Iran: A Nowruz New Year Without Goldfish?

Traditional table decoration of Persian New Year

Traditional table decoration of Persian New Year, by Greg Dunlap on Flickr (CC-BY)

Goldfish have a special place in the Iranian New Year, Nowruz, celebrating the first day of Spring (March 20). But every year animal rights defenders and bloggers launch campaigns to encourage people not to buy them. The fish are often kept in poor conditions and millions die every year.

The centerpiece of Nowruz observances is the “Haft Sīn” table setting of seven symbolic foods all starting with the letter ‘S’ (سین in Persian). The table is also decorated with candles, mirrors, colored eggs… and live goldfish (called red fish). Many Iranians disagree on this issue.

Jadid Online filmed a short documentary (with English subtitles) in 2008 showing how Nowruz fish are bought, sold and industrially farmed.

Red fishes for Nowruz

Red fishes for Nowruz, by Parmida Rahimi on Flickr (CC-BY)

Iranian blogger Nasim Saba writes [fa]:

Please do not buy goldfish. In the last few years animal rights activists have launched online campaigns to discourage people from buying goldfish to save this beautiful animal. Every year their campaign become more successful. As people shop for the new year celebration, goldfish reappear in shops. Campaigners began to boycott this deadly trade. Goldfish are not an Iranian tradition, it comes from a Chinese tradition. Five millon goldfish die in Iran each year during Nowruz period.

Nowruz fish for sale in Tehran

Fish for sale in Tehran by Mahtab on Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Greenblog does not share same idea. The blogger writes [fa]:

We should not boycott buying goldfish. Instead creating an environment hostile to animals we should teach and educate people how to treat goldfish, from the transporters to the buyers… instead of all the negative propaganda against goldfish, we should improve monitoring of goldfish suppliers… Influenced by the negative campaigns, some Iranians have replaced goldfish with turtles in recent years.

The blogger adds that while some people say the goldfish tradition comes from China, he checked learned via Google that Chinese it comes from Iran!


  • […] symbolized animals and are frequently seen in Iranian households during the Nowruz. According to Global Voices Online, the Iranian blogger Nasim Saba urged her fellows not to purchase goldfish: In the last few years […]

  • lauren

    okk look having changed goldfish to turtles is even worse like seriously even being to cruel to any animal is wrong so what if irianians changed fishes to turtles I really don’t care no one freakin does cuz its still animal cruelty cuz u said they changed goldfishes now they use turtles well ur comment wuz bullshit k cuz its animal cruelty to harm any living thing like seriously Persians shouldn’t use harmless fish just cuz of a freakin celebration its bullshit that they have the urge to even do such shit in the world

    • Laurenadumbbitch

      How about u reframe from using any living being from your table of celebration.

  • […] That’s prompted concerns from animal rights activists and bloggers, who in recent years have called for the practice to […]

  • […] That’s prompted concerns from animal rights activists and bloggers, who in recent years have called for the practice to […]

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