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Home > Fish > Does Petco Take Unwanted Fish? Facts, FAQ & Alternatives

Does Petco Take Unwanted Fish? Facts, FAQ & Alternatives

Young couple is buying fishes in a modern fish shop

Let’s assume you’ve just realized that your fish is all too grown for your aquarium. The reasonable thing to do is to purchase a new fish tank, but due to budgetary constraints, that’s not an option. But then Petco comes to mind. Maybe they would probably be open to the idea of adopting and reselling your buddy to a family who would love it the same way you do.

Petco may accept unwanted fish for rehoming, but it depends on the branch, if there’s enough space, and the health of the fish.


Will Petco Buy My Pet Fish?

Don’t presume that Petco would buy your pet fish just because other stores are willing to offer credit or pay a reasonable fee. The truth is that the probability of Petco buying any pet fish from anyone is unlikely, but they may still take it in for adoption.

And it’s not that they aren’t passionate about animal welfare or value pets as much as other people do. They feel like such deals should be treated as donations, rather than consumer goods that are worth purchasing.

Then again, that also doesn’t mean that all Petco stores in the country are obligated to accept unwanted fish donations. So before showing up at their doorstep, make a call or do some due diligence.

Young woman buying fishes in a fish shop
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

What Will Petco Do with My Pet Fish?

We understand your concern, seeing as most people are usually more worried about how their pets will be treated in their new home. Fortunately for us, Petco understands this. Hence the reason why they always go far and beyond to make sure no pet is adopted in a toxic environment.

Once they accept your fish, they’ll put them in an “adoption tank”. By the way, those tanks are always clean and have everything that the fish needs. Your pet will stay there for as long as they need until they get a loving and safe home. The new family will be thoroughly vetted before the fish’s ownership status gets transferred to them at a lower fee—lower than the retail price.

But remember, you still have to seek more information about your local Petco store policies. Because from our understanding, not all Petco stores have been equipped to handle unwanted pet fish, and the policies vary. Some of them don’t even have adoption tanks set up.

How Can I Make My Petco Fish-Adoption Process Seamless?

Even if your local branch usually accepts unwanted pet fish, their tanks might be full to capacity. And if that’s true, you’ll have to think about a different way of solving your “problem”.

Also, as mentioned earlier, some requirements have to be met first, or the process won’t be free of obstacles. There have been instances where Petco had to reject their client’s request, due to issues that could have been avoided.

Contact the Store

Once you have the contact information, call or email them. Their response time is fast, as they have their customer call centers fully operational during working hours. Ask them all your pertinent questions, and don’t forget to share the pet’s information. This step is important, as it saves time in wasted trips.

If they don’t accept unwanted pet fish in that location, they’ll tell you right away. However, if they do, they’ll ask you to give them a minute to discuss your options. The staff members will then convene, just to be sure that they have space and everything else that would be needed to take care of an unwanted pet fish.

couple buying pet fishes in pet shop
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

Take Your Fish to the Vet

You’ll never be able to convince any Petco store to accept a sick fish. And since they are experienced professionals, you won’t be able to hide the fact that your fish is not in the best of shape.

Schedule a veterinary visit before handing over the fish. Even if you believe your fish is in perfect condition, a vet report will go a long way toward making sure that your fish finds a stable, safe, and healthy home.

The vet will first request your pet’s history. They’ll then make an observation for a couple of minutes, before conducting a hands-on examination. Should they feel the need to give diagnostic tests, you’ll be told. But if the pet looks fine, they’ll give you a report that you can use in the subsequent step.

Don’t Mail the Fish

Now, it’s no secret that Petco has an online option for anyone looking to purchase fish via their website. They’ll also ship the pet on your behalf, but at a cost, if you live in a different state. They are able to safely mail pets to various destinations because they’ve heavily invested resources in their business.

Their experience in this game is why they are well-versed in the challenges involved. It’s for this reason that they’ll never accept mail-in pets from anyone.

Even if you’ve taken the necessary precautions to ensure your fish gets there as healthy as possible, they won’t be willing to take that chance. Simply put, you’ll have to find a way to get there in person or find an alternative.

Veterinarian holding a goldfish
Image Credit: Digital Art StudioTH, Shutterstock


What Are the Alternative Ways of Rehoming a Pet Fish?

Reach Out To your Local Environmental Organization for Advice

Have you ever heard of Habitattitude US?  It’s one of the many pet advocacy organizations that have launched campaign drives that are meant to educate people on the egregious health, economic, and environmental effects of releasing unwanted pets into the wild.

There’s also the US Fish and Wildlife Service that was established to enhance, protect, and conserve plants and wildlife (including aquatic animals) in their natural habitats. You can reach out to both organizations and countless others for help.

Ask for Help from Local Businesses

We have so many businesses that have aquariums in their offices. Of course, they are there to make those spaces aesthetically appealing, but this doesn’t matter as long as they treat their pets with respect and love.

Ask them if they have extra space for your pet fish and if they’ll be okay with you visiting from time to time.

Pet shop employee helps an elderly man choose an aquarium fish
Image By: Bear Fotos, Shutterstock

Find a Hobbyist

By definition, a hobbyist is someone who passionately pursues a particular hobby. And that’s how you know your fish will be in good hands. Finding such people might not be as easy as finding an animal conservancy organization, but that’s why we have online forums in this day and age. Just get in there and search for an aquarium enthusiast.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who’s not only knowledgeable in quarantine procedures but also loves having a pet fish as much as you do.

Create an Online Ad

Selling a pet is never easy, seeing as they are always viewed as family members. Nonetheless, if money is a problem, and that specific species can fetch a good price on the market, you could sell them to an animal lover.

In our opinion, anyone who’s willing and ready to pay a fee for something understands the value of that thing.

While creating the ad, make sure you remember to include the condition of purchase, the size of the fish, the specific species type, photos, and any other information that might be deemed useful, such as genetic abnormalities or diseases.

happy young woman with goldfish for home aquarium in petshop
Image By: BearFotos, Shutterstock

Offer Them to a Family Member

Do you know what’s the best alternative to Petco? Transferring the fish’s ownership status to a family member or close friend. Particularly if they are knowledgeable about proper fish care and have the requisite tools to guarantee a healthy lifestyle. If they don’t have the supplies or pieces of equipment, you could lend them yours.

What Shouldn’t You Do with An Unwanted Fish?

Do not ever think about releasing them into the wild. Though tempting, disposing of the fish using this option could negatively affect the environment. If they were sick at the time of release, they’ll spread that sickness to other animals.

You also have to think about how they are going to get their food. Animals bred in captivity are not skilled enough to hunt on their own to survive. That’s to say, they might die of starvation.

man with new fishes near the aquarium
Image By: M-Production, Shutterstock



Many Petco stores accept unwanted pet fish, on condition that they are healthy. Once taken in, they are housed in adoption tanks and then sold to other pet parents at a small fee. However, not all branches have this option available, so make sure to call ahead first.

Featured Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

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