Looking to Adopt a Fish? Here’s How to Find Fish in Need of Homes

This post first appeared on Care2.com

You adopted your dog and cat from a local animal shelter and now you would like to add an aquarium to your home. As an animal welfare advocate, you wonder if it’s possible to adopt a fish? The answer is yes but you may have to do a little more research to find fish in need of a home. You’ll also need to decide on the type of aquarium you want to keep.

“Adopting fish is a great idea,” said Ted Colletti, a member of the North Jersey Aquarium Society (NJAS) and author of The Tub Pond Handbook and Aquarium Care of Livebearers. “Fish are animals too. They may not be cuddly like dogs or cats, but they can still feel discomfort and suffer from neglect just like others pets.”

Experts say first-time aquarium hobbyists should focus on freshwater fish. Before rushing out to adopt your fish it’s important that you learn everything you can about the proper care and size and maintenance of tanks. Many clubs like the NJAS hold monthly meetings, welcome beginners and are eager to share their knowledge on fish keeping.

Where to find homeless fish

Petco’s “Think Adoption First” policy extends to fish with some stores offering fish for adoption on an “as available” basis. The fish are surrendered by owners who no longer want them and can be viewed in adoption tanks at the store. There isn’t a formal application process for adopting surrendered fish, instead, adopters are asked to fill out a standard animal care form and are educated on the care of the fish before taking them home.

Some shelters offer fish for adoption

Petfinder.org is a great place to being your search for shelter fish. Choose Scales, Fins & Others from the “Type” drop-down menu. If a specific location doesn’t show fish in need of homes, go to the advanced search box and choose “anywhere.” This will show you fish for adoption nationwide and you can search for shelters within driving distance. Some humane societies and rescue groups will ship fish to adopters.

A recent advanced/anywhere search on Petfinder turned up Gator, a large algae eater, available for adoption at Loving Companions Animal Rescue, Inc. in North Pole, AK. Forever Friends Humane Society in Sallisaw, OK, had “lots of wonderful goldfish” for a fountain type fish pond. The post said the fish were all healthy and in need of a home because their family had too many fish. And Phil, a goldfish, was available for adoption at Heartland Small Animal Rescue, Inc., in Mishawaka, IN. He was surrendered by his previous owner because he was “snacking on baby guppies.” The shelter said he currently lived with other goldfish and happily “dined on goldfish flakes.”

Nonprofits focused on specific fish species

Through online research, you can find clubs, organizations and fish lovers who have come to the rescue of unwanted fish. A number of them focus on one particular species. For example, there are a number of koi rescues including Koi Rescue, Phoenix Arizona, in North Carolina KoiNetters.com and the Lone Star Koi Club in Houston, TX.


Typically kept in outdoor ponds, koi can live 60-plus years if kept in good water. Some of the common reasons these fish end up in rescue include:

  • The sale of a home and new owners who are not interested in maintaining the koi pond
  • An overstocked backyard pond
  • Koi who outgrow a home aquarium
  • Owners who are no longer willing to commit to the care of the fish
  • Families with young children who close up a koi pond because of the drowning risk

Located in Highland, NY, Moonshadow Betta Fish Rescue rehabilitates and rehomes betta fish. The bettas come from a variety of sources and with a wide range of ailments such as ammonia poisoning, ammonia burns, fin rot and missing fins. Once healthy, the fish are offered for adoption. Some fish require an adoption fee while others are free although donations are always welcome. The rescue will meet adopters up to two hours away and some fish can be shipped to their new homes.


Craigslist and Hobby Forums

Rene Umberger, founder and executive director of For the Fishes, a nonprofit organization working to educate aquarium hobbyists about the abuse of saltwater fish in the wild to supply the pet fish trade, suggests potential adopters create Google alerts for local Craigslist offerings to find freshwater fish in need of homes. Also, search hobby forums for aquarium hobbyists looking to rehome their fish. For example AquariaCentral.com and Tropicalfishkeeping.com. A quick look through these forums did result in discussions about rehoming fish. Depending on the species, some owners look for a fee for their fish while others are more interested in finding their finned friends a new loving home.

Fish Club Members Can Offer Advice When Looking to Adopt a Fish

Colletti said fish clubs are a great source for anyone looking to adopt fish. These clubs are filled with conservationists and those who understand the delicate balance of the aquatic world and care about the treatment of fish. A search for “aquarium society” and “tropical fish club” along with a state will lead to local experts. In addition, the Aqua World Aquarium website offers an extensive list of local fish clubs and national and international associations.