In their natural habitat, fish are on the constant hunt for food. They tend to eat as much, particularly if it is their favorite food they’re munching on. But is their feeding behavior the same when it comes to a tank set-up?
Regardless if they are in the wild or in an aquarium, goldfish are voracious eaters. However, eating too much can lead to a variety of health problems.
Join us in this article as we explore the proper feeding habits of goldfish.
Indicators of Goldfish Hunger
The best time to feed goldfish is when they are hungry. However, given the fact that they have a big appetite, they will eat as long as food is available. That is regardless if they are hungry or not.
This feeding habit of goldfish can confuse us. We may feed our goldfish even if they are still full. So, how do I know if my goldfish is hungry?
Here are some indicators that will tell you it’s time to feed your fish pet:
Goldfish are fond of swimming towards the surface and grab whatever they can during feeding. When you pick up the feed bottle and approach the tank, you will notice your goldfish gets excited as they swim towards the surface. As you do this over time, it becomes their feeding habit.
This behavior is also the reason why goldfish follow you as you walk past the aquarium. Have you noticed that? Whenever you get close to the tank, it gives them a signal that it’s feeding time.
If you are far from your tank and you see your goldfish constantly swimming on the surface, it should give you a signal that they are hungry. Don’t confuse this feeding habit with piping or gulping in air at the surface as it indicates low oxygen level.
Goldfish are naturally born bottom feeders. They scour the bed for debris and leftover food.
If they munch on some pebbles or small rocks once in a while, it could mean nothing and is just part of their social habit. However, as they do it frequently, it is a clear sign that they are actively searching for food.
Experiment 101: Do you want to know if your goldfish is really hungry? When you see your goldfish digging the substrate, slowly approach the tank. When your goldfish suddenly quits munching on the pebbles and swims toward the surface, then it is a clear manifestation that it has an empty stomach. Try it.
Peaceful. That’s the general behavior of goldfish. However, when they are hungry, they become aggressive.
While aggression is a fish’s response to hunger, it can sometimes be mistaken with other behavioral responses, like overcrowding. Nipping on other fish fins is also an aggressive behavior that can indicate fish hunger.
Weak and Inactive
After all the above-mentioned indicators, it is natural that your goldfish gets exhausted. If not supplemented with food, this exhaustion can progress to weakness and they will not be as mobile as before.
Different Meal Schedules for Different Life Stages
Juvenile goldfish are highly active and they need a lot of food. Instead of giving them one big meal, it is better to divide it into smaller rations.
Feeding them 3 times a day is highly recommended. This feeding frequency guarantees that you are giving your goldfish enough food for constant growth and development.
In my case, after I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, I proceed to the aquarium and feed my goldfish. In this way, the aesthetic beauty of my aquarium that is vibrantly enhanced by the active feeding of my goldfish compliments my own digestion and well-being.
On the other hand, adult goldfish (over 1 year old) do not require constant feeding. Feeding them once a day is sufficient enough to meet their daily nutritional needs.
Overfeeding as A Constant Threat
Can you overfeed your goldfish? Given the big appetite goldfish are known for, overfeeding is always a problem. And when you overfed, you can expect that the overall health of your goldfish will be compromised.
Here are some health problems associated with overfeeding your goldfish:
The immediate effect of overfeeding is stress which is one of the contributing factors of fin rotting. Moreover, as unconsumed feed is degraded, it releases toxins and promotes bacterial growth which adds more to the rotting of your goldfish fins.
Detoxification is one of the functions of the liver. Especially in goldfish, eating too much food can affect the liver as its digestive capability is limited.
Goldfish don’t have a stomach. Eating a lot of food causes constipation and other digestive-related problems.
The Right Amount of Food for Your Goldfish
Now that we don’t want to overfeed a goldfish, the question is: what is the right amount of food? One teaspoon? One cup?
It depends on the size and number of goldfish in your tank. For you to be guided, here’s a trick that we have been using and has been proven to be effective:
The 2-Minute Rule
Estimate the amount of food that can be consumed by your goldfish in 2 minutes. Place in a cup, pour in the food and allow your goldfish to feast. After 2 minutes, you can either scoop out the excess food on the surface water or filter those that have settled at the bottom.
The Eye Method
Goldfish eyes are not just used for vision. It can also be used in estimating the right amount of food. On a clean surface, collect pieces of food and form a circle with a size similar to its eyes.
Dietary Requirement of Goldfish
Now that we know our goldfish are hungry, it’s time to feed them. But with what?
When you visit your pet shop, you will see that there are a lot of choices when it comes to goldfish food. Some are in the form of pellets, while some are in the form of flakes.
Regardless of feed type, what is important are the ingredients and nutritional value of the feed. Look for the nutritional label and examine the following:
In general, fats and oils are important and are used more than other nutrients in fish. While it is an important nutritional component of your feed, its requirement varies on different life stages.
8% unsaturated fat is recommended for juvenile goldfish. This allows them to rapidly grow. Adult goldfish only require 5% fat content and anything over can damage the liver.
This form of carbohydrate is one of the nutrients that you should first examine in selecting a goldfish food. It should only have 20 – 30% fiber content. Anything higher should be avoided.
Fiber and other forms of carbohydrates are not thoroughly metabolized in fish. Their digestive system is unacidic and their digestive ability for carbohydrates is slow. Constant feeding with carbohydrate-rich foods to your goldfish can lead to liver disease.
According to research, a good maintenance food for goldfish must have 30% protein content. This allows them to have optimal growth.
If you have a juvenile goldfish or you are into breeding, a 35% protein content is ideal. A higher protein content means that your goldfish will grow fast. However, you have to constantly monitor your water parameter as nitrogenous waste is often associated with high-protein foods.
Tolerance to Starvation
Despite their huge appetite, goldfish have a high tolerance to starvation. So, how long can your goldfish go without feeding?
Surprisingly, 15 days. That’s the most number of days recorded for a goldfish living without food.
You should not practice this. Remember, your goldfish is already attuned to their feeding frequency and abruptly stopping from feeding will greatly affect them.
However, there are instances that we might leave the house for more than 2 weeks. A long vacation is a good example. In the event you’re not able to personally take care of your goldfish, you can either ask a friend to do the feeding chores or install your tank with an auto-feeder.
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At the end of the day, we have this tendency to overfeed our goldfish. We do this because we want them to grow fast.
But feeding them with too much food or foods that do not have the right nutritional value, may lead to diseases. And we all know that suffering from diseases can lead to death.
So, what’s the point of overfeeding if the end result is death and the chances of enjoying your goldfish for many years to come are already gone.