What Does A Goldfish Eat? Goldfish Diet Recommendations (2024)

Beautiful Goldfish Swimming Together
Beautiful Goldfish Swimming Together
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 10, 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.

Goldfish are typically the preferred choice when it comes to selecting pet fish. Even though they are among the most beloved fish species, a frequent mistake many owners make is not providing a suitable and nutritious diet for their goldfish.

Whether you won a traditional comet goldfish at the county fair or fell in love with a bubble eye goldfish at your local pet stores, we’re here with an easy to read guide on how to navigate goldfish diets and feeding time!

Article Summary

  • Goldfish are natural omnivores, and their diet in the wild includes a mixture of plant matter, meat, fish eggs, and decaying plant and animal matter.
  • Check fish food labels to ensure it contains around 30% protein for proper growth, with higher protein content for younger goldfish.
  • Goldfish can also eat vegetables, live foods (like small crustaceans, insect larvae, daphnia, blood worms, and brine shrimp), and freeze-dried or frozen foods for variety.

What do goldfish naturally eat?

A question we often get is what does a goldfish eat in the wild? Goldfish are natural omnivores, which means they eat a mixture of plant matter, meat, fish eggs, and even decaying plant and animal matter. Wild goldfish would have a varied diet consuming live plants like water sprite and duckweed, small insects such as caddisflies, mayflies, zooplankton, tadpoles, and detritus. Larger goldfish eat shrimp, and may even eat smaller fish or even frogs.

What does a goldfish eat?

In aquariums goldfish are generally fed a mixture of commercial goldfish food supplemented with vegetables, frozen, and freeze-dried foods.

What do baby goldfish eat?

For the first few weeks baby goldfish should be fed fry food, baby brine shrimp, infusoria, and algae. After the first couple of weeks you can begin to offer your goldfish daphnia and mosquito larvae to help create a balanced diet.

What do adult goldfish eat?

A balanced goldfish diet is more complex than most people think. While you can feed goldfish generic fish food they won’t be getting all the nutrients that come with their natural diet. A healthy diet includes a mixture of goldfish foods like flakes and pellets, plant protein, and animal matter.

Pellets Vs Flakes

A common debate among goldfish owners is whether flakes or pellets provide more of the nutrition goldfish need. However, most owners can agree that flakes are messy, can ruin the water quality resulting in a dirty tank or cloudy fish tank, and don’t hold on to their nutritional values.

FUN FACT

The debate between flake food and pellets can actually be solved by physics. Pellets have a lower surface-to-mass ratio resulting in less nutrients dissolving from the surface of the pellet. This is particularly concerning when it comes to water-soluble vitamins like Vitamin C. Here’s an article to further read about why vitamin C is vital for fish health.

When wondering about if you have your goldfish on the correct diet check the labels of your fish food. A goldfish’s main diet should consist of roughly 30% protein for proper growth and development. Younger goldfish should have more protein (roughly 35%). It’s also important to have an understanding of the growth rate and size potential of your goldfish. If you notice that your goldfish is experiencing slow or stunted growth, you might need to change its diet.

What kind of food do goldfish eat?

Goldfish eating food
Goldfish Eating Food

Goldfish will eat almost anything, though that doesn’t mean you should feed them everything. Read on for some of our approved suggestions to ensure your goldfish has a healthy diet.

Flakes

We generally don’t recommend using flake food to feed your goldfish. It leaves a mess, negatively impacts your tank’s water, and loses its nutritional values quickly. However, if you want to use flakes we recommend:

TetraFin is nice because of its high protein content, Vitamin C and added algae. It also contains enough protein for juveniles and adults so you can use the same foods even if your goldfish are different ages. Just because this fish food has high protein and added algae doesn’t mean you can skip out on feeding your fish live foods and algae wafers. A varied diet is key when it comes to goldfish.

We also recommend staying away from Omega One and Aqueon Goldfish Flakes, since neither of them have the addition of Vitamin C, otherwise known as ascorbic acid.

Pellets

There are two options when it comes to pellets: sinking and floating. What you decide depends on your goldfish. We’ve listed our favorites of both below.

Floating Pellets

If your goldfish struggles with floating because of constipation or swim bladder problems you should purchase sinking pellets. Feeding at the surface will cause your goldfish to gulp more air and worsen the problems. Our favorite sinking pellet is:

These pellets sink due to their densely packed nutritional value! With a minimum of 40% protein and 210mg of Vitamin C these are sure to be a win for your goldfish’s digestive tract!

Sinking Pellets

If you have many goldfish in one tank you should feed a combination of sinking and floating pellets distributed across the surface of the water to limit competition. Our favorite floating pellet is:

Normally you should be wary of goldfish foods that are labeled as pond blends. In ponds, goldfish have access to many live foods, meaning sometimes the processed food isn’t as nutritious due to the available diet.

Vegetables

Goldfish can eat an extensive list of fruits and veggies; watermelon, apple, lettuce, and pumpkin just to name a few. One of the important things to consider when buying fresh produce for your fish is that it shouldn’t come from a can or be processed in any way. Processed produce also has added sodium or has sat in syrups to help keep it fresh, not only will this foul up your aquarium but it provides no beneficial goldfish nutrition.

Produce should be softened, peeled, and cut to an appropriate size before added to your goldfish diet. However vitamins goldfish need like vitamin C and D are in enormous amounts in fresh produce, meaning we recommend using them for goldfish food! 

Live food

Live foods for goldfish vary greatly. Small crustaceans, insect larvae, daphnia, blood worms, brine shrimp, and tubifex worms can all be found at your local pet store or ordered online. Here are some of our favorites.

Baby brine shrimp are a popular choice for newborns and young goldfish because they’re easy to swallow and digest.

A unique choice, this fish food provides an alternative live food source for fish that have trouble digesting hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the biochemical that helps transport oxygen to tissues, fish with low hemoglobin often have trouble getting enough oxygen to function and may seem lethargic or slow.

A downside of live foods is that they need to be refrigerated to keep fresh. Most live food can be kept for 1-2 months after opening in the fridge, left unopened some live foods can stay fresh up to 6 months. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before opening.

Freeze dried food

Freeze dried foods or frozen foods allow plenty of varied diets for your goldfish no matter where you are. Freeze dried or frozen blood worms, daphnia, insects and other small worms can be easily found and will ensure your goldfish has a happy and healthy life. Our recommendations include:

Bought separately or together freeze-dried food should only occasionally be given to your goldfish. While extremely nutritious it can upset their stomachs by the sheer amount of protein present. For example, the Hikari Freeze Dried Daphnia contains more than double the amount of protein an adult goldfish needs! These freeze-dried foods also do not contain Vitamin C, however, freeze dried food can be nice since it is shelf stable.

TIP

If you stumble across any remaining food you should scoop it out of your goldfish tank ASAP! Excess food can foul up your water quality and muck up your tank. The good news is that if it’s live food like small worms you can reuse them as long as they’re still alive!

What can goldfish eat besides fish food?

Like the aforementioned fruits and veggies, goldfish can and will eat a wide variety of food. It’s important to remember that if you put other food in your tank, you should make sure that it does not contain any chemicals or additives that will be harmful to any members of the tank or your water quality.

What other food can goldfish eat?

Goldfish Swimming Upwards
Goldfish Swimming Upwards

Can a goldfish eat human food?

Goldfish can and will eat a wide variety of human food including green vegetables, fruits, and grains. All of these should be given in moderation during feeding sessions. However, if you are not feeding your goldfish enough plant matter or leafy greens you might start seeing little nibble out of your aquatic plants.

Check out the list below to see what a goldfish can eat!

VegetablesGrains
LettuceOats
SpinachPopcorn
Shelled PeasCorn
CarrotsCooked Rice
Broccoli
Potato

A popular food for pet goldfish is shelled peas. To feed peas to goldfish, ensure that they are all natural. Canned peas often have high levels of sodium or have been soaked in preservatives which are bad for goldfish and any other fish in your aquarium!

TIP

To make feeding peas easier for your goldfish, you should soften them, remove their skins, and chop them into small pieces.

Never feed bread to goldfish. Not only is it not healthy, but it can lead to choking, bloating, constipation and other intestinal problems.

Can Goldfish Eat Fruit?

Yes, we’ve included a list below of what kinds of fruit goldfish can have. When using fruit to supplement your goldfish’s diet be sure to wash, peel, and chop it up into pieces that are about half of the size of your goldfish’s mouth to avoid choking hazards. Sometimes it can be a good idea to pre-soak produce to soften it before giving it to your goldfish.

Fruits to give your goldfish

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Watermelon
  • Pears
  • Pumpkin
  • Oranges

Can goldfish eat chicken?

While goldfish can have chicken, that doesn’t mean they should. When thinking about what to add to your goldfish’s diet you should think about what they eat in the wild. They likely don’t have access to chicken, beef, or squid, but shrimp or insects would be an excellent addition to their diet. If you are going to add chicken or beef to your goldfish’s diet make sure that it is fully cooked.

Do goldfish have teeth?

Surprisingly, the answer to this common question is yes! However if you were hoping to catch a glimpse of these fishy molars you’re out of luck. Goldfish teeth are not on their gums, but at the back of their throats and are called pharyngeal teeth. Because of their placement, goldfish can’t chew their food until after they’ve swallowed, leading to a lot of issues due to improper feeding.

The pharyngeal teeth are like molars used to crush and grind food and goldfish go through cycles of losing and regrowing their teeth just like humans. However, goldfish have more than 2 sets, and the goldfish’s teeth will last a lifetime. If you have a bare bottomed tank you might get lucky and find a goldfish tooth after they’ve spit it out.

Feeding goldfish

A girl feeding a goldfish
A girl feeding a goldfish

Is it OK to feed my goldfish once a day?

Depending on the temperature of your aquarium you can possibly get away with only feeding your goldfish once a day. If the water temperature is between 65-75℉ feed once a day.

How many times a day do you feed a goldfish?

The water temperature affects how many times a day you should feed your goldfish. Unlike tropical fish, goldfish require cool water, around 74 degrees Fahrenheit, since they are cold-water fish.

If you have a warmer tank, 75 or above you should give your goldfish food twice a day. If the water temperature is below 65 then you should give your goldfish food every other day, and if the water temperature is in between 65-75 feed your goldfish once a day.

In warmer waters goldfish metabolism quickens…

The variation in feeding patterns come from the amount of energy a goldfish requires to run its body. The colder the water temperature, the slower the heart is pumping, and the less energy a goldfish needs. In warmer waters goldfish metabolism quickens thus increasing the amount of food needed.

How much to feed my goldfish?

It is unlikely you will ever have any leftover food in a tank with a goldfish. Generally, goldfish won’t stop eating and the more food you give them the more they will gorge themselves. Using the 3 minute method doesn’t work for goldfish because they will eat all the foods you give them during the feeding session.

You should offer 3 to 4 size appropriate pellets per fish per feeding session. Some fish keepers find it helpful to have an automatic fish feeder to do this for them and keep their goldfish fed, others prefer to do it themselves to see if any fish is getting bullied away from the food.

Another way to think about it is to feed your goldfish like they were in their natural habitat. Each goldfish would swim a few hours searching for food before being rewarded with a tasty and healthy treat.

How do you know when a goldfish is hungry? 

Due to their gorging it is hard to tell whether you should give your goldfish food or not. When making the judgment look at other behaviors happening within the fish tank.

If your goldfish is at the bottom of the tank digging in the substrate, has a behavior change, or is slow and sluggish you might need to add more food to the tank. However, these behaviors can be caused by other things such as bad water parameters, overcrowding, and general stressors.

Here’s a video showing signs of a hungry fish.

Signs That Your Fish Are Hungry

How long can goldfish live without food?

Depending on their environment your goldfish can live 8-10 days without being given food. In an aquarium setting, goldfish will scavenge for algae and uneaten food. In ponds, goldfish will eat plants and aquatic insects. Some ecosystems are so sustainable that you don’t have to feed goldfish as all!

Uh-oh! If you forgot to feed your goldfish check out this more in-depth read about how long goldfish can go without food!

Thanks For Reading!

Whether it’s your first pet or you’re adding your 23rd goldfish to your aquarium we hope that you’ll find our goldfish diet recommendations to be helpful and keep your goldfish swimming for years!

You May Also Like