How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food? (Surprising Answer)

Going on vacation soon and wondering what to do about your pet goldfish? You’ll be happy to know that a healthy goldfish in the right tank can survive up to two weeks without food, but that doesn’t mean it won’t affect their health.

As fish keepers, we’ve all been in that situation where we had to leave the house for long periods, which means leaving our fish alone. Without anyone to take over their feeding schedule or help with the tank maintenance, it’s very nerve-wracking to imagine what can happen to your fish when you’re away.

While some fish have gone longer than this without food, leaving your goldfish without anything to eat can stress them out and weaken their immune system. And that’s not what we want for our little companion. 

If you’re worried about your goldfish going hungry, there are ways you can ensure they are still fed without you being there physically. Read on to find out some helpful tips to prep you and your goldfish before heading away!

How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food? 

Goldfish can go up to two weeks without food if they’re healthy and you keep them in a tank with the proper water parameters. You also have to make arrangements for when they get hungry because you can’t just leave and expect to find them okay (in most cases) when you get back. 

A goldfish’s appetite is heavily affected by its tank’s water temperature. The fact that goldfish aren’t tropical fish allows them to tolerate a broader range of temperatures, so it doesn’t have to be extremely warm for them to be comfortable.

Warmer temperatures stimulate this fish’s metabolism which causes them to eat more and become more active. One tip to help them stay longer without food is to lower the tank’s water temperatures (just like a bears metabolism slows during the cold winter and they can survive on less food).

Lowering the temperatures slows down your goldfish’s metabolism which reduces their appetite, so they won’t be as hungry when you’re away. This way, the little food they get from automatic feeders (more on this soon) will be enough before you return. 

You can lower the temperatures by adding ice into the tank or just moving the tank to a different location that’s preferably colder.

How Do You Know Your Goldfish is Hungry?

There are a lot of ways fish express hunger. When you get a goldfish, it might be difficult to determine if they’re hungry or if you’re giving them enough food. They can’t show you they are hungry like cats and dogs do. It will take a lot of attempts to get your goldfish on a regular feeding schedule.

Fish like goldfish are fed at least two to three times a day. Feeding them too much food at once will pollute the tank with leftovers and throw off the water’s pH. Poor water quality won’t help your goldfish survive two weeks without feeding. 

But back to the main point, you can tell your goldfish is hungry in many ways. You just have to observe them. Some obvious behaviors of a hungry goldfish include:

  • Digging in the substrate is a sign they are looking for food. 
  • A slow and sluggish swimming pattern can indicate your goldfish hasn’t been getting the right food portions. You will need to increase the portions and not the frequency. 
  • Your goldfish swimming to the top of the tank could mean they are waiting for floating flakes. 
  • Other behavioral changes like aggression towards other fish could indicate they are hungry. Some fish are known to attack other tank mates, so you shouldn’t be surprised if they are in a tank with smaller fish. 
  • Quickly eating food shows that your goldfish has starved for a long time. If they go into an eating frenzy, they might have been hungry, and you didn’t notice. 
  • Your goldfish swimming to different areas in the tank could be because they are hungry.

You’ll know you’re feeding your goldfish well if they can finish their food within 3 minutes of dropping it into the tank. Goldfish can continue to eat even when not hungry, so you’ll have to practice self-control on their behalf and not overfeed them. 

An adult goldfish requires more food than a younger one, so their feeding schedule could change over time. 

How To Feed a Goldfish When You’re on Vacation

You’re likely considering other feeding options because you’ll be away from home for a while. Whether it’s a week or two, the last thing you want is to return to a dead fish, so you need to make arrangements for how they will eat and survive while you’re gone.

A wild goldfish diet consists of plant matter, algae, some insects, and smaller fish. So in their new environment, you should try to replicate this with the combination of food options below. You can get these foods at most pet stores.

But what do goldfish like to eat? Here is a list of some of their favorite fish and human foods:

  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Flakes
  • Broccoli 
  • Floating pellets
  • Apples
  • Sinking pellets
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Lettuce
  • gel food
  • Carrots
  • Cooked rice 

You can substitute your goldfish diet with foods like blood worms, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp. These are great protein sources for your goldfish and necessary when trying to breed them. Goldfish need to be healthy and energetic for breeding to be successful.

 If leaving your goldfish makes you anxious,  here are other feeding options you can try:

1. Get a Fish Sitter 

While you can ask your neighbor or a friend to come and watch your goldfish while you’re on vacation, it’s not always the best idea, as most people don’t understand how/when to properly feed fish.

Other people feeding your fish can be dangerous because of the risk of overfeeding or tampering with the water parameters, which can make your fish sick and stressed.

If the person you’re leaving in charge of your home aquarium doesn’t know much about aquatic animals, they can easily be tempted to give your goldfish too much food. As you read above, goldfish always look hungry.

The best option is to get a professional fish sitter to look after your pet while away. You can contact a professional fish sitter trained in proper aquarium care to look after your goldfish like dog parents do with dog sitters. 

If you can’t afford to hire one, leave enough instructions to your neighbor or friend who will look after your fish.

2. Use an Automatic Feeder

An automatic feeder might sound like the best option when you’re worried about feeding your fish. But it might be more work than you think because it’s extremely difficult to estimate how much food the machine will feed into your aquarium.

An automatic feeder will dispense food according to the timer you set. But there are tons of automatic feeders you can choose from, with some even offering programmable options to determine what time you want your goldfish to be fed. You should know this option doesn’t consider if your goldfish is bloated or full while you’re away.

The food will just keep on coming, which means your goldfish might get into trouble by overeating, which can lead to diseases.

To be safe, don’t install the automatic feeder right before you leave. Install it a week or two prior to try to see how much food it dispenses (and if it works properly!) before going on vacation to avoid any surprises on your return. 

3. Use Slow Release food

One of the cheapest ways to ensure your goldfish is fed is to use a slow-release fish food. These compressed blocks of food will slowly release small amounts as time passes. Depending on how long you’ll be gone, you can choose weekend or vacation feeder blocks. 

Vacation feeders last up to 14 days, so you should consider them if you plan an extended vacation. Weekend feeder blocks are designed to last for around three days.

Unfortunately, most of these slow-release feeders tend to turn into sludge after a while that can rot. Others could contain foods that your goldfish don’t even like. So it’s still not a 100% perfect solution to feeding your goldfish when you’re gone. 

How Long Can Goldfish Go Without Food in a Pond?

Unlike the goldfish that spend their days swimming in a fish tank fitted with filters, pond goldfish are accustomed to very different living conditions. The period they can survive without food also depends if their pond ecosystem is well maintained.

Pond goldfish can go without food for longer because they are surrounded by algae, plants, insects, and other fish. These can substitute their diet when you are away. 

A goldfish in a pond should be fed at least twice daily, especially during winter when these other food options are scarce. If you want to increase their lifespan, here are 9 tips to help your goldfish live longer.

Tips For Feeding Your Goldfish When You’re on Vacation

A hungry goldfish doesn’t need to be overfed when you get home. That will only lead to more problems for both of you. These fish will eat anything they are offered, so it will be up to you to moderate their portions.

So before you leave for that trip or vacation, here are some additional tips for taking care of your goldfish:

  • Carry out regular water changes before you leave. 
  • Don’t feed them more food just because you are about to leave. 
  • Remove excess food from the tank to prevent poisoning.

In extreme cases, when your goldfish hasn’t been fed for an extended period, they will lose weight. Their appearance will be visibly different, and you might see their spine sticking out. 


When can you skip feeding your goldfish?

According to some aquarists, you can skip feeding your goldfish at least once a week. Missing a single meal will allow your goldfish to digest their food correctly and prevent constipation that could be caused by overfeeding.

Is fasting suitable for your goldfish?

Yes, fasting is a good practice for most fish keepers. It helps them reduce the risk of illnesses like swim bladder problems caused by swollen belly pressing on their swim bladder. These issues are severe and can be fatal to your goldfish.

How can you tell you overfed your goldfish?

Goldfish are small, so when you see their belly swelling, it likely indicates bloating caused by overeating. They will eat as long as you keep feeding them, so you should only give them at least one to two meals per day.

How much human food can you feed your goldfish?

You can feed your fish plenty of human food because, as you can see above, they like vegetables and fruits. But it shouldn’t be part of their main diet. Adding some proteins and goldfish flakes will help balance their diet.

Feeding Goldfish While On Vacation 

These adorable creatures can go two weeks without food, so you shouldn’t be worried if you leave them alone for this long. However, if you want to find them healthy when you return, you must give them other food options when you’re gone. 

Some alternatives include using automatic feeders, slow-release food, or hiring a fish sitter. Depending on your budget and the time you’ll be gone, some of these options will work for your Goldfish.  

Whichever option you choose, you can relax because your goldfish will be okay fasting for a couple of days when you’re enjoying your vacation. 

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