Buy Your Dead Fish For Less At Walmart

A reader sent us the following pics of the neglected aquariums in her local Walmart in Carmi, Illinois. She complained to a manager, but when she checked back “several hours later,” the tanks remained untouched. Well, the dead fish were probably slightly smaller, since the remaining live fish were eating them.

I was shopping at my local Walmart today, in Carmi, Illinois, when I walked through their pet section. I noticed their fish tanks were full of dead and decaying fish. It was very nasty and very upsetting for my young child. After searching the sales floor for assistance, I finally found someone working in the electronics area. He was very friendly and genuinely seemed concerned, but expressed an inability to do anything about it. He asked if I wanted to speak with a manager – He paged for a manager to come to the counter. After several minutes had passed, he made a phone call asking for a member of management. Finally, a manager “Pam” came out. While she seemed nice, she seemed mostly unconcerned about the dead fish. She said she’d have it addressed. Several hours later, I went back and snapped these photos – the tanks had not been touched.

I didn’t bother trying to speak with anyone else.


Edit Your Comment

  1. katieoh says:

    yeah, i’m just gonna throw this out there: maybe they shouldn’t let walmart sell fish. eugh. plus those poor [beta?] fish in those little cups they sell… ugh.

    • Nick1693 says:

      @katieoh: Imagine the living conditions of the alpha fish. =)

    • MerryLifeAndaShortOne says:


      I agree. Walmart is a good store, but when it comes to specialty products…

      Although, many Petsmarts and the like are not too much better as far as the fish are concerned.

      • korybing says:

        @MerryLifeAndaShortOne: Many big box pet stores take horrible care of their pets. My fiance worked in a vet clinic for 4+ years and the sickest pets they ever got were ones that had just been purchased from a place like Pet Warehouse or Petsmart. They frequently have colds, parvo, and other illnesses that could be avoided if the living conditions were a smidge better.

        If you’re in the neighborhood for a pet, I would seriously skip the big chain stores. Try finding a small specialty store, as they’re more likely to be run by people who actually care about the animals they’re selling.

        • johnva says:

          @korybing: Better yet, don’t purchase cats and dogs at all.

          • korybing says:

            @johnva: I don’t, hah. I’ve never had to buy a dog or a cat since all of my pets have been rescues that I’ve found or free from coworkers. I can’t imagine actually buying a dog or a cat when there are so many shelters full of perfectly good animals, but some people are nutty about getting certain purebred breeds (the explanation I’ve heard most is that purebreds are more reliable in terms of temperament, but everything I’ve seen from experience has been the opposite of that), so if they absolutely just gotta have that super expensive purebred papered puppy, there are far better places to go than big box chains.

        • Wombatish says:

          @korybing: Just don’t go to the chain stores that only -look- like little local stores.

          Petland and Pet-o-Rama are far worse than Petco and Petsmart. Petland and Pet-o-Rama sell mill puppies, and recommend live feeding snakes.

          At least Petco and Petsmart have the glare of national media attention that helped them end those two practices, even if their small animals and birds still need some help.

        • MerryLifeAndaShortOne says:


          Yup! And even some specialty stores are terrible. Case in point: Ocean Floor in Phoenix. Fish just don’t look healthy, they are kept in tanks without sufficient rocks for them to hide in. Aquatouch and About the Reef are superior places.


          No… reputable places ship and handle their fish to minimize stress. Some fish can and will live for many years. Its all about how healthy they are when they were harvested (no cyanide used to stun them), how well they were transported, how well kept the fish tank is. As far as small fish tanks go, dilution minimized pollution. Thats why my mini 35gal tank is more of a chore than my 150gal. Less water means that every part of ammonia or nitrogen that gets introduced does more to the overall stability than in more water.

    • Darrone says:

      @katieoh: This is a reaction of people that don’t understand the concept of pet fish. These fish die, FREQUENTLY. It’s impossible to keep a commercial tank without dead fish. They die in shipping, arrival, maintenance. They die constantly because their environment is changing (tank, temperature, size, chlorine, nitrate levels) and they go into shock. It could have been cleaned that morning and it would still have dead fish in there.

      And quit it with the cruel beta argument. You’re putting an animal in a tank. Make it as big as you want, its still a tank and the Beta will still find the smallest space and crawl in it.

      • johnva says:

        @Darrone: It’s true that a lot of fish will inevitably die. BUT, it’s very unhealthy for the other fish for lots of dead fish corpses to remain in the water. The decay releases tons of ammonia which is very poisonous to the other fish. That’s why the dead fish should be removed immediately by staff.

        And as for the bettas, just because they CAN live for a time in a tiny cup doesn’t mean it’s ideal. It’s wrong to say that all captivity is equivalent.

      • Anonymous says:


        Except that I don’t remember corpses littering the tanks of my favorite specialty fish store. Their meager little skeletons don’t litter the floor of my fishtank at home, either. The fish store I frequent, unlike Walmart, actually know how to take care of fish and must take the time to, oh, remove corpses from the tanks?

        Dead animals rotting to skeletons on the gravel is NOT normal, for goodness sakes!

      • Ratty says:

        @Darrone: Have you kept a betta in a big tank? I had one in a 10 gallon all to himself and he used the whole thing.

        • johnva says:

          @Ratty: Yep. Saying they won’t use the space is pure ignorance. The commercial explanation given above (commercial sellers don’t want to dedicate so much space to them by properly segregating them into tanks) seems more plausible to me. I wonder why they don’t just mix their bettas in with compatible species, one male to a tank,?

          • Ratty says:

            @johnva: My local aquarium store had a community female betta tank that was also a tank for some of the plants they sold. The males had bowls to themselves at least, but not full tanks–they were almost entirely saltwater. But they were exceptionally bred bettas meant for show and breeding and most were alert and making bubble nests. They were also kept away from one another so as to not stress them out.

            They’ve since converted to fully saltwater.

          • halo969 says:

            @johnva: I noticed Petco does this for some of the Bettas. I think the issue is they have far more Bettas for sale than needed and not enough tanks. The one I bought recently was in a tank with a few other fish. Considering the fact that he’s by far the most energetic Betta I’ve had, I think that says something for the conditions in which those fish are kept before being sold.

            • dragonfire81 says:

              @halo969: This is a not a new or isolated incident. I worked at a Walmart eight years ago and their tanks looked as horrible as the ones above. Any potential pet owner worth their salt should NEVER consider buying a fish at Wal-mart.

      • halo969 says:

        @Darrone: First off, it’s a Betta, not Beta.

        Second of all, they are not to be kept in those small jars. The only reason they are sold that way is the males will fight to the death if housed together. Once you take one home, it needs just as much space as any other fish and ideally a filtered tank, not just a bowl of standing water.

        My Betta doesn’t crawl into the smallest space he can find. He swims around just like any other fish. In fact, he’s quite active. The reason the fish at the store don’t do that is they can’t really swim in such a small container.

      • The Porkchop Express says:

        @Darrone: Look at the pictures and tell me those fish “just died” it actually takes time for well taken care of fish to start eating their dead comrades.

        so, the fish have been dead for some time or the live fish have not been fed in some time.

    • sinfonian94 says:

      @katieoh: Actually, the Betta are kept in the cups because they will fight and one will die if you put two or more together in a tank. Also, they do fine in the cups if they are taken care of.

      Yes, fish die, but part of responsible tending the aquariums is removing the dead fish promptly. At the Petco where I work, we are required to check for dead fish multiple times a day. Walmart just doesn’t have the dedication to responsibly sell live fish.

      • johnva says:

        @sinfonian94: So don’t put more than one male betta in a tank, then. Or use dividers, etc.

        The main problem I have with the cups is that they are such a small volume of water for the fish. It’s very hard to keep stable water parameters in a cup that small, and the water would need to be changed multiple times a day ideally. Bettas can stand the inevitable fluctuation a bit better than many other fish, but that doesn’t mean it’s great for them. I don’t like that they are often marketed that way because I think it encourages beginners to keep them that way, sometimes thinking it’s actually what’s best for them. What a lot of people who aren’t informed don’t understand is that larger aquariums are often EASIER, with lower maintenance requirements, than small cups, because it’s so much easier to keep the water parameters, temperature, etc stable.

        • Nate Bosch says:

          @johnva: I was about to comment on exactly that but you beat me to it. Well said.

          @sinfonian94: I may never have been to the particular location you work at, but in general Petco also does not have the dedication to responsibly sell live fish… It may be slightly better than Walmart, but every location I’ve been in (as well as other chains like Petsmart etc) has had terrible living conditions for the fish. Whats worse than the unhealthy fish they sell is the untruth’s they tell customers which perpetuates the bad care.
          I’m not trying to insult you (even though you got the whole beta cup thing wrong) and your particular branch may be the exception to the rule, but in my experience specialty stores are the only place to go to get good info and good fish.

        • halo969 says:

          @johnva: Agreed. Most people know nothing of keeping the water conditioned properly which is much more difficult with a jar that needs complete water changes once a week at the very least. Much better to have a 5-10 gal filtered tank. I hate those Betta bowls they market at the pet stores because they are rather cruel.

        • bluewyvern says:

          @johnva: My roommate just went away for the week and left her betta in my care. Her only instructions were “2 pellets twice a day, and he’s playful and likes to play dead, but don’t worry, he’s not.”

          She kept him in a bowl the size of a large orange — the diameter was basically the length of the fish, so he could turn around, only just. She didn’t mention anything about changing the water or cleaning the bowl, so obviously she didn’t expect it to need changing in a week’s time, and judging from the cloudy water and poop deposits, it had already been quite a while. I asked what kind of water she used (just tap, which from our house is full of deposits that always leave nasty brown residue everywhere — she didn’t even use the Brita), and she said I could clean it if I wanted but I didn’t need to because the fish was “tough”.

          I fetched a somewhat larger bowl that I happened to have (about the size of a honeydew melon, a slight improvement), and graduated him to 1/2 tap and 1/2 filtered water, then fully filtered water, which I’ve changed daily. I also checked the directions on the pellets, which say to give not two, but six to eight per feeding. I have no idea where she got the number two from, because I’m giving him eight now and he still snaps them up immediately and always acts hungry. I’m pretty sure that him being intensely interested in my presence whenever I’m near and opening and shutting his mouth isn’t just being friendly.

          I don’t want to lecture her, but when she gets back I’m going to do my best to encourage her to step up to the new standard of care I’ve instituted. I’d hate for him to go back to the way he was.

          Oh, and that “playing dead”? Either sleeping — or perhaps, given his living conditions, just wishing he were dead. Poor fishie.

          • Anonymous says:

            @bluewyvern: Good on you for getting him to better living conditions. However, 2 pellets 2x/day may be perfectly sufficient (despite what the package says), as bettas are notorious overeaters, and unlike other fish, won’t stop eating when they’re “full.” A betta’s stomach is about the size of its eye, so you might use that as a guide as to how much to feed.

      • Ratty says:

        @sinfonian94: Uh, no, they don’t “do fine.” They die rather slowly in the cups. Betta can be kept in community tanks or given their own tanks. Even a small 2-5 glalon tank and the fish will be infinitely more happy than in a cup, and be able to thrive. I have mine his own heated, planted 10 gallon tank and he was constantly brightly colored, flaring, and creating bubble nests.

        The argument usually goes “oh, in the wild they live in puddles in a field,” but that’s just a lie at best–they live in rice paddies where those “puddles” are thousands of gallons in volume.

    • calquist says:

      @katieoh: Agreed. Owning a pet is a decision and a commitment. It shouldn’t be an impulse buy and if you can’t afford to pay more for a fish at a reputable pet store then you can’t afford to have any pets at all.

    • Anonymous says:

      @katieoh: @katieoh: Beta fish live in puddles and very small pools of water where they live. So there’s no problem with them living in a little cup. They’re actually quite comfortable in a small space.

      The ded fish though…ew…

  2. solareclipse2 says:

    Yeah, I tried complaining about the dead fish when I bought my wife a fish from there. It didn’t do any good. My complaints about the way they transfer the fish from the tank to the transport bag was ignored.

    • anachro882 says:

      @solareclipse2: Maybe because people like you keep buying fish there. What’s their motivation to take care of their fish if their condition is not keeping people from buying them?

  3. xamarshahx says:

    my wal mart is the same way, i never buy fish from them, those contaminated fish can take out your whole tank. they must maintain them only once a week, I once saw a employee drop the fish while bagging him and then trying to tell the customer its fine… somebody should ban wal marts from selling fish.

    as for the bettas, their supposed to only be in those cups for a short time and are normally sold quickly, but I can imagine at a place like wal mart they might be there awhile.

    • johnva says:

      @xamarshahx: Basically, it would be nearly impossible to ban Wal-Mart from selling fish, because in most states animal welfare laws don’t apply to pet fish. I know they are specifically excluded here.

    • BadHairLife says:

      @xamarshahx: I had to call a manager when I found a stash of betas in cups which had clearly been left on a shelf in the plants section and simply ignored.

      It made me sick to see all those beautiful, colourful bodies floating dead.

      I checked back and they were gone when I returned. Then, I found a new stash where only half were dead when I came back again. I had a fit. Hasn’t happened since.

      I’m scary.

  4. lpranal says:

    I see this all the time at the wal marts here that sell fish. It’s not exactly nazi-logo shirt type offensive, but it’s just one of all the wonderful little things wal mart does to prove they live their motto : “Wal-Mart: we couldn’t care less if we tried (and we do!)”

  5. Cocoa Vanilla says:

    The local Walmart just drastically downsized its fish section. I’m glad. This type of treatment is the norm for Walmart. PetSmart is bad but they’re a little better. That said, I prefer to get fish from a pet store; I know it’s encouraging them but I also want to save the fish in those small containers/small tanks storing 500 fish! (They are particularly bad about the 50 cent feeder fish at PetSmart. I have seen HUNDREDS of fish in those 10 gallon tanks, all with like a centimeter of room to swim.)

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      @Cocoa Vanilla: Honestly, there’s no other place to get a pet fish, except for a pet store. So there’s not really any kind of “encouraging” them unless you can find a reputable breeder. And in a lot of cases, specialty aquarium stores are breeders so you’re technically buying from the source.

      No good aquarium store will keep their fish in destitute conditions.

      My favorite aquarium store is in the town where I went to college. It was practically a huge aquarium. The entire basement level was aquariums, huge habitats for all kinds of fish and eels too. I loved visiting there, and their prices were pretty reasonable as well.

    • wardawg says:

      @Cocoa Vanilla: Our PetSmart is partnered with the local SPCA for adoptions and is honestly one of the best places in the city with regards to how the pets are kept. Sure PetLand has more selection but I’ve seen ferrets running around loose there, anda couple of the localy owned pet stores around here have been getting shut down (finally) due to incredibly bad living conditions for the animals.

      • calquist says:

        @wardawg: I adopted my cat from PetSmart that was linked with a shelter :)

        As for PetLand, I would never shop there. Too many rumors circulating about them buying animals from puppy mills.

        • Wombatish says:

          @calquist: Oh, they’re not rumors.

          It’s just a question of do they buy from the truly shitty, shitty, shitty mill, or the stinky, farty, smelly one?

          (I <3 Lewis Black)

    • Ratty says:

      @Cocoa Vanilla: If you pay to remove the fish, you’re paying to put even more fish in there. Don’t give them any money. it isn’t saving.

    • B1663R says:

      @Cocoa Vanilla: not to sound like a dick or anything but, you DO know why they are called feeder fish right?

      trust me, the little feeder fish are much happier and safer there than in the tummies of bigger, hungrier fish.

  6. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Buying fish from Wal-Mart can be hit or miss. I had a few fish I bought from Wal-Mart that lived two weeks and some lived two years. But Wal-Mart is a terrible place to go if you want any reasonable advice on taking care of fish. A good pet store or aquarium supply store will have employees who can tell you which fish would be better together and be less likely to fight. For instance…the little black fin sharks (not actually sharks) might look cool, and might look friendly when they’re swimming around together, but they tend to be very aggressive to other kinds of fish. It’s best to avoid them altogether unless you have only the black fin sharks.

    And the little plump catfish that are also adorable…they tend to turn on each other, so I’ve learned that it’s best not to keep more than one or two.

    My favorite fish are the orange and red guppies. They’re very docile, very friendly in general. I had one or two that were aggressive toward each other, but if you watch the fish in the tank for a while, you’ll be able to see which ones are aggressive, and know to avoid them.

    • Ratty says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: Two years, other than for a few species, is still a very short life span for a fish.

    • xnihilx says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: If by “little plump catfish” you mean any of the Corydoras species they are known for the shoaling habits and tend to cheerfully get into group piles. Unless, you’re referring to Chinese or Siamese Algae eaters which tend to be agressive.

  7. pop top says:

    Don’t buy fish from a grocery store.

  8. Laura Northrup says:

    This is part of their new money-saving program, where they avoid buying fish food for the tanks by just letting the fish eat each other. Om nom nom nom.

  9. cabalagent1 says:

    My wife used to work at Wal-Mart in the pet department. She was the only one who actually took care of the fish. Apart from retards dropping things into the tanks, very few died while she was there. The tanks were kept clean, and the water was checked and maintained every day. She received lots of praise from customers and management for her efforts.

    Until the store manager decided that she could better serve the Evil Empire by becoming a cashier. She was happy working the pet department, and was told that if she didn’t accept the cashier training, she would be terminated. Once she transferred, the pet department went to complete crap. Fish dying daily, filthy tanks, aisles in disarray, and employees doing their best to hide from customers.

    • B1663R says:

      @cabalagent1: WOW your wife got a promotion at Wal Mart?!?

      and a woman to boot! good for her!!

      see, because Wal mart very rarely promotes women.

    • Oddfool says:

      @cabalagent1: I also used to work at Wal-mart in the Toy department next to Pets. I have known a few good Pet dept. employees who really knew and cared for the aquariums very well. They took the time to educate their customers on the care of the purchased fish, and taught me a lot about the fish too. Came in handy since I had to cover their area for lunch and breaks.

      One employee I knew was awesome in her care of the tanks. Clearing out the dead fish, quarantining tanks to medicate if any sickness appeared, keeping the tanks clean, etc.

  10. Ratty says:

    WTF. Otos in with goldfish? Otos are EXTREMELY sensitive and tropical fish. Even experienced hobbyists have issues keeping the water acceptable for an oto. And they’re in there with goldfish… cold-water nitrogen factories. :(

    • Ratty says:

      @Ratty: That should be ammonia, not nitrogen.

    • pop top says:

      @Ratty: Those aren’t otos, those arw Chinese algea eaters.

      • Ratty says:

        @squinko: Based on the size and head shape they look remarkably like otos and not CAE.

        Even if they are chinese algae eaters, they’re not appropriate to keep with goldfish in any way.

        • pop top says:

          @Ratty: If you look at the last picture in the very front, you get a good shot of a CAE. And yes, they shouldn’t be in the tank with anything else either, which I had to learn the hard way with my mollies.

  11. Rhayader says:

    Wow, dead fish in a pet store fish tank? I’ve never seen that before….except in every single pet store fish tank I’ve ever looked at.

    Sorta messed up that they told the woman they would do something and then didn’t, but not exactly surprising. This is WalMart, after all.

    Oh and also:

    It was very nasty and very upsetting for my young child.

    Is she being serious? These are dead fish we’re talking about. Either the kid is so young that he/she has no comprehension of what dead fish even are, or he/she thinks dead fish are cool. There’s no stage in between the two.

    • CFinWV says:

      @Rhayader: Now the kid at least got over the trauma of seeing a dead fish. Next complaint!

    • idip says:

      @Rhayader: You my friend seem to be the one who thinks dead fish are cool.

      Many people raise their children to be respectful of others and respectful of pets. It doesn’t surprise me that the child was upset about dead fish in the Walmart tanks.

      I would be upset, not only does it signify that WalMart does not take care of animals, it also shows that the other fish are being exposed to toxic gases being released into the tank from the decaying corpse. And it is disgusting seeing a half rotting carcass on the bottom of a fish tank.

      I suppose if was saw dead hamsters eating each other in the cage it would also be no big deal, huh? What about cats? Dogs?

    • socialSTD says:


      “Is she being serious? These are dead fish we’re talking about. Either the kid is so young that he/she has no comprehension of what dead fish even are, or he/she thinks dead fish are cool. There’s no stage in between the two.”

      Wow… Mighty ignorant comment there. Apparently you have no children around 4 or 5 years old in your life that get excited to see the fish in tanks at a store only find a tank full of dead “Nemos”.

      • Rhayader says:

        @socialSTD: Man nobody can take a joke like whiny yuppies. Thanks guys.

        • crunchberries says:

          @Rhayader: Protip: A joke is only funny when you’re not the only one laughing.

          +5 for the whiny hurt feelings, though.

      • Rachacha says:

        @socialSTD: “Apparently you have no children around 4 or 5 years old in your life that get excited to see the fish in tanks at a store only find a tank full of dead “Nemos”.”

        While I would agree that WalMart and many of the other Big Box Stores are not maintaining their tanks as well as they could (as evidenced by the fish that had gone belly up, sank to the bottom, were sucked into the filtration system and were nibbled at by other fish…these fish appear to have been in the tank for several days which is terrible), it is not uncommon to clean the tanks of the dead fish in the morning, only to have a couple die later in the day.

        I have a 5 year old and a 7 year old, and I can tell you that neither of them are tramatized when they see a dead fish. Do they show compassion (aww, that fish died, that is very sad), YES, but many years before that we used experiences like this to teach our child about life and death and why things die, and what happens to the creature (whether it be a 10 cent gold fish, or a close relative or friend) after death (insert your religious belief here). At the age of 4, and 6, my children had a classmate who lost a parent, and they acted very mature for their ages consoling their friends and trying to make them feel better when they returned to school.

        The OP indicated that the experience was “very upsetting” which might be an exageration (we don’t know), but opportunities like this (as disgusting as the care for the fish might have been)are perfect to teach your child about death in a way that they can understand using something to which they have no emotional connection to.

        • Rhayader says:

          @Rachacha: Hey look at that, an intelligent, measured reaction.

          If I think back on my childhood, I don’t know that there was ever a time when a dead fish would really have upset me in any significant way. It’s about as traumatic as finding a dead insect. Yes, technically it illustrates the concept of death, but there’s not exactly a visceral connection there.

          • trujunglist says:


            My first experience with death and fish was when my dad was simultaneously cleaning the fish bowl and making pancakes for breakfast. My dad set the batter aside to fluff up, took the fish out of the bowl with the little net, and suddenly, the fish was flying towards the bowl of pancake batter. Needless to say, I was not very upset, but rather amused at my father’s inability to cook/clean/do much of anything without it getting somehow screwed up in a comical way that we would all laugh about for years.

    • glater says:


      It’s less about “trauma” of a dead thing and more about teaching value and respect for life. Yes, dead fish happen – death happens. That’s not the hard part to explain. The difficult bit is in explaining why the blatant disregard for life is happening and why nobody is doing anything to stop it. It’s disturbing, fairly disgusting, and downright exploitative in the name of profit. These *are* animals, not pet rocks. I don’t have kids, but that’s not something I’d like to explain. It’s hard enough explaining why it’s wrong to a lazy-ass walmart employee – or more likely, department manager – who doesn’t give a damn to begin with.

      I’ve been to Walmarts in five states over a number of years and every place it’s been the same – filthy, unkept tanks full of diseased and dead or dying fish.

      And no, I’m not a veggie-vegan-PETA-nazi – far from it. I just have a fucking sense of ethics when it comes to living beings.

    • jimconsumer says:

      @Rhayader: I agree with you on the “very upsetting for my young child” comment. I think that’s a bunch of BS. While Wal-Mart clearly needs to do a better job of cleaning it’s tanks, fish die. It’s a fact of life. If the child gets upset about the dead fish, use it as an opportunity to teach him. Don’t freak out at Wal-Mart for upsetting your child.

      I mean, really, are we raising a bunch of emotionally unstable babies here? The poster sounds like the kind of parent who shields her child from life and caters to the kid’s every whim.

      My boy is 5; when he was 3, we were at a Petsmart that had a lot of dead feeder goldfish in a tank. He says, “Daddy, they’re all dead.” He was a little upset and didn’t understand. I told him, yep. Sometimes that happens. I then explained to him that those fish were just going to be fed to someone’s pet snake, anyway. Then we went and looked at the snakes. He got over it, learned something new and I didn’t even have to complain to anyone that “the store upset my boy.”

  12. robdew2 says:

    Can we go back to pointless blog posts about sign typos and price mistakes? I prefer that to dead fish we’ve all seen.

    • sanjsrik says:

      Agreed. Walmart bad fishie handlers, we get it.

      Can we talk about something more interesting.

      • idip says:

        @sanjsrik: This is interesting. Especially to those who are new to starting aquariums. Maybe they don’t know that Walmart fish are notorious for being sick.

        When I used to work at Petco people would come in all the time wondering why all their fish died once they added 1 or 2 from Walmart.

  13. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Well sure, their prices on fish sticks are pretty good.

    What? Of course I like fish sticks.

  14. Caged Wisdom says:

    I worked at Wal-Mart in the early ’90s when they also carried pet birds. You want to talk about disturbing for young children…

  15. mbz32190 says:

    I thought wal-mart stopped selling least my local ones did (and a brand new Supercenter does not sell them either). Honestly, this happens everywhere…I have a nasty Petco down the road from me…one time I was shopping for fish and you could see dead,rotting fish up against the tanks on the floor.

    • Wombatish says:

      @mbz32190: Many have, especially in areas where there are actually pet stores.

      Not all, though.

      Same thing with the Fabric department, and Gardening, etc. etc.

      Competition actually does work a little, against Wal-mart, but then they just de-specialize and move all that time, attention and cash towards being even more ruthless in the few markets they chose to remain in.

  16. xnihilx says:

    My local Walmart’s fish section is always this way or worse. Usually the fish are diseased, neglected, or housed with incompatible other fish. People usually do not know or realize what it takes to keep fish alive and healthy. While other chain stores that sell fish often has similar problems Walmart is by far the worst of them.

  17. Stephen White says:

    I always thought this was the norm for Wally World’s fish section…

  18. kylere says:

    If you had been smart consumers you would have never been in Walmart to see this.

    • Wombatish says:

      @kylere: Now, let me say this: I avoid Wal-mart whenever possible.

      But, there are some people who just can’t, sadly, because of the way Wal-mart has affected our country so fundamentally.

      One of the ladies I used to deliver meals to (I’ve moved since then) lives about 50 miles from any store but a Wal-mart and a small, neglected, chain grocer. She used to shop at the chain grocer, since just about any store is better than Wal-mart, until three things happened. First, she lost her job. Then, prices at the chain grocer started going up in order to stay in business (have to compete with that Wal-mart and their low, low prices! Economies of scale, my friend! She grinned and bore it, clipping coupons and saving her pennies. No Wal-mart for her. Then, because of the increased time and cost that gets passed on to a store that deals with the food-stamp and WiC programs, the chain grocer had to stop accepting them at that location. But who has tons of employees working at minimum wage to put up that signage and fill out those forms? Wal-mart, that’s who.

      So yes, avoiding Wal-mart is not a terrible idea. But please, don’t be all high and mighty about it.

      Also, I promise you that they don’t “feel” your individual loss of revenue. So you need to convince others to avoid Wal-mart as well. And you catch more flies with honey.

      Your time avoiding Wal-mart would also be well spent trying to do other things, like make people aware just how dastardly some of their practices are, and trying to get the government to -actually- regulate them, rather than just turn a blind eye. Make Wal-mart feel the cost of doing business that everyone else feels.

      So yeah. Blanket, hurtful statement FTL.

  19. pythonkid says:

    The walmart in emporia KS takes very good care of their fish. The pets manager is very knowledgeable, and does a great job.

    Now other walmarts… Well, in hutchinson, KS, i saw the late night guys dropping small fish in with the oscars for fun. I reported it and nobody cared.

    Its possible to have multiple male Bettas in a tank, if the tank is big enough. I used to have a 55 gallon with 3 male bettas, and they wouldn’t even acknowledge each other’s existance.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @pythonkid: I tried that with my roommates, but the apartment was too small.

      There’s a brand-new shiny Walmart here in Albany, NY, and it looks like their fish are doing OK. Maybe because all of the systems are new.

  20. Richard Platts says:

    It’s always like this at wal-mart — If they are not going to train the employees to tend the tanks properly, they shouldn’t carry fish — that being said, I don’t buy fish from any of the big boxes (petsmart, petco, etc.) — I prefer to be able to talk to a person who actually knows something about the fish.

  21. rickatnight11 says:

    I see this in every Walmart. It’s very annoying. Actually, 80% of the time my girlfriend and I go to buy new fish we wait about 20 minutes with no sign of any representative. I end up bagging the fish myself and bringing them to the register.

  22. TVGenius says:

    Yeah, it’s pretty much always that way there. I don’t think they do the volume of sales to justify the amount of fish they always have/had. Our Wal-Marts have been eliminating the fish with the latest round of remodels though.

  23. Gizmosmonster says:

    I used to work for a tropical fish wholesale company in the mid-atlantic region of the country.

    Most of our customer were little pet stores. They came in and spent hours choosing the best fish. Some sent orders in to be filled, we delivered, but NEVER touched their tanks. If something died we gave them credit for it. It was sort of understood that they would take proper care of the fish- after all, they wanted to make money on the deal too.

    The competition handled the Walmart accounts. They kept getting squeezed tighter and tighter. Not only did the wholesale company deliver the fish, but they had to clean tanks more often than not. Otherwise whole tanks would die, and walmart would expect credit for them. They often had to train the new kid in the pet department how to do basic care of fish (there was ALWAYS a new kid). And they had to do all this for less and less money. Walmart tells YOU what they are going to pay for things, not the other way around.

    The local pet stores really suffered from Walmart undercutting the prices. Having seen what some of these gorgeous fish are supposed to look, it breaks my heart to see what is swimming around in a murky big box tank.

    The Betta fish were a great example. We sold big colorful fish that lived forever. They did not have to be in treated blue water to keep them alive.

    My old company went out of business a few years ago. Wlamart is still turning good fish into cruddy fish. Something to think about.

  24. DaBull says:

    Of course, the best advice would be to avoid purchasing fish from WalMart. As most of you already posted, these fish will more than likely contaminate your tank and kill other fish that you may have. Not worth the trouble, if you ask me.

  25. Gizmosmonster says:

    Betta fish can be pretty tough actually. They came to us in tiny “seal a meal” type bags with just enough air and water to survive the international flight.

    We always used clear clean non-treated temp appropriate water along with the little bit of water they had in their bag.

    The lids on the cups keep them from jumping out. They did not need much food, and could live in those cups with the clear water for a while. The colored water you see at the big box stores often has antibiotics or other meds to keep them alive. Yuck!

  26. Dracoster says:

    Fish don’t just die, they die for a reason.

    I’ve had the same 4 fish for 3 years now.

  27. Possinator says:

    The live fish are eating the dead fish? In tough economic times free food is still free food.

  28. meechybee says:

    Walmart is usually good for dead plants, too – great selection.

  29. Eugene ElJefe Cook says:

    The picture looks to be of comet goldfish. Fish die all the time, especially feeder fish. Those fish aren’t really there for pets, they are there to feed your larger fish, like clown knives, arrowanas or cichlids.

    One unfortunate part of aquaria is the low lifespan of many of the fish, and the high occurrences of unexplained deaths. Fish die, sometimes without cause…one day they are swimming around happy, the next day they get stressed, and die.

    The specialty fish stores sometimes do a better job of cleaning out the tanks when fish die, but you’d be hard pressed not to find examples of aquatic parasites like ich etc every once in a while.

    As another commenter stated…

    “Wow, dead fish in a pet store fish tank? I’ve never seen that before….except in every single pet store fish tank I’ve ever looked at.”

    He’s right – this is not uncommon.

    This is an example of an overly sensitive consumer, and overreaction by Consumerist. Granted, the apathy shown by the store employee deserves a tad bit of rebuke, however it has nothing to do with the dead fish itself.

    Also, to the consumer who sent in the tip. Is your child sheltered? Does your child break down when they see a dead bird or squirrel? What about when you kill a bug?

  30. Eugene ElJefe Cook says:

    “Fish don’t just die, they die for a reason.

    I’ve had the same 4 fish for 3 years now.”

    Wrong. Fish die all the time, for no reason. How many tanks do you have? How many fish have you had? What kind of fish is it?

    One of the first things that you learn in the hobby is that you need to be ok with fish dying on you. It’s going to happen, and happen often. It starts getting expensive too when $100+ fish start popping off.

    • Ratty says:

      @Eugene ElJefe Cook: And all of those deaths have a reason.

      • Eugene ElJefe Cook says:

        @Ratty: Truthfully, not really. Sometimes fish just get stressed and die. It’s part of the hobby. All parameters in the tank could be perfect – everything computer controlled (like most of my tanks), and stable for years – and a fish will just die.

        If longevity is what you’re going for – fish aren’t an appropriate hobby.

        Hell – sometimes fish die because they outgrow their hiding spot, can’t find another one they like, get stressed and die – even when everything else is perfect. There is nothing you can do about it, unfortunately.

  31. Justifan says:

    if its not their department a minimum wage worker isn’t going to be allowed to fix it, or even care to. somehow you expect too much for walmart. if you are whiling your time away stacking boxes/folding towels would you want to go out of your way to deal with dead fish? not paid enough to bah

  32. theblackdog says:

    The only reason we ever bought fish from Wal-Mart in the last 10 years was feeder fish for my brother’s pet turtle. He loves chasing them for food.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I watched 50-100 fish die overnight at my local WalMart in Plattsburgh, NY. What bothers me the most is not the conditions – the store closed their fish counter for good shortly after – but the lack of care or willingness to take a little responsibility. Here’s the transcript, with a little less banter, and a little more sarcasm:

    First I explained to the floor associate that they (dozens of fish) couldn’t breath. I watched as an entire tank of fish floated helplessly below the surface, gasping, and other, weaker fish were just dead floating already. Dozens of animals asphyxiating slowly in their own excrement bothered me, so I stopped shopping.
    She explained that the filters were broken, wouldn’t be repaired for another day, that they weren’t supposed to get that shipment anyway, and that she couldn’t do anything.
    I said, “Yes! You can, actually! These fish urinate frequently, and they’re just suffocating in their own piss. Just change out the tank water, and you’ll buy time, maybe even enough!”
    Walmart floor lady: “They won’t let us spend product on them.” She meant the conditioner to dechlorinate the tap water (maybe 10 dollars worth, tops, for this tank), or spring water.
    I boggled. “You mean, they wouldn’t be willing to spend a couple dollars to save hundreds in stock?” I envisioned dragging pails of well water into the store, tried to think of a rationalization. “That’s just poor business practice! They’re losing a lot of money by letting these fish die!”
    “Yep,” she replied, getting rather disgusted with the crazy lady complaining about fish. “Sorry, I can’t do anything about it.”
    I went to the help desk, and waited in line for ten minutes.
    “Hi,” I ventured, trying my best not to appear like a PETA nutball, “Uhm, your fish are all suffocating to death. [explained the entire thing] But I can help you save them! If not that, let’s get them shipped across the plaza to PetSmart – you can at least not throw them in the trash tomorrow morning! I’ll bring them over myself! Why let them all die, when you could hand them off to someone with capacity to take care of them. Maybe you can make some money in the transaction!”
    The manager guy calls *his* manager. “She’s coming down to check it out.”
    I had to go at this point. I smiled at the look of pure disgust and hate from one of the folks at the back of the line (but that guy can kiss my butt – I waited my turn). I thanked the friendly floor manager for not totally blowing me off. I came back the next morning, and wished I’d waited for the manager to show up after all. I asked the girl about it all.
    “No, she never showed up.”
    “Oh, I see. So, she said she would come down, and then didn’t. Feels awesome being lied to. So they all died, I take it?”
    Defeated. Not one person was willing to stop and take responsibility; myself included – I could have stayed, and demanded they do something, but I went home, instead, and just consoled myself that I’d done what I could. I could have done a little more.



    You might not save the world, but you might change it a little.

  34. Black-Cat says:

    WTF made you think that someone at Wal Mart gave a shit?

  35. amuro98 says:

    At our walmart, the air bubblers are turned on so high, that the dead fish appear to be “swimming” with the live ones. Of course the current is so strong in the tank, the live fish tire themselves out just trying to avoid getting slammed around the tank, then die…

    They also carry Dwarf Puffers, which my wife and I really like. However these are carnivores, and don’t really eat flake food. As a result, the poor puffers at Walmart are always quite thin and pathetic looking. One time they priced the puffers at $1/ea. and we couldn’t help ourselves – we “rescued” a bunch. Most of them survived, and are now swimming around plump and happy with our others puffers. We know we shouldn’t buy fish from Walmart – it just encourages them to keep selling fish – but they look so pathetic cooped in their horrible little tanks.

  36. MonkeyMontage says:

    Animal cruelty is a *crime* in every state, and fish are usually considered animals. If you see cruelty, report it – even if you get some weird looks from your local animal control or police department.

    People who work with rats see identical conditions in crowded feeder tanks, including animals being eaten alive, starving, and dying of infectious disease. When you make a mass-bred animal a commodity, as opposed to a living creature, there is no financial incentive to be humane.

    Each fish is worth a fraction of a cent and can be quickly/easily replaced. A cruelty complaint changes the equation – now the fish could be worth an embarrassing investigation.

    • johnva says:

      @MonkeyMontage: As I said earlier, fish are SPECIFICALLY excluded from the animal cruelty statutes in many states. Mammals, even small ones, usually are not.

      So the truth is that in many states you can be as cruel as you want to fish, and it’s perfectly legal.

      • MonkeyMontage says:


        Actually, you are incorrect. Complete information on state animal cruelty laws can be located here:


        I would never discourage someone from reporting cruelty based on a few anomalous state statutes. And even in a state that excludes fish, be very careful – exclusion of fish or amphibians from animal cruelty laws does not suddenly give anyone license to be, “as cruel as you want,” without legal consequences.

  37. Nick Adams says:

    When you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

  38. UniComp says:

    ‘Nuff Said.

  39. Howard Cruz says:

    I work for a Walmart that doesn’t sell live fish, but i feel the need to comment on this.

    They don’t train people; you learn as you go. everything else is common sense. If you get a department manager in pets who’s never had pets they will more than likely forget to feed the fish, mishandle them, or not keep the tanks up to snuff. It really depends on the person; some will care to learn(on their own time) how to do things right. Others are only working cause they have bills to pay.

    Walmart has a way of making the worker feel just useful enough to be productive, but not so good that they’d deserve a raise. they break your spirit. Half the employees if not more don’t care if they mess up. they feel loaded down with work so much that they forget simple things.. even feeding the fish.

    I don’t advocate the mishandling of live animals.. and this story is horrible because of the truth(s) behind it.