What Do Goldfish Eat In The Wild? (Typical And Ideal Goldfish Diet)

Image of a goldfish searching for food

Goldfish are omnivores that feed on both plant and animal matter in their natural habitats. They usually eat aquatic plants, algae, small insects, tadpoles, plankton, and small crustaceans. If they find small fish, they will eat it. They will eat almost anything that fits their mouths.

To better understand the feeding habits and nutritional requirements of the goldfish, let’s take a closer look at the origins of this fascinating creature.

History Of The Goldfish

Did you know that the domesticated goldfish evolved from the wild carp?

Native to East Asia, their wild ancestor called the Chi, was a commonly eaten fish in China.

However, in the ninth century, Chinese people started taking an interest in the rarer yellow and orange colored Chi fish.

They released them into ponds where they were kept safe from predators.

Over time, the fish became very tame. Different types were bred, including the fancier varieties of goldfish.

As the wild goldfish became tame, they began eating the food given by humans.

Over time, they became a favorite with fish hobbyists.

They are a popular choice in aquariums since they liven up any environment with their vibrant colors and playful personality.

At this point, we must mention that the Chi, which were the ancestors of the goldfish, were grey.

Genetic aberrations led to the fish having bright yellow or orange color. The colors made them more visible to predators.

So, this feature puts them at a disadvantage in the wild.

Interestingly, the same bright colors increase their appeal as pets.

Typical Diet Of Goldfish In The Wild

In the wild, you can find goldfish in freshwater bodies like streams, pools, and ponds.

They prefer slow-moving, murky water with temperatures up to 30 degrees centigrade. The water pH will be in the range of 6.5 to 8.5.

Goldfish usually live together in schools. They do not display aggressive behavior.

In their natural habitat, their feeding habits resemble that of their ancestors, the carp.

Being omnivores, they will eat both plant and animal matter that they can find.

Nonetheless, their diet is primarily composed of abundantly available plant matter.

Some of the common items that goldfish eat in the wild are: 

  • Algae growing on rocks, logs, and floating on the water surface.
  • Small insects and larvae.
  • Tiny frogs, tadpoles, and spawn.
  • Small water creatures, like invertebrates and crustaceans,
  • Fresh and decaying plant matter.
  • Small fish and fish eggs that will fit their mouth.

The Ideal Diet Of A Pet Goldfish Based On What They Eat In The Wild

The best way to keep your goldfish healthy is to feed it a varied and nutritious diet as in the wild.

By incorporating the same nutrients that they would find in their natural habitat, you can satisfy their nutritional requirements.

Readymade fish food is easily available and a convenient staple food for goldfish.

However, feeding the same type of food every day will not provide many benefits for your pet.

While using store-bought fish food as the base, you can also introduce other foods for added nutrition.

Help your goldfish stay healthy and enjoy a long lifespan by including the following items in its diet.

  1. Readymade fish food: Goldfish food is available in the form of pellets or flakes at pet stores. Pellets last longer than flakes as flakes quickly lose their nutritional quality after opening. However, some fish prefer flakes to pellets because it is easier to eat. Most pellets will sink to the substrate and take time to dissolve in the water. This allows your goldfish plenty of time to fish them out when they forage for food. When choosing readymade fish food, read the label to ensure that it contains all the nutrients your goldfish needs.
  2. Vegetables and fruits: In the wild, most of the goldfish diet is plant matter. To replicate this in your aquarium, feed them fresh vegetables and fruits several times a week. Some options are:
    • Boiled peas with their shells removed.
    • Cooked vegetables, like zucchini, cucumber, and beet tops.
    • Slices of fresh fruit, like oranges and watermelon.
    • Green leafy vegetables, like kale, spinach, and lettuce.
    • Chopped bananas and grapes.
  3. Live or freeze-dried food: Treat your goldfish to live or freeze-dried brine shrimp, daphnia, micro worms, and crickets occasionally. Since these foods are rich in protein, it will help your pet grow big faster.

Dangers Of Overfeeding Goldfish

Goldfish are delightful creatures that will dart towards you when they sense your presence.

Interestingly, it is because they associate your presence with food.

Apart from gobbling up any food you serve, you will also see them browsing the tank and digging for food all the time.

Being heavy eaters, goldfish will feed on anything edible that they find.

However, overeating is very detrimental to their health because they do not have a stomach.

Goldfish do not have teeth in their mouth. Instead, they have pharyngeal teeth.

It appears as hard plates at the back of the mouth.

When a goldfish eats something, the pharyngeal teeth will grind it up into fine particles.

From this point forth, the food moves very quickly through its digestive system.

Nutrients are absorbed into the body, and the rest of the food is eliminated as waste.

Since goldfish do not have stomachs, they cannot retain much food.

So, you must feed it soft, easily digestible food at frequent intervals than once a day.

Overfeeding will lead to excessive waste production. This will pollute the tank and affect water quality.

Also, uneaten food will rot in the tank and release toxins that will harm the health of your goldfish.

So, feed your goldfish in moderation and stick with a regular feeding schedule for optimal health.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I feed my goldfish if I run out of fish food? If you run out of store-bought fish food for your goldfish, there are plenty of homemade foods to try. Offer them vegetables like kale, spinach, beet tops, shelled peas, or cucumber. You can also feed slices of bananas, oranges, and watermelon. Your fish will also happily devour earthworms, crickets, micro worms, and live or freeze-dried food. You can occasionally feed your goldfish these alternative foods, while regularly feeding them store-bought fish food flakes or pellets.

How long can goldfish go without being fed? A goldfish can survive for up to two weeks without food. However, it is not recommended to starve your fish for days at a stretch. Goldfish must be fed regularly on a varied diet of plant and animal matter to thrive and grow. Insufficient nutrition and inconsistent feeding schedules will adversely affect their health and well-being. Lack of food can also trigger aggressive behavior in these easy-going fish. So, stick to a regular feeding schedule to keep your goldfish healthy and content.

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