shallow water and taste like the water they swim in. even after cooking, it’ll most likely have a strong taste of detritus and mud.

Want fish for dinner? Go for more nutritious, tastier fish with less controversy, like tuna and salmon.

2.    Goldfish Harbor Parasites and Bacteria

If the flaky taste hasn’t convinced you, maybe the likelihood of getting parasitic infections will.

Even if they appear healthy, goldfish are often affected by parasites that can be transmitted to humans. You may not die from eating the fish, but the parasites are dangerous to humans.

Eating goldfish can transmit intestinal worms and mycobacteria, which causes Fish-Handler’s Disease. The bacteria can be dormant in the fish but can also survive the cooking process.

3.    Too Much Effort With Little Gain

As mentioned earlier, cooking goldfish requires a lot of effort to clean and debone, but there’s little gain.

There have been reports of people popping live goldfish in their mouths and swallowing them. Apart from exposing themselves to parasitic infections, that’s the most inhumane way a fish can die.

If you’re going to eat a goldfish, at least cook it first. But still, goldfish are pet animals. They should be adored, not eaten.

How Do I Cook a Goldfish?

If you insist on having a goldfish for dinner, at least cook it. You can try to improve the taste by seasoning it thoroughly.

Wild goldfish are thought to acquire the unpleasant taste due to stress picked up after being tagged out of the water and left to die. It’s allegedly possible to avoid the taste if the fisher kills the fish quickly.

To cook your goldfish, make sure you clean it thoroughly, descale and debone. Given the small size of the fish, the whole process takes a lot of effort.

Fry it in extra virgin olive oil and add a generous amount of seasonings like black pepper, coriander, and oregano. You may be able to give it some taste other than the fish flakes it has been feeding on.

What Happens If You Eat a Goldfish?

In most cases, you cannot die from eating goldfish since they are not poisonous. However, you can contract parasites and mycobacteria, which can be fatal when humans consume them.

Intestinal parasites can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fatigue, while mycobacteria can cause tendonitis, skin lesions, joint pains, and sepsis due to Fish-Handler’s Disease.

Eating a live goldfish is equally a bad idea. You risk choking and think about a fish flapping the fins in your stomach — I bet it is not enjoyable either.

Although there are no studies on how prevalent zoonotic bacteria are among people who eat goldfish, the curiosity is not worth the possible outcomes.

About Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.
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