What do Goldfish eat?

Knowing what to feed your pet fish is essential to keeping them happy and healthy. The best way to know what to feed them is to understand what kind of fish you own and what their natural diets would consist of if they were in the wild.

what do goldfish eat

Doing your research about your fish breed and then doing your best to resemble their natural habitats closely is a great way to make them feel at home. Once you better understand your fish and their natural habitats, you can understand the various types of fish food on the market as well as which one is the best choice for your fish as well as your lifestyle.

Fish Flakes vs. Fish Pellets:

Fish Flakes:

Fish flakes are a very common choice among fish owners. They are easy to find, relatively inexpensive, they have a long shelf life, and fish seem to enjoy eating them. Now, just because they are cheap or easy to find doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not a quality fish food choice. Many fish flakes contain essential nutrients that fish need in their everyday diets.

However, this also doesn’t mean that every fish flake manufacturer is going to produce a quality product. Quality fish flakes should contain Vitamin C, Soybean Oil, Oatmeal, Shrimp Meal, Fish Oil, Algae Meal, and Sorbitol. Sorbitol is a common crystal-like compound that is found in some fruits.

Many fish flake manufacturers will include sorbitol to make the food taste sweeter and more enticing to the fish. Sorbitol is not harmful to your fish. Now, fish flakes are not something that your fish would eat if they were in the wild. However, the ingredients are usually beneficial and closely resemble the nutrients that they would get from natural foods.

Fish flakes would be a good choice for most species of goldfish. Goldfish do not have stomachs which mean that they digest their food very quickly and therefore need their food to be easily digestible. Fish flakes are just that!

Digestible! If you are unsure as to how to feed your goldfish this food choice, the best rule of thumb is only to feed them as much as they can consume within a few minutes time. Generally, this means about a pinch or two of flakes depending on how many fish you have in your aquarium. Do not provide too many flakes as the uneaten food will float to the bottom of the aquarium and become moldy. Fish Flakes will be a good choice if you have freshwater fish or goldfish.

This is an inexpensive product that is unlikely to go bad before you run out. Fish flakes are also an excellent choice if you have a busy lifestyle which does not allow for time-consuming feeding such as live or frozen food options.

Fish Pellets:

Fish pellets are similar to fish flakes in many ways. They are another common household choice among fish enthusiasts, they have a decent shelf life, they are created with many of the nutritional ingredients fish require, and they are relatively inexpensive. However, fish pellets are likely a better choice for larger fish or slow swimming fish (such as the Black Moor, the Pearlscale, or the Ryukin).

Slower swimming fish may not reach the fish flakes in time before they disintegrate into the water. Pellets, however, take a little longer to break down and will still be intact when the fish reach the surface. Fish pellets are designed to support the immune system and other bodily functions. They are made with necessary ingredients such as whole kelp, soy flour, wheat flour and wheat gluten.

Fish pellet manufacturers may include various other components that may or may not be beneficial to your particular fish. For example, wheat flour, wheat gluten, and soy flour are considered “fillers” and may or may not be beneficial to your fish. These fillers can also become an issue if you overfeed your fish as they can pack on the pounds rather quickly as a result of them. A quality fish pellet manufacturer will include ingredients like Astaxanthin which is an antioxidant found in marine life, as well as Spirulina which is a type of algae that provides fish with various vitamins and minerals.

Fish pellets would be an excellent choice for an aquarium that contains larger species of fish or fish that are “handicapped” swimmers. To feed your fish a pellet diet, provide up to 5 pellets (per fish) a few times each day. Since pellets can be filling, you may want to consider spacing out the feeding times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If your fish do not consume all of their pellets during a particular feeding, then it would be wise to cut the quantity down a pellet or two for the next time.

Uneaten pellets will dissolve in the water and cause the tank water to become cloudy, moldy and unsanitary for your tank inhabitants. Pellets are commonly sold at supermarkets, pet stores, and fish specific stores. They tend to have a relatively long shelf life which can be beneficial if you do not have a lot of fish in your aquarium or if you lead a busy lifestyle. Finally, pellets may be slightly more expensive than fish flakes.

However, the two are the most budget-friendly choices and therefore, if you are concerned about the cost then it would be wise to choose a quality fish flake or pellet fish food and stick with it. They can offer nutritional benefits to your fish while remaining budget-friendly and long lasting. Unlike the live foods or frozen foods which can get a little pricey and difficult to store. However, the live foods and frozen foods may offer better nutritional values to your fish. Let’s take a look at these options!

Live food vs. Frozen food:

Live Food:

Many fish hobbyists will choose live food or frozen food rather than fish flakes or pellets because they feel that their fish deserve the very best! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feed your fish any of these options. It all depends on your budget, your type of fish, and your lifestyle.

If you are not away from home a lot and have the time and budget to feed your fish live or frozen food, then these could be better options for you. Live food includes live aquarium plants, insects, worms, and larvae. Live food may be best suited for outdoor ponds with fish as not many people enjoy having containers of bugs and worms sitting around their home. Live foods and frozen foods come in various forms, and each one requires specific storage and will likely come with an expiration date.


One of the live foods that you could easily keep inside is a small crustacean called Daphnia. Daphnia is a perfect choice for fish of all ages, and they are easy to purchase at most pet stores. Daphnia is also an excellent choice because you can easily raise your own colony in a separate container in your home. Then, your fish can eat live, fresh food that is nutritionally beneficial without the high price tag.


Another live food source is called the Tubifex Worm. These worms like to live in shallow muddy ponds and will, therefore, hide in the gravel or substrate at the bottom of your aquarium or outdoor pond. If you choose to provide your fish with Tubifex worms then you are not only providing a healthy diet for your fish but, you are also bringing out the hunter in them!

This live food option may be best suited for fish that have good eyesight and are agile swimmers. They can then enjoy the hunt and the feeding at the same time!

If you do not mind live food choices for your fish, then you may also want to consider Brine Shrimp. Brine Shrimp are high in protein and easy to purchase at the local pet store. Although, you can also raise your own Brine Shrimp in a separate container in your home!

As beneficial as Brine Shrimp can be, they are better suited as a treat rather than a sole food source because of their high nutritional values. They may cause your fish to gain unwanted weight and therefore cause them to become ill or die. Allowing your fish to enjoy some Brine Shrimp a few times a week is highly recommended for the nutritional boost and tasty treat!

White Worms:

White Worms can make another fantastic live food option for your fish! White Worms are small in size (about a half an inch in length). Their size makes them an excellent choice for smaller fish or fry fish. They are also a good choice for aquariums that are required to stay at a cooler temperature as White Worms do best in cooler water.

It is important to point out that this live food option may not be the best choice for saltwater fish as they typically require warmer temperatures and White Worms generally require cooler temperatures. For best results with White Worms, store them in the refrigerator until it is feeding time! This may be a deal breaker for some fish enthusiasts. Not many fish owners would feel comfortable keeping a container of live worms in their fridge next to their milk and orange juice.

To resolve this problem, consider keeping the container in a mini fridge next to the aquarium! White Worms can also be produced in the home which could be very beneficial to your fish. However, if your lifestyle does not allow you to take the necessary time and care for the worms (or other live foods) and the fish, then it may be best to stick with flakes, pellets, or frozen foods.

Blood Worms:

Blood worms could make an excellent fish food option as they do not grow very long, and you can easily purchase them still alive or even frozen! Bloodworms are red in color (hence the name) and tube-shaped. If you choose to buy your Bloodworms still live then you will see them sticking to the inside walls of your aquarium, waiting to be picked off by your tank inhabitants. Bloodworms may also be called fly larvae in the pet store.

Live fish food options can be pricier than fish flakes or pellets. They can also be harder to care for, and store in your home and therefore this option is not a good fit for everyone.

Frozen Food:

If you simply cannot fathom having live worms or other live fish food options in your home but, you still want to provide a natural, healthy diet for your fish, then you may want to consider frozen foods. Some of the live food options described above can also be found as a frozen food option in your local pet store.

If you have one in mind, ask a knowledgeable employee for help. You may also want to consider frozen food choices for your fish if your lifestyle does not allow for time and care towards the live foods. Frozen food choices are relatively easy to store. Live and frozen food choices are also highly recommended for fish breeders as they contain a higher nutritional value whereas fish flakes and fish pellets lose a great deal of their nutritional value in the process.

One of the most popular frozen food options is the beef heart. This frozen food option is high in protein which will make your carnivorous freshwater fish very happy! Goldfish are omnivores and therefore they may enjoy this frozen food option.

However, they would likely prefer brine shrimp or plants as the beef heart may be too carnivorous for them. Do not overfeed any fish with beef heart. This food choice is high in protein and will, therefore, cause your fish to pack on the pounds if overfed.

As previously mentioned some live food choices can also be found as a frozen food option such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia. However, you may not know that your fish may enjoy frozen clams as an occasional frozen food option. Frozen clams are best for saltwater fish and are high in vitamins and minerals.

It is recommended to remove any uneaten clams from the tank water as they can cause the water to become smelly, moldy and cloudy. If you have a freshwater aquarium, then you may want to consider Cyclops as a frozen food option. They are tiny and nutritious copepods that are perfect for fry fish and other smaller freshwater fish.




A popular  goldfish food option would be the fish flakes. Goldfish flakes are a typical household food choice for tanked goldfish. These flakes contain many of the essential nutrients that goldfish require in their daily diets. In fact, you may prefer to feed your goldfish a flake diet as a result of the simple process and easy storage.

Goldfish flakes contain vitamin C, oatmeal, shrimp meal, Soybean oil, fish meal, fish oil, wheat gluten, algae meal, dried yeast, and sorbitol.

What is sorbitol?

Sorbitol is a crystal-like compound that is commonly found in fruits. This crystalline compound is added to the goldfish flakes to add an enticing, sweet flavor.

If you have chosen or believe, you will choose goldfish flakes as your fish food type then you should also be aware of how to feed your goldfish his flaky diet. The best rule of thumb when feeding a goldfish is only to provide what he can consume in two minutes or less. Usually, a small pinch of flakes 2 to 3 times a day, every day is the way to go.

However, if your goldfish cannot consume the quantity provided within a few minutes, then it is safe to assume you are feeding him too much. The extra flakes will float to the bottom of the tank, dissolve and begin to cloud the tank water. Avoiding this event is important. Finally, be cautious about how much you are feeding your goldfish. Overfeeding can not only result in a cloudy tank, but it can also cause your Goldie to become overweight and possibly lead to death.

Tetra Fin Goldfish Flakes is a familiar brand amongst goldfish enthusiasts. If you follow the flake feeding rule of thumb, then this brand of fish flakes should not make the tank water cloudy, should provide your goldfish with a completed, balanced, and nutritional meal that is also rather tasty.



Another common household fish food is goldfish pellets. These little guys are packed with natural proteins and nutrients that are perfect for supporting your goldfish’s immune system. The pellets are commonly made with whole salmon, whole cod, and whole halibut. These fish are added to increase a goldfish’s health and wellness as well as improve their coloring. Other ingredients found in goldfish pellets may include:

  • Whole Kelp
  • Wheat flour
  • Soy flour
  • Wheat gluten

These components serve as both nutritional benefits and as “fillers” which will help your goldfish stay fuller longer. Fillers will thus reduce the risk of overeating and weight gain. Finally, you should look for a goldfish pellet brand that includes Astaxanthin (a powerful antioxidant that naturally occurs, in particular, marine life) as well as Spirulina (a type of algae that is dried and used to add vitamins and minerals to food).

      For best results, feed your goldfish by hand 3 to 5 pellets 2 to 3 times per day.            

Tetra Fin Goldfish Crisps is a familiar brand of fish pellets. These crisps should be easy for your fish to digest as well as provide him a nutritional meal. Goldfish Crisps will also create around 40% less waste than fish flakes as long as you follow the recommended pellet feeding guide. Brand instructions recommend feeding one crisp for each inch of fish each time you feed. For example, if you have a three-inch fish then you should provide three crisps. If you have a three-inch fish, a five-inch fish and a six-inch fish then you should provide 14 crisps.


Options that are considered standard for feeding wild goldfish (or goldfish in an outdoor pond):

It may come as a shock to you but, wild goldfish do not eat flakes or pellets. In fact, they eat a large variety of different foods that aid them in their overall health and well-being.

Algae: Algae is usually the sign of a dirty tank and can become dangerous and downright disgusting to look at. However, Goldie’s love it! When they consume a small quantity of algae, they are actually consuming a great source of proteins and many other essential vitamins and minerals. Algae are not usually something that you as the owner can feed goldfish. In fact, a well-established aquarium should have a decent amount of algae growing that is not overwhelming or dangerous to the fish, but, is enough for them to nibble on if they so choose.

However, API is a fish food company that has created an Algae Eater food. These algae wafers are commonly distributed in aquariums with snails, suckerfish, and other algae eating creatures. Goldfish enjoy algae so why not provide this treat once in a while? Brand feeding instructions recommend feeding the algae wafers twice a day.

They also suggest feeding as much as the fish will consume in a two hour time span (this is directed toward suckerfish and snails as they are much slower eaters). If you are using these wafers as a goldfish treat then only provide one or two wafers per fish a couple of times a week.

Small fish: Yes, goldfish (primarily found in the wild) have no problem choosing a smaller fish to call a meal. Goldfish are omnivores after all and will attempt to eat anything they can find. It is uncommon for goldfish in an aquarium to consume other fish. This is far more widespread for goldfish that have been dumped into a lake or river.

Goldfish kept in an outdoor pond or water garden may enjoy this food choice, but, it is far more likely that the small fish will go uneaten. They particularly enjoy brine shrimp that are another great source of protein.

Omega One Frozen Brine Shrimp Fish Food is an excellent choice for feeding goldfish, especially Fry Goldfish (young goldfish). The Omega One brand has created a resealable option for their frozen brine shrimp fish food that makes feeding your goldfish much easier.

The brine shrimp food is individually wrapped inside a resealable pouch. These meals are designed to thaw quickly for easy feeding and easy clean up. Brand instructions suggest storing this food in the freezer when not using.

When preparing to feed, remove a pod of brine shrimp from the pouch and allow thawing for about five to ten minutes. Then dump the brine shrimp into the aquarium. Use only what your goldfish can consume within a 3-minute time span and feed 2 to 3 times per day.

Veggies: Goldfish that live in a tank need their veggies just as much as wild goldfish do! You can feel confident in adding a piece of lettuce, broccoli or even smashed peas to the top of the tank for your Goldie to enjoy. However, do not provide too much as the uneaten veggies will become moldy and will go to waste.

Smashed peas are a fantastic food choice for young goldfish as well as goldfish that have been ill. They are not recommended as a regular meal for healthy goldfish. An easily digestible treat once in a while would suffice. These foods should also be hand fed to prevent your goldfish from eating too quickly or leaving uneaten food to become moldy. Vegetables are usually a better choice for larger goldfish (4 to 6 inches in length).

Fruits: Goldfish will happily accept fruits such as blueberries, or cut up grapes. These options would be better suited for goldfish that have grown at least 4 to 6 inches in length. Fruits should also be hand fed to avoid overfeeding and moldy food.

Plants and plant roots: Wild goldfish love to forage for their food. In fact, it is their number one task throughout the day! Goldfish will nibble on the leaves of the plants and sometimes even uncover the roots. The leaves and roots will provide the goldfish with nutrients as well as provide fiber and aid their digestion.

Plants to consider include:

  • Duckweed (floating plant)
  • Camboba
  • Rotala
  • Egeria

Top Fin Rotala Rotundifolia can be completely submerged in your goldfish aquarium and will be a great option for your munching goldfish. Be sure to rinse any gel from the plant before submerging into the aquarium. Also, bury the roots of the plant under the gravel or substrate that is resting on the bottom. Goldfish are known to dig up their plants, so it is important to bury the roots properly.


Goldfish cannot get enough of those creepy crawlies. In the wild, goldfish will try to make a meal out of just about anything that lands on top of (or in) the water. One of their personal favorite treats are insects called water fleas. These little guys will find themselves floating on top of a pond, but once they are discovered by the goldfish (or any other fish), they will become someone’s snack pack.

If you have ever gone fishing, then you are well aware that fish love worms! Otherwise, we would not use them as bait, right? Right! Goldfish, like any other fish, will be drawn to a wriggling worm in the water (with or without the hook). Their worm of choice is called the bloodworm. These reddish colored worms (also referred to as larvae) will provide a goldfish with lots of protein and give the goldfish energy. Feel free to try this with your goldies!

You may also want to feed your goldfish earthworms, however, be careful about your source. Try to buy the earthworms rather than find them in your backyard. This will reduce the risk of pollution or pesticides.

While we are on the subject of larvae, goldfish will consume a variety of different types of larvae to provide their bodies with a well-rounded diet. However, they are known to be enticed by one type of larva in particular. The mosquito larvae. A very special treat for a very special finned friend.

If you would like to provide insects or worms for your goldfish to eat, then check with your local pet store or fish specialist. They will be able to guide you through the feeding process as well as how much, how often and when you should feed them. They may also be able to recommend a reliable source or recommend a particular species that goldfish will enjoy.

How long can goldfish survive without eating?

  Most goldfish specialists will tell you that goldfish can, in fact, survive for as long as two weeks without being fed. However, if you have chosen to provide your goldfish with a particular diet (such as any of the options listed above), then it is better for the overall health of your goldfish that you stick to the schedule.

If you are planning a vacation, then you should ask a trusted friend, family member or neighbor to take over feeding duty for you.

Explain the schedule as well as how much food during specific times of the day. If you are only going on vacation for a week or so, and you would prefer not to have someone in your home while you are not then, your goldfish should be able to survive without being fed.

However, the aquarium will need to be cleaned, and a water change should be done before your vacation, and you should provide food before you leave. A clean tank will prevent your goldfish from becoming ill and potentially pass away while you are gone. It is highly recommended that you find a fish-sitter, simply to be on the safe side of things.

Final thoughts to sum up:

Frozen foods are generally easy to store in your home. However, they may not be the most budget-friendly food choice, and they will have an expiration date. If you are interested in feeding your fish live or frozen foods, then make sure that your lifestyle is equipped for it and that you can afford it.

Live food choices do not have a long shelf life. However, you can usually culture them yourself which can make them budget-friendly and easy to access during feeding time. Fish flakes and Fish pellets will make perfect options if your budget or lifestyle is not equipped for live or frozen food choices. It is best to choose the type of food that best suits your fish. In the end, their health and happiness are what is most important.