How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food? (Quick Care Guide)

Goldfish swimming up to eat food
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: May 8, 2024
FACT CHECKED
Review Process and Evaluation Criteria
We conduct hands-on testing for all the products highlighted in our reviews and guides. Through anonymous product ordering and involving an independent team of testers, we gather direct experience to offer recommendations backed by data.

There may be moments when we ponder over the duration a goldfish can survive without being fed. Even though it’s a disconcerting thought, it’s important to find a resolution. Certain situations might arise in life which might cause unrest and you end up neglecting to feed your goldfish on schedule. One must note the disparity between how frequent a goldfish requires to eat and how often we ought to feed them.

If you’ve ever wondered how much fish food to feed your goldfish and how long they can go without food, read on for these answers and more fish keeping questions including some general eating habits and tips for goldfish care.

Article Summary

  • In the wild, goldfish have a constant need for food, including plants, small fish, aquatic insects, and algae.
  • Goldfish can survive up to two weeks without food in ideal conditions, but the timeframe may be shorter based on feeding habits, the quality of food, and water parameters.
  • When you forget to feed your goldfish, avoid overfeeding them later to compensate, as it can lead to digestive tract damage.

Can Goldfish Go Without Food?

Can goldfish live with no food? As with all other fish and forms of life on earth, goldfish cannot go without food indefinitely. At some point they will need something to eat in order to survive.

… goldfish cannot go without food indefinitely…

With no food, your fish’s weight will rapidly begin to decrease and you’ll see health effects such as swim bladder disease, ich disease, or infections becoming more common as its immune system begins to fail.

Close up of a goldfish with white spots
You don’t want to see your goldfish get white spots!

If you know that you’ll be going out of town for an extended vacation, consider the use of an automatic fish feeder. These automatic feeders are readily available and adjustable vacation feeders that allow you to feed your goldfish at the rate you choose.

What Do Goldfish Eat?

Let’s begin with how much and what they eat in the wild. In the wild, goldfish are constantly searching for food. They do not have a stomach so they don’t feel full and don’t know when to stop eating. A wild goldfish diet consists of plants, small fish, aquatic insects, and algae.

In captivity, they don’t need to catch food anymore but they can still go into an eating frenzy if you don’t regulate the amount you feed them. You can feed goldfish food that is available at your nearby pet store such as floating pellets, sinking pellets, brine shrimp, ghost shrimp, and gel food.

Why You Skip Feeding Your Goldfish

There are plenty of reasons why you may forget to feed your goldfish.

Emergencies arise, you may not have enough goldfish food in the house, or you may be on vacation and not have access to an automatic feeder or a fish sitter in time.

NOTE

If your hungry goldfish has accidentally gone without food, this is not the time to overfeed them a bunch of goldfish flakes to make up for it! Goldfish tend to eat whatever they’re offered, which can lead to your fish overeating and damaging its digestive tract.

The key to remember is that while it is ok to forget to feed your goldfish, we must still ensure that our goldfish eat enough food as soon as possible in order to be as healthy as possible.

Again, consider purchasing an automatic fish feeder to provide goldfish food to your pet on a regular feeding schedule!

Bird's eye view of fish taking a bite out of food
Fish can eat some but not all human food!

But in case of an emergency and you have no other option but to feed human food to your fish, it’s not advisable to give your fish bread and cooked rice. These foods offer minimal nutritional benefits and could adversely affect your fish’s health as they may struggle to digest them. Instead, give your goldfish certain vegetables like shelled peas and other leafy veggies, as these will provide them the nutrients they need without any health risks.

How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food?

In ideal circumstances where the water quality is adequate, goldfish can survive up to two weeks without food. That being said, the rate can vary and can be as little as a few days depending on a few factors such as your feeding habits, the quality of fish feed you normally use, and the water parameters. It is not good to leave your pet unfed for long periods of time.

TIP

Wondering how to feed your fish while you’re away? Consider using an automatic feeder or slow release fish food tab! These will ensure that your fish gets enough food without having to be there to personally monitor it yourself.

While you don’t have to feed your fish every day, it is best to be able to establish a continuous, regular cycle of feeding.

How much and what type of food depends on what you like to feed them and what may be available from your local pet stores.

Here’s a video with some firsthand experience on leaving fish without food.

First hand experience on how long can fish can go without food

Duration

Your goldfish can go hungry for several days without any major consequences, but beyond this you are potentially hurting your fish.

An extended holiday of over a week means that you need to consider an alternative way to feed your fish and other tank mates.

Water Temperature

In colder temperatures below 50 degrees, your goldfish’s metabolism will begin to slow as its body prepares for a hibernation period. You’ll see your goldfish not moving too much, or swimming slower, and its digestive system will begin to slow as it eats less.

NOTE

While your fish will want to eat less in colder temps, this does not mean that you should lower the temperature in order to extend the time between feedings! This can be dangerous for the health of your fish, as it stresses their system to go hungry.

Alternatively, in warmer temperatures your fish will want to continue eating more food than normal as it prepares for what would normally be the breeding period.

Having plenty of blood worms and other protein rich sources during these times can ensure a healthy and active breeding period, if so desired.

How To Feed Your Fish While You’re Away

There are several different options available on the market when it comes to how you feed your fish. Which one you choose is largely up to you, and whether you like to feed pellets or a more dried food source to your fish.

NOTE

If your goldfish has gone without food for too long and is truly hungry, they may begin to eat the live plants in your tank. While this is not immediately harmful, live aquatic plants alone will not be able to provide them with the nutrition that they need and they will need more in order to remain healthy.

Using an Automatic Fish Feeder

Automatic feeders are a great option for keeping not just goldfish but any aquarium fish from being without food!

Automatic fish feeder for aquarium on white background
An automatic fish feeder can be plenty helpful!

These automatic feeders are set up with an internal timer that dispenses pellets on a regular basis, which can ensure that the fish in your aquarium have something to eat while you’re away.

TIP

Knowing how your goldfish like to eat can make a huge difference in controlling food waste! If you notice that your goldfish go to the surface more often to feed, having an automated machine feed them from the top of the aquarium can be a great option.

A potential downside to these machines is that they have no way of monitoring how much food has been consumed if your goldfish prefers smaller meals. This can lead to increased water pollution as the food goes uneaten which can cause potential problems with ammonia poisoning in the long run.

Slow Release Fish Food

These products are designed to slowly release food from within the aquarium over a period of time, sometimes as much as two weeks! They come in the form of feeding blocks that slowly dissolve over time. 

Slow release fish food is a great way to keep your fish from going without food that requires even less input than a mechanical feed device, in addition to often being much cheaper to purchase from most stores.

An added bonus is that since the food is set to release at a set rate, it generally won’t add to water pollution provided your goldfish feed at a regular rate. But you still should test out feeding blocks days before your vacation.

Pet Sitters

If you’ve got a trustworthy friend or neighbor, they can be a great resource in keeping your goldfish from going without food!

Make sure that you talk through your entire plan with your fish sitters, and that they have the number for your preferred certified veterinarian of choice.

Child feeding a fish tank from above
Your neighbors’ kids might enjoy feeding fish!

It’s a good idea to let them know to seek actual veterinary advice in case of emergencies, since this can be the key to helping your goldfish survive a sudden illness.

If you know that you’ll be away consistently throughout the week, hiring someone on to be weekend feeders can be a great way to maintain consistent feeding in your aquarium

REMINDER

If you’ve got a question or concern about your aquarium or how long goldfish can go without eating, seek advice from reputable sources!

How Often To Feed Goldfish

Goldfish keepers often wonder how often their fish will need to be fed. This can be a challenge compared to other pets such as dogs or cats who have developed more of an ability to communicate their needs with their owners with regards to feeding!

Have you ever seen a goldfish make puppy dog eyes when it was hungry? I thought not!

Healthy Feeding Schedule

It’s important to establish a daily feeding schedule. A healthy feeding schedule for most goldfish is to feed 2-3 times a day. Trying to feed your goldfish any more than this can either lead to overeating and health problems for your fish, or fish food sitting on the bottom and decaying.

Both of these come with their own sets of problems when trying to keep healthy fish, from constipation or food impaction for overfeeding to ammonia poisoning and toxic shock as excess food breaks down.

How long can goldfish survive without eating?

In reality, the answer to how long can goldfish go hungry is 14 days without eating! While this is not a natural part of their life cycle, they do have the ability to survive with no food, much as humans in an emergency situation.

That being said, you should still feed your goldfish on a consistent schedule in order to maintain good health throughout the goldfish’s lifespan. The main problem that many a goldfish owner will run into is actually feeding them too much fish feed, rather than too little.

Factors Affecting How Often To Feed Your Goldfish

While the 2-3 times a day rule for how often to feed goldfish works for most, there are a few factors that may change this number. It’s important to know what stage of life your particular goldfish is at, along with just what types of feed does and does not work for feeding your goldfish.

Types of fish food laid on a surface
You have to know what type of food your fish prefer!

As a general note, poor water quality in their natural habitat will lead to a sluggish, lethargic fish that isn’t capable of eating as much food as it needs.

Age And Goldfish

In general, young goldfish will need more feeding than adult goldfish, up to 5 times a day. This doesn’t mean that they should be getting a lot of food each time, just a pinch or so in most cases should be adequate.

TIP

Juveniles are typically considered to have reached adulthood after 1 year, upon reaching 1-2” in length. After this point they should be fully capable of breeding and making more baby goldfish of their own

As your goldfish ages, its metabolism slows meaning that it may require less food than it once did.

It’s important to notice how much food is actually eating during each feeding in order to prevent overfeeding and bad health for your fish. Eventually, they may stop eating altogether as their system is no longer capable of digesting enough food.

Tank Water Temperature’s Effects On Goldfish Feeding

Water temperature can have a large impact on the amount of food your goldfish will eat at any one time.

Colder water will naturally cause your fish’s metabolism to slow down, leading to a decrease in appetite. On the opposite end, warmer temperatures will stimulate your goldfish to become more active and eat more.

It’s important to note that when it comes to water temperature, the aquarium water should be between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is what goldfish prefer.

Having a rapid temperature shift in either direction can lead to temperature shock, and swim bladder problems which can make your goldfish sick or even kill them. Using a heater can help avoid drastic temperature shifts.

Feeding Your Goldfish While During Breeding

Just as with human pregnancies, how often you are feeding your goldfish will greatly impact them during breeding times.

Increasing the amount of food you provide will lead to more egg production for them, as they need the extra energy to keep their body healthy and simultaneously make a new life.

Tankmates And Feeding Goldfish

It’s important to know the behavior of the fish in your tank when keeping two goldfish or more in the same aquarium. Having an understanding of your fish’s behavior can provide insight into the appropriate size of the aquarium required during the tank setup process.

Two rainbow-colored fish in a tank
Rainbow Danio are great tankmates for goldfish!

Some, such as bettas, may display acts of food dominance and aggression, competing with others for food and potentially getting more food than they need while keeping other tank mates from eating enough.

Additionally, smaller fish will produce less waste and take up less room in an aquarium, on average, than larger fish. Small fish can be a better choice when looking to have a larger community in the tank but still keep the tank itself small.

Conclusion

Throughout today’s article, we’ve looked at what can happen when you don’t feed your goldfish, along with just how long they can survive without food.

In general terms, a goldfish can live without food for a few days to as long as two weeks, although this may lead to severe consequences for their health.

If you know that you’re about to leave town or tend to be more forgetful about keeping your fish fed, I recommend using a sitter or automated feeders to ensure that your goldfish live their best lives.

Feel Free To Share!

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this post, I hope it answered all of your questions about how much food goldfish require.

Feel free to share this information with any other fish keepers you may know, and I wish you the best of luck on your continued fish aquarium hobby!

goldfish dinner by Conall – Licensed under CC BY 2.0
Automatic fish feeder for aquarium by Marco Verch Licensed under CC BY 2.0

You May Also Like