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How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food?

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By Lindsey Stanton

feeding a goldfish

While we’re not suggesting you should starve your goldfish, sometimes you just can’t be home to feed them. If your fish have ever had to skip a meal, you might be wondering how long they can go without food.

In this post, we aim to teach you more about feeding your goldfish under optimal conditions, as well as examine how long they can go without food, the reasons why they might skip a meal or two, and what to do about feeding them when you’re on holiday.

How Often Should You Feed Your Goldfish?

Goldfish are voracious eaters and won’t think twice about eating so much it makes them unwell, should you give them the chance. That’s why they thrive on several small meals a day, instead of just one.

In an ideal world, you should feed your goldfish in small amounts three to four times a day. However, most fish keepers have work or family commitments, so it’s more common to feed twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

Feed your goldfish no more than what they can consume in two minutes, to avoid overfeeding.

What Should You Feed Your Goldfish?

The basis of your fish’s diet should be a high-quality flake or pellet food designed for goldfish.

However, if you choose to feed pellets, it’s best to soak them for a minute or two before adding them to the tank, as they can cause constipation that leads to swim bladder/buoyancy issues.

In addition to dried food, add a variety of fresh and frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, and veggies, such as shelled peas and zucchini.

Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food?

Now, here’s the question: just how long can goldfish go without eating?

There’s an extreme case that documents two surviving for 134 days without being fed, after a severe earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. A whole section of the city was completely off-limits so that nobody could feed or check on them. However, these fish likely survived by eating algae and the tank’s other deceased residents.

Goldfish can go for as long as 2 weeks without food, experts suggest, but just because they can, it doesn’t mean they should. We wouldn’t ever endorse leaving yours for so long without feeding them, as it’s incredibly unfair on your charges. After 2 weeks, they’ll be malnourished, not to mention extremely hungry.

Generally, we’d suggest that it’s okay to leave your goldfish without food for 3 or 4 days, but if you’ll be away longer than this, it’s up to you to make some alternative arrangements.

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!

When Might You Skip Feeding Your Goldfish?

Of course, the most common reason why people can’t feed their goldfish is that they’re on vacation, away visiting family, or out of town on business. However, there are other reasons why you might temporarily withhold food.

If your aquarium is having water quality issues, it can be wise to withhold food for a couple of days to reduce the amount of waste in the tank.

Of course, this isn’t a long-term solution, so you must determine the cause of the problem and do something to remedy it (better filtration or smaller meals, for example). But it can help quickly clear up the water in the short term, preventing your fish from getting sick.

Another reason to temporarily stop feeding is if they’ve got a swim bladder issue due to a blockage in their digestive tract. In this case, they should fast for up to 3 days, which can help get rid of related buoyancy problems.

feeding fish
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

How Can You Feed Your Goldfish When You’re Away?

When you’re going on vacation, how can you feed your goldfish when you’re away?

If you have a trusted friend, relative, or neighbor, consider asking them to check on your fish for you. What’s great about having a human fish feeder is they can also check that the filter’s still working and everything else is in order.

The issue is it’s easy to overfeed goldfish, so either give strict instructions to your fish-sitter or, better yet, measure out the exact amount of food for each feeding, and be sure they know not to feed your fish any more than the measured amount.

Can’t find anyone willing to care for your fish? Another (potentially more reliable) option is an automatic fish feeder. Just fill it up, program it, and it will feed your fish a set amount of food at set times for up to 2 weeks. Most options cost between $15 and $30, which is a small price to pay for the well-being of your fish.

You can also buy compressed blocks of food that are designed to be grazed at while you’re away. However, we wouldn’t recommend this option. These blocks tend to quickly turn to sludge, making a mess and often causing a dangerous ammonia spike in the tank. So, for the sake of your fish, steer clear.


So evidently, goldfish can go quite some time without food – but it doesn’t mean you should make them or test this theory!

It’s an interesting piece of information to know, but you should always make sure they have a regular and adequate supply of nutritional food. It’s a basic requirement of all living creatures.

Happy fish keeping!

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Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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