Here’s the brutal truth about feeding your goldfish:
There is WAY too much confusion surrounding what kind of food is best and how much of it should be given each day.
Some say, “just feed the fish when it looks hungry.”
If only it were that easy…
If you’re serious about making sure your goldfish is healthy, you need to be very careful with exactly what and how much you are putting in the tank.
Otherwise you can end up causing your fish lasting damage (or even death).
Well today I’m going to show you the formula that will push you further along towards have a healthy fish and a stable aquarium for years to come.
Keep reading to learn how…
The Fail-Proof Feeding Formula (for Savvy Fish Owners)
There are 3 steps to this technique.
Step 1: Craft a digestive-friendly diet
Step 2: Know how much to give them
Step 3: Stick to the routine
Here’s why this method works (and why it will make your life so much easier):
It takes out all the guesswork and uncertainty out of mealtimes.
All of a sudden YOU have the power of knowing exactly what to do and how to do it.
You won’t be just hoping you’re feeding your fish properly… you’ll know you’re feeding your fish properly!
Step #1: Here are the Best Goldfish Foods You Should Feed
As you may know, the carp is the “granddaddy” of what we call goldfish.
They may look REALLY DIFFERENT on the outside because of so much selective breeding that’s been done to them…
…But they’re still carp.
Understanding what they would eat if they still lived in the wild will help us know what we should feed them.
This begs the question:
What do carp eat?
In the wild, carp aren’t very good hunters, but their diet includes a mix of plants and insects or worms.
Do your goldfish live in a pond like the carp?
Then you don’t have to worry about a lot of the issues we’re going to talk about today. That’s because the fish have lots to forage on already – just like the carp.
On the other hand:
If you have your goldfish inside, YOU are in charge of providing all of their nutrients.
Just get these two things: a staple diet food and foraging supplements.
Choosing a Good Quality Food for Your Goldfish
This will supply that protein and fat the fish needs to live, as well as other important vitamins and minerals.
Let’s get this out in the open right now:
Flakes are very popular.
But I don’t recommend them AT ALL.
They start falling apart and leaching ingredients into the tank as soon as they hit the water.
And it’s hard to tell exactly how much you’re using.
If those aren’t enough reasons to avoid them, there’s also the fact that most of them use cheap, junky filler ingredients to cut down their costs!
So what should you get instead?
1. Invest in a good quality staple diet food.
A good one will have better ingredients and a higher percentage of protein and fat. Plus, it is made to have all of the nutrients a goldfish will ever need for the rest of its life.
If you have slim-bodied goldfish, like Commons or Comets, they aren’t as prone to problems like constipation.
You still want to avoid low-quality foods (foods that aren’t high in soy, corn and starches) because they can foul your water and lead to health problems over time, but their diet doesn’t need to be quite as strict as a fancy goldfish.
Fancy goldfish have modified bodies and are SUPER prone to swim bladder problems if their diet isn’t just right.
It should not contain any fillers, wheat or wheat gluten (goldfish aren’t grain-eaters and don’t digest wheat, which can cause swim bladder problems!) or chicken (protein should come from marine sources).
Most of the common brands are literally junk food for your fish and don’t meet all of these requirements, not even many of the ones marketed as “high end” goldfish food brands.
For sinking pellets, the brand called Azayaka is the best I’ve ever come across. It uses high quality ingredients without any of the things mentioned above. It actually has fish collagen in it to promote healthy scales and fins.
AND it’s perfect for on-the-go feeding. My fish seem to really enjoy the taste as well.
Here’s how to choose which one is right for your fish:
- If your fish is over a year old, you will want to use the basic adult formula. It has a lower protein percentage to prevent internal issues common in older fish fed too much richfood. I find my fish do great on a small feeding of this food once per day, it doesn’t cloud the water also which is a plus.
- For young fish from 3-12 months old, the growth formula is recommended. Younger fish should eat this higher protein food in very small amounts several times a day to help build muscle mass (a goldfish does most of its growing in the first year.)
- Finally, the Azayaka fry formula is good if you have baby fish on your hands. Baby fish also should be fed small amounts frequently with lots of water changes.
Pellets offer the advantage of being easy to feed and store. You don’t have to fuss with making up a new batch every week or two.
You can also use pellets in an automatic feeder so you can just “set it and forget it” once every week or so. Great for us busy fish keepers.
There is another kind of goldfish food called gel food, which is fed to the fish in a wet form. Because it is moist, it helps minimize the risk of constipation that could be more of an issue with dry foods if they get impacted in teh digestive tract.
I also really like Repashy Super Gold gel food for my goldfish because it is one of the very few brands of gel food that does suite the unique digestive and nutritional needs of goldfish with a higher quality ingredient list.
You can get it here.
The jars come with a powder that you add water to and cook up.
Its higher protein formula is best for younger goldfish. But if you do want to feed Repashy Super Gold to an adult fish, just be sure to feed it sparingly.
It will be well worth the extra money!
Gel food can also actually be made right in your own kitchen, if you have the ingredients.
The food will only be as good as what you put in it. Goldfish have some pretty complex nutrition needs, so you will have to do some homework and figure out everything you will need to get and how much of it to use.
Also, hate to burst your bubble…
… but you probably WON’T save money doing it this way.
Like a good quality pellet would, it will need to have high protein and fat with little fiber.
So, which is better – pellets, or gel food?
It depends on what works best for your unique fish and you, as the fish keeper. You might even try using both (like I do) and see which you prefer.
After all, your fish might find it nice to break things up. 🙂
2. Fibrous veggies: These will ensure that your goldfish gets the fiber it would get if it lived in the wild and counterbalance the rich pellets.
There are a lot of options here.
My personal recommendation is to get some leafy greens from your refrigerator for your goldfish to nibble on.
You’ll want to get enough of them (and maybe some different kinds) so they don’t all get eaten up right off the bat.
Your goldfish DOES need to eat a daily salad!
And – bada bing, bada boom – you’re set.
Once you’ve gotten these two things, move on to step #2…
Step #2: Avoid the Pitfalls of Overfeeding By Knowing How Much to Dish Up
I think you’ll agree with me when I say:
Eating a cheeseburger is GREAT every so often.
But eating one every meal of your life – breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Not so much.
You know the reason… it’s too rich!
Goldfish foods, even good quality foods, are rich like burgers. They’re fatty and high in protein. Too much rich food = sick fish.
While goldfish DO need some rich food to live, how much they eat of it has to be very controlled or they end up sick and overweight.
By nature, goldfish are foragers (like the carp).
They have only one goal in life: EAT – and eat as much as possible!
This is because their survival instincts tell them to prepare fat reserves when food is available for the cold winter when food is scarce. It works well for carp who have those lean times… but not for goldfish who don’t.
By now you know that goldfish are simply “repackaged” carp.
Here’s the bad news:
All of these changes have made goldfish (especially the fancy kind) very sensitive in respect to diet. That’s because their bodies have gotten much shorter… but their organs have not.
Their swim bladders and livers are especially prone to getting damaged by eating too much FATTY FOODS.
Fat builds up in and around their organs and can lead to problems with fluid balance… even to the point of getting the disease dropsy!
That is… if you overfeed.
This brings us to the next pointt:
Just how much of those pellets should you be giving your fish so they don’t get overfed?
You may have heard this before:
“Feed fish as much as much as they can consume in a 2-3 minute period several times daily.”
“Feed no more than your fish will consume in 5 minutes twice a day.”
Those instructions will take your goldfish to bad health faster than a greased pig on roller skates in the average aquarium.
See, unless you follow all of the best practices for goldfish care, you can’t feed your fish that way.
Because foods is the biggest contributor to water quality problems.
A time frame of about 30 seconds is all most goldfish keepers should be aiming to feed in. Any more than that… and you are actually risking your tank.
Want to know the scary part?
Those directions actually came from labels on goldfish pellets from well-known pet stores! The average fish keeper reads them and thinks to themselves, “Perfect. My fish aren’t overfed because I stay within those limits.”
But not long after, they don’t know why their fish are ill – maybe even dying.
It doesn’t take long to eat the amount of food a goldfish needs.
Even though they don’t need more nutrients, the rest of the day they will feel hungry.
So they beg.
Seems glutinous, but actually they’re BORED without being able to forge. (Instincts, remember?) Because they’re not eating anything at that exact moment, they think they’re starving when they aren’t.
This is where the veggies come into play.
Leafy veggies like spinach or lettuce help balance out that rich food. And having 24/7 access to those healthy leafy greens will make sure your goldie always has something to munch on.
But you should know…
Plants aren’t nearly as tasty as pellets – they’re a lot more tough and stringy – so your fish will be reluctant to eat them.
So here’s a little goldfish parenting 101:
If they aren’t eating their salad, don’t give them any pellets.
(Eventually they’ll cave in!)
Try freezing your veggies to soften them up before serving if your goldfish don’t seem interested. That always does the trick for mine 🙂
Oh, and don’t forget – you’ll probably want to use a veggie clip. It will help keep the leaves from getting stuck on the filter – plus, you’ll always know when it’s time to refill.
The magnetic kind last the longest and work well on both glass & acrylic tanks.
Step #3: Get in the Habit of Following a Feeding Schedule
Here’s the last step in my easy-as-pie feeding guide:
Stick to a routine.
If you don’t use an automatic feeder, you’ll probably want to pick a set time every day to feed so you won’t forget to drop in the daily ration of pellets, gel food or live food and make sure there is enough leafy greens in the tank.
You can tell if they are if you see little bites out of the leaves and the amount is getting smaller…
… Or by the color of their stool (it will be dark green).
How often do you feed your goldfish?
Adult goldfish should only be fed 1 time per day with high protein food. Smaller fish need more frequent feedings of little portions to grow big and strong.
They can still eat veggies around the clock, as much as they want, so you aren’t depriving them.
Feeding time is also a great time to check on your fish’s general health.
Here’s the deal:
People often overfeed because their fish acts like it is still hungry even after eating its pellets. It will do everything it can to look cute and irresistible to get you to buckle.
DON’T do it!
You aren’t being mean when you cap the jar and cross your arms. You’re doing what’s best for them.
(Remember… if it was up to your goldfish, it would eat itself to death.)
Another reason fish owners give in is they want their fish to get big and strong FAST. If that’s you, give your fish a bigger tank, not bigger portions.
Overfeeding won’t speed up growth.
Some goldfish owners try to make their pets look fatter by stuffing them with pellets. But “plumping up” them up will only make them overweight.
A blimped-out, sick fish is far less adorable than a trim, healthy one – wouldn’t you agree?
Proper care (and good genetics) will make a fish look stout and healthy.
If you have multiple fish, making sure that everyone gets their fair share can be a little tricky.
That’s why you could try hand feeding your goldfish.
It makes it WAY EASIER to control who gets what during the feeding frenzy.
You’ll probably find that the time it takes to train your fish will depend on how cleaver it is. Newer fish will be more easily frightened of you, but don’t give up.
For the fish that just doesn’t get it (or has poor vision, like a Telescope), you can try putting them in a floating basket while giving them food. There will be less room to search around and other fish won’t interfere.
If one fish happens to get more than the others some dinner, resist the urge to give the others more.
Here’s a helpful video on how to do it:
Food for Thought: Other Stuff You Could Feed Your Goldfish
Goldfish are major gluttons and will eat just about anything.
That news has lead many owners to start experimenting with their goldfish’s diet.
I like to find one system and stick with it.
What’s the bottom line?
As long as your goldfish has a good quality pellet and some greens to graze on, you don’t need any of these other foods.
“Variety” may be a popular buzzword lots of people are using as the key to a great goldfish diet, but it’s totally overrated. For the most part, simpler is better. It’s easier for you and it’s easier for the fish.
If you feel adventurous and want try to switch things around, here are some other options:
What You Could Use Instead of Aquarium Plants
Not everyone wants aquatic plants in the tank to be used as food (which is why they get goldfish-proof ones instead).
That’s okay – just about any fibrous veggie will do.
A leaf of uncooked romaine lettuce, spinach or kale (though kale is a bit high in protein) can be placed in the tank and will do the job.
You’ll have to put up with rotting vegetables on the bottom of your tank. Not everyone wants to go for that look.
That’s why lots of goldfish keepers are finding success using veggie clips.
(Don’t forget to replace it when it runs out!)
As weird as it sounds…
Your goldfish will eat grass for its salad.
If you want to try it make sure you get the grass from a safe place. Don’t want to feed your goldfish something terrible like weed killer or other poisons accidentally!
One highly popular treat people use are peas.
You can take the shells and skins off and chop them with your fingernail.
Their easy to digest – and you don’t have to look any farther than your fridge to find them.
These are surprisingly pretty high in protein, which makes them a bad choice for counteracting protein-rich pellets. But they don’t have enough other nutrients to take their place.
And besides all that, they tend to cloud the water when mushed, so make sure not to squish them.
Pumpkin & Squash
They aren’t high in protein.
They aren’t high in fiber.
In other words…
They don’t have a whole lot to offer either.
But as an occasional treat, why not?
Fruits such as orange slices or other types of citrus are tasty and complement pellets by being low in protein.
BUT, they’re really acidic.
And certain kinds are a little too sugary.
I’d recommend staying away from it as it isn’t very close to the natural diet of a fish.
Other Treats You Can Feed Instead of Gel Food/Pellets
There is a LOT to be said for the professional fish nutritionist who made your brand of pellets.
They’re made to sustain your goldfish for the rest of its life.
There are other substitutes.
Live Foods (or Frozen Foods)
These are super digestible and high in protein. And you can’t get more natural than a worm (yes, you can use earthworms) for a fish!
Baby goldfish eat tiny live foods such as baby brine shrimp to help with their growth.
If used sparingly, they make a nice diet supplement for more mature fish.
SPARINGLY is the key word.
I can’t give you an exact amount because there are so many different kinds of live food. When in doubt, less is more.
Foods such as freeze-dried bloodworms are commonly sold at pet stores as treats for goldfish.
They’re a lot like flakes. It’s hard to tell how much you are feeding and they’re extremely dry.
Some say the freeze-drying process zaps out nutrients anyway.
Others find their fish have more issues with floating due to the air bubbles trapped inside.