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.