Goldfish Food : the best 5 Commercial Diets

Goldfish are considered to be omnivores when it comes to their chosen diet. That is they are able to utilise a wide range of plant and animal material dependent upon they development, size, habitat and what is available. Picking a suitable everyday fish food needs to reflect these criteria. In other words, there is unlikely to be one ideal food that can be fed to all fish, every day.  I have therefore divided my recommendations into 5 separate categories. Select the diet that is most appropiate to your own situation and do not be afraid to change the diet when conditions change. The five diets I will describe are: 

  1. Small, aquarium fish
  2. Optimal water quality
  3.  Maximum growth
  4. Coldwater, winter conditions
  5. Colour enhancement


1) Best goldfish food for small aquarium fish

Flakes come into their own for small fish that cannot easily consume a pellet or sticks. They are consequently a very popular choice for aquaria. All the flakes here have a higher protein content to benefit the faster growth rates typical of smaller fish. It’s a good idea to feed your goldfish several times per day, but make sure you have adequate filtration. Uneaten food should be removed as soon as possible.


Aquarian Goldfish Flake Food
  • Contains one AQUARIAN complete nutrition, aquarium goldfish food flakes; also suitable for small pond fish, 200 g container
  • 100 Percent recyclable pot and lid, made in UK
  • High in vitamins C and E to support a healthy immune system and includes high quality protein sources to support optimal growth
  • Contains no synthetic colours, AQUARIAN only uses natural ones
  • Feed up to twice a day the amount of food your fish will consume within 5 minutes

Best rated alternative

Tetra Goldfish Flakes
  • Protein 40%
  • Floating flake food
  • Suitable for all pond fish
  • Easy to eat and digest
  • Contains a mix of 4 types of flake

2) Best goldfish food for optimal water quality


The importance of water quality is difficult to exaggerate. Keeping fish happy and healthy is really all to do with maintaining excellent water parameters. This tends to be when ponds are lightly stocked and fed with a low protein diet. An expanded, or floating feed, also tends to help reduce the production of waste products.

Pond sticks are the most popular type of goldfish food for garden ponds. They have a modest protein content and produce minimal waste. Fish are enthusiastic feeders of pond sticks and this type of food lends itself very well to hand feeding. A great choice to keep your fish active and healthy without endangering the capacity of your filtration system. If possible, feed goldfish several times per day over the summer growing period.

Tetra Pond Sticks

Tetra Pond Sticks
  • Complete staple food for all pond fish
  • allowing fish to feed easily
  • Easy-to-eat formula reduces nutrient loss to the water
  • all essential nutrients and vitamins in an easily digestible format
  • Suitable for all pond fish

3) Best Goldfish Food for Growth

Pound for pound pellets contain the most nutrition and should form the basis of your main growing system. They have optimum protein and oil levels to ensure maximum growth. Efficient filtration is essential to maintain optimum feed rates. Pellets lend themselves admirably to automatic fish feeders and are strongly recommended for maximum production. If hand feeding then feed your goldfish several times a day over the summer months.

Nishikoi Growth Pellet

An excellent goldfish food if you have larger fish. It is rich in protein, 37%, and has a variety of colour enhancing ingredients.

Nishikoi Growth Food Small Pellet (10) 1125g
  • Contains a mix of Spirulina, Astaxanthin, Canthaxanthin a
  • Easily digestible
  • High-protein pellets Koi and pond fish love

Fancy Goldfish

Fancy goldfish come in many different forms but generally speaking they all have similar nutritional needs to regular goldfish. Some varieties however, are rather prone to swim bladder problems.Although more related to water conditions the fish food that is given to fancy goldfish does require special care. A soft, slow-sinking pellet is worth trying if your fish are experiencing problems with their swim bladder. Careful observation of feeding behaviour should help to select the most appropriate fish food.

Guidelines for Feeding Goldfish

What do goldfish eat?

Goldfish are typically referred to as omnivores. In other words, goldfish eat a wide variety of items including things like water fleas, algae, worms and plants. Like us, they have adapted to eat foods that vary in composition and quality. Some things will have a high protein content, like worms and snails, whilst many plants have a relatively low protein content. In other words there is not a narrow optimum level of protein, carbohydrates and fats for any one food item. Goldfish eat a range of foods in order to obtain a balanced diet. In this respect they are similar to ourselves.

Evidence for an omnivorous diet in goldfish is demonstrated by their anatomy. They have a small, poorly defined stomach and a relatively long intestine to digest plant material. They are designed to graze through out the day rather than more carnivorous fish that have large, irregular meals that require a corresponding large stomach.

In an aquarium, in particular, goldfish rely on us to supply them with the vast majority of their diet. They may be able to enjoy some algae growing on the tank sides but, to a large degree, they are totally dependent upon us to supply the right food in the right quantity. Ponds are much more forgiving and there are many ponds where goldfish eat only natural foods , without any artificial fish food.

How to select the best goldfish food

We have already seen that goldfish can make good use of a variety of diets but how do we go about selecting what’s the best goldfish food under our own particular conditions? To a large degree this is determined by our own objectives for our fish. Broadly speaking fish keepers fall into two distinct groups.

1) Optimum Display

This is by far the largest group of hobbyists and includes most aquarium fish keepers. Water clarity, as well as quality, is of prime concern. It’s not sufficient to have excellent water quality. It needs to be crystal clear. In reality this is not what the fish themselves prefer and may actually cause a significant level of stress. Fish feel more vulnerable to predators such as cats and herons. Given a choice most ornamental fish would seek out water where they can hide and keep safe. A pea soup of a pond is undoubtedly a great place to rear goldfish. Not so great for impressing your friends though.

Fish need to be active and alert and react strongly at feeding times. Growth, although nice to have, is less important. As a result filtration systems are designed to easily cope with the expected load of fish wastes. A bigger filter is always better than a smaller one.

2) Optimum growth

All fish farmers, and many who practice aquaponics, are driven by fish growth and net production rates. It is less important to show off the fish as long as they are growing well and at a reasonable density. Without doubt, this approach to fish keeping requires significantly more management and carries with it much greater risk. Fish and filter balances are critical. Controlling fish stocking and fish harvesting so that filter carrying capacity is not overwhelmed is an essential and weekly task. 

Automatic feeders are essential and so are backup pumps and power supplies. How far ‘down the intensification road’ you wish to go is an important and personal decision. Fortunately it is only when commercialisation objectives are paramount that this level of involvement is necessary. For most garden aquaponic systems it is sufficient to maintain modest growth whilst limiting the risks involved.

How much should we feed goldfish?

a) Simple answer

How much fish food to give is probably the most asked question when talking about how to feed goldfish. There is a simple, or a more scientific, answer to this question. When your principal aim is to have a predominantly display system feed only what the fish will eat completely in 2 – 3 minutes. This can be repeated several times a day if that is convenient. Follow the advice of ‘little but often’. In a pond goldfish eat continuously when hungry.

b) Scientific answer.

The scientific answer is really for those fish keepers interested in maximising growth. Here it is usual to call the ration size as a % of the total fish body weight. So if you have 10 kg of fish and feed 100g of feed a day the ration size is 1%BWD. This ration needs to be spread evenly throughout the day over several feeding times. This limits the chances of uneaten food and helps to even out the load on the filtration system.

i Water Temperature

Feed manufacturers publish table of recommended feed ration account to two main criteria. The first is water temperature and the second is individual fish size. Up to a point, fish eat more at higher temperatures. Eventually however each species of fish will hit an optimum temperature at which the ration size is the biggest. If the temperature gets any bigger ration size drops and eventually death occurs. For goldfish this optimum for growth is around 22 – 24 °C.

Feed rate tables published by the manufacturers should be taken as the maximum amount of fish food that should be given. There is no advantage to exceed these ration sizes. For most fish keepers it is nearly always a good idea to feed less food than these tables suggest.

ii Fish size.

Smaller fish have a higher metabolic rate than larger fish. They therefore require a higher feed ration in terms of % BWD. Whereas a goldfish of 1g. could eat around 10% BWD by the time it reaches 200g this is down to 1 – 2 %BWD.

Nutritional Value of Goldfish Fish Food

1) Protein

The first thing to look at when picking a food that is going to form the bulk of a goldfish’s diet is the protein level. Various studies have shown that somewhere around 30 -40% protein is considered normal. If growth is less important then 25 – 30% may be sufficient. To a large degree fish can offer a lower protein content simply by eating more. If growth is important then I would tend to use a diet closer to 45% and sometimes even higher for very young fish.

Protein is used for growth and repair and cannot be stored as such. Any excess to requirements is excreted, via the gills, as ammonia. This is highly toxic and should be avoided. There is nothing to be gained from feeding excess protein. In addition the protein component is the most expensive part of the formulation so should be kept under control.

Not all proteins however are equal. Each protein is made up of particular combinations of amino acids. Some proteins may not have sufficient levels of a particular amino acid and this may result in fairly specific deficiency diseases. It is further evidence that a variety of protein sources is best to try and avoid these deficiencies. 

Fish meal is a particularly good source of protein but due to overfishing a lot of effort is going into finding alternative sources. One of the more exciting sources is insect meal and this is now included in many new formulations of the more advanced fish food.

2) Oils and fats

After protein I always look at the oil or fat content of a potential fish food. This is a rich source of energy and can ‘save’ the protein contained in a diet for growth. Fish do not maintain their own body temperature and are said to be poikilothermic. The result of this is that the oils need to be in the unsaturated state that do not form solid blocks like many animal fats. 

Think of fish oil as opposed to lard. For this reason things like sausages and burgers should not be given to fish as they can block their digestive system with solid fat. As a guideline, when growth is an objective, I like to see an oil content of at least 8%.

3) Vitamins and Minerals

In comparison to protein and oil the vitamin requirements of ornamental fish has been poorly researched. Feed manufacturers tend to take the cautious approach and add a premix containing more than is strictly necessary. This is largely due to the fact that these essential elements have a tendency to degrade with storage. Vitamin C is particularly prone to this problem and this has lead to some producers adding a stabilised version of vitamin C.

Colour Enhancement

No discussion about goldfish food would be complete without considering colour enhancement. Diet plays a fundamental role in determining the colour of fish. Both internally and externally. For ornamental fish such as goldfish and koi, colouration is all important. Feed may contain both natural and artificial colour promoting substances. 

Shrimp and algae are both common natural ingredients that have long been known to intensify colour. Early trout farmers used to incorporate shrimp waste to promote the pink colouration of the flesh. Algae is also well known to contain many natural compounds that enhance colour. Spirulina is probably the most common added algal ingredient.

In addition to these natural compounds feed manufacturers frequently added synthetic compounds that are well proven to improve colour. Astaxanthin is very often added and will improve both external colour and the colour of flesh. Canthazinthin is another similar compound.

Occasional Treats

a) Live Foods

In an ideal world we would like to feed our fish on live food. It reflects a more natural diet and is the kind of food goldfish love to hunt . Regretfully it is rarely possible to do this exclusively. Live foods do come with a very real risk of introducing fish parasites along with the food items. For this reason it is more sensible to either use foods that do not normally live in a pond, and thereby, associated with fish pests, or culture your own food. 

Earth worms are an excellent live food that many goldfish breeders use to bring their brood stock not breeding condition in early spring. Cultured food favourites include white worms, microworms and even daphnia.

It’s worth mentioning here that brine shrimp are considered by many to be essential when raising very young fry. They are undoubtedly the best goldfish food for newly hatched fry. Artemia, to give them their scientific name, have the ability to breakdown easily in a fry’s gut and supply all the necessary nutritional requirements at this early stage. It is also possible to grow brine shrimp on to a larger size to feed to larger fish.

Other Additives

Over the years a number of other additives have become popular in ornamental fish diets. Clays, such as bentonite, are believed to help skin colour in koi.

Probiotics are another group of compounds that are thought to stimulate the immune system of fish and thereby promote health.

Last update on 2022-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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