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May 30, 2002 08:57 PM

The Sad State of Live Fishtanks in Chinatown

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I'm visiting Vancouver this week. Even the cheapest Chinese restaurants have clean tanks with healthy-looking fish. The fishtanks of Boston's Chinatown are disgusting by comparison, even at the more expensive restaurants. Has anyone else noticed this? Dirty water, fish with sores and missing eyes, three or four species crammed into the same tank. I've even seen some sketchy tanks at Jumbo Seafood and the Peach Farm (though the latter is usually pretty good about keeping their tanks clean). Are there any health laws that govern live tanks in Boston?

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  1. I don't know, I actually called the Board of Health about the tanks at the South Bay Super 88.They told me I should have brought it back..Yeah, like when you're sitting down to dinner, you wannah bring an already cooked fish back to the store. They said they were going to investigate, but I never heard from them.

    I think those tanks just make the fish taste like s**t, but don't cause food-poisoning, so maybe the health inspectors have bigger fish to fry! FWIW, the fish at PFS always tastes fresh.

    I got a tilapia at the NEW Super 88 last nite, and it had that taste of ammonia already. Luckily, the tilapia was in it's own small tank, so I still have hope for the catfish....Am I the only one that this bothers? Hundreds of other shoppers don't seem to mind...

    2 Replies
    1. re: galleygirl

      There's a sign that says they put a certain mud in the tanks,which why they look that way.

      One has to remember that Chinatown will never be sanitary and that yes, there are several code violations, I'm sure. I still go there for many of the foods and never gotten sick from it.


      1. re: MJ Sassler

        I actually have no problem with the way the tanks look, it's just that if the water isn't cleaned and the fish aren't fed, they start filtering their own bodily wastes thru their systems, and their flesh retains the taste and smell of ammonia and ureaic acid.

        I've never had this problem in any Chinatown restuarants, but I have had it in fish I've bought at Super 88..You're right, I've never gotten sick from it, but it smelled so bad, and tasted so bad, what was the point? Yes, I've gotten good fish at the new one, but after that tilapia, I'm wary again.

        I eat in Chinatown constantly, and a lot of other places that wouldn't fit many people's definitions of sanitary. I certainly have no probelm with any code violations, esp. given the capricious whims of the inspectors, but I get wicked pissed-off when I spend good money for food, and it doesn't TASTE good.

    2. I agree about the fish tank situation. The last time I went to Chau Chow city, for instance, the food was great but walking by the fish tanks made me prey the poor trapped fish would soon be gutted and out of their quite apparent misery.

      For what it's worth the last time I was in Hong Kong Eatery the fish tanks were clean and the fish didn't appear to be wasting away. This situation may have changed, however, since there doesn't seem to be much of a competitive advantage to keeping the tanks in such good shape here in Boston. It's a shame, really.


      2 Replies
      1. re: Psmith

        All the more reason to schedule an investigative visit to Hong Kong eatery!

        1. re: galleygirl

          I've been turned off of Chinatown in Boston ever since a friend and I walked through one hot summer night around 8 PM. The smell of rotten garbage, sewage and who know what else turned my stomach so badly, that I haven't been back. A Boston food critic friend of mine won't eat anywhere in Chinatown due to the sanitary problems. The neighborhood and restaurants are really filthy.