Feeding (fancy) goldfish seems simple: you buy some fish flakes and you’re all set, right? As with many things in the aquarium world, it’s unfortunately a little more complicated. Traditional fish flakes, while marketed as such, are almost never suitable goldfish food. They usually contain fillers that barely have nutritional value and can actually be bad for your goldie’s health.
So what is a proper diet for a goldfish? Keep reading for more info on what to feed them and what not to feed them.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to goldfish diet is that variety is key. Goldfish are omnivores; although their diet should be vegetable based they need protein to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Because they are known to start begging for food as soon as someone walks into the room, it’s also important to make sure not to overfeed them.
It’s tempting to feed large amounts, but goldfish are designed to spend the day “grazing”, which means it’s better to feed smaller portions multiple times a day. Healthy goldfish can actually go without food for quite a while if necessary, so if you’re going away for a few days there’s no need to worry. As for daily feedings, try giving your goldies a little bit of food up to 3-4 times instead of a larger portion once a day to keep them healthy.
Most goldfish keepers use a dry food as a staple. If you choose to do so as well, a high quality dry food is a good idea: if you use food that mostly contains low quality fillers, your goldfish may end up with a nutrient deficiency. Low quality food can also cause buoyancy issues, so be sure to check the ingredient list before you buy!
Pellets are usually of better quality than flakes. I personally prefer to feed my goldfish sinking pellets because they naturally spend most of their time foraging on the bottom of the aquarium, but floating pellets will also be eaten (although it sometimes takes a while before they notice them). If I do feed floating pellets I soak them for a few minutes beforehand so they are easier to digest and then squish them, which makes them sink.
As mentioned before, goldfish are omnivores that can’t survive eating just plant matter. A great way to add extra protein to their diet is feeding frozen foods a few times a week. These foods can be bought at some pet stores and most aquarium stores and are available in many varieties. Blood worms, mosquito larvae (black and white) and brine shrimp are most commonly seen, but you could also try something else.
To feed frozen food, thaw the desired amount in some water and just pour it into your aquarium! Goldfish love frozen food and it’s a great addition to their diet.
To supplement the diet of your goldfish, you can occasionally feed them vegetables. Examples of this are peas (without the skin), zucchini and lettuce; these will all happily be eaten by most goldfish and are a great way to add extra variety to their diet. To soften the veggies, you can blanch them or microwave them for a short time.
Fruits are also sometimes fed and banana is an especially big hit with most goldfish. However, fruits are very sugary and it’s best to stick to just vegetables.
Gel food is a usually homemade fish food that can be used to supplement the diet of your goldfish or as a complete diet, depending on the ingredients. Because it doesn’t contain any fillers or artificial ingredients, it can help goldfish that don’t respond well to regular dry foods. This article contains more info about gel food as well as a few recipes! I’d definitely recommend making your own gel food even if it’s just to try. Most goldfish love it, it’s much cheaper than regular fish food and it’s a great way to add some variety.
If you’re short on time but still want the benefits of gel food, you can also buy a premade mix.
Goldfish are well-known for their ability to skillfully destroy almost every plant species that is introduced in their aquarium. This makes planting a goldfish aquarium difficult, but also offers a healthy and natural food choice for the fish! Plants like duckweed and anacharis can be grown very quickly and will happily be eaten by your goldfish.
Green algae is also a very nutritious option, so consider letting it grow, for example on the back wall of the tank. Goldfish love to graze on algae and it’s about as natural as it gets when it comes to food.
What not to feed
- While goldfish are omnivores, they do not need a lot of extra protein in their diet. Frozen foods are usually enough to keep them healthy, so it’s not necessary to feed extra meats.
- Never feed your goldfish bread! If you don’t have goldfish food in your home, for example if you run out, fast your fish until you can get new food or feed some vegetables like peas.
- Don’t give foods to your goldfish that contain extra ingredients like salt or dairy. Stick to all-natural stuff.
- If you have a pond, don’t continue feeding during winter. Begin reducing feedings as it gets colder and switch to mostly wheat germ based food. When temperatures drop below 50 °F/10 °C, stop feeding altogether to prevent digestive issues.
Although there are still many “myths” surrounding the ideal goldfish diet, this article hopefully gives some guidelines. The best way to figure out what works for your fish is to just try things!
If you have any more questions about goldfish diets or if you want to share a tip, leave a comment below. Happy fishkeeping!