Goldfish are literally dustbins of the aquarium world! They will eat just about any food you drop into the water. However, just because they will eat anything, doesn’t mean they should! Nutrition is just as important for goldfish as it is for any other pet. The problem is, with so many different foods available in the store, how do you decide which one is best for your goldfish?
When you are standing in the store looking at the dozens of different goldfish foods on offer, it can be overwhelming. Flakes, floating pellets, sinking pellets, freeze-dried foods, frozen foods, the list just goes on.
What Are The Different Types Of Food Available?
- Flakes: As the name suggests, goldfish flakes are food which has been dried and pressed into thin flakes. When you add a pinch of flakes to your goldfish tank they will usually float around on the surface for a few seconds and then slowly sink down through the tank, either being consumed on the way down or picked off the bottom by the goldfish.
- Pellets: Pellets come in a number of different sizes. They also act differently in the water depending on how the manufactures have designed them. Some float, others sink slowly and some are designed to sink quickly. The nice thing about pellets is you can choose the size pellet based on the size of your goldfish. Go for a micro pellet if you have fry, right up to a 5mm pellet for really large common goldfish.
- Freeze Dried: The most commonly available freeze dried fish foods are bloodworms, brine shrimps or tubifex worms. Freeze dried fish foods are made by freezing the food source, then forcing all the moisture out. Freeze dried foods are best saved as treats for your goldfish. A diet made up solely of freeze dried fish foods would have a detrimental effect on your goldfish’s health.
- Gel Foods: Gel foods come in powder form. You mix up a small quantity of powder with boiling water as required. Once mixed, allow to set for a few minutes then slice into cubes. Place a couple of cubes in the aquarium and keep the rest in the fridge or freezer. Gel foods like Repashy are a little more expensive, but they are generally made with high quality ingredients.
- Frozen: There is a huge variety of frozen foods available on the market today. I probably feed my goldfish 40-50% frozen foods. Bloodworms, daphnia and brine shrimp are probably the most commonly fed frozen foods, but goldfish will take almost any type.
- Live foods: As with frozen fish foods, live foods come in a wide variety. And again, like the frozen foods, live bloodworms, daphnia and brine shrimp are probably the most commonly fed live foods
How To Feed Your Goldfish
On any given day I feed my goldfish 3 times a day. Normally I’ll feed them first thing in the morning when I return home from work and then again in the evening. It is better to feed your fish little and often rather than lots of food in one go. If possible you should try to feed them at least two different foods a day so they get a variety of ingredients and nutrients. Much like with humans, variety is key to a healthy, long-lived goldfish.
Goldfish Flakes And Pellets
Goldfish flakes and pellets are considered ‘staple’ foods. They should make up 50% to 60% of your goldfish’s diet. I currently feed my goldfish Hikari Oranda Gold and Tetra Goldfish Flakes (find out more about them on my recommended products page). The pellets float so the goldfish come to the surface and gulp them all quickly. I put a few pellets in, wait for the fish to eat them, then put a few more in and wait again.
The flakes on the other hand float for a few seconds and then slowly sink down. As with the pellets I tend to put a small pinch of flakes in, leave the goldfish for a few minutes, then put another small pinch in.
A side note on pellets: Some people will tell you that you shouldn’t feed goldfish floating food because they will suck in air when they are eating the pellets. The thinking is that the air then causes the goldfish swimming issues further down the line. At this point, I have fed my goldfish thousands of pellets. To the best of my experience I’ve never had a goldfish struggle because they eat food from the surface!
Freeze-dried foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp should be fed as treat food a couple of times a week. Because all the water has been forced out of the freeze-dried food, when you initially drop the cube of food into the aquarium it will float until it absorbs water.
A larger goldfish may come along and suck the whole freeze-dried cube into their mouth. I’m not a fan of this so I prefer to either soak the freeze-dried food in a small cup of aquarium water for a few minutes so it absorbs some water, then I crumble into the tank or I’ll hold the cube between my fingers in the aquarium while it absorbs water, allowing the goldfish to peck at it whilst I’m holding it.
Gel foods like Repashy Super Gold are massively underused in the hobby (find out more about Repashy foods on our recommended products page). Repashy comes as powder food. When you want to feed your goldfish Repashy you mix up a couple of spoonfuls of the powder with boiling water. You then leave the gel to set.
Once it has set, cut it into cubes. I usually feed my goldfish a couple of cubes at any one time. The rest of the gel food will stay fresh in the fridge for a week or more.
Repashy Gel foods come in a number of different ‘flavors’ to suit different fish. There isn’t a great deal of difference between all their different products so don’t get too hung up on whether you buy Super Gold or Community Blend. Repashy is high-quality food with high-quality ingredients.
Frozen foods make up the majority of what I feed my goldfish after flakes and pellets. I try to give my goldfish frozen food 5 or 6 times a week. I typically use bloodworm, daphnia, or brine shrimp.
The reality is your goldfish will chow down on just about any frozen fish foods on the market. Just try to gauge the size of the food to the size of your fish. A large goldfish won’t appreciate a feeding of tiny cyclops for example.
Frozen foods are super convenient because you can just pop one cube in the aquarium, then the rest sit in the freezer until the next time you want to feed it. Be aware, much like freeze-dried foods, if you drop a whole cube into your aquarium, a larger goldfish may come along a suck the whole cube into their mouth.
It may be better to put a cube or two into a cup of aquarium water and leave it to sit in the water to defrost. After a couple of minutes, pour the whole cup of water back into the aquarium and watch your goldfish eat all the food quickly.
Personally, I only use live foods as a treat because I don’t have easy access to them on a regular basis. Your local fish store may have a good selection but the most popular ones tend to be bloodworm and daphnia.
To feed live foods, take the bag and cut the corner off. Pour the water and food through a fine sieve into a bucket. The dirty water will pass through into the bucket. You don’t want to add that water to your tank. The live food should then be left in the sieve so you can add it to your tank. Your goldfish will go gangbuster for the live foods.
The one live food I have good access to is mosquito larvae. In the summer months, leave a bucket of water outside and mosquitos will find the bucket and lay their eggs in it. A few days later the water will be teaming with mosquito larvae. Scope some out with a net and put them in your goldfish aquarium. They will go nuts for it!
What Else Can You Feed Your Goldfish?
Other foods you can feed your goldfish include:
Duckweed is an amazing food for your goldfish. Not only is it high in fiber, keeping your goldfish regular, it can also be grown for free. I add a handful of duckweed to my goldfish tanks about once every two weeks.
The good thing is, the food will float around in the tank until your goldfish eat it. If they take 3 days to munch through it, it doesn’t matter. Unlike shop-bought foods, the duckweed won’t sit in the tank rotting and spoiling your water if it isn’t eaten straight away.
To get an endless supply of duckweed, simply set up a tote in your garden or a spare fish tank somewhere in your house. Fill with water, purchase some duckweed and add it to the tank. Providing you don’t over harvest the duckweed, it will continue to multiply giving you a never-ending supply.
One word of caution, duckweed spreads like wildfire. Unless you are careful you’ll add it to your goldfish, then you put your hand or net in another tank and the duckweed spreads! Before you know it you have a duckweed problem.
Live or dried mealworms are a great source of protein for your goldfish. They aren’t suitable for really young fish because of the size of the mealworms, but once your fish is big enough to take them they should definitely become part of your feeding regime. Just be aware that mealworms are very fatty. Mealworms are definitely a treat rather than a staple food.
Garden peas are another great source of fiber. If they are frozen peas, defrost them in a bowl of warm water first. The peas will need to be crushed before adding to the tank. Let me tell you from a genuinely personal experience, if you feed whole peas, fish can choke on them. I had a large, white fantail goldfish a year or so ago.
I threw in a handful of crushed peas. Unfortunately, one pea was still whole. The fantail sucked it in and within a couple of hours was dead. It could be a coincidence, but I felt terribly guilty about the experience.
I feed cucumber sparingly, but the goldfish do seem to enjoy it. Cut yourself a small slice and drop the slice into the aquarium. The goldfish will then spend the next couple of hours picking at it. Anything that is left 12 hours later should be removed from the aquarium before it fouls the water.
Scrambled eggs are another really good protein source. As with other items on the list, feed scrambled eggs sparingly. I only add egg to the aquarium when we as a family are eating it. Only add a very small pinch.
If the fish chomp straight down on it, add another small amount. Only ever add the amount of egg the fish will eat completely within a couple of minutes. Uneaten scramble eggs will destroy your water quality in no time at all.
Some Other Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Goldfish
Can I Feed Normal Tropical Fish Food To Goldfish?
Yes! At a basic level, fish food is fish food. I feed most of my fish a selection of all the same foods. One caveat would be, don’t feed a goldfish exclusively with food meant for a hardcore carnivore fish because the proteins levels, etc would be too high long term. If you have tropical fish food flakes, you can safely feed them to your goldfish and visa-versa.
Why Do Goldfish Spit Out Their Food?
Goldfish are messy eaters. They will take the food into their mouth, chew it, spit it back out and take some of it back in. Sometimes two or three goldfish might take a pellet into their mouths and spit it out, then a fourth one comes along and eats it just fine. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
How Much Should I Feed My Goldfish?
This is a question all goldfish keepers have thought about at some point in their fishkeeping career. Luckily, the answer is incredibly simple.
No matter how many fish you have, put a small amount of food into the tank. Wait for a minute or two. If they eat it all, add another small pinch. Wait another minute or two. Continue this process until the fish lose interest in eating. Remember, it is always better to feed two or three small meals throughout the day rather than one large meal.
How Many Times A Day Should You Feed Goldfish?
As in the paragraph above, small regular feedings are better than one large feeding. Regular small feedings are better for your fish as it is easier to digest a small meal than a large one, and better for your aquarium water as there will generally be less uneaten food breaking down in your water.
How Long Can My Fish Survive Without Eating?
Another thing people worry about is how long their fish can go without eating. The answer is probably a lot longer than you think. With the exception of very young fish or very aggressive predator fish, most fish can easily go 14 days without eating and 30 days probably won’t kill them.
That said, those timescales assume the rest of the time they are being fed regularly with a well-rounded diet. You can’t just feed your goldfish once every two weeks and expect them to survive.
Don’t get too hung up about which food is the best for your goldfish. Give them a mix of two or three good quality fish foods and add in some live or frozen foods occasionally.
Feed little and often and only ever put as much into your aquarium as the fish can consume within a few minutes.