Knowing how often you should feed a goldfish is very important if you want to take good care of it. Giving them too much or too little food (or at the wrong time) can lead to a host of problems you don’t want to deal with.
But this is one area where new owners make mistakes all the time.
They think about the tank, the water conditions, and the general diet of their new pets. But they don’t know how many times they should feed them!
Hopefully, this guide will help you understand everything you need to know about how often to feed your goldfish. You will learn the correct schedule to follow and why it is important.
What do they eat?
Before we get into the importance of feeding your goldfish the proper number of times per day, we need to do a quick overview of their proper diet.
This is because many owners think they know what to feed their goldfish, but in reality they have no idea. If you’re not feeding them the right food, then it doesn’t really matter how often you feed them (because they’re going to have health problems anyway).
Fortunately, the ideal diet for most goldfish is fairly easy to manage.
Your best bet is to feed them goldfish- specific flakes as the staple of their diet. This will cover many of your basic nutritional requirements and serve as the foundation for your overall health.
In addition to this, you can include some other foods like daphnia, brine shrimp, and various vegetables. They should be fed a few times a week at most.
Author’s Note: In the wild, you’ll see goldfish eating a mix of plants and animals. These fish are not picky eaters and will take anything they can get their hands on. That is why it is important to provide them with a little variety in captivity.
How Often Should You Feed Your Goldfish?
The general rule of thumb to follow is that you should feed your goldfish 2-3 times a day. This is a simplified average that will work well in most situations.
You should also try to keep feeding times consistent every day. This will help your goldfish develop a regular pattern and help their digestive cycle.
Feeding them at random times throughout the day will increase the chance that they will get sick or not eat a consistent amount of food.
But even though the above guidelines make things easy, you shouldn’t be afraid to vary your plan a bit when necessary. This is something that comes with experience.
For example, you may find that your goldfish don’t eat as much as they get older. In this situation, it may be wise to try and decrease the number of times you feed them each day from three to two (always measure the amount of food you’re giving them to make sure you’re not cutting their intake too drastically).
We always advise owners to stick to the care guidelines when they are first timers, but exercise common sense as they become more experienced.
How much do you feed them each time?
Now that you know how often you should feed your goldfish, it’s time to talk about quantity. Doing this correctly is one of the most important elements of proper care.
Think about it:
Let’s assume you are giving your goldfish a substantial amount of food each time you feed it. In this situation, feeding them twice a day might be fine, but three times a day might be overkill!
A better alternative would be to divide the amount of food you normally give them in two meals into three. This is easier on digestion and will also provide your goldfish with a bit more enrichment over time (fish love feeding time).
To find out the correct amount to feed them, follow the two-minute rule. This simply means that you should avoid giving your goldfish more food than it can eat in two minutes.
Author’s Note: This rule of thumb works especially well for flake food, as your goldfish will be able to locate and eat it quickly.
If you are giving them pellets instead, you may need to extend this window of time a bit. It usually takes a little longer for goldfish to find the pellets before they start eating (especially the sinking ones).
Is there an ideal time to feed them?
When planning how many times to feed a goldfish, it’s common to wonder if there are specific times of day that work better than others.
Fortunately, this is not something you need to worry about.
As long as you feed them 2-3 times throughout the day on a consistent basis, they will be fine. While other species clearly do better with specific time periods, goldfish require little maintenance in this regard.
Again, the most important thing you can do is make sure you stick to a consistent feeding schedule. This will make a big difference to your lifespan and overall long-term health.
That means if you feed them at 8:30 before you go to work and again when you return at 5, keep it that way! If your schedule changes and you’re considering changing feeding times, it’s best to do it slowly over the course of a few days, if possible.
Things to keep in mind
Although coming up with an effective eating strategy is pretty straightforward, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. The three items below can affect how often you should feed your goldfish, so it’s important to understand them.
Overfeeding is a common mistake many new goldfish owners make. Unlike other pets, it can be a little more challenging to control how much your goldfish ends up eating.
Since you’re dropping food into the water (rather than placing it in a bowl), it’s not reasonable to expect them to eat every ounce you give them.
When you combine this with an inaccurate food monitoring strategy (one that doesn’t follow the two-minute rule), two common problems can arise.
The first has to do with your direct health.
When you give a goldfish too much food, it will start to get fat (no wonder). This will start to inhibit your basic bodily functions and negatively affect your overall health. It makes proper digestion much more difficult and increases the chance that they will develop fatty liver.
It can also make them more prone to various diseases. The chance of fin rot and dropsy goes up if you are feeding your goldfish too often.
The second way that overfeeding can cause problems is with water quality.
When you give your goldfish too much food, some of it will remain uneaten and float to the bottom of the tank. While you can never get your goldfish to eat 100% of the food you feed them, overfeeding dramatically increases the amount of food left over.
Here’s why that’s a problem:
Over time, the food that is in the tank will begin to break down. This process will increase the amount of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates in the tank. When these levels rise and go unchecked, the water becomes a very dangerous place for your goldfish.
Lack of appetite
Learning how often to feed goldfish generally involves you figuring out the correct amount of food to provide and assuming your goldfish really wants to eat.
But what if they don’t?
When your goldfish loses its appetite, it usually means something is wrong. And as the owner, it’s your job to find out what that is!
One of the obvious causes is some form of illness or disease. Just like any other animal, feeling sick can make your goldfish not want to consume as much food as usual.
Author’s Note: There are several ways to determine if this is the case, but we always recommend starting with a water test. That can highlight any high-level issues with the water that need to be addressed before you start considering other possibilities.
There is also the possibility that you have overfed them. This could make your goldfish not want more food (because it is not hungry) or develop problems with its digestive system. Review the two-minute rule to make sure you’re not feeding too often.
The last common possibility is that they just don’t like the food you’re giving them! This is obviously unlikely if you’ve been feeding your goldfish the same food for years, but it’s a possibility if you’ve recently switched to a new food.
In this case, it’s important to give them a chance to adjust before abandoning the food you’re trying. Sometimes goldfish just need a chance to get used to new food!
The behavior of the fish in your tank can sabotage how often you feed your goldfish. While it would be nice to have a community tank without having to worry about food dominance, it is something that can prevent your goldfish from getting the food it needs.
In a nutshell, food dominance refers to bigger, stronger, or faster fish that hog all the food and prevent other fish from eating it. Many times this is not malicious, it is just a natural survival instinct.
Depending on what other fish you have with your goldfish, there is a chance that food dominance will get in the way. This can happen when keeping goldfish with a completely different species or in a goldfish-only tank.
Keep an eye out for this when you feed them to get an idea if food dominance is occurring in the tank. You may need to spread out the food or try different types to make sure everyone gets enough to eat.
In certain situations, you may need to separate the fish to allow all of your goldfish to get enough to eat. This is more effective than increasing how often you feed them (which can lead to overfeeding).
Learning how often to feed goldfish is not rocket science. In fact, many of the fundamental principles are downright easy!
But within that, there is a level of situational decision-making that you will need to develop over time. There are a variety of circumstances that can change your strategy.
Having a solid understanding of them will help you provide better care and keep your goldfish on a consistent and healthy feeding schedule.
As always, if you’re having trouble, it never hurts to call your vet for additional feedback. They can help you figure out how to fix any eating issues you have and get back on track!
If you have any questions for us, you can always send us a message. We do our best to be active on social media and regularly check our inbox.