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Can Goldfish Eat Bread? Health Effects & Food Substitutes

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton


Unfortunately, goldfish should not eat bread, even in small amounts. Although it is common for people to throw bread crumbs to goldfish in ponds, this contributed to a chain of false information on this topic.

For decades, people have been led to believe bread can safely be fed and thrown to your goldfish as an occasional treat. Your goldfish may happily munch away at the bread, but this does not mean it is entirely safe or healthy for them. Bread is a fish food to avoid, for good reasons. We hope to inform you why goldfish should not eat bread in this article and clear up any questions you may have while suggesting substitutes instead.

What Do Goldfish Eat?

Goldfish are omnivorous, meaning their diet primarily consists of both vegetation-based and animal-based matter. A goldfish’s diet should mimic the diet they would naturally eat in the wild. It will ensure that your goldfish can properly digest their food and gain their daily nutritional requirement. Flakes, gel foods, and pellets are compressed plant and animal-based ingredients suitable for goldfish.

Goldfish require a staple goldfish-based diet alongside treats fed up to 3 times a week. A goldfish will not be healthy and nutritionally balanced on a diet consisting of only one main ingredient. Adding variety is essential when considering what to feed your goldfish and meeting their dietary needs.

Image Credit: Petersda, Pixabay

Why Goldfish Should Not Eat Bread

Bread’s main ingredients are yeast, gluten, salt, water, and flour. Yeast and gluten are hard for goldfish to digest, leading to poor digestion or intestinal blockage. Bread swells up in the stomach and expands when introduced into a liquid environment. Goldfish have small and delicate stomachs. The bread expands in their stomach after ingestion, the goldfish’s intestines begin to swell—leading to constipation, swim bladder problems, and ultimately, a painful death.

Goldfish are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat what there is, no matter if it is harmful to them, even if they’re not hungry. Many novice aquarists make the mistake of overfeeding, which can cause the aquarium or pond water to foul up with waste causing dangerous water parameters to spike. Worst of all, overfeeding goldfish is one of the leading causes of death.

Bread has low nutritional value composed of nutritionally dense ingredients making it contain no beneficial nutrients for your goldfish. Your goldfish do not benefit from consuming bread, both nutrition and health-wise.

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Health Effects of Goldfish Eating Bread

Goldfish fed an inadequate diet with poor food choices will obtain health effects in the long run.

  • Intestinal swelling
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Swim bladder issues
  • Weight loss
  • Clamped fins
  • Bottom sitting
  • Dropsy due to organ failure

Food Substitutes Instead of Bread

There is a variety of goldfish-safe foods you can feed instead of bread. Some can get thrown into a pond as a substitute for bread.

  • Bloodworms
  • Tubifex Worms
  • Unshelled peas
  • Brine shrimp
  • Bottom feeder algae wafer or pellets
  • Cucumber
  • Corn
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Mealworms
  • Daphnia
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Homemade gel foods
  • Goldfish specified foods
  • Boiled romaine lettuce
  • Cooked zucchini
  • Carrot

Remember that variety in a goldfish diet ensures your goldfish gets all the nutrients and calories it needs to remain healthy.

Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay


How to Feed Your Pond Goldfish Safe Treats

Once you have picked a healthy alternative treat than bread, feeding is simple.

  1. Start by feeding your goldfish at the same time each day, either in the morning or evening. Goldfish slowly learn to associate a time of day with feeding. It’s a good form of bonding with the fish as they associate you with food.
  2. Only feed as much as your goldfish can consume in 2 minutes. It helps deter your goldfish from being overfed. Goldfish do not feel full and will always appear hungry.
  3. A pond or tank should have a filter that’s strong enough to handle the waste of uneaten food and the bioload your goldfish will produce after they have eaten. Feeding less food or foods in smaller portions a day helps to keep the water parameters under control.
  4. Gravel vacuuming after feeding time can reduce the amount of uneaten food from rotting in the substrate or crevices your goldfish cannot reach.
  5. Limit the number of treats you feed. Feed treats up to 3 times a week to avoid overworking their delicate digestive tracts.
  6. Remove large leftover treats with an aquarium net. These uneaten foods can rot and foul up the water in a matter of hours.

Many fish die as a result of improper food and/or portion sizes, which can be easily prevented by proper education.

The Truth About Goldfish New Edition

That's why our best-selling book, The Truth About Goldfish, covers exactly what you can and can’t give your goldies when it comes to mealtime. It’s even got a section dedicated to keeping your pet fish alive and well-fed when you go on vacation!

What to Do If You Accidentally Fed Your Goldfish Bread

If you have fed your goldfish bread before reading this article, do not panic. Find out how much bread you fed and check the ingredients list. Begin to slowly bump the temperature of the water, be cautious not to exceed 80°F. Add a few teaspoons of Epsom salts to the water. It speeds up a goldfish’s digestion process and eases their intestines to pass their nourishment more easily.

You could feed small pieces of cucumber or unshelled peas to increase their fiber intake. Monitor your goldfish’s health for the next few days and seek help if you notice any abnormal behaviors. Make sure your goldfish is passing a normal stool and not an empty casing from their digestive tract. It allows us to determine if our goldfish is digesting the bread.

You Currently Feed Your Goldfish Bread, but Nothing Happens?

Goldfish do not always show signs that something is wrong. It is difficult to know what is wrong with your goldfish internally. While the goldfish may be gobbling up the bread happily on the outside, their intestines are taking the damage. Over time the effects may lead to other health issues while other goldfish will immediately gain health issues from consuming bread. Due to comet or common goldfish body shapes, they can digest bread quicker. Whereas fancy goldfish have more compressed organs, leading even the slightest swelling to trigger an onset of dropsy.

bloated dropsy goldfish
Image Credit: Wari_Nuchczy, Shutterstock

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Goldfish may not be suited to eat bread, but there is a lengthy list of safe foods to feed instead! Keeping your goldfish on a balanced diet with a good variety and nutritional ingredients will keep your goldfish in good health. We hope this article has helped you understand the risks of feeding your goldfish bread and given you substitute ideas to feed your goldfish instead. Treats are not necessary for a goldfish’s diet, but they deserve a spoil from time to time, in which their health comes first.

Featured image credit: seniatram1, Pixabay

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