How often you feed goldfish is hugely important. But possibly not for the reasons you think. The reason that it’s important to know how often to feed goldfish is that you might otherwise feed them too much.
Most people worry that they won’t feed their goldfish enough, but that’s almost never a problem. Goldfish can live for around 14 days without being fed, and potentially much longer if there are food sources like algae to snack on.
When deciding how often to feed a goldfish, the problem you want to avoid is actually over-feeding. Feeding a goldfish too much food can lead to all kinds of life-threatening health problems!
We’ll talk more about over-feeding later in this article, but first, we want to share our rule for how often to feed goldfish:
Until they are one year old, you should feed goldfish 2 or 3 times per day. Once they are older than one year, you should feed goldfish just once per day.
There are, however, a number of factors that could lead you to adjust this schedule. Also, the type and amount of goldfish food you feed your goldfish is important.
Factors affecting how often to feed goldfish
In the vast majority of cases, we recommend following our advice to feed adult goldfish once per day. However, there are a few reasons you might want to adjust this:
- The age of the goldfish
- The temperature of the water
- Whether you’re attempting to breed your goldfish
- The number of fish in the tank or pond
- Your own routine
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
How often to feed goldfish at different ages
As we’ve already mentioned, we recommend feeding younger goldfish (by that, we mean fish that are less than one year old), more often than adult goldfish.
Rather than once per day, we recommend feeding young goldfish at least two, possibly three times per day.
This is because more frequent meals will promote healthy growth.
It’s important to only feed very small amounts though. A small pinch of food is enough.
How water temperature affects goldfish appetite
You might not have guessed it, but the temperature of the water has a big impact when deciding how often to feed goldfish.
In colder water, a goldfish’s metabolism slows down. This means they don’t need as much food and will find it harder to digest the food they do eat.
Goldfish kept in outdoor ponds – where there will be algae and bugs to snack on! – may need to be fed as little as once per month.
How breeding affects when you feed goldfish
You may choose to feed your goldfish more often if you are trying to condition the fish for spawning.
Feeding several large meals daily will help to encourage goldfish to spawn.
The increased food will also increase the egg and milt count.
How often to feed goldfish if your tank is crowded
When your tank is crowded, your fish will produce more waste. This risks polluting your tank water, so you should take extra care not to over-feed.
Having multiple fish in the same tank also means that your fish will compete for food. You’ll need to pay close attention when feeding to make sure every fish gets enough food (and no fish eats too much!)
Both of these factors mean that – if your tank is crowded – you may want to feed smaller, slightly more frequent amounts.
By keeping the amounts small, you lower the risk of polluting your water. And by feeding more regularly, you may be better able to target each fish and ensure they all get their fair share.
Fitting goldfish feeding into your own routine
Finally, as much as your goldfish’s diet should be based around their needs, you also need to take your own routine into account.
For instance, there’s no point planning to feed your fish three times per day if you’re out at work or school all day so won’t be there to feed them!
We think it’s better to get into a regular routine, which your fish will get used to, rather than feeding once per day on some days, and multiple times per day on others.
So, before deciding how often to feed goldfish based on our rules or anything else you may read, think about your schedule and make a choice that works for you.
How much to feed goldfish
We’ve talked about how often to feed goldfish, but what about how much to feed goldfish? As we’ve already said, you need to be very careful not to over-feed your goldfish as many health issues can arise from giving them too much food.
So how much food should you feed to a goldfish?
Here are two common recommendations for helping you to judge the right amount of goldfish food:
- Give an amount of food equal to the size of the goldfish’s eye
- Give an amount of food that your goldfish can eat in under two minutes
If that doesn’t sound like much, well… that’s the point! Feeding your goldfish too little is almost never a problem. Whereas over-feeding can be life-threatening.
Why is over-feeding goldfish dangerous?
Common health problems that can happen due to overfeeding include swim bladder problems, constipation, fin rot and dropsy.
Swim bladder issues and constipation are caused by the over-feeding itself, while issues like fin rot and dropsy are caused by the poor water conditions that result from over-feeding.
Fancy types of goldfish are particularly prone to swim bladder problems. Lots of rich food is hard to process and can lead to constipation or food impaction. Their food should contain no fillers, wheat, or wheat gluten.
Slim bodied breeds, such as commons or comet goldfish, aren’t as prone to constipation due to their organ placement. Lower quality foods can cause fatty liver. Fatty liver can be caused by having a diet that is too high in fat.
Fin rot is a bacterium that will eat at the fins of the goldfish. It shows up on the fins as them being cloudy or turning white. It happens due to stress or living in bad water.
Dropsy happens when the fish is living in bad water or is fed an improper diet. It shows up in the fish by them having a large abdomen or their scales poking out. When excess food is allowed to stay in the tank then it messes with the water quality. The food breaking down can increase ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates in the tank.
What are your thoughts on how often to feed goldfish? How often do you feed your goldfish? Please let us know in the comments.
14 thoughts on “How often to feed goldfish: Get a healthy schedule now!”
I am neurodivergent, and I have trouble understanding how much to feed my goldfish. I have two of them and they are about 2-3 months, I think. I got them at a carnival in October. I have the medium goldfish pellets that are sinking. Can someone please tell me how many pellets exactly do I need to feed them? I am giving them 6-8 pellets twice a day. Is that enough or too much? Please help!
Hi Ana, maybe someone more qualified can help you with this answer. In my experience, I usually feed my goldfish 1 pinch of flakes per day and I have had my fish for almost 3 years now. I hope this kind of helps you as I don’t really have experience with the pellets.
I have three goldfish in a half barrel pond, and are one year old. An electric pump is on around 5 hrs a day for ocsygen.They usually have a pinch of pellets twice a day, and they eat it all in a couple of minutes. Today is warm outdoors, and one is chasing the other two. I have given them an extra pinch of pellets tonight incase they are starving….its the one that does the chasing that eats the most. Not sure whether they are mating, I have a separate pond ready incase I have to shift the adults after they spawn??
Hi Lili, thanks for your comment,
chasing during warmer temperatures is typical of goldfish spawning, warmer temperatures increases the metabolism of goldfish and so they will eat more and expend more energy.
If you want them to spawn successfully, you can place in a plant or spawning mop where they will deposit there eggs, an then simply move the eggs to the other barrel where they can hatch and raise up.
hope this helps.
i have 3 gold fish and one beta in a 5 gallon tank with a filter and bubble maker. i’ve had them close to two months and they..seem to be doing well. my only issue is i have to clean and change their water every other day. my tank has two plants, a two invh gravel floor
river rocks and a fake log to p!ay in. I feed them twice a day. any suggestions on how to do a better job in maintaining my aquarium?
Hi becky, thanks for your comment,
We would recommend changing up your care schedule a little to give your fish a better home.
First off, the tank is extremely small for 3 goldfish, they will quickly outgrow this tank and will need an upgrade.
we would recommend upgrading to at least a 10 gallon or larger for now.
we would also recommend that you feed much less than you currently do, perhaps only feed 4 times a week, or once every other day, twice a day in a small tank will produce very high ammonia and will kill your fish.
We also recommend doing water changes on your tank, perhaps 10% – 20% 2 times a week, as the small water volume will foul very quickly.
As the goldfish grow you may also want to move your betta, as it will be out competed by goldfish for food, they also like to live in different water conditions and they will bite each others tails, they dont really make ideal tankmates.
Or you may want to move or rehome your goldfish when they get older.
If kept in good condition, goldfish will grow to be 12 inches long and live for 20+ years, so they need a much larger tank to live in.
hope this helps, and good luck with your fish. 🙂
My goldfish was gasping air at surface after each meal, i feed them little not too much and my tank parameters always good. Ammonia almost zero, nitrite at the lowest level, water temperature about 23 c.i always do 50% or more water changes twice a week. I treated them from gill flukes with good medicine, internal parasites with levamisole and nothing changed, gasping air developed to buoyancy problems happened to two females.
During fasting days they act normal but with the first meal after fast they do the same with buoyancy problem in swimming even with green peas. I am using high quality foods from top brands. And tried soaking pellets with garlic but it didn’t work. I tried epsom salt bathes two time a day for 3 days. Also i tried aquarium salt but the same situation.
Is there a solution for that issue, plz?
Hi, thanks for your comment
Gasping for air is caused by a lack of oxygen in the tank, you need to add an airstone or two to disturb the surface tension and add oxygen to the water.
Try not to go wild with treatments and remedies, often times jumping the gun and using too many treatments and changing the water all the time can stress fish out too much and add to the issue.
I would definitely say to add an airstone and see if this works, if it does not then look for other signs of ill health before diagnosing.
I will also add that your parameters should look as follows: ammonia 0/ nitrite 0/ nitrate: 0 – 40
An uncycled tank will produce ammonia but no nitrates or nitrites, you could be changing too much water, sometimes a water change isnt always a good thing.
Most people change 20% of the water once a week, and test their water to see if the levels rise, if they do not, then there is no need to change more water.
hope this helps 🙂
I enjoyed your article a lot. Thanks for that!
My question is that my common goldfish surfs the glass a lot!
He’s about 3″ and in a 10 gallon tank for now. Lots of plants and a decoration that allows him to go under and through it.
Water parameters are perfect. He will at times root the gravel, peck at plants and seems truly relaxed. But when he sees me it’s over. Constant glass surfing. Is he trying to fool me into feeding him more?
Hi Carol, thanks for your comment.
the tank is too small.
whenever a fish glass surfs for extended periods of time, even when you aren’t standing near the tank, it is usually because they need more space.
your goldfish is due for a tank upgrade.
hope this helps 🙂
Hi, we won a fish at a carnival and picked up 3 friends for it at the shop. We have a 20 gallon tank for them, is that sufficient? And we feed them in the morning they aren’t rushing for the food (flakes) so it’s sitting for a while, is that ok?
Hi Beverly, a 20 gallon is perfect for now, you may get a few years from it, but know that eventually they will outgrow it.
As for feeding, a good rule is to think that a fishes stomach is the same size as its eyeball.
So your fish only need a little bit of food, if there is food left behind then you are feeding too much.
Any left over food should be removed as it will rot and create ammonia.
here is an article we wrote that may help you, it has a lot of care tips and advice for keeping your goldfish healthy and happy: your first goldfish tank guide
Hope this helps and good luck 🙂
Hi, I have one large(r) 4 year old goldfish, about 6″ long and three new smaller new young ones, about 2″ long. Also 1 bottom feeder approx 5″long. They are in a 300ltr tank (approx. 80 gallons), 2 air stones, filter/pump and heated to 23degrees. They are all growing really fast. I think I’m overfeeding them since we got the 3 new ones. I cant work out how uch to feed them, can you advise me please :). Thanks Dave
we have written another article on how much to feed your fish, that goes into more specific details and may help you better understand how much to give them,
here is the link: how much should you feed your goldfish?
hope this helps.