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Just how long can’t goldfish survive without food?

how long can’t goldfish survive without food

How long can’t goldfish survive without food? This is a major worry and concern for people who occasionally have to travel for days and may unfortunately not have minders to check on their goldfish pets while away. Genuinely, the fear is that your pets may not live long enough for lack of feeding in case you overstay.

Luckily though, roughly about 14 days (2 weeks). This is just about how long can goldfish go without eating and still safely survive. Anything beyond that will definitely be detrimental to its health if not fatal.

However though, the longtime known answer for this worry (mostly by hobbyist beginners) on how long can goldfish live without food was somewhat challenged in Christchurch New Zealand in 2011.

After the devastating earthquake, a case was reported of 2 goldfishes (Shaggy and Daphne) that survived 134days without food in their 26-gallon tank.  Arguments are that the two aggressive critters most probably survived on algae in the and possibly feed on their tank mates. However, how long do goldfish live without food seems to have been a settled case.

Basics to answering “how long can’t goldfish survive without food”

History documents that Asia is the origin of goldfish where it was mainly in royal residencies as a status symbol. Although they are in many homes today, cutting across socioeconomic levels, it wasn’t till early in the 21st century when they also became an opulence signature across Europe and the Americas.

Their close relation is the carp with whom they share habitation similarities. These include cool fresh water streams, ponds and rivers with habitation’s temperatures ranging from 42-82 Fahrenheit. 

Subsequently, the habitation supports aquatic plants’ life, crustaceans, algae on the rocks and substrate. All these, in addition to insect larvae, smaller fish, even fish eggs among other aquatic lives are the main food for the goldfish just like the carp. This essentially makes goldfish omnivores.

Worth noting however is, the lower or higher the pond temperatures are will slow or hasten food digestion respectively, and subsequently their rate of food uptake.

Another important note is, because of the homoeothermic nature of goldfish, food digestion is almost impossible in freezing temperatures and as such, any feeding should be very controlled and limited.

What to feed goldfish in your aquarium because they can’t live without food;

Surprisingly, goldfish do voraciously feed on almost anything natural they can get into their mouths.

However, the ideal menu for your mature goldfish in the aquarium or pond should largely consist of carbohydrates and moderate proteins. However, much of proteins than fats are necessary in the growth and development stage.

 Additionally, the diet should have sufficient fiber for digestion much of which is available in the aquatic plants. Additionally, vegetables and some fruits from your kitchen are also a great meal and fiber source for your goldfish.

Further, to ensure maximum health of your fish pet, it’s important and critical to feed them on a varied staple diet. The common source is the tropical fish foods like goldfish flakes and pellets/granules which are readily available in pet stores.

Goldfish are mostly mid-water and top-dweller feeders and as such, floating flakes are a good meal. However, they’ll still go down to the bottom to feed on the sunken pellets.  Flakes too will eventually sink and your goldfish will still follow.

For proteins, live feeds like live brine shrimps, ghost shrimp and daphnia whose average life span in fresh water is about 40 minutes are a great supplement. If you are not into live foods, frozen foods of the here above discussed shrimps are an alternative protein source.

How often do you feed goldfish?

It’s very a common concern with beginner breeders and hobbyists who want to know; really, how long can goldfish go without eating? For many, it’s purely pre-cautionary purposes driven. They want this information to help them decide if they need to draft a feeding goldfish program or just do sporadic feeding.

Frankly though, there is not a “MUST Adhere to” frequency to feed them. The only fundamental thing you need to ensure is that, your pets are well fed whenever you do. Simply, whenever convenient with you is best.

Another accompanying concern is how much to feed a goldfish. Well, for a healthy fish, the rule of thumb is, only serve what it will finish in not more than 2 minutes. Additionally, your goldfish’s feed should be the size of its eye.    

Excess food will decompose, affecting the quality of the aquarium’s water which is not healthy for the fish’s living conditions.

Is routine feeding recommended for the fish?

Yes it is if practical. A predictable routine of say, twice or thrice a day is good for adult goldfishes. For the fingerlings and growing goldfishes however, maybe more than thrice maybe considered. This is because they eat tinnier than normal portions.

Just like they wouldn’t be feeding continuously round the clock in their natural habitation, breaks between feeding times are not stressful to the fish. In any-case, vet nutritionists advice that the pet fish’s food uptake and digestion isn’t suited for large portions in one go.  

How to feed serve goldfish;

Just like your food, the correct way of preparing and serving it is critical; else the foods can be a source of health problems to your pet fish.

Frozen feeds: They are great source of the much needed proteins.They are readily available in your nearest pet stores. Among many others, brine shrimps, blood worms, both black and white mosquito larvae are just some of the frozen feeds varieties.

Just get the right portion to serve and thaw in some warm water for a few minutes before lowering down in the aquarium.   

Dried fish-foods: Firstsoak them in water for a few minutes to soften them. Most, like the flakes, floats at the top and your goldfish like it from there. They are however a health a risk if they are not yet soft enough for the fish’s digestive system. This will cause constipation.

The resultant condition is the swim-bladder making the fish swim (mostly floating) with its bottom side up.  This is due to difficulty in breathing and further feeding.

Another challenge though subtle, while your goldfish is swallowing the floating food particles, they gasp in a lot of unnecessary air which could cause bloating.

Gel food: If you want to cut fish feed costs or you notice that your pet fish doesn’t really warm up to the normal tropical feeds (by the way, just like you, goldfish are known to be selective and have a taste for favorites), you can home-make a diet for them.  

The advantage is that you can leave out artificial components like preservatives which are generally not good for the pet’s health in the long run. Luckily, there are readymade mixes too which cuts your preparation time.

Vegetables:  These should be finely peeled and chopped. Additionally, depending on their toughness, you could have to boil to soften them prior to feeding them to the goldfish.     

How to know if the fish are under or over fed;

Case for Overfeeding:

It’s an all too common occurrence with beginner hobbyists who see the fish’s eye sized food portions as to small and fear starving their fish. As such, they unknowingly overfeed. Signs of overfeeding include but not limited to;

  1. Leftovers lining the bottom of the tank: The obvious problem about this is decomposition which pollutes the water for the goldfish.
  2. Presence of algae formation: Nutrients from the sunken excess fish feed provide a conducive environment for algae. While your goldfish will make a good meal out of it, it’s an indication that you are supplying more than needed food.
  3. Foul smell from your aquarium is another sign of overfeeding. The bacteria and other toxic micro-organisms thrive on the dirty environment hence the foul smell.
  4. When the fish takes more than 2-3 minutes to clear the food.
  5. Increase in your pet fish’s excretion. Excess food means increased if not continuous feeding. Subsequently, there will be resultant excess waste.

Case for underfeeding:

It’s possible to skip feeding for a prolonged phase without noticing. Mostly, this may occur if you don’t have an elaborate feeding plan to follow. Don’t push you luck so much just because you imagine you know how long can’t goldfish survive without food and deny them food.

Signs to signal this occurrence are;

  1. While lazy swimming could be a sign of other health issues, it could also be a prime sign of weakness out of not feeding enough.
  2.  General poor body shape and malnutrition.
  3. If you note the fish scavenging through the substrate.
  4. Sudden aggression against other tank-mates particularly the smaller ones could be an indication of hunger and could even make a meal out of them.
  5. Swimming and popping at the top could indicate that they are expecting food. However it could also be because they are gasping for air. That’s a potentially serious health risk.
  6. Change from the sparkling color to a duller shade. Shows deteriorating health which is possibly from starving.
  7. When you are feeding them and notice aggression and greed like behavior, just know they have been starving.

How overfeeding is risky to your fish pet;

Overfeeding is one of the most “genuine” mistakes when it’s feeding time. The fun and exuberance while feeding may make you not realize when you overdo it. Whatever the case however, it’s a health risk to the fish. Sounds funny but true. How is it?

  • Leftovers will in a short while start to decompose. Scientifically, for this to happen, extraction of oxygen from the water ensues. Resultantly, the water is de-oxygenated and thus low dissolved oxygen (DO) content results.

Also, the decomposition reactions generate warmth within the tank. You should know from your science lessons that oxygen in water reduces when temperatures increase.

The eventual effect of oxygen insufficiency stresses the fish and is not healthy at all.

  • Just like with humans, excess feeding may end up causing obesity, so it is with fish too. Unfortunately, this comes with other complications and burdening of organs like kidneys and liver.
  • The excess feeds and the decomposing residue forms increases risks of clogging your aquarium filters. Malfunctioning or inefficiency of the filters has a detrimental effect of the water environment. 
  • The decaying feeds form sludge that emits excess ammonia in the aquarium. This ammonia affects the lungs and can easily kill your goldfish.
  • Carbonic acid forms when carbon dioxide is released and dissolves in the water from the organic materials breakdown. Subsequently, this has an effect of upsetting the water’s pH to unsafe levels. 

How to avoid either under feeding or over feeding;

  • One safe and sure way of avoiding either over or under feeding is using an automated feeder. With just programming the right proportions and intervals, you are sure that only the correct portion is dispensed.
  • Ensure the food you serve is consumed roughly within the recommended 2-3 minutes. If it takes longer to finish, it could indicate that you have served more than necessary. The opposite is true.
  • If travelling and leaving the fish under inexperienced minder or fish sitter, you could make small feed packs/boxes for each interval. By this, you’ll ensure the food portions are not his/her discretion. Essentially, there no risks of overfeeding.  

How to plan feeding your goldfish while away:

When you have to be away from your pet fish for whatever reason can be very emotionally draining. Even more stressful is when there are pets to be cared for.

Sadly though, if you have no minder you could trust with the task of feeding your pet fish while away, then among your queries and travel uncertainties that you must find answers to is, how long can goldfish go without food?

Failure to correctly figure that out could mean you coming home to lifeless or irreversibly unhealthy fishes. In short, how long can goldfish survive without food when you’re away is influenced by how well you’ve feed and prepared your goldfish feeding while away.

However, these are some of the ways to care for your goldfish while away;

  • Just as you would with your children, get a minder to do it for you. In-case you choose not to bother your neighbors, just as with most public aquariums like in hospitals and schools, you could hire the services of a commercial fish sitter.
  • You can get yourself an automated fish feeder machine. These are mainly for dispensing dried or freeze dried feeds. You just need to program it as per your established routine timings and the right portions of feed to drop in the tank.
  • Slow release foods are an option. But for the high risk of increased ammonia in the aquarium which affects the lungs when sludge forms, slow release like the compressed food blocks which your goldfish can glaze on could be an intermediate step. Should not be your long-term plan though.

There are mainly 2 block types;

  1. Weekend feeder blocks that last just about 3 or so days. Very ideal for a short weekend away.
  2. Vacation feeder blocks: These can last slightly past 10 days and may be an option if you are away for such a long duration. However, caution should be considered as explained above.

When can you justifiably underfeed or not feed at all?

Just because you satisfied your curiosity on how long can goldfish go without eating isn’t justification enough to withhold food unnecessarily. However, there are times when you may do so albeit for a short stint. This could be if;

  • The water in the aquarium is polluted. Adding more food in only makes it worse by increasing chances of surplus feed rotting in there. You may need to reasonably cut food altogether or considerably as your clean the water. Water filters will do a perfect job.
  • If you overfed before or the fish is suffering digestion issues and constipation resulting to swim-bladder, then you may need to allow time for it to come round and recover.
  • When your fish’s tank temperatures massively drop, say like in winter, avoid feeding because low temperatures highly compromises metabolism. However, you may turn to foods made of wheat germ during that period.

How long can’t goldfish survive without food? This I believe is now no longer a concern whether you are home or are out travelling. All you now need is to make workable arrangements and both you and your goldfish will enjoy each other’s company.

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