How Often to Feed Goldfish?
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Goldfish are among the most popular tank fish thanks to their friendly personality, hardiness, and smooth reproductive rates.
They comprise numerous species, varying in size, appearance, diets, and water requirements and display an astounding variety of colors and patterns.
Today, we will discuss goldfish’s diet and feeding behavior, as well as feeding specifics, such as:
- How many times to feed them per day
- What foods do they prefer to eat
- How much food to provide during one meal
- How to feed them
But before getting there, I should throw in a disclaimer here. Not all goldfish species are the same.
What I’m presenting here is general information that you should personalize to your goldfish depending on their needs, behavior, and preferences. I say this because goldfish differ wildly from one another.
For instance, the size of their habitat will influence their maximum growth and growth rate. This means you can have goldfish with sizes varying between 2 inches to 2 feet, depending on where they live.
This will obviously influence their diets considerably in the long run.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the meat of it!
How Often to Feed Baby Goldfish?
Fortunately for you, goldfish reproduce quite easily in captivity. They rank as egg scatterers, which means that the female will simply lay the eggs in the tank with no consideration for their safety.
The eggs are sticky and will latch onto any surface they might come into contact with, including tank walls, rocks, plants, etc.
They will hatch 48 to 72 hours later and the small fry will flood the tank immediately. Feeding the fry is a bit of a challenge in and of itself. They have higher metabolic rates than adults, so they require more frequent feeding.
You should feed the goldfish fry approximately 3-4 times per day, providing small and controlled portions to minimize food residues.
Your fry will demand more frequent feeding during their first several weeks of life when their growth rate is at its peak.
The fry’s metabolism will slow down over time, at which point the fish will be content with 1-2 meals per day.
Here’s what the fry’s feeding schedule should look like in general terms:
- Soon after birth – An interesting aspect here is that newborn fry won’t have fully developed mouths. So, they won’t be able to eat anything during their first 2-3 days or so, which many people don’t see coming. The goldfish fry will undergo a substantial growth spurt during this time, allowing their mouths to develop properly, at which point you can start to feed them. Their high metabolic rates and low-capacity stomachs demand small and frequent meals, sometimes as frequent as 4 hours. Keeping the tank clean during this period is vital since goldfish fry are sensitive to diseases and parasites during this time of their life.
- The first 2 weeks of life – The fry will begin to look more like fish this time and their nutrient intake will drop consistently. They will now only demand feeding 2-3 times per day in moderate meals, preferably what they can consume within a couple of minutes. Aside from ensuring proper feeding, you should also work to keep the fry’s habitat clean and healthy throughout. Remove any food residues and fish waste as often as you can, preferably without disturbing the fry too much. They are particularly sensitive to ammonia and nitrite boosts which can cause sudden death among their ranks.
- Weeks 3-4 – This is when most goldfish fry begin to develop fins and their bodies change fast. At this point, goldfish fry require a steady diet with some protein surplus on a daily basis to support their elevated levels of energy. Having fins allows the fry to swim faster and burn more calories that need replenishing.
- 4 weeks onward – At this point, you should begin to increase the amount of food your fry are getting. After all, they have grown significantly and their bodies require a surplus of nutrients daily. You shouldn’t feed your goldfish fry more than 3 times per day, but the amount of food they’re getting should increase. How much it should increase depends on your goldfish’s appetite, the species they belong to, and how many of them you have.
I would say that the fry’s first 4 weeks of life make for the most sensitive and precarious period of their lives. That’s when the goldfish fry are the most sensitive to their water parameters and show an increased vulnerability to parasites and diseases.
They also need more frequent feeding and higher content of protein to support their accelerated growth.
The situation is even more volatile during this period due to unhatched eggs and dead fry. Not all eggs will hatch and the remaining ones will rot away, poisoning the water and increasing ammonia levels.
The same effects occur due to dead fry which are bound to exist in any breeding tank, no matter how careful you are about it.
Goldfish fry can die for a variety of reasons, primarily due to genetic faults and poor development. There’s nothing you can do about that, except protecting the live ones by removing dead fry and keeping the waters clean and healthy.
If everything goes well, your goldfish fry will keep growing until they will hit another vital threshold at 6-months of age.
This is when you’ll be able to tell which fry will make it to adulthood and which won’t. It all depends on your 6-month-old fry’s body shape, size, and feeding behavior.
How Often to Feed Adult Goldfish?
Adult goldfish only demand food around once or twice per day, or even 3 times, depending on their appetite, size, needs, and the species they belong to. I suggest personalizing your fish’s diet and feeding schedule based on their biological, not behavioral needs.
It’s normal for goldfish and all fish, in general, to consume more food and eat more often than they should. It’s part of their behavioral makeup, driven by the food scarcity in their natural environments.
So, it’s up to you to assess and control their nutrient intake to prevent overeating which comes with a variety of problems. We will discuss this aspect later on in the article.
How Much to Feed Your Goldfish?
The quantity of food your goldfish will eat depends on how large they are. The golden rule states that goldfish can and should consume a quantity of food equal in size to one of their eyes.
Obviously, that’s not a universal rule, but rather a general one that will work in most scenarios. If it were a universal rule, you’d have to explain to the telescope goldfish why he needs to eat 3 times as much as other goldfish.
You can use this rule to adjust your goldfish’s diet, but I recommend an even better one – case by case personalization. Goldfish won’t all eat the same amount of food, even those belonging to the same species.
I suggest monitoring your goldfish regularly and assessing their feeding pattern during each meal. Notice their behavior, understand their requirements, and draw out a feeding pattern as fast as possible.
Doing so allows you to adjust the feeding to your goldfish instead of forcing a meal plan based on a general rule. That’s my 2 cents on the matter.
How to Feed Your Goldfish?
Many people are interested in knowing how often they should feed their goldfish and how much food to provide. But few understand the importance of knowing how to feed the goldfish.
There are a few aspects worthy of discussing in relation to this topic:
Bottom-feeding behavior – Goldfish aren’t native bottom feeders like plecos or other catfish and loaches.
But they will dive around the substrate to search for food leftovers regularly anyway. They prefer feeding this way compared to sucking the floating flakes on the water’s surface.
I recommend feeding your goldfish sinking pellets and flakes rather than floating ones to accommodate the fish’s natural feeding behavior.
- Water temperature matters – While all goldfish species have slightly different temperature requirements, all of them will remain in the same area – 68 to 75 F. The higher the temperature, the faster the fish’s metabolism and vice-versa. This means that your goldfish needs sufficiently warm waters to improve its digestion and break down the food faster. Keeping your goldfish in slightly colder waters and feeding it more food than necessary can quickly spell disaster. The fish’s digestive system doesn’t work properly in cold waters, leading to digestive problems and even death. A useful point to remember.
- Avoid animal fat – Animal fat is extremely difficult to digest, especially for goldfish and their sensitive digestive systems. I recommend trimming all the fat off of the meat before preparing it for your goldfish. You should also only feed your goldfish protein-rich food sources once per week as treats instead of introducing them into their regular diets. As omnivorous fish, goldfish only require small-to-moderate amounts of animal protein in their meals. Research the market for high-quality specialized fish food, providing the ideal balance between plant and animal-sourced nutrients for your goldfish.
- Consider the tank’s population – If your goldfish live in a community tank, the feeding process may require a bit more planning. You should consider food competition behavior between your goldfish and other fish, as well as take into account their diet compatibility. In case of too many fish in a wider tank, either spread the food all over the water’s surface or feed your fish in different areas of the tank. These approaches will make sure all fish can feed properly while minimizing food-related aggression at the same time.
These tactics should be enough to keep your goldfish healthy and full long-term.
How Often to Feed Goldfish in a Pond?
This topic is actually more complex than it might seem at a first glance. The main reason for that is temperature.
It’s more difficult to control and adjust the water’s temperature in an outdoor pond, compared to an indoor tank. The outdoor temperature will naturally fluctuate throughout the year, sometimes falling below your goldfish’s comfort zone.
With that laid down, the next important thing to keep in mind is that goldfish are poikilotherm fish. This means they can’t control their body temperature on their own, but rely on environmental temperature to dictate their own.
Furthermore, goldfish are extremely resilient creatures that have adapted to cold waters. This has led them to adopt a quasi-hibernating behavior called torpor. This behavior occurs in extremely low temperatures, below 50 F, leading the goldfish to enter a hibernating-like state where its metabolism drops drastically.
At this point, the fish’s digestive system will most likely cease to function.
With this data in mind, here’s how the pond goldfish’s environmental changes influence its feeding behavior based on temperature:
- Below 39 F – The fish’s digestive system has shut down, so no feeding is necessary. This stays true for young and mature goldfish alike.
- 40-50 F – The goldfish is mildly active and will only require some wheatgerm-based food once or twice per week at most. The latter is more fitting for younger goldfish, up to 1-year old.
- 51 to 65 F – Same type of food, this time at a higher frequency. Younger fish should eat around 5 times per week, while mature goldfish only require 2-4 meals within the same timeframe.
- 66-80 F – This is already the natural environmental temperature for goldfish. The younger fish will consume protein-based food up to 3 times per day, while goldfish over 1 year of age only require 1 meal per day.
- 81 and up – At this point, your goldfish should consume 1 to 2 meals per day if they’re younger than 12 months and 1 meal every other day beyond that point.
When it comes to feeding your pond goldfish during winter, the following section is the most relevant in this sense.
How Long can Goldfish Go Without Food?
Most articles on this topic state that goldfish will only survive without food between 8 to 14 days. And that’s true, but it only applies to specific scenarios, like indoor tanks with higher temperatures.
As you now know, goldfish are poikilotherms, which means they can’t self-regulate their internal temperature. So, the environmental temperature dictates the fish’s metabolic rates.
If the environmental temperature remains within the fish’s comfort zone (68 – 75 F), the goldfish will require food approximately once per day as a full adult. In this context, the goldfish will only survive around 14 days without food, probably a bit more provided the temperature remains within the same parameters.
When it comes to pond fish, the number changes dramatically. Goldfish can overwinter as they will enter a state called torpor. This is similar to what most people would consider hibernation to be.
During this state, several things happen:
- The fish’s heart rate slows down dramatically
- The goldfish will display lower physical activity and low energy
- The digestive system will slow down dramatically or even shut down during winter due to the stomach’s flora ceasing its activity
- The fish’s body will release specific hormones designed to diminish or inhibit the appetite
As torpor sets in, the goldfish may refrain from eating for weeks or even months during the cold season. It may graze some algae in their environment occasionally to keep themselves nourished or even refrain from eating altogether.
This isn’t a reason for concern, since the fish’s metabolism will have dropped dramatically at this point.
So, the goldfish won’t need any food.
Many other animals undergo the same process, including koi fish, skunks, squirrels, and even bears. Yes, bears don’t hibernate, they go into torpor. The more you know, am I right?
All this shows that the goldfish’s feeding frequency depends on several factors such as the fish’s age, activity level, and, most importantly, the environmental temperature. Goldfish living in normal temperature conditions should receive food once per day.
They can go without food for several days, if necessary, but you shouldn’t test their limits.
Depriving your goldfish of adequate nutrients can cause health issues fast.
Never Overfeed Your Goldfish
Overfeeding is a severe problem in the goldfish world. Novice aquarists, especially, tend to fall into this trap. Thinking that higher feeding frequency translates to healthier and more well-nourished fish.
That’s actually not true and it’s because of 2 simple concepts:
- Goldfish have lazy digestive systems – Goldfish require time to process their food, especially since they live in rather colder waters. And the colder the goldfish’s water is, the more time they will require to digest the food. Feed them too often or too much at once and they will feel the repercussions fast. Overfeeding can cause serious digestive issues, including constipation and impaction, which can lead to sudden death in more severe cases.
- Overfeeding affects the goldfish’s environment – We’re talking primarily about food residues that collect on the tank’s bed and decay, increasing ammonia levels as a result. This chemical will quickly poison the tank’s water, affecting your goldfish directly. The issue becomes even more obvious seeing how goldfish are world champions at pooping. They are notoriously messy fish as they produce a lot of poop. Overfeeding them will exacerbate the problem, creating even more poop and contributing to ammonia levels getting higher faster.
The conclusion is obvious – never overfeed your goldfish. Control your instinctive best intentions and assess your goldfish’s dietary needs before laying out their feeding schedule.
Goldfish’s dietary needs and feeding frequency change based on the fish’s subspecies, age, biological predetermination, environmental factors, temperature, and other parameters.
As a general rule, goldfish up to 1 year of age should receive 2-3 meals per day. Past this point, your goldfish will be more than satisfied with one meal daily. Sometimes 1 meal every other day, depending on tank temperature.
The key takeaway here is to always keep your goldfish’s environment clean to prevent residual food and fish waste from accumulating on the substrate.
In this sense, invest in a filter, perform regular tank maintenance, and consider adding some genuine bottom-feeders to the tank.
Your goldfish will thank you for your efforts.