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Can You Eat a Goldfish?

Ah, why do you want to know? If there’s were a contest for inefficient food source out there, goldfish would probably win without a lot of effort: it’s small, scaly, hard to clean, even harder to debone, and likely won’t taste very good, since most pet stores don’t feed their goldfish with the thought that someone might use it as food in mind.

If you want to have a taste of a less popular fish variety, trust us there are multiple options you could go for – that come from specialty ponds or, better yet, from the wild, and not the pet stores that definitely aren’t equipped to raise fish optimal for consumption.

Now on the other hand, if you’ve just accidentally swallowed a goldfish and are frantically googling about how edible they are to determine if you’re on the verge of keening over – that’s another question.

Let’s dive a little deeper into just how edible the goldfish are.

Goldfish Are Actually Edible (If We’re Speaking Technicalities)

Technically goldfish are edible. Genetically they have a lot in common with carps, with Prussian carp being their closest wild relative, and carps have been quite a popular product in most Asian countries for centuries now.

Fun fact: they used to be a lot more popular in the west as well, but over time had to give up their place to other fish varieties such as salmon, tuna, and cod, with economic development playing quite an important part – these varieties were considered more palatable and easier to consume, which increased their consumption (and decreased the carp’s) when people found they could afford to spend more money on better quality food – including fish.

Goldfish Characteristics

As mentioned above, goldfish are probably the most inefficient fish you could serve for dinner – it would be a lot of effort wasted over little gain.

Since most (if not all, I’ve never seen a goldfish section at a market, but who knows) goldfish come from the pet store, the first thing you’d need to worry about even if it’s absolutely healthy would be the taste.

Pet stores do not feed their fish the same way professional pond fish breeders do (not to mention how the fish eat when they’re out in the mother nature) – their job is to make sure the fish lives on, not that it tastes good. So when you take a bite of your goldfish, you’re very likely to discover that it tastes little like the traditional fish taste you’ve gotten accustomed to and more like the flakes they consume (if you’re actually a goldfish owner and have some around, you can taste test a bit – you’ll find that it’s not appealing at all).

And, frankly speaking, even if they were fed with the intent of future consumption, the effort it would require to properly clean and debone them just wouldn’t be worth the final product – either the amount of flesh or taste-wise.

This goes back all the way back to their carp ancestor – one of the characteristics of a carp is that it can taste quite… muddy. This is thought to happen due to the stress the fish feels when it’s tagged out of the water and left to die. It’s said that this can be avoided if the fisherman in question is skilled enough to catch and kill the carp before the fish knows what’s happening – and it’s a believable theory. I don’t think Asia would be consuming carp so widely if it constantly tasted like mud. But you do run a risk of getting the “muddy” one unless you know how to choose the fish.

If you do get your hands on a quality carp, then you may be in for a treat – it’s known for having a smooth texture and mild taste, milder even than other white fish.

But even if the taste is good, there’s another problem – carp does have many bones. And its bones aren’t edible, unlike, say, sardines or anchovies. So you will have to debone it before cooking it – and that will take some time (though, in any case, a small and slippery goldfish would take longer).

The Dangers of Eating a Goldfish

If you’re a weirdo that’s become more determined than ever to try a goldfish while reading this article, then at least make sure you do so while it’s cooked.

Consuming raw fish increases the chances of parasitic transmission, especially when it comes to intestinal worms, which are pretty common among goldfish.

And if that weren’t enough to discourage you, unfortunately even the cooking process cannot render goldfish completely safe. This is because the goldfish in question may be a carrier of a certain type of zoonotic bacteria that could potentially survive the cooking process. The thing is unless the pet shop in question takes very professional care of their goldfish, there’s a possibility of them contracted mycobacteria – and it can remain dormant in the fish’s system for quite some time, while the fish appears healthy on the outside.

So it comes down to this:

Will you necessarily contract something if you eat a goldfish? No. There’s no need to run screaming to the doctor.

Should you risk it? It’s just not worth it.

How Can I Cook a Goldfish?

Please do not. Please cook a carp instead (more on that below).

But if you’re stubborn and do go through all the trouble of cleaning and deboning a goldfish, then you should just fry them in breading with LOTS of seasoning like pepper, dried oregano, and parsley, using high-quality extra virgin olive oil. In this case, you’ll at least cut down some of the dangers of eating a goldfish and it may even taste like SOMETHING other than flakes it has been eating.

But please don’t.

Better fry up a carp, if you’re so determined to know what goldfish could potentially taste like if someone did decide to breed them for consumption. 

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Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Chum Charlie has always had a passion for fishing. His favorite fish to catch is a striped bass and his favorite bait to use is bunker. Off the water, he enjoys blogging and sharing his favorite fishing tips & tricks that he has learned over the years.