4. Feeding

The worst habit that ponders indulge is overfeeding. Goldfish should be fed only as much as they can consume in five minutes. Lacking stomachs, they will spit out excess food or excrete it undigested, and the decaying food will compromise the pond’s biological balance. You need to remove uneaten food at the end of the feeding period to prevent its decomposition. Small ponders have a big advantage, as it is easy for us to see and reach all the uneaten food. As a rule, goldfish can safely consume food equal to 3% of their body weight per day. Consult the chart on the Choosing Fish page for estimated fish weights.

Feeding the fish is great fun. Goldfish will learn to recognize their feeder, and will rush to you begging for food whenever you approach the pond. They can become so tame that they eat from your hand. Few spectacles in nature match the feeding frenzy at the outset of a meal. It’s no wonder that many hobbyists feed their fish too much or too often.

You need to take two elements into consideration when feeding your goldfish: diet and frequency. Both of these are determined by the temperature of the water. Being cold water fish, goldies’ metabolism correlates with the warmth of the pond. As the fish get colder, their digestive systems begin to shut down and need high carbohydrate roughage based foods. At very low temperatures, the fish hibernate and cannot digest food at all. Any food consumed during this period will rot the fish’s insides. A floating or submersible thermometer is a must for pondkeeping.

  1. When the thermometer reads over 70 degrees F, feed a full meal twice a day. Some experts recommend three or four smaller meals in order to not stress the filter. Feed a high protein food (35% plus) with color enhancers. This is often labeled “growth” formula. High protein “color” foods with hue enhancing spirolina added are most effective when fed at this time. Fruits and vegetables can be fed at this time and will balance the diet, fostering healthy bone and skin development.
  2. When the mercury falls below 70, continue to feed food rich in protein, mixing “growth” and “staple” foods, but only once or twice a day. Taper back supplemental foods like peas or brine shrimp.
  3. At 60 degrees, switch to lower protein “staple” food, and feed once a day. Begin mixing wheat germ based “fall and spring” food into the schedule. Treats should only consist of dry cereal, bread, or peas.
  4. Below 55, feed wheat germ based feed exclusively. Cut feedings to every other day.
  5. When temperatures settle below 50 degrees for the season, stop feeding.
  6. In the spring, just follow the steps in reverse. Just remember that you should not restart feeding the fish until the temperature establishes itself above 50 degrees for the season. Some wait until they have readings over 50 for two weeks, some for a month. Better safe than sorry.

Feeding pets is never cheap, and it doesn’t pay in the long run to save money. Buy the highest quality food you can afford, and buy it from a dealer that keeps his stock up to date. Small ponders have to pass up buying food in bulk because freshness counts. Stale food is lower in vitamins and protein. If ou must buy food in bulk, put a week or two’s supply in a tightly sealed plastic bag on your counter and refrigerate the rest to keep it fresh.

Be sure to buy food labeled for koi, koi & goldfish, or pond fish. Read the label carefully to determine protein/carbohydrate content. If corn meal is listed in the first three ingredients, reject the food. This is fish feed, not cattle feed, and corn meal as a main ingredient is cutting corners. I prefer floating food because I like the feeding frenzy, and it is easy to remove excess uneaten morsels from the surface. To help smaller fish take in the pellets and to protect the larger fish from bloat from expanding pellets, soak any hard food for 10-15 minutes before introducing it into the pond. Check out “Goldfish Nutrition” in my Blogroll for links to food you can make yourself.

Store dry food in the house, not outdoors. Excessive heat or moisture can cause the food to spoil or even go rancid. If you feed any live food or vegetables to your fish, make sure they are clean and fresh, as they could otherwise introduce harmful disease into the pond. Many ponders avoid live foods for this reason. If you are worried about harmful bacterial, use only frozen or irradiated fruits, veggies, and meats. There are several brands of premeasured frozen foods available on the market.

Fish, like cats and dogs, know the difference between lousy food and gourmet food. Like humans, they thrive on a varied diet. The most enjoyable feeding times come with a mixture of quality feed.

When you go on vacation, pre-measure packets of food for your neighbors to ensure that they do not overfeed your stock. In cool weather, fish can get along on plants and algae for three or four days, so you can take a weekend trip with no problem. In fact, you can do this in the summer as well, but you don’t want to deprive them of the extra protein they need to maximize growth.


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