How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food in Your Tank or Pond

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.

How long can goldfish live without food?

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. 

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 neighbour, 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.

Automatic feeder

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 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. 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.

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 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 and causing a severe ammonia spike, potentially harming your fish.

How long can goldfish in a pond survive without food

At this point we need to carefully choose our words. Goldfish can not last too long without food, but in a pond they can last super long without you feeding them. In fact, the parents of my girlfriend have a small pond with some plants and goldfish, and they never have to feed these fish. 

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 their metabolism slows down so they don’t have to eat as much. 

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

Over the years I’ve found a variety of products that make the fish keeping life so much easier. Whenever someone asks me what products I recommend buying, these are the first 5 items that come to mind. I’ll briefly list them below and state why I love them so much. I’m 100% sure you’ll love them!

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. They’re available here on Amazon and I highly recommend them!

2. Liquid plant fertilizer; It’s no secret that I do not like nutritious aqua-soil. It makes a mess and only works 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. This is the one I use and recommend.

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. They’re also available here on Amazon.

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 using a kit such as the API Master kit, which is available here, I can measure this. It really is essential to successful fishkeeping.

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!

Bart Sprenkels

I have been keeping multiple aquariums since I was 18 years old. Just like many of you, I started with two goldfish but quickly learned they were not suitable for aquariums. Later, I switched to a tropical community tank and I also have two pet musk-turtles in a bigger aquarium. You can read more about me here.

Recent Posts