What do goldfish eat? Feeding your goldfish the right kind of food – and the right amount of food – is a key part of good goldfish care.
Eating the wrong type or amount of food can be very bad for your fish.
Goldfish will be happy to eat most foods, but it is best to offer them a varied diet. This ensures their digestive tract stays healthy and keeps the goldfish happy and healthy too.
A mixture of foods such as flakes, pellets, vegetables, and live food is a good combination.
A goldfish’s main diet should consist of pellets or flakes that are good quality and high in carbohydrates. A typical food label should have 40% protein, 44% carbohydrates, 10% fats, and 6% ash (minerals, etc).
These pellets and flakes should then be supplemented with live food and vegetables.
Types of goldfish food
The goldfish food you buy will likely be in one of these forms:
- Sinking pellets
- Floating pellets
- Live foods
- Freeze dried live food
There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether to feed your goldfish flakes, pellets, live foods, freeze dried food, or a mixture of everything.
Flakes are probably the most common type of goldfish food.
A problem with flakes is how fast they disintegrate and pollute your fish’s water.
Goldfish may swallow air when eating flakes or floating pellets off the surface of the water, which can cause digestion problems.
Flakes can lose some of their nutritional value after the tub is opened and the flakes are exposed to air. Pellets retain their nutritional value better than flakes do.
Pellets are a common type of goldfish food that can be found readily in pet stores.
Some pellets will float on the water, which makes removing uneaten food easier. Uneaten food should always be removed so it doesn’t pollute the water.
Other pellets sink. These may be more difficult to find and remove.
Pellets are very easy to store and they also make it easy to measure the amount you feed to your goldfish.
Is your fish big enough to eat pellets? Some pellets can be too big to fit in the mouths of young fish.
Available from most pet stores, live foods for goldfish include brine shrimp, tubifex worms, daphnia and aquarium snails.
Live foods offer a great source of protein for your goldfish. The process of catching and eating them is also closer to what your goldfish would do in the wild.
However, by purchasing live creatures from a pet store, you risk introducing disease and infections to your tank.
Freeze dried foods
Like live foods, freeze dried foods offer lots of protein, but without the risk of disease.
For this reason, we recommend including freeze dried food in any balanced goldfish diet.
That’s right! You don’t just have to feed fish food to your goldfish. They can eat “human food” too, including vegetables.
One of the best choices of vegetable for goldfish is peas with the shells removed. Peas are great at preventing constipation in goldfish.
To feed peas to your goldfish, simply rinse the peas, heat them in a pan or microwave to soften, then remove the shells.
Feed your goldfish 2 or 3 peas at a time, chopped into small chunks.
Other vegetables that can be fed to goldfish include lettuce, kale, spinach and cucumber.
The best goldfish food
Goldfish need a balanced diet, so there isn’t really one “best” goldfish food.
However, a strong favorite of ours is Hikori freeze-dried brine shrimp.
It offers lots of protein for your fish – like feeding a live food – but, because it’s freeze dried, without the risk of infection.
In our opinion, it’s an excellent contender for the title of Best Goldfish Food!
How many times a day do you feed goldfish?
We recommend feeding adult goldfish once per day. Younger goldfish can be fed up to three times per day.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll under-feed your goldfish, but it’s very easy to over-feed them. So you need to be careful!
You can find out more about this in our article on how often to feed your goldfish.
How much to feed goldfish?
Overfeeding can be very bad for your goldfish. Goldfish don’t have stomachs, so they never get “full up” like humans do. This means that goldfish will eat and eat for as long as there is food available!
Adding too much food can cause your goldfish to eat too much. This leads to blocked intestines and swim bladder problems.
A long trail of poop behind your goldfish is a sign that your fish has over-eaten!
You should feed your goldfish two or three times per day, but only in very small amounts at a time.
Slowly add tiny pinches of food to your tank, for about one minute, never adding more than your goldfish can eat in this time.
If you leave food in your tank after feeding then it will get stuck in your filter and rot, which will pollute your water. You should therefore remove any uneaten food after the feeding session.
It’s often a good idea to feed just before doing a water change, as you can then remove any uneaten food when changing the tank water.
If you keep your water at a low temperature then your goldfish should eat even less than this. Your goldfish’s metabolism slows down at lower temperatures, which means they need less food than when kept in warmer water.
The main thing to remember when deciding how much to feed a goldfish is this: it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll ever seriously harm a goldfish by feeding it too little. But you could very easily feed it too much!
What do goldfish eat in the wild?
In the wild, goldfish eat crustaceans, plants, insects and will sometimes even eat smaller fish. While you obviously can’t match their natural diet exactly, you should try to feed your goldfish food that is similar to what they would eat in the wild.
As well as flakes and pellets designed specifically for them, goldfish will eat peas (with the shells removed), boiled vegetables, bloodworms and brine shrimp.
The above foods make a great change to flakes and pellets. You can read about other treats for your goldfish here!
If you choose to feed live food – rather than freeze dried – then there is a slight risk of transferring disease to your goldfish. To avoid this, frozen and freeze-dried foods are available. They’re not quite as good as live food, but they do offer many of the same benefits without the same risk of disease.
How long can goldfish live without food?
If you’re going on holiday then there are 3 ways to feed your fish while you are away.
You could buy an automated fish feeder that will release set amounts of food at regular intervals. However, this is risky, as the feeder could malfunction and release too much food!
Another option would be a feeding block – a block of food that sits in the water for your fish to nibble on – but these have their problems too. Feeding blocks can make your water cloudy and throw off your water parameters.
The important thing to realise is that goldfish can live a surprisingly long time without food! If you’re going on holiday for two weeks or less then it’s probably best to just leave your goldfish without food. Trust us, they’ll be fine!
For longer holidays, ask a friend or neighbour to come in and feed your goldfish once or twice, but remember to teach them how to do it properly! Your friend may not know much about feeding goldfish so you should tell them how much to feed them, when to feed them and you should dish out appropriate amounts of food for them in advance.
(If you’re still worried that your fish will starve if not fed for a week or two then maybe the following article will reassure you! These two goldfish lived for four and a half months with virtually no food!)
Where to buy goldfish food
Rather than buying goldfish food from the supermarket (where the food on offer tends to be lower quality), you should buy goldfish food from quality pet shops.
Alternatively, buy food online, choosing from well-known brands such as Tetra or Hikari.