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What do goldfish like to eat? Healthy diet for your pet fish

What do goldfish like to eat

Are you a beginner goldfish as a pet keeper? Well, “what do goldfish like to eat?” is a common question expected of you. It’s great if you already know. However, if you’re yet to, don’t worry because you’ll find out soon. Just read on.  

Firstly, it will help to appreciate that different fish have different dietary needs. That notwithstanding, a varied and nutritional diet is vital to any pet fish. That said matching the natural goldfish food in your goldfish tank is the surest way to a healthy diet.

By now, the obvious question in your mind is, what do goldfish eat in the wild? After establishing that, all you need is to replicate in your goldfish tank.

Well, goldfish are from the omnivores carp family. Their diet is therefore uniform regardless of the variety of goldfish you choose. Being omnivores, practically anything in the tank that can fit in their mouth is food to them. Aquarium plants and even animal matter are not spared among others.

In their wild slow moving freshwater habitats, these are easy to find in plenty. The most common include but not limited to algae on substrate/rocks, insects, smaller fish, eggs, crustaceans among others.

Just FYI, because goldfish eat mosquito larvae, they have sometimes been released in still waters to eliminate mosquito. 

The diverse aquatic vegetation in the ponds provides fiber in plenty. This is what helps goldfish with digestion of all kinds of matter they eat.

Likewise, even in the aquariums, it shouldn’t be too much of a hustle to get suitable feed for them. This is because they are not restricted on what they can eat.

What do goldfish like to eat?

If you replicate the wild habitation for goldfish in your aquarium, they’ll assuredly be happy and healthy.

What do goldfish like to eat is best displayed by the irresistible looks of goldfishes’ pleading eyes during feeding time. They’ll be wiggling those colorful fins as you feed them with their favorite foods. 

A varied and tasty diet will provide for the vital nutritional needs. This ensures your goldfish pet is healthy, disease free, active and has bright colors.

The mix of plant matter and live worms and insects is a perfect combination. In-fact, supplements will be needed only in the absence of the above described variation.

The vital diet compositions for your pet fish are fats and proteins. Proteins are especially critical for growth till maturity of your fish. In the developmental stage, they should form 40% – 45% of the diet. However, when they are mature, you can cut down on protein rich feeds to about 30% – 35%.

Tubifex worms and water fleas for instance are good goldfish live foods. They, among others are great sources of proteins. Unfortunately however, they also pose a danger to the health of your pet fish.

How you ask? Well, because they may be harboring infections and illness causing micro-organisms. As a result, these are introduced to the tank and eventually to the fish.

Following that therefore, live food for goldfish is alternatively replaced with protein rich frozen-dried feeds. For instance, frozen-dried daphnia, brine shrimps, bloodworms, wax and blackworms are good and easy to get alternative food for goldfish.

Plant proteins are highly encouraged because they are easily digested. 

For the energy, they need fats which could be 10% – 15% of the feeds. While plants may be the least source of fats, they are however found in most other matters that they feed on.    

Vitamins too are part of the diet. However, just like fats, they are found in plenty in most feeds as well as from water. This is true also for most minerals too. Amazingly, goldfish make most vitamins by themselves.

Recreating wild ecosystem in the tank; Natural source of what goldfish feed on;

It’s very normal to see fish and other tank lives scavenging deep down the tank. This is no different from what they would do on the sludge of ponds and streams. As such, you can (well, should) add rocks, fine gravel or even sand to the tank.

These form the base where uneaten foods and other matter will settle on. Subsequently, the fish find lots of fun swirling around the tank base scavenging for these feeds. Amazingly, they’ll still do even if they are rotting.

Further, on the rocks and gravel, algae grow which forms part of fish food. Similarly, some plants like hornworts which are fast growing are very good for your fish to once in a while nibble and bite off just small chunks.

Do goldfish have teeth and can goldfish bite?

Well, before deep diving on what do goldfish eat, a little digression won’t hurt. A common query is; do goldfish have teeth?

The simple answer is, YES, goldfish have teeth. In addition, goldfish can bite too.

Their “teeth” are referred to as pharyngeal teeth and are found deep inside, at the back of the throat. They are tiny and not sharp.

Amazingly, in the course of their lifetime, these teeth are lost and regrow again and again.

What goldfish do like to eat in the aquarium? Healthy diet composition:

As you get concerned with what do goldfish like to eat, it’s not so with them. As earlier stated, goldfish will comfortably feed on anything that can fit in their mouths. Unfortunately though, not everything is the right diet.

The three components of the recommended diet are;

The staple diet;

A wholesome staple diet will eliminate any nutritional deficiencies.

The diet is made of minerals, proteins, fats/carbohydrates and vitamins in just the right rations. Consequently, the health of your fish at every stage developmentally is assured.

While all this may not easily come by from your kitchen, you luckily have them formulated for you in fish feeds and easily available in pet stores.

These come in three main types. Meanwhile, one choice at a time will still do the same great job to your fish. Overtime however, you’ll note which of the three that your fish prefer and possibly stick with it. Once in a while though, you could still interchange with either of the others. Choose from;

  • Flake foods: Most common manufactured fish food.While readily available and largely inexpensive, quality is a big challenge. 
  • Pellets: Composition is similar to that of flake foods, only compressed into pellets. Depending on the quality, all you need is to soak shortly and boom!!! Your goldfish have a meal. When buying however, carefully check because some have a single ingredient type.
  • Goldfish gel food: This is particularly moist. As such, it’s very ideal for fancy goldfish which are prone to in/digestion issues. This makes them susceptible to swim bladder disease.

Note: If comparing goldfish flakes vs pellets, pellets are highly preferred. Nutritional value of flakes drops when exposed to air. This is not so with pellets.


This is basically fiber that is much needed for digestion. You too can’t do without it. Remember what goldfish feed on is unlimited. As a result, it must have a well abled digestive system else it will have health challenges like constipation.

The much needed fiber can easily be found without breaking a sweat. Your kitchen must surely surplus veggies for your goldfish. Yes, those vegetables and leafy greens are good enough sources.

If you may be asking, specifically what vegetables can goldfish eat?  Well, these include and not limited to lettuce, kales and spinach among many others.

The good thing with forage is that, there is no harmful excessive intake. Unlike fats or proteins which should be feed on moderation, they can eat forage round the clock and aren’t at any risk.  

That said, sometimes, it may be difficult to introduce or ensure they eat the fiber rich foods. As such, you may consider withdrawing fish feeds from the pet stores a bit. You can starve them till they eat. Don’t worry, they won’t die.

In any-case, goldfish can stay without food for days and not die. They don’t know what’s best for them.


However, to ensure the quality of the water in the tank is maintained, remember to get rid of the uneaten vegetables.

If they decay in there, harmful compounds like ammonia will be deposited. Subsequently, the aquatic balance is upset which is not healthy for the fish.

Nutritional Treats:

You can break the “boredom” of just serving one type of food day in day out. They I’ll love a spicy change just like you’d. The good thing is that, they are just as nutritiously packed like their staple diet.

These are mostly protein rich live and frozen-dried foods. They are good source of nutrients for fish that have recently been stressed out. That could be by recent illness or movement to new aquariums. They help in hastening recovery.

Unfortunately, just like how “too much burger” is unhealthy for you, so too are treats to fish. This is particularly so because of the high protein levels.

The rule of thumb on how much do you feed a goldfish at any time is what it can finish in less than 2 minutes. Actually, its food should be the size of its eye.

What can goldfish eat guide table; Summary for easy reference;

Because you may not always remember what you may or may not feed your fish on, the table below will help you if unsure. What human food can you feed a goldfish is also listed. It certainly is not exhaustive but good enough for you pet.  

Common Fish FoodFruitsKitchen VegetablesNutritional treats
Flake foodsSliced WatermelonsCilantroFrozen and freeze dried bloodworms
PelletsSliced bananasPeeled PeasDaphnia
Gel foodsSkinned grapesLettuceBrine shrimp
 BerriesPeeled CucumberDried Krill
  Spinach & KalesMosquito and fly larvae
  Sliced and steamed carrots 

Why is my goldfish not eating?

Firstly, goldfish love to eat. As such, it should concern you if your fish is not eating.

So, what are the reasons why he may not be interested in food?

  • Out of choice: You may have all things in the tank well under check. Further, you provide what goldfish eat and still, no eating. Do not worry. Goldfish can go without food and still be healthy. Sometimes, they’ve just choose to starve.  
  • Food variety preference: They too develop preference overtime. They may also develop a dislike for “monotonous” foods. You may explore a varying diet composition. It would help to find out; what your do goldfish like to eat?
  • If the fish has swim-bladder disease: Fish’s upright and deep swimming equilibrium depend on the gas filled sac called the swim bladder.  It’s just at the end of the digestive tract.

In-case of overfeeding or too much fat from “obesity”, the swim bladder is pressed on. As a result, the fish loses balance. In this state, the fish will not eat.

How do you diagnose? The fish floats and swims sideways.

Also, a constipated fish will not eat. In-fact, the fish will just stay at the bottom of the tank with limited or no movement.

Remedy: In both cases, starving the fish for about 2 – 4 days to clear the digestion. Fiber rich foods can hasten the digestion.

  • Change in water quality: Unlike tropical fish, goldfish and especially fancy goldfish like their water temperatures within 62F – 74F. Extremes beyond either range limits have effects, among them, not eating. (See article on aquarium water heaters).

Moreover, goldfish excrete more. The waste breakdown releases ammonia which when further broken-down releases nitrite and nitrate. While nitrate levels can be excused at about 20ppm, both ammonia and nitrite MUST always be NIL, else the fish dies.

As such, high levels of nitrate beyond the risk free levels will stress the fish. Subsequently, they’ll not eat your tasty feeds.


  • Use an ammonia levels’ testing kit. You’re able to establish if it’s the reason why fish are not eating.
  • Observe the fish’s position in the tank and general wellness. If you note the belly turning reddish, the ammonia spiked water may have caused it internal bleeding. Mostly, it ends up in fish fatality.


  • Avoid overstocking and overfeeding. Waste will subsequently reduce.
  • Use filter to restore the quality of water.
  • A water change is needed. It should be consistent but gradual else you upset the aquarium’s biological set-up.

What common foods should not be fed to goldfish?  

When debating on what human food can you feed a goldfish, two common questions arise. Can goldfish eat rice? And can goldfish eat bread crumbs?

Well, while goldfish will feed on practically anything, not everything is good for them just because they can swallow.

  • Bread crumbs; mostly fed to fish in the ponds. Fish don’t have a stomach. If your goldfish swallows bread, it swells-up in the digestive tract. This poses the risk of constipation,
  • Rice: Just like bread, on absorbing water, rice (especially uncooked) swells almost up-to 3 times its size. Therefore, if you must serve rice, ensure it’s cooked. And even then, very tiny portions than normal feeds’ size is advised.


What do goldfish like to eat is by now articulately addressed. You can proceed to properly plan and stock your goldfish feeds’ cupboard adequately.

Keep them healthy.

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