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Ever wonder what do goldfish eat? Feeding your pet fish can be a daunting task. Whether you have a aquarium or a pond, this post will help you figure out how to feed your little guys! This blog post is for all the goldfish owners in the world who want to know more about feeding their pets and make sure they’re getting everything they need.
You’ll learn: What type of food do goldfish eat? How often should I feed my fish? What are some common mistakes people make when feeding their pet fish? And much more! So grab a snack (or two) because this long article is full of great information that will answer any questions you may have about feeding your beloved pet friends
What Do Goldfish Eat in the Wild?
Understanding the diet of goldfish means studying what they eat in the wild. Doing so will allow you to understand what kind of diet you need to replicate for them.
As you may already know, goldfish belong to the Cyprinidae family, which means they share ancestry with the carps.
Carps live in slow-moving waters that are rife with plants and vegetation, floating on the surface or thriving underwater. They also eat any animal matter they can find.
So, it makes sense why wild goldfish are natural omnivores. It means that in the wild, they eat plant matter as well as animal matter.
In the wild, plant matter usually means live plants and algae, while animal matter includes insects, insect larvae, zooplankton, tadpoles, and small crustaceans who make up protein sources. Some goldfish might even eat smaller fish.
The main takeaway is this: goldfish will eat almost anything, as long as it fits in their mouth! So, you have to be careful with goldfish food because goldfish truly don’t know when to stop eating.
What to Feed Goldfish
Let’s break this down to a list than I’ll explain in detail. There are four general categories of food types for goldfish:
- Manufactured Foods
This is the goldfish food we are most familiar with when we go into a pet store. These would be:
- Dried pellets
- Dried flakes
- Fish Algae wafers
Lower quality manufactured foods often will have fillers and are not ideal as the primary source of a goldfish’s diet. There are other prepared foods that manufacturers make that fall into our next category.
Meat (Inverts and Insects)
Goldfish love insects and shrimp. These types of food are rich in protein and can be given live, frozen, or freeze dried. The best prepared goldfish foods will often contain these:
- Ghost shrimp
- Brine shrimp
- Tubifex Worm
Vegetables are a crucial part of goldfish food. The following are vegetables you can feed your goldfish. It’s always best to steam vegetables to sterilize them prior to putting in your fish tank.
- Shelled peas
- Leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, chard, kale
- Diced broccoli (microwaved or boiled)
- Diced corn (microwaved or boiled)
- Diced carrots (microwaved or boiled)
- Diced zucchini (microwaved or boiled)
- Cooked rice
Don’t believe me? See these Goldfish in action feeding on spinach in Big Fish Little Fish Aquatics video below:
Aquatic plants are also included in this list. Goldfish eat aquatic plants. The cheapest ones to try are Anacharis and duckweed.
Yes, goldfish love fruits too! Here are their favorites:
- Grapes (skinned and chopped)
- Cucumber slices (boiled or microwaved)
- Watermelon (sliced)
- Orange (sliced)
Pros and Cons of Different Food Types
The diet you can provide adult goldfish pets can be divided into four main categories
- Flake food
- Pellet Food
- Frozen Food
- Live Food
The last two categories are where vegetables and insects tend to be included. Let us have a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each goldfish food class.
Flake goldfish food is the most commonly sought fish food as it is convenient. It is usually a mixture of many ingredients.
It floats in your goldfish tank and gradually falls to the bottom. Dry flake food tends to be very high in protein, which all fish need. However, they should not be the only food you give to your goldfish. Poor quality flake food can contain lots of fillers, which can cause serious health issues for your goldfish such as bloat.
- Affordable and easy to find in any pet store or aquarium supply store
- It can be dispensed through an auto feeder
- High quality fish flakes can be found with a large roster of nutrients
- Perfect for feeding a large number of fish simultaneously
- Small size is easy for your goldfish to nibble on
- Does not provide adequate nutrition in most cases
- Cannot be dosed with vitamins
- Uneaten food will dissolve quickly and pollute the goldfish’s tank water
- Some fish accidentally gulp large quantities of air along with the food
Like fish flakes, pellet food is available in a large variety and can be fed to many different fishes.
And the more you’re willing to spend; the more nutritious your goldfish’s pellets will be. However, unlike flakes, pellets are heavier and tend to sink instead of float, although you can find floating varieties.
- Their size makes it easier for goldfish to swallow without also ingesting large amounts of air
- Since fish food pellets tend to sink, they can be fed easily to bottom feeders
- High end food pellets tend to be packed with more nutrition than high end flakes
- Easier to measure the amount of fish pellets
- Pellets have a longer shelf life than flakes
- It can easily be used with good automatic feeders
- Like flakes, pellets can dissolve quickly and pollute the tank water
- Your fish might accidentally eat substrate when foraging for pellets in it
There are many solid brands for goldfish pellets like Saki-Hikari, Blue Ridge (for pond goldfish), and Hikari. NorthFin is a great brand to start with as it’s affordable and high quality.
The Best Goldfish Pellet
Specially designed for goldfish and free from fillers
Frozen / Freeze Dried Food
Frozen and freeze dried foods offer some of the best healthy offerings for your fish.Frozen foods are generally only available at local fish stores. Look for well known brands like Hikari or San Francisco Bay Brand. For freeze dried, I’m a fan of California black worms with vita-chem.
- Frozen and freeze dried food contains a large amount of protein, which your fish needs
- Usually not mixed with other chemicals/vitamins except phosphorus
- Strengthens your fish’s immune system
- It helps to promote a healthy and vivid coloration for your fish
- Prone to dissolving and affecting tank water
- Frozen food must be stored in a freezer
Any live food you give your goldfish will probably be their favorite ingredient in their diet. However, it’s important to remember that live food should make up only one part of your fish’s diet and not be the whole of it. Home cultivation of live foods is the safest way to obtain it, but it’s not for everyone.
- Live food is rich in nutritets and promotes healthy gut bacteria.
- It closely mimic what fish eat in the wild
- They are natural, not processed
- It can help you with setting up breeding conditions
- You can grow and cultivate live food by yourself
- Great for working with finicky eaters
- It tastes much better to goldfish compared to processed flakes/pellets
- Live foods are much more expensive than store bought foods (unless you raise your own)
- It has a short shelf life
- Messy to cultivate (and likely considered gross by your significant other or roommates 😅!)
- Some live foods can carry and pass on diseases to your fish
A type of fish food recently growing in popularity are gel foods. These fish foods are available in powder form and must be mixed with water to produce a gel like consistency.
- Gel fish foods automatically sink to the bottom of the tank, so your fish are less likely to swallow air when ingesting the food
- Their moist texture makes gel foods easier for fish to digest
- They have a high vegetable and protein content
- Pollutes tank water noticeably less than do other food types
- It can be stored in a fridge for up to 2 weeks
- Gel foods smell bad when boiled
- Has to be prepared in batches
Gel foods are a new development in the fish food industry. This food by Repashy includes a mix of inverts like krill and plant matter like Spirulina. Give it a try!
What Do They Eat Besides Fish Food?
In terms of “human food,” you can feed your goldfish any of the fruits, vegetables, or live food that we have discussed above.
Remember that these foods should be offered to your goldfish at least once a week. You can also create your own recipes for your goldfish. We really like this instructional video by ThinFrog for homemade goldfish food. You can even eat this mix yourself 😊
More importantly, it’s of crucial importance to give them a balanced diet. Read more about that below.
It’s imperative to give your goldfish a varied diet if you want them to be healthy, live long, retain their coloring, and prevent digestive issues like bloat.
A good staple tank diet can consist of goldfish flakes, pellets, and granules, supplemented with live foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, and worms (you can find the full list of these foods above).
The inclusion of vegetables is also essential. Shelled peas, duckweed, shredded lettuce, diced carrots—goldfish will eat almost anything (once again, the full list can be found above)!
Meanwhile, the freeze-dried food you give to your goldfish will constitute their carbohydrate needs.
Including floating flakes and sinking pellets in your goldfish diet is a good idea if you have many goldfish in your tank because then all your goldfish can eat equally. Remember, goldfish feed at all aquarium levels.
Here’s a breakdown of the nutritional values you should be aiming to fulfill when you feed goldfish.
It is the primary nutrient required by goldfish, who need a large amount of protein in their diet.
Protein should make up about 30% to 45% of a goldfish’s diet. Balancing proteins with roughage is essential. This can either be achieved with insect and invert chitin or from fruits and vegetables. I covered chitin and roughage in my Malawi Bloat article. The same principles exist with goldfish and matter more due to their genetic modifications.
Plant protein is easier for your goldfish to digest than animal protein (e.g., brine shrimp), but they do take well to live foods.
A goldfish needs about 5-10% of fat in its diet.
Goldfish require the A, D, and K vitamins to grow, as well as folic acid. Thankfully, most goldfish can produce their own required vitamins, but you might have to provide supplements now and then.
Goldfish need minerals in small quantities. They get it directly from the water, so you don’t have to provide it.
Carbohydrate and Fiber
Goldfish require low amounts of fiber and carbohydrates. Carbs will usually be supplied by the flakes and pellets you give them, and fibers can be had from live plants.
Checking Fish Food Nutrition Contents
When looking at manufactured foods, it is important to check the nutritional analysis and contents of what you are purchasing. Let’s look at an example from Repashy’s gel formula:
Here we see that the protein and fat mix are in the ranges we want. Next we need to look at the ingredients.
Looking at the ingredients, I see a mix of animal matter (Krill, Squid, Egg, Fly larvae), a mix of veggies (Spirulina, Rice, Kelp), and fruits (Watermelon, Banana). This food is checking off the list of everything we want in a balanced goldfish diet.
How Often to Feed
Goldfish owners should feed their pets twice a day, but always according to a set routine. It is important because it helps your goldfish stick to a routine and regulates their diet accordingly.
When it’s feeding time, it’s also fun to watch the little ones get more active and gather near the usual feeding spot. But don’t get taken in when they do this outside of feeding time, because as we keep saying, one of the big no-nos is overfeeding your goldfish.
The next question is how much to feed your goldfish. You should only give your goldfish as much food as they can finish within 2-3 minutes; any more than that, and you risk overfeeding them and overloading your filtration.
The Don’ts of Feeding
Here are some guidelines on what not to do when feeding your goldfish.
Do Not Overfeed
Even if you think your goldfish can eat more after you’ve fed them, resist the urge to give them more food.
Remember, goldfish are greedy little things, and they don’t know when to stop eating, and they willbloat themselves if you allow it (fish even eat their own fish eggs).
If you notice that your goldfish are looking a little swollen, you can safely assume that they’re probably bloated.
Another way of knowing whether you’ve overfed your fish is to look out for a dirty tank. If the tank gets dirty quickly, your fish are producing too much waste.
Do Not Leave Uneaten Food in the Water
Remember, goldfish should not be given any more food than they can eat in 2 minutes or less.
So, if there’s any uneaten food leftover in the aquarium after those 2 minutes are up, you should remove the food manually.
Otherwise, it will disintegrate and dissolve, affecting water quality and, to an extent, making it uninhabitable. Too much waste in the tank water is one of the leading causes of goldfish death.
Do Not Feed Too Much in Colder Temperatures
If the water temperature falls below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or 8 degrees Celsius, feed your goldfish a smaller amount than you usually would. Goldfish are homoeothermic, meaning they can’t digest food as easily at lower water temperatures. This will typically apply to goldfish in ponds.
Do Not Feed Bread
In film and television, people are often seen feeding goldfish crumbs of bread. Do not do this. Bread swells inside the intestines and causes bloating.
Do Not Feed Fatty Food
Mammalian fats, e.g., fat from meat or beef heart, should not be fed to fish as they cannot digest it properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do they eat mosquito larvae?
Yes. In the wild, goldfish will readily eat any insect larvae they find, and this, of course, includes mosquitoes.
Do they eat shrimp?
They absolutely do! Shrimp are one of their favorite foods and should be offered live, frozen, or freeze dried.
Do they eat snails?
They do. If you want to feed your goldfish snails, you have many options to choose from. However, it’s for this very reason that you should not keep snails as pets in the same aquarium as your goldfish.
How long can they go without food?
One goldfish will be able to survive from 1 to 2 weeks without being fed. If you’ll be unavailable to feed them for some time, why not get a neighbor or friend to feed them? Alternatively, you can use an automatic fish feeder, but the only type of food they’re compatible with are flakes and pellets.
Do they have teeth?
Yes, but they don’t look like what you might expect, and neither are the teeth positioned where you would expect. Goldfish teeth what are called pharyngeal teeth. They are flat in shape and help the goldfish to disintegrate their food. These teeth can be found at the back of a goldfish’s throat.
Do they eat other fish?
Goldfish aren’t a naturally predatory type of fish, as long as they are well fed. However, since they do eat most things that fit in their mouth, goldfish are liable to eat their smaller tank mates.
How often should I feed my them?
Goldfish should be fed 2-3 times a day. Maintaining a routine will allow your aquatic babies to get accustomed to being fed at a certain time and complement their health. Be careful not to overfeed your goldfish because doing so can cause bloat or other illnesses like swim bladder problems.
What do goldfish eat? As we’ve seen, goldfish foods come in a huge variety. Don’t just stick to processed food; remember to switch it up and give them a varied diet by including fruits and vegetables. That’s how you get some healthy, happy goldfish.
And remember, never overfeed, and never leave uneaten food in the tank. Also, look out for large amounts of waste. Leave us comment below if you’ve had any success incorporating these tips into your own routine so that we can share the good news with other goldfish owners out there.
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.