Goldfish are among the most popular species of pet fish, especially for first-time fish owners and beginners in the aquatic hobby. Of course, one of the major questions when it comes to keeping goldfish is: what do they eat?
So, what do goldfish eat? Goldfish are omnivorous and need high-quality sources of carbohydrates and protein for optimal nutrition. Carbohydrates and Protein, along with aquatic plant sources, makes for an ideal, balanced diet.
Goldfish take time and money to raise. So if you’re going to keep and invest in a goldfish tank, you’ll want to understand exactly what food sources are best for your goldfish. You need to do this so that you can ensure they remain healthy and vibrant in color (yes – food does affect their coloring)! We will cover this and many more things in this article.
Here’s a list of what you’ll learn:
- What goldfish eat in the wild;
- How goldfish use nutrients to enhance their natural coloring;
- What you can feed goldfish for best results;
- What to avoid feeding your goldfish.
So keep reading…
What Do Goldfish Eat In The Wild?
Goldfish are omnivorous. In the wild, they eat a wide variety of food sources, such as:
- Tender parts of seeds and plants,
- Insects (such as mosquito larvae and pupae),
- Small crustaceans,
- Fish eggs and larvae,
- Zooplankton, and
- Dead plant and animal matter found at the bottom of rivers or streams.
Note that the goldfish which are commonly kept in bowls and aquariums don’t typically live in the “wild”. Rather, they are a domesticated version of Chinese or Prussian carp. These carp can get quite large (on average, 16-31 inches), and may naturally incorporate larger food sources into their diet depending on how much they grow. Goldfish were bred in ancient China more than a thousand years ago, and several distinct types have been developed since then.
The mouth of a carp is large and is highly functional for searching and picking up food sources with their barbels, or whisker-type feelers located around the mouth for sensing and locating food in murky waters.
Goldfish, though they are a variation of the carp, lack these “barbels”, and so are well-suited for aquarium life that enables them to easily take in nutrients without having to “hunt”, or search for their food.
A weird similarity between carp and goldfish is that the common carp doesn’t have a stomach – food passes from the mouth directly to the intestine. This means that the intestines do the job that a stomach would normally do, which includes breaking down food and absorbing the nutrients found in it.
Interesting Further Reading:
- What Do Goldfish Eat In The Wild? (Typical And Ideal Goldfish Diet)
- Can Goldfish Bite? [Actual Facts You Should Know]
- Can Goldfish Eat Tropical Fish Food? Is It Really Safe To Eat It?
Goldfish, Nutrients, And Coloring!
All goldfish have some amount of natural coloring, or that natural tinge of orange that gives them their beloved and familiar moniker. However, what you probably don’t realize is how big of a role food and nutrition play in the vibrancy of your goldfish’s coloring. In fact, in addition to genetics (and purchasing your fish from a knowledgeable or quality source), food choice is the #1 determining factor of just how orange, or “gold”, your goldfish will get.
Many commercial goldfish foods will use “carotenoids” in their formulas precisely for the purpose of enhancing color. As you may have guessed, the term “carotenoids” stems from “carrots”, which are one of the major providers of the orange color in common goldfish. So if you switch from a food brand that doesn’t use carotenoids in its formula to one that does, it may take up to four weeks for you to notice a difference in your fish’s coloring.
There are a few additional factors that contribute to your goldfish’s vibrancy of color. For one thing, sunshine – as well as consistent water conditions – bring out your fish’s coloring better than any other natural source. This is why pond goldfish, or Koi, are often so bright! These conditions, when combined with a diet high in carotenoids, virtually guarantees beautifully-colored goldfish.
Recommended Further Reading: How To Take Care Of A Goldfish? (Goldfish Care In 3 Simple Steps)
So What Should You Feed Your Goldfish?
Goldfish tend to be a particularly active and ravenous species of fish, and are always looking for food! If you’ve ever spent some amount of time gazing into a goldfish tank, you may have even noticed them attempting to eat the gravel or tank substrate if there was nothing else available (or even if there was)! A big appetite is particularly common in the larger species of goldfish, like Shubunkins, Lionheads, and the Oranda breeds.
When it comes to food sources, goldfish do need and enjoy the nutrients found in live food, like worms, some shrimp, and even snails. This explains why goldfish will resort to eating small or baby goldfish if there are no other adequate food sources available. They will also munch on live aquatic plants – particularly duckweed – if they’re in the mood, as they are omnivores. That said, make sure that goldfish receive enough high-quality protein sources to keep them healthy and energized.
As healthy as live food sources are for goldfish, it is also recommended that you supplement with commercial fish food. Many of these flake or pellet formulas that you find in pet stores will include necessary nutrients that your fish may not receive from live food sources. For example, whole wheat, spirulina, carotenoids for coloring, and Menhaden fish meal.
What You Should Avoid Feeding Your Goldfish?
Just as there are essential nutrients you’ll want to feed your goldfish, there a few things you’ll want to avoid dropping in their tank. These include:
- Foods containing animal fat
- Lettuce, especially cooked lettuce
- Uncooked peas
Your goldfish will not be able to digest these food sources properly, which may lead to illness or even death. Avoid incorporating these items into your fish’s diet.
It is also recommended that you feed your goldfish pellet foods as opposed to flake foods. Healthy goldfish do not hover near the surface of an aquarium where flakes will float. So other fish in your tank may end up eating the flakes before your goldfish even gets close to them. Instead, select a high-quality pellet food that will sink to the natural swimming level of goldfish to ensure they’re eating regularly.
Avoid feeding goldfish the same food constantly. This leads to boredom and lack of interest over time. Mixing it up every now and then with different raw foods and pellet formulas also gives you the opportunity to ensure your goldfish are receiving a well-balanced diet.
Conclusion & Final Tips
Goldfish are extremely fun, rewarding fish to keep, which is why so many fish owners have had at least one, at some point! To keep goldfish healthy, vibrant in color, and thriving, follow the advice in this article for optimal food choices and feeding habits.
If other factors arise that may affect the feeding time of your goldfish, such as if you go away on vacation, you’ll need to arrange for a friend or neighbor to come over and feed your goldfish. If this is not a possibility, you can resort to a feeder block. It will slowly break down over the course of several days to ensure your fish receive small amounts of food at a time while you are away.
However, do not use feeding blocks as a regular source of food. This is because they can spike ammonia levels in your aquarium if left for too long without being eaten or properly managed.
Feed your goldfish twice a day, and generally only feed them as much as they can eat within 2-3 minutes. Similar to dissolved feeder blocks, uneaten food particles can contribute to sudden spikes of ammonia and nitrite levels in your aquarium. This can make conditions unsafe and unhealthy for your goldfish. Feed only minimal amounts at a time.
Enjoy your goldfish and your aquarium! Happy fish keeping!