Down with Elmo: Cruelty to Goldfish Dorothy

Cruelty to GoldfishPlease be prepared, as this is going to be an angry rant.

I love Sesame Street.  I love its multiculturalism, its learning opportunities, and its special place in my heart.  However, I’m pretty upset with one thing about the otherwise adorable Elmo: his goldfish.

In each episode, a baby goldfish is housed in a bowl.  They stick all kinds of stuff in the bowl and who knows if they’ve bothered to see if it will be toxic to the fish.  I’ll bet that “Dorothy??? has died numerous times of the torture of the goldfish bowl.

You see, goldfish bowls are terrible for the poor fish forced to live there.  Goldfish are thick-bodied fish who eat a lot and produce a LOT of waste.  A goldfish in a bowl quickly pollutes the water.  The fish is then forced to breathe its own concentrated waste.  If you think that bowl smells bad above water, imagine trying to breathe below the surface.

Goldfish need a lot of water per fish.  There are lots of good sources  for goldfish information, and they all say pretty much the same thing.  Baby goldfish- the kind you see in the pet store- require at least TEN gallons of water per fish.  Most fish bowls contain half a gallon or less.  As they grow- to over four inches long with very high body mass- they need THIRTY gallons per fish.

You may argue that you have a goldfish in a bowl or tiny aquarium for a year or more and it hasn’t grown, so that’s OK, right?  That’s because the poor fish has had its growth stunted by living in such small quarters.  If that doesn’t somehow seem cruel to you, imagine buying a Saint Bernard puppy and keeping it in a two foot by two foot crate, never letting the poor guy out, and only cleaning his messes once a week or so.

Goldfish never belong in a bowl.  I can’t believe a socially responsible show like Sesame Street would do something so cruel.  I know of several moms who, with best intentions, have bought goldfish in bowls for their Elmo-loving kids.  The pet store employees have either hidden the truth or were ignorant to the facts of these wonderful pets.

Goldfish live a long time.  If you think keeping a fish in a bowl for a couple of years is a success, it isn’t.  Non-fancy varieties live to be teenagers or older.  Fancies, such as double tails, black moors, and lionheads can live to be 30!  Again, think of owning a kitten and it dies in a year or two.  Does that sound like the right lifespan for a cat?

If your kid wants a “Dorothy??? like Elmo, there are three good options.  First, buy a small aquarium and house a few fish that are gold in color but aren’t goldfish.  A ten-gallon aquarium with two or three gold-color Mickey Mouse platys will bring a lot of joy to your child.  Second, if a full-size aquarium is simply out of your budget, buy a bowl of a gallon or more and house two or three White Cloud Mountain Minnows and a nice growth of Java Moss, but no gravel (for easy cleaning).  Last, if all of this sounds too difficult, don’t buy any fish.  Aquaria are an addition to your household chores and lives are at stake.

Finally, I don’t blame the people who want the goldfish bowls.  I blame the pet stores and irresponsible employees who promote goldfish in a bowl. 

Mostly, I blame Elmo for marketing goldfish in a bowl to children.  It is cruel, irresponsible, and unnecessary.

15 thoughts on “Down with Elmo: Cruelty to Goldfish Dorothy

  1. i SO aggree. the top reason i hated elmo for the past few years is beacuse his horrbile goldfish caring and how annoying he is. like: “let’s count how many goldfish bowls elmo would need to swim in! 1, 2 , 3…” you know the rest. so, i will be happy to go on strike with you. DOWN WITH ELMO! DOWN WITH ELMO!


    emily lorr, age 9, IL

  2. I thought I was the only one who was so upset and sad about that. I can’t even watch these parts, poor Dorothy! Totally unnecessary.

  3. Pingback: Dorothy goldfish | Myfeedbackonline

  4. Actually they do not keep the fish in the bowl all day. Nor are they marketing it to children. If you are going to buy any pet you should always do your own research instead of relying on a t.v show.

  5. Oh it’s so cruel for Goldfish to be kept in a bowl but it’s perfectly fine for children to be starving and dying from hunger and disease in other countries… Lets get out priorities straight

  6. It’s a big possibility that the fish didn’t live in the bowl that she was just in there for the short time she’s on camera

  7. I agree with this, I noticed dorothy was a like a common or comet goldfish, then bam I saw in one episode they replaced her with an oranda who was unhealthly clamping

  8. “Andrew”– oh yeah….there always has to be that one person who tries makes him/herself the voice of reason, truth, and morality. In your case, you just sound stupid. This article is trying to shed light on something we can easily change by making people aware of something many are not. Unfortunately, angry articles will not eradicate world hunger. You don’t know what’s in the author’s heart and mind so don’t jump to conclusions about her “priorities.”– she’s just trying to make a difference at a realistic level. If you think an angry article will end world hunger and death, go ahead and write one. Geeeez.

    • I never noticed how cruel fish bowls are. I never actually had a fish though. Thank you for the article. People who are comparing this complaint about animal cruelty to world hunger, please realize how absolutely irrelevant that is and stop being trolls. Seriously, are you actually comparing the 2?? She’s making a good point, just let it be.

  9. My son has come to love Elmo. And the past few years I’ve learned more and more about riah care, especially with betta fish.
    While visiting my mom one afternoon, we put Elmo on and I mentioned them putting random items in the bowl and if they were safe. My mom (not a big animal lover or knowledgeable on their care) said “I don’t think anyone cares, they’re feeder fish!”
    I responded saying, oh I’m sure there are people who care! Then I went looking for people who care knowing I’d find them.

  10. This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read!! It is a children’s show. You parents need to worry more about parenting your children then picking out insignificant things on children’s show to pick apart!

  11. Christine- …and you sound like a reactionary, insufferable black hole looking to suck whatever manufactured rage into the vacuum that is your life. You are basing your anger on someone who is basing their anger on what she imagined based on microscopically limited and wholly incomplete information.

    You are the one who sounds objectively stupid here…. Even more so than the original poster.

  12. Not really sure why you need to attack Pet store employees. Not all of us are ignorant. Customers are going to do what they want, against our advice or otherwise. It’s gets exhausting telling people this on a daily basis, then having them complain to corporate and risk our job over a goldfish. Unless you have to argue with people over proper animal care, every single day, then you don’t get to trash us. We try to tell people. They simply don’t listen or care. I’ve had people tell me to my face they don’t care if they die or not. We can’t refuse the sale. So then what? Don’t be so judgmental. Look at the customers who do what they want.

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