Why Do Goldfish Eat Rocks? (How To Remove Them?)

Image of goldfish trying to eat rocks

No matter how well you feed your goldfish, it will continue to look for more food. These fish will nibble on anything edible in their surroundings. Apart from algae, plants, and leftover food, you will even see them swallowing rocks, stones, and gravel. So, why do goldfish eat rocks?

Goldfish eat rocks because they are opportunistic feeders. They try to eat everything that they find around them. Goldfish take rocks into their mouths to eat algae or microorganisms that are stuck on their surfaces. Although goldfish spit the rocks later, they may sometimes end up swallowing them.

Let’s talk about this in detail now.

Can Goldfish Digest Rocks?

Do you feel that your goldfish looks hungry all the time? You may notice them rush towards the top of the tank and beg for food when they sense your presence. Even if they have just had a meal, you will see them searching for food everywhere and chewing all the time.

We cannot blame these fish for their insatiable appetite, for they have a rudimentary digestive system. Unlike most aquarium fish, goldfish don’t have a stomach to store food. Anything they eat goes directly from their mouth into their intestine.

The intestine absorbs the essential nutrients from the food and expels most of the consumed food as waste. Hence, their entire digestive process gets over in a couple of hours, and the goldfish resume their search for food.

Now, goldfish are not fussy eaters. It is normal behavior for goldfish to hold rocks, stones, and gravel in their mouths and taste it.

While doing this, they may come across any algae or uneaten food stuck to their surfaces. The fish will nibble on these food particles. After scraping off as much food as they can find, they will spit the rock out. So, if your goldfish swallows a rock or pebble, you should see it spit it after a few moments. However…

On rare occasions, your goldfish may end up swallowing a rock or gravel. It can turn out to be problematic when it occurs because goldfish cannot digest rocks.

Tiny stones or gravel can cause constipation and impact the digestion of the fish. However, these are not as problematic as the fish can usually eliminate it from their system with the waste they produce.

Now, the problem is when a goldfish ingests large rocks or stones. It may choke or lodge in the intestine and even cause death.

If your goldfish swallows a large rock and the rock gets stuck in its digestive system, you may have to take the goldfish to a veterinarian. However, if you catch it while the rock is still in its throat, you can attempt to get it out yourself.

Recommended Further Reading:

How To Know If A Goldfish Has Swallowed Rocks?

You may not always be around when your goldfish swallows a rock. However, if your fish acts weird, you should suspect that it has swallowed something out of the ordinary.

Firstly, the rock that’s lodged in its throat will make it difficult for the fish to close its mouth. So, the fish may yawn continuously. If you notice this behavior, you should check the mouth of the fish.

Now, goldfish have a sensitive digestive system, and digestive disorders will impact their balance and movement. When a rock or stone reaches the intestine, it will compress the swim bladder of the fish. The swim bladder is the organ that regulates the movement of the fish. Hence, your goldfish will appear imbalanced in the water.

You may notice that it swims with its head lower than its tail. It may also float on its side or upside down.

How To Remove A Rock From The Mouth Of A Goldfish?

If your goldfish chokes on a rock or you see it swallow a pebble and not spit it out, don’t wait for too long to intervene.

You can remove the rock if it’s still in the throat and hasn’t entered the intestine of the fish. However, leaving it there for too long can create bigger problems and end up being life-threatening for your fish.

Although it is possible to get the rock out of the mouth of the goldfish, it’s not easy. You should exercise due caution while attempting it.

The first thing you should do is net the fish and bring it to the surface. As it reaches the top of the tank, it should open its mouth. If it does not, you may have to pry the mouth open gently. Look inside and check if you can spot the stone in its throat.

If you can see it, you can gently try to push it out of the fish. However, it is easier to use a pair of long and thin tweezers to dislodge the rock from its throat. Given below are the steps to use tweezers for getting the rock out.

  1. Make sure that your hands are wet when you grip the goldfish.
  2. Carefully and gently insert the tweezers into its mouth.
  3. Gently get hold of the rock and pull it out. If the rock is stuck and you cannot pry it out, return the fish to the water. Once it calms down, resume the process. Do not hold your fish outside water for more than two minutes as it can suffocate.

If you are unsuccessful in your attempt, seek help from a vet. You may also have to consider taking your fish to a vet if it has swallowed a large rock and it gets stuck in its intestine.

It is less concerning if your goldfish swallows sand or fine pieces of rock as it will naturally pass in some time. However, it can cause constipation and digestive problems.

To help your fish expel it faster, you can feed it cooked and shelled peas. The pea will flush the debris out of its system and make it feel better.

Interesting Further Reading:

How To Prevent Goldfish From Eating Rocks And Stones?

Given the gregarious nature of goldfish, it’s wise to prevent the circumstances that get these animals in trouble. If they find rocks that fit their mouths, they will attempt to eat them.

Even if you rescue your goldfish once by dislodging a rock from its throat, the fish can end up repeating its mistake. Hence, it’s always advisable to prevent the situation in the first place.

You can use large rocks in your aquarium. However, avoid small rocks and pebbles. Goldfish will only eat things that fit their mouths. So, if the rocks in your aquarium are too big for their mouth, your goldfish will be safe.

Sand is safer than small rocks and pebbles. Although your fish may swallow the sand, it’s rarely life-threatening.

Nevertheless, you should pay attention to the quality of the sand you choose. Your goldfish will constantly ingest and eject this sand. Hence, it should be free from toxins and chemicals. While it passes through their digestive system, any toxins in the sand can adversely affect their health.

Additionally, if you don’t clean the substrate frequently, the germs and parasites in it can cause infections in fish. Your goldfish can end up stressed and sick. Choose good quality sand and clean it often to eliminate the possibility of diseases affecting your fish.

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