One of the easiest to care for aquarium fish is the goldfish. This little energetic bundle of scales and googly eyes is the perfect starter fish for kids and families or adults just looking to enjoy some perky fish who greet you with bubbles and gaping mouths at feeding time.
But goldfish are notorious for dying too early.
They can have a lifespan of 10 or more years – 25 in the wild – but so often we don’t get to enjoy them for even a couple of years, largely thanks for feeding them poorly.
Since we want to keep these guys swimming around for as long as possible, let’s examine what to feed goldfish.
How much, how often, what types, and more. Let’s dive in with a look at what kind of food do goldfish eat in the wild – and what bugged-eyed little critters they eat.
What Do Goldfish Eat in The Wild?
These pretty little sunny fish with bubbly personalities and quirky looks come from freshwater environments naturally.
They’re a small member of the carp family and are native to East Asia. They were bred in China in ancient days when they were discovered to be beautiful, easy-going pets.
But in the wild, these guys like to hang out in freshwater places that are described as sluggish and calm.
They’re cold water fish and often prefer muddy, thick water like stagnant backwater ponds.
They naturally swim along in ponds, slow-moving rivers, and lakes where the water is hazy and dense, but they have been introduced into other places – like many spots in the USA, including Minnesota and Massachusetts – where they also look for cooler waters.
In these murky waters, you’ll find all sorts of tasty treats for goldfish that we’d, well, consider disgusting.
For instance, they love mosquito larvae and tadpoles. Their home-front is typically a stagnant body of water, which means they have these food sources aplenty.
Goldfish also eat algae and rotting plant matter, as well, since they’re omnivores who aren’t that picky about what they eat.
In fact, goldfish a little bit like the goats of freshwater – they’ll eat practically anything they find that seems somewhat digestible.
A quick breakdown on what they typically eat in the wild:
- Insect eggs
- Insect larvae
- Small insects
- Smaller fish
- Rotting plant matter
What Do Healthy Pet Goldfish Eat?
Since your pet goldfish doesn’t have free access to the wild minnows and tadpoles in a local pond, you’re responsible for making sure he gets what he needs to stay healthy.
And before you decide to go on a goldfish feed search, you shouldn’t feed your domesticated goldfish anything you catch outside.
These can bring bacteria and diseases into your aquarium and make your goldfish very sick, or even end his life early.
The healthy goldfish diet includes both plant matter and protein from animals and insects – they are, after all, omnivores.
Store bought goldfish food and treats can include both of these types of nutrients. There are some human foods they can enjoy as well, but only very specific ones.
Types of Manmade Food You Can Feed Your Goldfish
If you grew up with goldfish or have ever just conducted a Google search, you know that there are a few options of fish food for goldfish. Let’s take a look and see what makes them good or bad for your fish.
Probably the most common goldfish food – at the least the only one I remember using as a kid – is the goldfish flake food.
These are generally made from filler ingredients like wheat, corn, and soy, with a minimum of protein from natural fish food items like insects and smaller fish.
The second most common goldfish food is the pellet.
These little granules are also generally made mostly of corn, wheat, soy, or other grains, but typically has more protein included in the profile than goldfish flakes.
Algae wafers are sort of like power protein bars for your goldfish.
These things are fast sinking bits of vegetable and protein goodness your goldfish will love, but they provide an optimized profile for healthy nutrients as well, meaning they improve goldfish growth and health.
Goldfish love live food. It is, of course, their natural food source – live insects and smaller fish.
It’s the best option for meeting your goldfish’s natural dietary needs.
However, because they cannot eat wild caught insects and minnows that we can bring home – thank you, diseases – this can be a bit trickier to feed to your goldfish if you can’t get to the pet store fairly often.
Some of the most common live foods include:
- Brine Shrimp
- Tubifex Worms
- Glass Worms
- Aquarium Snails
Since live food can be a bit difficult to come by easily, frozen food is a fantastic alternative.
Healthy live foods are taken and flash frozen to seal in the nutrients your fish needs but comes in a much easier form.
Just make sure you keep it frozen until you are ready to feed your fish.
Then, just pull out the exact amount you plan to feed your fish, since re-freezing food can draw bacteria that cause illness and death.
Some of the easiest and best goldfish treats are freeze-dried foods.
Things like bloodworms and brine shrimp are often the best options for feeding your goldfish.
Common and fancy goldfish can eat these either frozen or freeze-dried:
- Brine Shrimp
In their natural habitat, goldfish eat plants, both living and deceased. But one of the best ways to help feed your goldfish naturally is through planting healthy, live plants that your goldfish will eat and do well with.
Some of the best plants you can offer include:
Just be aware that some of these plants can catch at the delicate fins and tails of your fish.
Keep a close eye to make sure this isn’t happening.
Common goldfish can have a few other varieties of plants, as well, but I’ll cover those below in their specific section.
For an alternative goldfish food that can function as a primary staple, gel food is your best option.
The gel comes in a powder form that you cook up in about ten minutes and store on hand for easy feeding times.
Gel food has a great moisture profile for helping your goldfish’s digestive system, made of healthy ingredients – and no unnecessary fillers – and easy to feed to your goldfish.
Are Filler Ingredients Really That Bad?
Just like humans and other mammals shouldn’t eat empty calories, goldfish shouldn’t either.
While a goldfish isn’t going to get obese – generally speaking – from eating fillers like wheat and corn, they can become ill and actually die from eating too much of them.
You see, these fillers aren’t easily digested by the little goldfish stomach. Instead, they can distend the belly and make them sick.
They can’t process the ingredients, so they get constipation. Constipation isn’t only uncomfortable, but it’s also dangerous. It can lead to swim bladder disease which can be deadly for your fish.
This is the primary reason why gel foods and all natural, zero-filler supplements and live food are the best way to feed your goldfish.
What Human Food Can Goldfish Eat?
Much as we try to keep enough fish food on hand, sometimes we simply run out and need a goldfish food substitute. Life gets crazy and that visit to the pet shop takes a backseat to the pipe burst in the basement.
So, what to feed fish when out of food?
There are a number of fruits and vegetables that goldfish will enjoy and be healthier for eating, actually.
These can be a great treat as well – and who doesn’t love a treat? – and they can supplement your goldfish’s standard diet. These work for both common and fancy goldfish species.
What do goldfish eat besides fish food? These human foods:
- Spinach (limp)
- Peas (shelled)
Just be sure to chop any of these up into tiny little pieces your fish can easily eat and digest.
Does the Species of Goldfish Make a Difference in What They Can Eat?
For the most part, goldfish can all eat the same basic things.
However, fancy goldfish have more sensitive swim bladders, so they’re more sensitive to certain foods than common goldfish are.
Food Differences for Common Goldfish
In addition to the foods listed above, common goldfish can eat these additional live plants:
- Anubias Nana
- Dwarf Hairgrass
- Java Fern
- Java Moss
- Amazon Swordgrass
They can also eat these additional fruits and vegetables:
- Lettuce (limp)
- Cooked zucchini
- Cooked carrots
- Green Beans
- Beet Tops
Can Goldfish Eat Bloodworms?
Yes, goldfish eat bloodworms.
These larvae are some of their favorite treats. Whether live, frozen, or freeze-dried, they add some beneficial protein to your goldfish’s diet.
But they can only be used as a supplement, not a primary food source, since they lack other nutrients your goldfish needs.
Do Goldfish Eat Algae?
Absolutely. Goldfish love algae! This slimy green stuff is like dessert for these guys.
That’s one of the many reasons goldfish are great fish to include in your aquarium, even if your focus is other cold water fish. Just be sure you pair them with species that won’t eat the goldfish.
Is There Anything Goldfish Should Avoid Eating?
There are definitely things you shouldn’t feed to your goldfish.
And since these guys are kind of like wild goats of the aquarium – eating anything and everything that comes their way – it’s important to make sure you keep your feed consistent and appropriate your goldfish’s needs.
Avoid feeding your goldfish any of these items:
- Bitter vegetables or fruits – cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, for example
- Never give your goldfish onions, leeks, or shallots
- Don’t give your goldfish bread, chips, cornmeal, or other carbohydrates humans eat
- Never give them unnatural items like cookie crumbs
- Don’t give them processed sugar, salt, sweets of any kind, or dairy of any kind
- Never give your goldfish straight up meat – they should only have appropriately prepared fish food
The Best Goldfish Food
Gel food is the best option for the staple food for your goldfish’s diet.
The moisture of the gel is a huge benefit for your fish’s digestion, and the Repashy brand Super Gold provide this well-balanced option for your goldfish in an easy-to-prepare option.
- Easy to make up and feed to your fish
- Made without fillers and artificial ingredients
- Rich in nutrients for your goldfish’s well-rounded diet
The gel food comes in a powder form that you mix together easily. You use a 3-to-1 ratio of purified water to powder and mix it together with heated water.
You can whip up a decent amount ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for later to save on time when you’re in a hurry.
- Protein: 40% minimum
- Crude fat: 6% minimum
- Crude fiber: 5% maximum
- Moisture: 8% maximum
- Ash: 10% maximum
Tons of goldfish owners recommend the Super Gold from Repashy specifically for the lack of gluten and fillers, easy-to-mix process, and how gentle it is on the swim bladders of your little goldy.
They’re also marine based proteins and have proven immunostimulants that keep your fish healthy and happy for years.
The disadvantages, as with all gel foods, are that it tends to be more expensive and takes about 10 minutes to prepare. But for the health of your goldfish, both are worth it.
Our Verdict on Repashy Super Gold
Repashy Super Gold is worth the extra price to guarantee your goldfish gets the healthy nutrients he needs without the added fillers like corn and wheat that most of the common food offerings come with.
The brand is a well-trusted company that provides your goldfish with beneficial nutrients. It’s totally worth the extra ten minutes every few days to make up the batch for your feeding time.
To see other great options in other food types and treats, you can check out our in-depth reviews.
How to Feed Goldfish
If you want to know how to feed goldfish, you should consider a few things.
You need to feed them at the right intervals – times per day – the right foods, and how much food each time you feed them.
How Often Should Goldfish Be Fed?
Different experts give a couple of different answers on how often do goldfish eat.
However, the best answer seems to be between two and three times per day.
Some say one or two, others say two or three, so going with two is a safe bet for making sure your goldfish gets enough food each day.
You can start out feeding your fish twice daily to see how he does. If he’s eating everything both meals, you are probably spot on with this.
If, however, you notice your goldy isn’t eating everything within two minutes or so, try cutting back to only one meal per day and see if that changes.
How Much to Feed Goldfish
The basic rule of thumb for small aquarium fish is sizing up their food portion by the size of their eyes.
A goldfish eats approximately the same amount of fish food that equals the size of a goldfish’s visible eyeball.
This will be eaten in two minutes’ time – no more than three minutes, tops.
If your goldfish cannot – or will not – eat the amount you feed it in under three minutes, try cutting back the portion to avoid overfeeding.
Overfeeding a goldfish is pretty easy to do. And though you might not think it’s a big deal, it actually is.
Overfeeding results in your fish tank becoming overrun with rotten fish food that produces extra ammonia, which is toxic for goldfish.
If you see your goldfish doesn’t everything you feed him, remove the excess immediately.
How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food?
Goldfish can go for between 8 days and 2 weeks without food.
This isn’t a great way to treat for your fish, but if for some reason he goes without food for a day or two, he’ll be okay.
It’s also important to remember that it’s better to underfeed him occasionally than overfeed him.
Homemade Goldfish Food
If you’d like to try your hand at making your own gel goldfish food, you can find some DIY recipes online. My favorite is this one.
- 4 packs unflavored gelatin
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 1/2 cup peas
- 1 small carrot
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 zucchini
- 1/4 butternut squash
- 1 small trout – or 2 mackerel or sardines
- Steam the vegetables until soft, removing any shells, stems, and seeds before mashing them together.
- Mash together the vegetables, paprika, parsley, and fish together in your blender.
- Mix the gelatin into the water and stir until completely blended in.
- Stir into the vegetable mix and then place in a shallow tray.
- Once the gel has set, cut the mix into squares.
- Cut into smaller pieces before feeding your fish.
- Place extra pieces into refrigerator for later.