Putting down a fish

Just a few days ago, one of my fish fry, Alpherg, was dying. I was told of this by someone else who was checking on the fish that day so I ran up and saw that Alpherg was dying. I recognize these signs with certainty, as I have been through the death of one of my previous fish (rest easy, Sylvia). However, I believed Alpherg had a chance. I tried what I could, but ultimately put down my fish. Further details in the section below.

Click for more technical version

Symptoms of this ember tetra “hyphessobrycon” are as follows:

  • Laying on its side at the bottom of the tank
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of buoyancy control
  • Stillness

I primarily suspected hypoxia as the jar lacked a filter or an air stone and relied on me to re-oxygenate the water by transferring oxygenated water from the main tank to the jar. I did this frequently to keep dissolved oxygen high, however, humans are far from perfect and something could have gone wrong here.

Another possible cause of this could have been nitrate/nitrite poisoning or other water parameter related issues, such as changes in pH and temperature. A less likely cause of Alpherg’s condition could be some sort of infection. I believed this was less likely as the problem appeared to be systemic and affecting both of the fish.

Here is what I did:

  1. Moved Alpherg to a smaller jar with water from the main tank
  2. Tested jar water pH and nitrates/nitrites, all results normal, tank water was recently tested too with normal results
  3. Observed Alpherg for improvements in condition, none observed over 30 minutes
  4. Mixed ~5 ml “100% clove oil” in ~100 ml water (recommended lethal dose for small bodied tropical fish according to this paper is 0.40 ml clove oil/100ml water)
  5. Observed Alpherg hoping for improvements in condition
  6. Gradually filled Alpherg’s new jar with clove oil mixture, Alpherg was flopping around while this was happening
  7. Observed Alpherg for signs of death (mechanism of action explained in this paper)
  8. Placed Alpherg in a secondary jar with tank water in case of recovery

Why I am posting, an incomplete list as these thoughts are difficult to put down into words:

  1. I probably made things worse for Alpherg. I could have done better, and it’s a bit hard to live with myself now.
  2. People close to me have mentioned that everyone has the possibility to become a serial killer, and I am afraid that they are right, for me.
  3. I was told that I would never be successful if I let things like this get to me. Here I am, letting this get to my head.
  4. I’m probably a terrible person at heart for doing this, but somehow my friend still claims that I’m his favorite person.

I would appreciate any support for this. Questions are also welcome as this may be a vague/confusing post.


I am so very sorry for the loss of your fish. Pets in our lives play such a big role and they really are such beautiful things. We are so very lucky to be the soul carers of these beings.

It sounds like you did a really great job at trying to improve things for your fish. I have no doubt that many people would not have been able to even think to do any of those things you gave your little being a chance, and I’m sure he would be so grateful if he knew just how much you did for him.

It’s so hard to have those thoughts of “what if”. They can mark an already tragic memory for us. I felt the same with my cat. There were so many things I wish I could have done and think I could have done.
Ultimately we do what we do for them with every intent of love. It is hard, and those thoughts hurt, but you know in your heart you loved him and wanted to do the best for him.
I can tell by your post.

Have you ever had intrusive thoughts that surprise you? That pop in and you think… who on earth would think something like that?! The difference between someone who would become that way and someone who has maybe an intrusive thought is intention and action and a hell of a lot in between.
I’m sure there is a lot of mental health and mental instability that professionals have researched into it all. The fact that you’re worried about it, makes me believe that you wouldn’t have the intention to hurt someone on purpose for any reason. It shows a moral compass. People who intentionally do those things lack a deep empathy and even sympathy. You sound like you have those things even by the way you talk about your pet.

(I can’t make more quotes… so)
3. I don’t believe that’s true. I believe people make great change in the world because they let things get to them. If we carried on not letting anything affect us we would lose the essence of love and compassion we require to form bonds and to push us to be better.
To me, as much as it hurts, those things that create dissension, unease, sadness or pain in our hearts are the things that show us what we are made of.

  1. Your friend sounds like they see the person inside and see how much you try and care.

I do hope that this doesn’t sound like a boring rant and can in someway help.


I appreciate the thought that you put into this comment, which does not read like a boring rant at all. This does help a lot, just having a constant reminder that I did the best I could for him and that I’m still not a terrible person means so much. Thank you.


It’s been a few months, so I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your reply. I occasionally come back to read it, mostly when the thoughts return to my mind and I need to hear this. Thank you so much.


I’m so so happy that there was something in there that helped you and does help. How have you been in the last few months?
Thank you so much for being here, 8-bit!


Thanks for asking! Overall, I’ve been great, but there are occasional thoughts here and there about whether I did what was right. Mostly from the fact that I couldn’t ask Alpherg if that’s what he really wanted. Again, thank you so much.


It’s so hard they they can’t express their needs to use isn’t it? I’m really happy to hear that over all you’re doing well. You always have a space here if you ever need x