Fish Painting: The Future of Aquascaping or Heartless Animal Torture?

Painted Indian Glassy Fish

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Do you have a tattoo? Some groups estimate that as many as 20 percent of all adult Americans have a tattoo. That number would probably be a lot lower if getting a tattoo gave you serious wounds, made you more prone to disease, came with a major risk of death, and if the tattoo gradually washed away over the course of several months. Sound terrible? Welcome to the world of fish painting.

What is Fish Painting?

Also called “juicing” and “dyeing,” fish painting is the practice of injecting fish with dye in order to give them a unique appearance. It truly is the fishy equivalent of getting a tattoo, but the major problem with it is that fish painting is extremely dangerous. Fish distributors use a needle to inject a small pocket of dye beneath the fish’s skin. The liquid remains inside of the fish until it is naturally secreted or until the fish’s body breaks down the chemical. Imagine going to a tattoo parlor and getting a liter of liquid injected into a pocket of your skin, where it sloshes around for months before eventually disappearing.

Fish Painted with Flowers

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What’s the Big Deal?

So what if people are painting fish? A little color never hurt anybody, right?

Wrong. Fish painting is practically a death sentence for any fish involved. The process is extremely stressful for fish, which makes them more susceptible to disease. Many fish die within months of receiving the injection, and those that are lucky enough to survive often suffer through growth defects because of the chemicals in their bodies. It’s essentially fish torture all for the purpose of making a few extra bucks.

And just in case dye injections don’t seem bad enough, distributors use another process known as dipping. Imagine if somebody took your hand and dipped it into a mild acid to burn away the outer-most layer of skin. Then they dip your hand in paint to give it a pretty sky-blue color. Then they dip your hand in hot grease to cauterize the wound and speed up the healing process. That’s what happens with dipping — except with fish it’s their whole body.

Why Do People Paint Fish?

It’s simple, really: people like colors. People who are new to the fish hobby might not know that painted fish are artificially colored, or they might know but be unaware of how damaging it is to the fish. These people buy the eye-catching fish and support the industry.

What Can You Do?

Just don’t buy painted fish. It all boils down to the simple matter of supply and demand. As long as people keep writing checks for overpriced painted fish, distributors will continue to subject fish to these barbaric practices.

You can go one step further by contacting your local pet supplier and asking them not to support fish painting. If enough people boycott a store then the owner will be quick to ban fish painting. You can also join movements to spread the word about this terrible practice.

Fish Dyed with Purple Pigments

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The silliest thing about fish painting is that it’s completely unnecessary. Fish are colorful enough on their own, spanning the full spectrum from fiery reds to beautiful purples. Don’t get lured in by cruel fish painting practices. Keep your fishy pets happy with a natural, fish-friendly aquascape.


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