Whenever I catch a fish for eating, I handle it with great care because it is a living being. I try and reduce the stress of that fish, even if it is a tiny one. To reduce the stress of the fish, you should know how to kill a fish humanely.
There is no way with which you kill a fish, and it doesn’t hurt them. But, you can at least try to make their death as less painful as possible. The best way to kill my hunt is to gently kill the fish as soon as I capture it. Killing it soon after capturing ensures that I get to eat fresh meat of the fish. Furthermore, the fish has to remain in the water until I decide to kill it.
When And Why Do You Need To Kill A Fish Humanely?
It would be best to kill the fish as soon as possible because every living being on this earth knows that they are about to die or about to be killed. So, it is best to ensure that your hunt doesn’t get much stressed with the fear of dying. You should be kind and gentle to the fish you catch.
Now to explain to you the reason why you should gently slaughter your catch. We will go a bit scientific here: the reason we need to humanely kill the fish that we are supposed to eat is that the fish we catch has a lower pH level.
This is due to lactic acid production in the fish’s muscles during the struggle of being caught. Now, the low production of pH levels in the fish’s body alerts the enzymes in the muscles to break down the protein.
So, if your fish has a high-stress level, it will lead the fish to produce more elements in their body, which will lead your catch to become stale or ‘not so fresh’ for eating. As a result, the meat of the fish will degrade, and all the fun of catching and eating fresh fish meat would be lost.
But, when you immediately kill your fish gently, all these processes come to a sudden halt, and the quality of your fish’s meat stays fresh. Therefore, you need to considerately kill your fish before you get on with cleaning it.
So, now you know why and when you should kill your fish humanely. It is time to know how to humanely kill a fish before cleaning it.
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How To Humanely Kill A Fish?
There are many reasons why we (or, more importantly, I) go fishing. One of the most prominent reasons is relaxation. Often, a fishing trip is planned when we get tired of our daily routine and want a day off for relaxation and fun with family or friends.
But with having fun comes great responsibility, especially when you can catch fish. Because then you have to tackle the fish appropriately. If you are new at all this catching a fish for fun and having it as your next meal, you need to know how to kill a fish humanely.
#1- With Clove Oil
Clove oil contains eugenol. It tastes good for humans, but for fish, it is deadly if used in high proportions. Clove oil is one of the most humane ways to euthanize or kill your catch (especially if the catch is small). For fish, clove oil works in a similar way in which Benzocaine hydrochloride and MS-222 aesthetics work.
This oil is readily available in all superstores. Almost 400 mg of clove oil is enough to humanely kill fish if mixed in 3 to 4 gallons of water.
However, I never mix the oil directly in the water in which I keep the fish. Instead, I first mix the clove oil in half a cup of warm to hot water and then add it to the water to keep my fish. I add the oil with a slow and steady hand, and it takes me up to two minutes to add all of it.
As soon as the fish’s body realizes that it is surrounded by clove oil, the fish starts to lose consciousness. The fish will then stop breathing and eventually die of hypoxia (also known as asphyxia).
The fish doesn’t die as soon as the mixture is poured into the water. Instead, it takes a fish up to 10 minutes to completely die (until there is no more movement in the gills). With this method, the fish doesn’t feel much pain, and they die peacefully and humanely.
#2- Baking Soda
Another humane way to euthanize your fish is by using baking soda. Baking soda is one such kitchen ingredient that is available in every kitchen and also in every store. But since it is such an essential kitchen ingredient, the question arises, how do we humanely kill a fish using baking soda?
To kill my fish with baking soda, I take one tablespoon of baking soda for each cup of water and then mix it in. once the solution is prepared, I drop my fish in that solution.
This method will take up to 20 minutes to kill your fish. However, it is also very humane, and it doesn’t hurt the fish at all.
Apart from being an easy method, baking soda is more accessible than other methods of euthanizing a catch.
#3- Carbon Dioxide
Using carbon dioxide to kill fish is an old method of euthanizing fish. By killing fish with carbon dioxide, we mean to put the fish in a closed container and then release CO2 in the water through the oxygen tube.
However, when I do not have the supply of carbon dioxide gas, I use one Alka Seltzer tablet in a closed container with water and fish.
Alka Seltzer is a tablet of compressed CO2. So, when it is put in the water, it dissolves and releases carbon dioxide gas.
However, a few years back, Alka Seltzer was deemed unfit for killing fish because it causes peripheral acidosis and asphyxiation. Both of these cause pain to the fish.
Even though most frequent fishers consider CO2 to be a euthanizer, there are other methods that are more effective and humane, like killing the fish with clove oil. However, because carbon dioxide is used wrongly, it can lead the fish to die a painful and acidic burning death.
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#4- Death By Overdose With Anesthetics
Anesthetic overdose is another humane way to kill your fish. Anesthetic includes phenoxyethanol. When phenoxyethanol is used in less quantity, it can sedate a fish. But, when a higher dose is used, then it can kill the fish. A dose of anesthetic is enough for a liter to be lethal for the catch.
I required a fish to die after an aesthetic overdose varies from fish to fish. If the fish is bigger, it makes it a while to die, but smaller fish can die within 5 minutes. However, anesthetic has its disadvantages and can cause distress to the fish.
The disadvantage is that it is acidic for fish’s body, and if the water body has pH 5.0 in it, it can cause acidosis in the fish, which is very painful for a fish’s death.
Another thing to consider is the stress that the fish goes through when it is caught, and the element of acidosis just adds to that stress, leading the quality of fish to deteriorate.
#5- Putting In The Freezer
Putting your fish in the freezer or freezing it via a block of ice is one of the oldest methods of euthanizing the fish. It shocks the fish to death, just like when you boil the fish. Whether or not it’s humane is something that you should decide. But how to humanely kill a fish by freezing it?
When I want to freeze my fish, I put a bag of water in the freezer until it partially freezes, then I put the fish on that ice and put it back in the freezer.
Many people think that this method is excruciating for the fish and can cause distress to them. Although many anglers believe that it is inhumane to kill a fish by freezing it alive, the only acceptable way to euthanize a fish by freezing it is to put it in the freezer when heavily sedated with anesthesia and unconscious.
#6- Ike Jime
Ike Jime is the right way to humanely kill a fish. It is a popular Japanese method, is excellent for both fish and us (taste-wise). Most anglers kill their catch by suffocating and freezing them in the open air, and this method is easier for the anglers but highly stressful for the fish.
When the fish is suffocated, its body releases acidosis, which makes the fish bitter, smelly, and mushy. The fish starts to leave its meat, and the great taste that we are supposed to enjoy at dinner time is lost somewhere.
But, all that changes when the method of Ike jime is used. It is a four-step process in which as soon as the fish is caught, it is stabbed in the brain. Then it is cut near the gill arches and near the tail. Then the fish is bled and put into the ice.
Now, it might seem that stabbing the fish in the brain is inhumane, but this way, the fish dies instantly and doesn’t feel any pain. Which in turn stops the fish from feeling stress.
When the fish ages properly, it develops a rich and delicious taste, a taste that we never get because mostly all the catches are suffocated.
Here Are Some Inhumane Ways To Kill Your Fish
These were some of the humane ways to kill a fish. There are many methods apart from these few, but these are the most humane ones. Au contraire, there are some methods that are extremely painful and cruel to the fishes. Let us discuss some of the lesser humane ways to kill the fish.
Hitting The Fish With A Blunt Object
Hitting the fish with a blunt object is one of the cruelest things people can do to their catch. I can never do that to my fish as it causes too much stress.
By hitting the fish with the blunt object, we mean that most fishers lay the fish on the aluminum foil and then use a heavy blunt object to strike its head. This method is inhumane because most amateur anglers don’t have a precise aim and can hit at the wrong place, which can be painful for the fish.
In addition, if you hit the fish multiple times because you missed its head the first time, then not only will the fish feel pain, but it will also make the meat musky and terrible in taste.
However, if you are confident about your aim and hit the head in the first attempt, you may use this method to euthanize the fish.
Flushing Your Fish
This method is ideal if you can’t see your fish dying and is also suitable if you have to euthanize your pet fish. Because you flush your catch as it will be send off to another place to die and you won’t be able to eat it, like ever!
However, there is no guarantee that flushing your fish will actually kill it. All that is guaranteed by flushing is that your fish will be send off to the sewerage to die. You are just transferring your responsibility to kill your fish to the gutters, where the fish will die a painful death.
This slow method of killing is not at all humane. We suggest that you do not use this method ever, and if you don’t have it in you or are squeamish about killing your fish, then take it to a vet to get euthanized.
The question of how to humanely kill a fish before cleaning it persists, but by no means is the answer to this question boiling water. Boiling water will shock the fish to death. But it is an excruciating death. Killing your fish with boiling water is similar to freezing it to death, but it will cause agony to you and the fish since you are basically burning a living being.
If you still want to use this method then, this is how it goes. First, take a pan according to the size of your fish and boil water in it. Once the water is bubbling, put the fish in the water and boil for 3-5 minutes.
The high temperature of the water will shock the fish, and it will die. If your fish is a small one, then it would die within a minute, but if it is a big one, it might be challenging to tackle it, as it might squirm and splash water, and then it would be painful to the fish.
Kill a fish using vodka? But, how do we humanely kill a fish using vodka? The answer is we don’t. There is no humane way to kill your fish with vodka or alcohol.
One way to kill a fish with vodka is to mix 10% vodka in 90% water. Mix the solution and then submerge the fish in the solution. The toxicity in vodka will intoxicate the fish, and it will die.
Another way to kill the fish using vodka is to take 100% vodka and then submerge the fish in that liquid. But, again, the alcohol being pure will shock the fish and kill it.
However, the inhumane part of killing the fish with vodka is going to burn the gills and fins of the fish because of the acidity in it. The burning sensation that the fish feels is painful, and it might stress out the fish.
No matter how painful they are, both these methods of using vodka can euthanize your catch.
Hopefully, this brief guide would have helped you understand how to humanely kill a fish, whether it is your pet or catch for your dinner. And about the methods which are inhumane and stressful for the fish when they are about to die.
Whichever method you chose to euthanize your fish, ensure that your fish doesn’t get stressed, or it will significantly affect the way it tastes later.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you have learned about the humane and inhumane ways to kill your fish, we suggest that you read on to the next part, as it will discuss the frequently asked questions about fish and their behaviors.
#1 – Do fish suffer when they are dying?
When fish are dying, they mostly die of suffocation. Just like drowning is painful for humans, suffocation is painful for fish. Whenever a fish is taken out of the water, it suffers unless it is immediately put back into the water.
And since science has been researching actively on how fish and other marine creatures react to being taken out of the water, it is found out that fish suffer immensely when they are dying.
#2 – Do fishes feel the love?
Yes, fishes can feel attachment and compassion coming towards them from their owners. The scientist that has experimented on fish have reported that fish feel anxious when a stranger comes close to them, but they feel relaxed when they see a familiar face. So the more loving you are towards your fish, the more it will be comfortable around you.
#3 – Should I remove dying fish from the tank?
Yes, when you realize that your fish is dying, you should remove it from the fish tank. This is because a dying fish will release toxins in the tank, which might affect other fish. And if it is a diseased fish, you also don’t want other fish to consume its body and get diseased.
#4 – Do fish get sad when other fish die?
No, fish don’t get stressed or sad when they see other fish dying because they don’t have the brain, allowing them to feel sadness. Fish may feel stress only when they are about to die. Other than that, they don’t feel sadness.
#5 – Can fishes feel pain?
Yes, fish can feel pain, but their pain is different from the pain humans feel. For example, they feel pain when they are being killed inhumanely and feel pain when a predator attacks them or when the anglers hook them.
#6 – Does clove oil put fish to sleep?
Yes, using a small amount of clove oil can quickly put a fish in a heavy sleep. But, if it is used in large quantities, then it can euthanize the fish. Therefore, clove oil should be mixed in warm water in small quantities to heavily sedate the fish.