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What Do Goldfish Eat? Vet-Approved Nutritional Science & Info

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By Lindsey Stanton

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Dr. Luqman Javed

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Want to know one of the most fun parts about keeping goldfish? Feeding them, of course. Who can resist seeing those wiggly little fins and pleading eyes! But this begs the question (no pun intended!): What do goldfish eat? 

In this article, we will go over the fundamentals of goldfish nutrition.

What do Goldfish Eat in the Wild?

Wild Carp Diet
  • Algae
  • Plants
  • Insects and worms
  • Little fish here and there
  • Smaller fish
  • Invertebrates
  • Fish eggs (including their own)

They are scavengers, and rely on processing large amounts of food to get the small amount of nutrition they need. Wild carp prioritize quality over quantity and will resort to stunting the growth of would-be competitors if food quality isn’t acceptable.

Feeding goldfish the same diet as a wild carp isn’t acceptable for several reasons. First, it’s difficult to source and find all the foods eaten by wild carp for pet goldfish. Second, goldfish are selectively bred for thousands of years and cannot tolerate a diet similar to that of wild carp. Finally, different varieties of goldfish have unique needs to ensure proper growth and reproductive success.

two varieties of wakin goldfish in the aquarium
Image Credit: JuanCarlosPalauDiaz, Shutterstock

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What Should You Feed Your Goldfish? — The 3 Aspects of a Balanced Diet

A balanced diet for goldfish will be primarily made of the following:

  • Good quality fish food (gel food, pellets)
  • Fibrous veggies (spinach, lettuce, kale, cilantro)
  • Natural treats (earthworms, bloodworms, krill, daphnia

1. The Staple Diet of Pellets, Gel Food or Flakes

Goldfish can get by for a limited period of time without this. But ultimately if you want your goldfish to be healthy and not suffer from vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, you need to be feeding your goldfish a good staple diet.

The diet staple is something that provides your goldfish with all the nutrition they need for the day (with the right ratios of protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals)—something that rummaging around in your refrigerator won’t be able to do.

Good quality fish food manufacturers formulate foods that are designed to do just that. Only a small amount per day is required to get your fish loaded up on all those nutrients—in a very yummy way!

Research indicates that for optimal growth, goldfish require at least 40% protein in their diet, and a fat rating of around 7 – 10%. They require around 4.0 Calories (kcal) per gram of body weight as energy.

The three main types of goldfish foods are pellets, gel food, or flakes. You really only need to pick one—and each kind of food has its own advantages.

  • Gel food is absolutely wonderful for swim-bladder-problem-prone fancy goldfish because it’s so moist, provided you purchase a good brand.
  • Pellets can be another very good option. Some people soak these, but it isn’t necessary if you use a quality brand.
  • Flake food is very common (probably the most commonly found fish food at the pet store) and usually the least expensive. However, it can be tricky to find a flake food that isn’t mostly fillers and low-quality ingredients.
goldfish eating flakes
Image Credit: Leonardo Macedo, Shutterstock

2. Foraging Material like Fibrous Veggies

It’s super important to make sure your goldfish gets all the nutrition they need with their daily feeding of the staple diet. And sure, maybe your fish would stay pretty healthy with just that. But the rest of the day, your fish’s digestive tract is not moving like it would naturally be doing if it lived in a pond. This state of stagnation can make your fish more prone to issues like constipation.

This makes foraging material like fibrous vegetables extremely useful, and a welcome addition to their aquariums. We will list acceptable forms of fibrous vegetables shortly.

How much of this you need to feed really depends on the size of the fish and how fast they will go through it.

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!

Remember: It might take a bit of time for goldfish to get used to eating their greens if they’ve only been given yummy pellets, flakes, or gel food. It’s like going from eating hamburgers to a salad.

If they aren’t eating the veggies, withhold the rich processed food until they do. They won’t starve, and they will eventually cave once they get hungry enough. It usually takes a few days, but in some cases (especially if the fish has been overfed) it could take as much as a week or two before they come around to the veggies. But once they do, they will discover how much fun it is to nibble on these all day long!

Tip: You can wilt the veggies first by steaming them to soften them up.

3. Treats for Something Different & Nutritious

They say variety is the spice of life. And the same is true for the life of a goldfish! It’s a good idea to break things up with a nutritious treat—usually given 2–3 times a week.

Treats like live and/or dried foods offer the benefits of a boost of protein and color-enhancing properties—great for fish you are trying to get to grow bigger or develop more into their full potential

Recommended treats for goldfish are sun-dried krill, earthworms, and frozen bloodworms. These foods are also great to feed a goldfish that has recently been through stress such as shipping.

It’s really important not to overdo the treats. Too much can make your goldfish overweight and unhealthy. But in moderation… They are a great addition to your goldfish’s diet!

krill Tarpan
Credit: Tarpan, Shutterstock


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Foods a Goldfish Can Eat: The Big List

Below is a list of foods goldfish can eat. Goldfish will eat just about anything after all. Please note that some of these foods can cause harm to the fish if fed in excess or over a long period of time. These lists aren’t comprehensive, and it’s best to consult with your aquatic veterinarian before adding these foods in your goldfish’s diet.

1. Fish Food

fish food flakes for tropical fish
Image Credit: Roger Utting, Shutterstock

  • Pellets
  • Gel Food
  • Flakes

2. Vegetables

Image Credit: Pixabay
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado—in very small amounts (high fat)
  • Broccoli (steamed)
  • Brussel sprouts (steamed)
  • Chard
  • Cilantro—excellent foraging!
  • Cucumber (peeled)
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Peas (deskinned)
  • Pumpkin (cooked)
  • Red bell pepper
  • Spinach
  • Squash (cooked)
Not Recommended
  • Corn
  • Avocado
  • Fruits that easily sludge (most citrus fruits)
  • Tomatoes

3. Fruit

assorted berries
Image Credit: Alex Block, Unsplash

  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Grapes (skinned)
  • Pears

4. Treats

brine shrimps in a tank
Image Credit: Napat, Shutterstock

  • Algae
  • Black soldier fly larvae
  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Earthworms
  • Freeze-dried Bloodworms
  • Frozen Bloodworms
  • Krill (sun-dried)
Not Recommended
  • Turkey (ground and raw)
  • Egg yolks
  • Beef (ground and raw)
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Bread


Determination of a healthy diet for your goldfish is an exciting prospect. In this article, we’ve covered the basics of the goldfish diet. Remember to consult your aquatic veterinarian if you have doubts about what you should feed your goldfish.

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

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