Food Options & Feeding Schedules

Step 8: Providing Nutritious Meals

Published September 8, 2015

When considering food options for your goldfish it is extremely important to know what you are feeding, how much to feed, and methods of feeding. Just like you need a balanced diet, so does your goldfish. Misfeeding your goldfish can lead to all kinds of problems, including buoyancy issues, constipation, and weight gain. Here I'll tell you how to avoid these problems while feeding in a way that is easy for you and great for the goldfish. 

What Do I Need to Feed My Goldfish?

There are several choices for processed fish food available. Just keep in mind that goldfish eat just like humans and processed food can contain a lot of fillers that have little to no nutritional value. Choose food that have recognizable products and don’t contain ash (a byproduct of low grade seafood, scales and bone that is used as a filler).

When feeding my goldfish, I like to have a staple diet and add supplements as needed or as treats. I've found that most people generally use pellet food as the goldfish’s consistent stable diet. This is probably due to the wide availability of pellets with many different composition. When choosing pellet food make sure that is contains a variety of nutrients, the correct size, and is sinking instead of floating. 

Sinking pellets are of better use because they do not require the goldfish to come to the water’s surface to feed. When floating pellets are used, goldfish create a bad habit of sucking air at the water’s surface which can lead to swim bladder and buoyancy issues. If the sinking pellets have issues sinking or you only have floating pellets, you can soak the pellets in tank water for a couple of minutes and release them below the water’s surface. Skittish goldfish tend to feel more safe closer to the bottom and out of sight of predators. Coming up to the surface to feed on the floating pellets can be stressful because goldfish cannot see below them.

Many pellet food companies provide different sized pellets ranging from small to large. The goal is to provide your sized fish with the right sized pellet. Regardless of size, I like to only feed my fish small pellets. My logic is that larger size pellets can still get stuck in the goldfish’s digestive tract preventing the uptake of nutrients and causing constipation. With smaller pellets there is less restriction (especially if the pellets are soaked) and nutrients are more easily absorbed.  

Now on the flake food. It is not uncommon for people to get fish flakes with their first goldfish. This is yet another decision made in ignorance or at the advice of an uninformed local fish store employee. Flake food floats causing the goldfish to come to the water’s surface to feed. Exactly like feeding floating pellets, goldfish are subjected to buoyancy issues because they're gulping in air. There are also some rumors that because flakes are so thin and papery nutrients leach out in the water. Flakes, that have not been eaten, can be sucked into the filter causing buildup and leading to a decreased flow rate.  At this point the fish flakes are pointless because they are dissipating in the water or being sucked up by your filtration system before the fish have a chance to enjoy.

Gel Foods are by far the best staple food that provides balanced nutrition because it is easy on the digestive tract and can be absorbed readily. Before there were mass produced gel foods on the market, many hobbyist made their food at home with a variety of ingredients; however, it might not be a nutritionally balanced as commercial brands that we have today. The most popular gel food for goldfish is Repashy’s Soilent Green and Super Green. These different formulas can be blended for the desired effect. It can be modified for young and old goldfish. Certain recipes can prepare goldfish for spawning or can increase growth in fry. Gel foods are well rounded and extremely versatile because it can be the base to any addition or combination of foods, minerals, vitamins, supplements, or medicines that your fish needs.  

Supplemental foods are just that, it completes and rounds out goldfish's diet. They are meant to provide specific nutrients and vitamins in the diet that should not be given in excess. In the case of protein supplements, too much can increase the bioload, or waste production, causing spikes in the cycle. So, it is important to keep the quantities of supplemental foods under control. Although most supplemental foods provided great nutrition, some are generally useless because of how they are prepared. An example would be freeze-dried foods. These tend to hold a lot a air even if they are soaked. As we already know, goldfish and gulping air do not mix well. The freeze drying process also renders the product devoid of nutrients making this supplemental food not a good choice. Good supplemental foods include: 

Frozen foods: Includes bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, and many others. Great because they provide high protein which can be great for growth in fry or show fish.

Veggies: Includes kale, spinach, cucumbers, broccoli, edamame, peas, and many others. Can be used to help with buoyancy issues and constipation. Keep in mind that vegetables are not a fix all for these issues.  

Fruit: Great as a very small snack but should not be given on a regular basis because of high sugar content. 

Never feed your goldfish anything that is canned or contains pickling liquid and/or salts. In the wild goldfish do not eat dairy or wheat-based products; so don’t feed these items either. 

How Much Should I Feed My Goldfish?

If you’ve already kept goldfish than you probably know how these little water piggies work. Goldfish always seem hungry because of their persistent scavenging behavior. In the wild, carp spend most of their time grazing and digging in the substrate looking for food. Because food is so scarce in the wild, goldfish eat inconsistently and are constantly searching. So please do not be fooled into overfeed by your goldfish.

It is recommended that you feed your goldfish 0.5% to 2.0% of total body weight. The reason that I didn’t say to feed in a time limit is because each goldfish can be shaped differently. Some are long and thin while others are robust and stout. Weighing each of your fish and feeding based on that weight will give you more accurate results if you are trying to raise fry, increase growth in a show fish, or have changing water temperatures. Weighing each month should account for increased weight; therefore, you should adjust feeding mostly. Typically, 1% (for pellets) and 2% (for gel) are what most people choose to feed if there is no prospect in mind. 

What Method Should I Take to Feed My Goldfish?

It is important to mimic how goldfish would eat if they were in the wild. This means avoiding feeding in one go at all cost. In their natural environment, the foods that are available are in small amounts; therefore, when goldfish come across an abundance of food they tend to over indulge and eat beyond capacity. Overfeeding can cause the goldfish to gorge resulting in an impacted intestinal tract. Connected to the intestinal tract is the swim bladder. When the intestinal tract is working efficiently, fish are able to stay afloat and swim with ease. However, when the intestinal tract is running slow, floating issues may ensue because there is no gas exchange between the intestinal tract and the swim bladder. 

Now say that you have been overfeeding and your goldfish have become constipated. Some people will recommend that not giving your goldfish for a day or two will relieve the constipation and allow things to flow smoothly. When your goldfish is constipated there is no gas exchange between the swim bladder and the intestinal tract. Furthermore, fasting you fish will result in no gas exchange either because there is no food to stimulate the beneficial bacteria inside that help digest food to produce gas. Fasting can also lead to a spike in the cycle because there is no waste being produced for a time being. As we know the nitrifying bacteria residing on the filter media depends on the decomposition of waste to ammonia and nitrite to survive. Starving your goldfish will starve you beneficial bacteria. Either way you look at it, its a lose-lose situation and definitely not recommended. 

To evade constipation and buoyancy issues, it is important to feed your fish consistently and less often; about three to six times a day. Now for people who are not home all the time this can be challenging. Never fear though there are automatic fish food feeders that you add to the top if your tank. Automatic feeders contain wells that release food at the set intervals of your choice. I’ve read that using an automatic feeder improves the activity of goldfish by keeping them anticipating the upcoming feast. 

Providing a nutritional balanced diet should give a healthy goldfish for years to come. 

Happy Goldfish Keeping!
- Nikita

References 

Emma. Koko's Goldfish. Keeping Goldfish: A BREIF GUIDE FOR NEW OWNERS. Retrieved June 10, 2015.

Lynx, Jennifer. Solid Goldfish. Goldfish 101. Retrieved June 11, 2015.

Koko's Goldfish Forum. Fish Food. Retrieved Sept 6, 2015

Sharon (shakaho). Koko's Goldfish Forum. Kokos Goldfish Forum Guidelines for Healthy Goldfish. Retrieved June 10, 2015.

Rand, Brenda. Goldfish Emergency. 10 Easy Steps to Goldfish and Koi Keeping. Retrieved June 10, 2015.

Von G, Lynda;  Wellman, Shannon. Koko's Goldfish Ten Step to Healthy Goldfish. Retrieved June 10, 2015.