The Small Business Times

Why Did Walmart Stop Selling Fish?

They accounted for 30% of pet fish sales in the United States, so why did Walmart stop selling fish? The stores were selling Betta fish such as Oscar, Cichlid, and Tetra from South America and Africa. And customers would buy these live fish from its 1,700 stores across the US.

Walmart stopped selling fish in 2019. Earlier that, Walmart held a conference call with its livestock suppliers to discontinue the sale of fish. The company cited a reduction in demand and pressure from animal rights groups as their primary reasons for removing fish from stores. Later, the retailer allowed individual store managers to decide whether or not to continue fish sales.

By the end of June 2019, many of the targeted locations had withdrawn their fish display tanks from the stores. And the remaining stores were expected to have done so by the end of July 2019. While this was great for the fish, Walmart’s livestock and fish feed suppliers suffered a significant financial blow. Walmart was their primary client. 

Primary Reasons Why Walmart Stopped Selling Fish

  1. Pressure from Animal Welfare Organizations

Most organizations in the US which cater to animal welfare were concerned about how Walmart employees would handle live fish. This was aimed at specific stores, and employees received the following criticism.

  • It was stated that employees showed a lack of respect and care toward the live fish. This resulted from staff tossing the fish out with the trash and flushing them down the toilets. They were also accused of keeping the fish in unclean water inside their containers.  
  • The animal rights organizations further stipulated that this behavior set a bad example. And that the consumers who bought the fish were not shown how to take proper care of them.
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As a result, many reached out to People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to raise their concerns. PETA is a non-profit organization that campaigns against animal abuse and exploitation. Therefore, together with other animal rights activists, the organization pushed Walmart to end its sale of live fish.

When the mass retailer agreed to do so, PETA was impressed and commended Walmart on their decision. The organization commented that the decision will prevent innumerable delicate fish from enduring unnecessary pain and horrific deaths.

PETA also argued that fish are animals that communicate, grieve, and bond together. They also feel pain and experience pain and stress. As a result, they starve when transported inside tiny containers from the suppliers to the store. This is because the environment is different from their natural habitat.

  1. Decreased Customer Demand

Another reason that Walmart stopped selling fish was because of decreased consumer demand. And this has been attributed, by some, to the apparent ill-treatment and care of the fish. It is reported that, in some stores, fish were found dead in the display tanks. And that this was off-putting to customers. 

When the live fish were on display, they looked unhealthy. Hence, they were unattractive to the consumers. The sole purpose of buying the live fish was to keep them as pets at home. As a result, they weren’t keen to purchase an unattractive and unhealthy fish as a pet. 

In addition, this world’s biggest retailer doesn’t sell other live pets such as dogs, rats, or cats. Therefore, if anyone is looking for a place to buy a live pet, Walmart isn’t the first place they think of. Most would look for an animal shelter or pet store to obtain a pet. 

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Although Walmart no longer sells fish in its stores, you can still buy fish supplies from them. You can purchase fish food, fish tanks, fishbowls, aquarium stands, gravel, and plants.  


Walmart US stores were a significant player in the live fish sales market. However, the retailer could not continue to sell fish due to decreased demand and concerns from animal welfare organizations. Hence, it discontinued live fish sales in 2019.