Kindness to mahi ghermez: Changing a tradition

Kindness to mahi ghermez: Changing a tradition
by Mohammad Ala

We are spreading a message to Iranians, Tajiks, Afghans, and others to join us in not using a “goldfish,” at their Haft Sin table. Our Nowrouz celebration will begin soon and it is beautiful time of the year which represents our identity. However, not having a goldfish will not diminish the importance of Haft Sin.

It is important to keep our good traditions and modify or eliminate the ones that are harmful to people, animals, and to the environment.

If you and your family members must add a “goldfish or mahi ghermez,” to your Haft Sin table please follow the steps which are prepared by The Center for Animal Lovers in Iran. See more information in this flyer (in Persian).

1) If you are buying a goldfish, purchase it from locations which have large containers and the containers’ water is clean.

2) The container which you use must be large (preferably glass) and have also a large opening for good air circulation.

3) The container must be away from very cold or very hot locations (and it definitely must be away from direct sunlight.)

4) If you want to change the water, have fresh water wait for at least 24 hours in another container then gently transfer the new water.

5) To prevent the goldfish from feeling lonely and frightened, always use more than one fish, preferably two.

6) Have a plan to release the fish safely after Nowruz celebration.

Some family members, relatives, and friends are accepting not having a goldfish at their Haft Sin table for the first time. Several family members and friends have difficulty accepting it that is why I am writing to seek your help.

The Center for Animal Lovers in Iran promotes kindness not only to a goldfish but to all animals. Happy Nowruz.


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more from Mohammad Ala

You missed one thing!

by Gharbizadeh (not verified) on

It is not just how and where they keep the poor fish. It is also the fact that they keep for for two weeks and never feed it!!


Long Live Do It Yourself Fishies!!!

by Mehrnaz (not verified) on

Thank you Mr Ala. I have put three glass fish a bowl of water every year for many years now. They shine and reflect light beautifully and have become haftseen items we recognise as authentic in our household! They now embody the memory of many haftseens we have sat around and are meaningful. We can always improvise if we keep the spirit alive, the spirit of Norouz is regeneration and growth, not suffering, decay and death.


لغت العربیه فی مجالس العجمیه

JD (not verified)

عرض کنم، حالا دیگه مد شده همه هر کار را باید با بستن آن به محیط زیست جنبه شرعی بدهند. تا دیروز روغن زیتون به اون خوبی را با نان میخوردیم، حالا باید بریزیم تو ماشینمون که آقای ال-گور دلخور نشوند. شما مطمئن باشید ماهی های توی سطل فروشنده ها بمراتب راحت تر و خوشحالتر از توریستهائی هستند که از ژاپن دیدن میکنند و باید توی آن هتلهای اندازه جعبه کفش شبی دویست دلار بدهند و هیچکس از آنها دفاع نمیکند.

این ماهی سفره هفت سین هم از لغت عربی "سمک" گرفته شده و احتمالا توسط یکی از همان آخوندهای اثنی عشری که قران را به سفره هفت سین آوردند، اضافه شده است.

بازهم شانس آوردیم به همین اکتفا کردند. وگرنه روسها هم قرار بود "سماور" را اضافه کنند و خر بیار و با قالی بار کن.


no need of fish

by MRX1 on

No where in noruz tradition it says that you have to have fish. I never did never will. let's not destroy our beautifull tradition with this wacky stuff.


Who said we are not . . .

by AmirUS (not verified) on

Who said we are not nice to animals?

Thanks Doc. for your efforts.



by Rajab. (not verified) on

I have been turning down gifts of goldfish around nowruz from our local iranian shops for just that exact reason that I did not want my celebration of an "iranian" tradition to cause harm to a living creature with a sense of pain and suffering.

Let's leave the customs of brutality to mullas and islamists and cleanse iranian traditions from any harm, no matter how minor.

Maybe someone should come up with some sort of floating glass goldfish to replace this custom. Most goldfishes end up dead after Nurooz and that certainly is not pleasant.

Thanks doctor for being so kind to "iranian" traditions. Let's leave all brutality and excuses for brutality to islam and islamists.


Glass Fish vs. Gold Fish

by sbglobe on

THANK YOU for this blog! I did the gold fish thing last year for the first time and as my luck had it, they died the next day :-(. I kicked myself big time for doing gold fish given the fact that I am a vegetarian. Then I came up with this idea that I LOVE it myself. I found a small “glass” and colorful fish that fitted perfectly into my fish bowl. This piece is a “decorative” piece on my book shelf and will make it to my haftseen in years to come.


Dear Dr Ala

by IRANdokht on

Although your approach is very humane, I don't think it would save many gold fish. Even in western countries that they're not bought as a custom, there are many who are being farmed and imported, for sale.

I hope you realize that gold fish get the best treatment from us compared to all other fish. At least we keep them alive, feed them, admire them and change their water regularly. My own record in keeping 2 gold fish alive is 4.5 years.

They're shipped in barrels with the most unclear water for all the time prior to be displayed for sale. Generally a high percentage of them dies before they are even bought. So I am trying to understand what is wrong with saving a few of them by bringing them home and taking care of them instead of letting them die in the dirty over-crowded barrels?

Besides, did you see how Niki's Capt Nima was loved? she even looked away and gave him a free pass for eliminating his rival. Mahee sefid and Salmon don't ever get treated with such respect. 

Dear Dr Ala, I wish you and your loved ones a prosperous and joyous new year.  Noroozetoon Pirooz



Dear Mr. Ala

by Mehrban on

Thank you for your kindness.  It really makes me proud that you care enough about this little fish that you have bothered to find out how to take proper care of it and also to share what you have learned.   

As a gesture of gratitude to your kindness, I will forgo the Mahi Ghermez this year. 


Niki Tehranchi

Sad indeed

by Niki Tehranchi on

Sad indeed to watch those little creatures circle around themselves all alone in a small glass container, deprived of their status as living creatures, reduced merely to things used for decoration like a photo frame or a vase.  I loved my goldfish Captain Nima very much and followed the steps you described above and he managed to live several years. I would talk to him often (without tapping on the glass of course) and I had a lot of genuine affection for him.  He did initially have a companion (who died in mysterious circumstances, which I decided not to investigate too closely lest my esteem for Captain Nima would diminish).  I am not going to get a goldfish again though.  Still mourning my little friend.  What do you think of aquariums?  Is that the humane way of keeping fish friends?


Good to know.  Thanks.

by desi on

Good to know.  Thanks.  Goldfish generally have the life expectancy of about 20 minutes in our house.  I've often wondered what that meant for my new year to come.  If it's an omen.  I'm not giving up mahi doody or mah sephid though.  I'm not promoting kindness for those fish.  My sabzi polo wouldn't be the same.