How to Humanely Euthanize Your Guppy Fish?

A guppy can generally live between one to two years, but there are some cases where they can live double that. It all comes down to the care they receive, the quality of their environment, and overall life quality.

This is enough time to allow you to bond with your guppies and sometimes develop meaningful emotional connections. This is something all humans do, no matter the pet’s species.

As a result, killing the guppies can be that much more painful and distressing, especially if you have children caring for them. To minimize that stress, you need to understand that, sometimes, killing them is what you must do. And there are ways to do it humanely.

Today’s article will discuss the reasons for euthanizing your guppies and the humane methods to do it.

Why Do I Need to Euthanize my Guppies?

Unlike professional fish breeders, you may not know to provide your fish with the best life possible. That’s usually because there are so many things to know about the guppies’ diet, environmental temperature, oxygen, disease risks, and other aspects that accidents are inevitable.

Apart from these incidents, you may also have a natural progression of disorders and injuries during the mating season. Having multiple fish living together in the same environment will also increase the risk of cannibalism or sudden attacks.

And, finally, if everything goes well, your fish will still reach the point-of-no-return when euthanizing them is just a part of their life cycle.

Now comes the question ‘How to do it humanely?’ Not all people can perform the task themselves, especially if they have a higher emotional involvement in the process. In these cases, relying on a veterinarian is probably the best alternative.

If you’re not that emotionally sensitive, you can do the job yourself, but you still need some knowledge before that. The goal is to provide your guppies with as easy and humane passing as possible. With that in mind, we will next discuss the options available to help you with that.

How to Kill Your Guppy Fish Humanely?

Although the terms ‘kill’ and ‘humane’ seem contradictory, they aren’t necessarily. Humane killing refers to suppressing a life fast and with as little needless suffering as necessary.

Euthanasia is also seen as a last resort option for dealing with sick, old, or impaired pets after exhausting all other alternatives.

But if you’re already beyond that and euthanasia seems like the last remaining option, here are the two primary methods I recommend:

– Using Clove Oil

Clove oil comes from the clove trees, more specifically from dried flower buds, leaves, and stems. This oil contains eugenol, an active compound acting as an antimicrobial and anesthetic.

Clove oil is useful both in the veterinary sector and for humans. The substance is useful for relieving toothache and destroy microbial cultures. It functions as an anesthetic for fish, inducing hypoxia and allowing for a smooth and painless passing.

Before getting on with it, you will need a large bucket to place the fish in, the clove oil, a mixture bowl, and protective gloves. The gloves are necessary if your guppies have tuberculosis. Specific strains of the disorder also pass onto humans.

After all the items are in place, here are the steps to follow:

  • Fill the bucket with water – This is where the killing will take place, and you need the bucket to separate the dying fish from the rest. You will need a gallon of water or more if your guppy is larger than the average.
  • Place the fish in the bucket – Make sure you don’t stress it out when handling it. If done correctly, the fish won’t even realize the change of habitat.
  • Prepare the clove oil – You will use the mixture bowl to mix several drops of oil (4-6, depending on the guppy’s size) with a bit of water and shake everything for several seconds. You can’t place the clove oil directly into the bucket with the fish because it will not mix. Instead, the oil will float on top.
  • Add the mixture to the fish’s water – After the clove oil mixture is ready, pour it into the bucket containing the fish. You only need to stir the water gently to allow the clove oil to spread around. It should only last several minutes until your guppy will stop moving. You can tell the fish is unconscious if it remains still, but its gills keep moving. That should happen around 5 minutes after adding the clove oil. If the fish is still active after that time, just add 2-3 more drops of oil into the bucket.
  • Adding the kill dose – After the fish was rendered unconscious, you need to add another mixture of clove oil, this time containing a dose of up to 12 drops. This dose is enough to induce hypoxia and cause a swift and painless death. The fish is officially dead when its gills have stopped moving for about 10 minutes.

– Stun and Stab

Just like the name suggests, this is not a method for everybody. It tends to be more violent and gory, and not everybody can handle that, even if it’s only a fish. But if you are ready for the task, you need a piece of cloth or aluminum foil, a sharp knife, and a rolling pin.

The cloth is necessary to contain the crime scene and prevent any blood or skull pieces from flying around. The rolling pin is meant to deliver the stunning blow while the knife is supposed to finish the job.

If it makes it easier on you, you can also use clove oil to sedate the fish. This is generally necessary, especially if the fish is bigger and more difficult to control. After you have everything set up, here is what you need to do:

  • Roll the fish in the cloth – Remove the fish from the tank, place it onto the cloth, and roll in to render it immobile.
  • Stun it with the rolling pin – A swift but powerful and controlled hit to the head will disable the fish’s nervous system instantly. It may look painful, but it isn’t, as the blow will render the fish unconscious immediately. In most cases, it’s this blow that will also kill the fish, at which point it isn’t even necessary to move to phase two. If the fish doesn’t die from the blow, it’s time for phase two.
  • The stabbing – Needless to say, this is where the knife comes in. It’s not just mindless stabbing, but one based on accuracy. The goal is to pierce the guppy’s brain, right behind the eyes, which will cause instant death. It’s painless if done correctly and highly effective.

Understandably so, not many people can stomach the second method, especially if they’ve already bonded with the fish. In that case, clove oil remains the better alternative or even relying on a veterinarian for a minimum of personal involvement.

How You Shouldn’t Kill Your Guppy

This section is necessary because this is where most people stand. The majority of individuals have no idea about clove oil or the stun and stab method, which leaves them prey to improvisation.

And people’s ability to improvise will create, as you will soon see, a lot of inhumane ways of killing, adding a lot of stress and suffering to the equation. These include:

  • The cold-water method – Most household fish, won’t survive below certain temperatures. This leads people to believe that placing the fish into a bowl with freezing water will kill it. Which it will, but not without a great deal of suffering and distress. Not recommended.
  • Flushing the guppy down the toilet – This is probably one of the most common methods that most people resort to. It’s effective for the owner because once you’ve flushed the fish, it’s gone; you can’t see it anymore. Most people equate this act with the fish’s death when that’s not necessarily the case. When flushed, the fish can live hours after or not die at all but struggle with a miserable existence instead.
  • Boosting the concentration of carbon dioxide in the tank – Fish need a low carbon dioxide concentration, and increasing the CO2 will kill them eventually. ‘Eventually’ is the word of the day here. Their death will be slow and agonizing, which is why I don’t recommend it.
  • Let nature take its course – Many people just remove the fish from the tank and let it suffocate naturally. While this is an effective method, it is by no means humane, as the fish will endure a lot of distress in the process.
  • Rely on alcohol – Throwing your guppy in an alcohol bath will kill it fairly fast, but not without pain. The alcohol will burn the guppy’s gills, providing a painful and tormenting death. And you will have to live with it.
  • Boiling the fish alive – It’s clearly a reliable method to end your guppy’s life, but, just like alcohol, it’s not pretty or painless.
  • Feeding the fish to predators – This could sound as a legitimate method, and many fish owners will do just that. They will feed the fish to other pets like snakes, cats, spiders, or frogs, which will undoubtedly result in the termination of the guppy’s life. There’s one catch, however – not all predators kill their prey swiftly. Cats tend to play with their prey, snakes take their time, and spiders consume it gradually. All in all, this method can cause an unnecessary amount of suffering.

If you really care about your fish’s wellbeing and desire to end its suffering fast, I suggest sticking to the two methods I’ve mentioned.


Fortunately, not all guppies require assistance to pass to the shadow realm. Most guppies will die naturally, either of disease or old age, before you even get to notice any change. Those are the fortunate cases where your intervention won’t be necessary.

Then there are those where it will be. I recommend showing a bit of consideration and respect for your guppy and help it pass in a humane and empathetic way.

If it’s too much for you, contact your veterinarian and ask for assistance. It’s always better than resorting to any of the barbaric practices I’ve just mentioned above.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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