Suppose you keep a goldfish in your house. One day, it dies. Assuming that it has died a natural death (that is, you didn't intentionally kill it), is it kosher to eat this goldfish?

  • 2
    On a practical note, I've never heard of anyone (besides Homer Simpson) eating their dead aquatic pet.
    – Fred
    Apr 10, 2014 at 16:39
  • 1
    I can bear witness that such people do exist. I personally knew a person who used to fry and consume his retired gold fishes.
    – oakad
    Apr 11, 2014 at 1:16

2 Answers 2


Kosher mammals (cows, sheep, goats, deer, etc.) and birds (pigeons, chickens, etc.) must be killed by kosher slaughter. So if your pet pigeon dies of natural causes, it’s not kosher. (In fact, if you kosher-slaughtered it but then found it had a massive tumor that would have caused it to die soon anyhow of natural causes, it’s still not kosher!)

Kosher fish — including goldfish — require no special form of killing. The source listed in DoubleAA’s answer was “Rambam shechita” — “Rambam” refers to Rabbi Moses Maimonides, who wrote a code of Jewish law around the year 1200. One of the sections in that code is “Hilchot shechita”, laws of kosher slaughter. So the reference given was: See Maimonides’ code, laws of kosher slaughter, ch. such-and-such, paragraph such-and-such. (The sacred texts from which things originate are generally the Bible and Talmud; however, Maimonides’ code does a great job summarizing and organizing that. Hence you’ll see it quoted frequently here.)

The source that kosher fish do not to be killed specially is based on the Bible. An exasperated Moses says to God, “could sheep and cattle be slaughtered for them and that would be enough, or could all the fish of the sea be gathered for them, would that be enough?” Moses’ language makes clear that slaughter is unnecessary for fish, simply gathering.

  • 1
    FYI - this explains why sushi (from a kosher fish, of course) is kosher. the fish is raw. As a matter of fact, you can even eat the fish blood according to most opinions, though I don't know how appetizing that may be. Unlike meat and poultry, fish does not have to be soaked and salted. Then, again, those that came form the ocean already went through that process!
    – Dan
    Apr 10, 2014 at 17:46
  • @Dan Your comment is inaccurate. Soaking and salting wouldn't have to be done to raw meat either. Moreover some things which need Shechita to eat need not be soaked and salted even when cooked (eg. cow intestines).
    – Double AA
    Apr 10, 2014 at 19:31

Yes. Goldfish are kosher. You can even kill it to eat it if you want. Ritual slaughter is not necessary for fish (Rambam (Maimonides), Laws of Shechita (Slaughter) 1:3).

Lists of kosher fish

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    I meant animals that are pets and that die naturally.
    – Double U
    Apr 10, 2014 at 14:17
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    @Anonymous I know. Don't forget that most people's meat came from their "pet" chickens and lambs for millennia.
    – Double AA
    Apr 10, 2014 at 14:20
  • What is the Rambam Shechita? Is that a holy text?
    – Double U
    Apr 10, 2014 at 14:20
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    @Anonymous It is a reference to a specific part of this book en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mishneh_Torah. You may want to check out this question judaism.stackexchange.com/q/18589/759
    – Double AA
    Apr 10, 2014 at 14:21

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