One of the hardest things I remember in first learning about taking care of my goldfish was the proper timing and how much food to feed them.
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It always seemed like I was feeding them too much food, as uneaten food gathered on the bottom and sat there for days, wrecking the water quality in the tank!
Little did I know that I, like many other fish owners, was overfeeding my fish by quite a lot.
If you’ve ever wondered how often to feed goldfish, what kind of foods goldfish eat, and how much to feed them, read on for the answer to these and many more questions!
Some Goldfish Background
Today’s goldfish, also known as Carassius auratus originated as the wild Prussian Carp of Southeast Asia.
Originally bred for their quick generation times and larger size, these fish were gradually appreciated more for their beauty and coloration by collectors and breeders alike.
Making their way into the imperial courts of Japan, these bland, brownish Prussian Carp were eventually bred into the more recognizable koi fish, meant for display in ponds and outdoor facilities.
Western merchants noticed the popularity of the non-commercial aquarium and brought them back along trade routes and into the domestic market.
After many years of careful and selective breeding, the art of keeping goldfish was born and we were introduced to the fancy goldfish like the bubble-eye and oranda goldfish variety that we know and love today...
NOTEThe bright reds, oranges, and whites that we see in the modern pet goldfish come from their distant relations to koi fish, and can still be seen in many different varieties today!
How Often To Feed Goldfish
Goldfish owners 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!
RECOMMENDATIONA healthy feeding schedule when it comes to how often to feed goldfish is 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 because of overfeeding to ammonia poisoning and toxic shock as excess food or leftover food breaks down.
In reality, goldfish can live for up to 14 days without eating! While this is not a natural part of their life cycle, they do have the ability to survive without food, much as humans in an emergency situation.
That being said, you should still feed goldfish on a consistent schedule in order to maintain good health throughout the goldfish’s lifespan.
A goldfish owner’s main problem is feeding them too much food rather than too little, resulting in more waste affecting water quality.
Proper Goldfish Diet
When it comes to what you should feed your goldfish, there are many available options of healthy food.
Considering that your fish will be eating frequent meals, it can be helpful to know what a goldfish eat and have a variety of goldfish foods on hand to provide all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
NOTEConsulting with the pet store or breeder where you purchased your fish can be a great start when trying to find the proper goldfish food for your breed. If they bred it, they should have a good idea of how to feed it and keep your goldfish healthy!
Flake Food and Pellets
Goldfish Flakes are a form of dry food for fish specifically designed for them, meaning that they have a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and other nutrients that fish need.
Flake food, gel food and sinking pellets are typically individually formulated, meaning that you should follow the printed directions when wondering how many pellets or flakes to feed goldfish at one time.
It is worth noting that a portion of your flake food will be ash, a filler to make the flakes float. Although this is not harmful to your fish, too much of this filler means you’re getting a cheap flake that could result in your fish not getting enough necessary nutrients.
Live food such as brine shrimp, blood worms, and daphnia can be a great goldfish food as a source of protein and other nutrients.
These live or frozen foods are typically available at many pet stores, and I recommend against sourcing them yourself. Animals that you find in your garden may have diseases or parasites that are easily transmissible to your goldfish.
Another advantage to live options like brine shrimp is that they’ll stay fresh if initially uneaten. These little crustaceans will swim around and literally eat any excess algae in the tank, acting as both a mobile food source whenever your fish is hungry and an additional cleaning agent in one!
Fruits and Veggies
If ever you don’t have fish food on hand and need to feed your fish from your own pantry, there are definitely some options that serve as good goldfish food.
Look for those with little fiber or breakable bits such as shelled peas, carrots, or cucumbers.
Boiled vegetables are often much easier on the goldfish digestive system, and always cut larger fruits and leafy greens into small pieces to avoid any potential digestive problems.
NOTEGoldfish are omnivores and will make the most of the available food sources to them when they are hungry. This means they will indeed nibble on plants in your fish tank, and exposed plant roots can be subject to unwelcome predation if your fish aren’t fed adequately!
Here’s a video on how to feed goldfish with veggies.
What Shouldn’t You Feed Your Goldfish?
While goldfish are omnivores and can eat many varieties of plants and protein sources, there are still many foods that they should avoid to stay healthy.
Obvious exclusions include those that are choking hazards, i.e. anything that seems larger than their mouth or stomach which can lead to impaction and bloating.
Sure, it may seem that bread should be an easy choice for a quick goldfish food that you’ve got available around the house, right?
Unfortunately, this is not the case, as the wheat gluten in bread is incredibly hard for goldfish to digest properly, and can lead to all kinds of health problems from swim bladder disorder to bloating and choking as the bread swells in water.
Other Processed Food Is A Poor Choice As Well
Rich food such as fatty meats, and lower quality foods such as premade human meals typically will be hard, if not impossible for your fish to digest.
These can also develop problems such as fatty liver disease, as their organs begin to degrade due to the presence of many fats and carbohydrates in the goldfish’s diet.
Pellets and Flakes For Other Fish
While some diets may overlap, it is important to feed each fish with foods that are specifically designed for them when going the pellet, flake, or granule route.
Something made for bettas may contain much more protein than a goldfish needs, while missing out on the key vitamins and minerals from plants.
Factors Affecting How Often To Feed 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 food does and does not work for feeding your goldfish.
As a general note, poor water quality 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 fish food each time. In most cases, just a pinch or the size of the goldfish’s eye should be adequate.
NOTEJuveniles 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 less active and 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 enough to digest 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.
Unlike humans, dogs, and many other pets, fish do not have control over how warm their core temperature is. The external environment regulates the fish’s body temperature, thus affecting their metabolism, reproduction, rate of growth, and immune system.
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 temperature, the aquarium water should be between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which is what goldfish prefer.
In the vast majority of cases, 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. To prevent this from happening to your goldfish, you can use an aquarium heater to maintain a consistent water temperature, especially during winter or if you live in cold regions.
Feeding Your Goldfish While During Breeding
Just as with human pregnancies, how often you feed 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
Knowing the behavior of fish is essential when putting together a goldfish tank with multiple fish species. By understanding the behavior of your fish and its tank neighbors, you can adjust the tank size to minimize aggression or competition and create a more suitable environment.
Some may display acts of food dominance and aggression, competing with others for food and potentially getting more food than they need while keeping others from eating enough.
Additionally, smaller fish will produce less waste and take up less room, 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.
Creating a Schedule
When trying to establish a proper diet and timing for feeding your fish, keep in mind your own schedule. It’s one thing to know how often you should feed your fish, and quite another to know how often you can feed your fish and since you’ll be the one doing this it’s good to set yourself up for success.
If you know that you’ll have a consistent schedule each week and can match your feedings accordingly, great!
If for some reason your schedule tends to be more variable and have more inconsistencies, it may be helpful to either engage family members or roommates to help with the process. You can also try automated feeders if those options are not viable.
When Is The Ideal Time To Feed Goldfish?
Feeding your goldfish at the same time each day is a great way to both give yourself and your fish a consistent routine and lower stress for all involved.
That being said, if you perform all of your feedings back to back in order to get them all done and out of the way, you’ll quickly see overfed, sick fish that are bloated and lethargic.
Providing an adequate amount of time in between feedings gives your fish the proper amount of time they need to digest and process what they’re eating and prevent getting fish sick.
As such I recommend a minimum of 2 hours in between each feeding. They don’t need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner when you do, but still need enough time in between meals just as we do.
TIPIf you know that regular feeding times will be a tricky thing for your schedule, consider purchasing automated feeding machines to assist with the process and keep things consistent with regards to feeding time. Feeding blocks with built-in release times can also keep a steady supply of goldfish food going for your fish.
Considering Your Own Schedule
In terms of timing, as mentioned previously, plan things around your schedule to provide the most consistency possible.
That being said, you should also make sure that all of your feedings are finished by the time that your fish would normally be entering their sleep cycle. This ensures that they’ll have the proper amount of time to rest and digest their food overnight.
NOTEGoldfish need a range of 8-12 hours of sleep per night. This means that they will need lower lights and relative quiet for those periods. While these don’t necessarily need to coincide with your sleep cycle, matching these can be a good way to keep feeding times consistent.
How Does Water Volume Affect Feeding
Higher water volumes mean more room for fish waste to dissipate. If you have a small tank with many fish and without a filter, the waste will accumulate much faster and the water will deteriorate faster than if you had as much food and fish in a smaller tank.
Furthermore, smaller fish produce less waste and take up less space, on average, than larger fish. For those who want a large fish community but want the tank itself to remain small, a small fish is the best choice.
Throughout today’s article we’ve taken a look at how often you should feed your goldfish, along with the amount of food and exactly what constitutes a healthy goldfish diet.
A general rule of 2-3 times a day on a consistent feeding schedule, using foods specifically selected for goldfish is a great way to develop a balanced diet for your goldfish that should keep them happy and healthy for years to come.
As always thank you for reading this post, I hope that it has been helpful in answering your questions related to your fish’s diet. Feel free to share this information with any fellow fish fanatics you may know, and I wish you the best of luck in your continued aquarium adventures!
(1) “Goldfish” by Christopher Lane Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0