The first two fish I ever bought were two goldfish. While I kept them in a bowl at first, I quickly upgraded to a larger tank. In summer, I was going on holiday with my family, but I was unsure how long my goldfish would be fine without feeding. To make sure I could provide the best care possible, I hopped online and did thorough research.
Goldfish can go without food for 8 to 14 days. During this time, they scavenge their aquarium and feed off algae. In ponds, depending on the size and available algae (sometimes goldfish also eat plants, check out this list here) and insects, goldfish can go without feeding indefinitely.
If you’re planning a vacation, it’s best to not ask a neighbour to take care of your fish in scenarios where you’ll be back within 10 days. This is controversial, but I’ll briefly explain why later. I’ll also cover other crucial information to make sure you’re better prepared than 99% of the other goldfish keepers.
How to take care of your goldfish when you’re on vacation
The most likely reason you’re wondering how long a goldfish can live without food is because you’re about to leave your house for a while. Now, it must be said that goldfish (and most betta fish too) are great and strong fish that can survive a period without feeding. Like we just discussed, if you’re leaving less than 8 days your goldfish will be fine.
There is even a case published on the British news website The Telegraph where a goldfish survived for an impressive 134 days after an earthquake in New Zealand. The poor fish fed on algae and other tank inhabitants that had passed away. While this is a sad and extreme example, it shows the strength of goldfish.
As long as you’ve been feeding your goldfish well, the aquarium water is pristine and you’ve got good filtration there is nothing to worry about. If you’re leaving for up to two weeks, your goldfish should be fine, but there is some risk involved. Here are some of your options.
Asking a friend to take care of your fish
Now, I’ve found multiple extremely experienced goldfish keepers recommend against asking a friend or neighbor to take take of your goldfish. A group called the “Bristol-Aquarists” stated that “it can be safer to leave fish unfed rather than risking a neighbor overfeeding them and polluting the tank”.
On another forum a man called Tom, who is keeping 200 fish and hasn’t lost a goldfish in years, answered the following to the same very question we’re answering right now: “and please don’t have someone else feed them, they will over feed and when you return either your fish will be dead from water pollution or the tank will be a mess”.
This is because, as you probably know, goldfish look hungry all the time. They’ll always be begging for food. Fish keepers will know this through experience, but asking a fish-sitter to look after your pet fish could be a huge risk.
Furthermore, it’s best to feed your goldfish 2 to 3 times per day instead of one bigger feeding, where a lot of the food will dwell down to the bottom of the tank. The chances that your friend or neighbour will overfeed and pollute your aquarium are high, and this could kill your fish.
If you leave longer than two weeks, you probably have to ask another person to check on your tank. If you can afford professional fish-sitters, which exist, try getting a hold of them. They’ll know how to take proper care of your aquarium.
If you opt for a friend or neighbor, give them proper instructions and potentially even prepare all the servings they have to give their fish. Providing them with a feeding schedule is also important. Tell them about your usual feeding habits and see if they are willing to stick to it.
I don’t know what’s going on with me today, but I’m only recommending the exact opposite of what many other people recommend on the internet. This time, it’s about using automatic fish feeders to take over feeding when you’re on vacation.
It’s a great option and a route you could definitely take, when you want to continue regularly feeding your goldfish. There are many options available that you can program just the way you would want. It essentially releases food on a timer. But I would be very careful to say the least.
I’ve tried an automatic feeder when I went on vacation for three weeks. It got me into so much trouble! From experience I can say it’s extremely difficult to estimate how much the machine is feeding. You see, we are great at feeding our own fish. We’ve been feeding roughly the same amount for many months prior and found a balance.
As soon as you fire up an automatic feeder, it’s super difficult to continue that balance. In my case, the feeder machine was feeding too much and I got home to a heavily polluted aquarium with lots of algae. Thank goodness all my fish were still alive. But you can imagine what so much pellets do your the water quality of my aquarium.
If you want to try an automatic feeder, it’s important you don’t install the thing the day before you leave town. Instead, install it at least one week but preferably earlier so you’ve got time to adjust the settings to feed the right amount of food for your aquarium.
I recommend buying the affordable Eheim feeder, which offers you great versatility when it comes to programming its schedule. It can even feed more times in one day, which is great for goldfish. Check out the current price here on Amazon.
Slow-release fish food
To correctly inform you about all your options, these highly compressed blocks of food can not be missing. These weekend feeders or vacation feeders are designed to slowly give off food over a prolonged period of time.
However, I would not recommend this option. Most blocks are made to last a max. 14 day period. This is a period that goldfish should be able to last without food anyways. These blocks also have the tendency to turn into sludge too soon. In this case, it can start rotting, causing a severe ammonia spike, potentially harming your fish.
Food that can also be used to bridge a weekend out of town are vegetables. I’d experiment with feeding vegetables in the period leading up to your retreat. Goldfish are known to eat carrots, zucchini, watermelon, cucumber, grapes and even oranges. Unprocessed human foods work, but make sure to read up on it before you start feeding it. Also feel free to experiment with peas, spinach, broccoli, kale or lettuce. Just make sure to remove any access and uneaten food, as it will impact your water quality.
Goldfish eat a lot of stuff.
If you’re about to leave for a long period, there’s no time to experiment and see what works. In that case, resort to solutions I mentioned before.
A good example of what definitely not to feed your goldfish is bread. Never feed bread to your fish, as it has the tendency to suck up water and bloat your fish.
You can also add more meaty food that contains protein, such as brine shrimp, daphnia, blood worms or small crustaceans. Again, these might work to keep your fish fed of a couple of days, but they’re not your solution when you plan to leave your home for a week or more.
How long can goldfish in a pond survive without food
At this point we need to choose our words carefully. Goldfish can not last too long without food, but in a pond they can last super long without you feeding them. In fact, my girlfriend’s parents have a small pond with some plants and goldfish, and they never have to feed these fish. That’s because pond fish are able to find their own food, depending on the pond ofcourse.
Goldfish are known to eat smaller fish from time to time. This is one of the reasons why you can not keep them together with guppies.
Goldfish in ponds have access to plenty of insects, algae and plants to scavenge for a varied diet. In winter, the pond freezes over and the goldfish enter a state of “hibernation” where the fish’s metabolism slows down so they don’t have to eat as much. That means that water temperature actually influences how much your fish have to eat!
Now don’t suddenly dial down the temperature on your aquarium, as sudden changes in temperature will affect your fish’s immune system. In turn this could cause problems such as swim bladder problems. The temperature thing works for goldfish that are kept in a pond!
Now it’s very important to look at your pond and determine whether your fish are able to find enough food themselves. Live plants often offer a source of food, as well as insects. If you feel like the fish in your pond would be better off with additional food, by all means go ahead. Especially after winter, food can be hard to find and it’s the point where your goldfish need it the most to recover from a cold winter.
My Favorite Fishtank Products to Make Life Easier
I am so happy you enjoy this post so far! You will also definitely like my product recommendations that will make your fishkeeping experience so much better. I’m 100% sure you’ll love them! Check them out here:
1. A good gravel vacuum; Without a gravel vacuum, cleaning the substrate of your tanks is near impossible. Whenever I want to remove some of the sunken detritus from the bottom of my tank I’m happy I’ve got one of these. Click here
2. Liquid plant fertilizer; It’s no secret that I do not like nutritious aqua-soil. It makes a mess and only works for a given amount of time. Instead, I always use a liquid aquarium plant fertilizer. Everyone who keeps live plants needs it, it’s not that expensive and makes your plants grow better. Click here
3. A set of aquascape tools; I love keeping plants, but planting and reorganizing my aquarium was difficult until I got a set of these tools. It’s much easier to plant any kind of plant compared to using my thick fingers. Click here
4. A liquid-based water test kit; ever since I’m able to accurately test my water parameters, keeping fish became less stressful. Before I was always stressed that my water parameters were wrong, but with a kit such as the API Master kit, I can measure this. It really is essential to successful fishkeeping. Click here
5. A digital thermometer; the more you know about your aquarium, the better! Temperature is crucial for the health of your fish. A thermometer will also show you whether your heaters are still working correctly. It will give you more insight and more peace of mind. Click here
Don’t do THIS when you are going on vacation
Such a clickbait Youtube title, I’m sorry. But what I want to warn you against is feeding more food just before you leave. You can’t measure out a week’s worth of goldfish food and give it to them all on sunday.
Two reasons why not, the first one has to do with the fact that goldfish tend to continue eating until they feel unwell. The other reason is more important, they are never able to finish all in one sitting! The majority of the food will fall down and completely pollute your aquarium. By doing this, you’re essentially poisoning your own goldfish, which I’m sure is not your intention!