How Long Do Goldfish Live Without Food In your Tank or Pond?

how long do goldfish live without food
How long do goldfish live without food? A question which perplexes the ornamental goldfish owners.
The ornamental fish’s ability to survive under nutrient deprivation is a feat to such a small body. Generally, the size of the goldfish is only 4 inches in length.
However, it can reach its optimal length of 8 to 12 inches in a spacious aquarium tank and the ponds.
Feeding the goldfish can be fun as they follow a certain kind of hierarchy while feeding. The adults have the priority, and then the small ones that are aggressive enough to fight for their rights follow suit.
The smaller fish’s aggression is evidence of good health as a willingness to eat is proof for healthy domestic fish.
Besides feeding, there are other intriguing facts that you might not have realized with your beautiful friends.
To begin, let us consider the question we raised at the onset, “how long do Goldfish live without food in your tank or pond”.

How long do goldfish live without food?


Well! Having a goldfish electric aquarium or pond calls for keen attention for the welfare of the decorative fish. Allowing them their humble space and feeding them a balanced diet is the central factor in maintaining good health. And Yet, the question has been raised, how long do goldfish can live without food?

Many sources approximate the duration to 2 weeks, while the others put the period to be a maximum of 10 days. Yet, in some unique cases, these hardy species can be surprisingly stubborn and tolerate intense starvation.

14 days without food:

Some aquarists claim that goldfish can go without food for a period of up to 2 weeks. When you are going on holiday, it is safer to leave the fish unfed than overfeeding and polluting the aquarium tank.
Experienced aquarists advise that it is better to leave the fish unfed than the risk with a caretaker who could easily over-feed your jewels.
However, now there are automatic feeders with timers available online and in pet stores; you can easily calibrate the quantity and the time. You would want to remember that little under-feeding is better than over-feeding while calibrating the amount of feed and the number of times; overfeeding will heavily pollute the tank.
An automatic feeder is on the top of the options if you want to feed your goldfish regularly, even while you are on vacation or preoccupied with the chores of your life.
However, it’s not a means to substitute you feeding your pets personally; all said and done, they are your pets, your babies; you have provided them a habitat because you love to spend time with them, you would love to watch them, play with them, etc.
Note: use the automatic feeder regularly to get the balance while you can supervise and adjust the feeding.

Slow-release food:

Slow-release food is highly compressed food blocks; they are meant to release the food slowly over time. You throw the food blocks in the tank; I suppose it releases food for two weeks.
What’s the point? Goldfish can live for two weeks on scavenging on algae in the aquarium glasses, substrates, decors, etc., in your aquarium tank.
In the pond, they can live for an indefinite period without you having to feed them. In your garden pond, the algae growth, mosquito larvae, insects, planktons, and zooplanktons can keep your goldfish for an indefinite period.
Hence, I imagine slow-release food is not an option for your goldfish. This feed can pollute your tank by turning into sludge and cause severe ammonia poisoning; ammonia spike is far more dangerous to your goldfish than them not having food. Your goldfish might turn black and die or turn white and die.

Two Goldfish go 134 days without food:

In rare cases, Telegraph reports that the two goldfish survived for 134 days without food after the Newzealand earthquake. It is probably the longest reported time that the goldfish have known to have gone without food. 

In the sad event, The Telegraph shows that two goldfish survives 134 days without food under dire circumstances. The New Zealand earthquake raked the city’s downtown area leaving 181 dead.

After over four months, Vicky Thornley, director of Quantum Chartered Accountant, has discovered the two survivors in the office lobby. 

The two goldfish were still alive, while the other four having succumbed to starvation and died. 

Mr. Paul Clarkson of Monterey Bay Aquarium, California, asserted that the two fish survived due to two factors. Viz: One, the weeds in the 26-gallon tank habitat, provided them with nutrients.

And two, to keep the water free from toxic matter, such as ammonia and nitrite, the natural enzymes present in the tank multiplied by feeding on the organic matter and digested the ammonia and the nitrite produced by the fish wastes. 

You are not wrong if one such bacteria that you would think of is Pseudomonas species. These micro-scavengers are lethal environment cleansers that would decompose the toughest organic and inorganic matters. 

The Pseudomonas can occur naturally in an environment or be injected into an environment to aid in biological activities.

Either way, the two goldfish survived. They are a vital reminder that they still might live in crazy environmental conditions depriving them of food. Hence the question –how long do goldfish live without food? – leaves the doors wide open to further research.

How long can Goldfish Live Without Food in a Pond?

how long do goldfish live without food in a pond

Goldfish living in a pond are much more resilient than the goldfish you keep in your aquarium. Your pond fish can live with much less feeding in general. They will go on living all their lives even if you don’t feed them ever; the ecosystem in the pond provides enough nourishment for your goldfish. 

In reality, goldfish stop eating when the temperature dips below 55° F (12° C). Fasting among the fish and other living creatures is a natural process when the pond mimics its original habitat in the wild. 

It will be a good practice not to feed them when the temperature drop below 55° F (12° C). Accumulated stale food will turn the pond water into a foul one, and ammonia and nitrite could build up beyond the digestive capacity of the bio-moss. 

Ammonia and nitrite level should be 0 at any given time; even the slightest presence of Ammonia for a short duration can spike and burn your fish. Ammonia spike is one of the common reasons why your goldfish can turn white suddenly; in many cases, the fish die eventually. It also remains the principal cause why your goldfish turns black apart from the genetic reason, which is harmless.

To answer your question, how long do goldfish live without food in a Pond? Depending on the size and the ecosystem, your goldfish can live without you feeding for an indefinite period.

Natural Habitat:

You would never want to overlook the conditions of their original habitat. Goldfish are species in the family of Cyprinidae of the order of Cypriniformes. It is a relatively small carp family member, native to Eastern Asia; they are hardy and adapt to a good range of environmental conditions.

In the wild, they need to be tough to thrive as other species share the food supplies.

In most cases, the available resources are by measure just enough for the goldfish to hung on for survival. Even so, it is not the case in most cases as goldfish are becoming an invasive species.

Frequently, people around the world pull out some monstrous goldfish from the lakes, reservoirs, ditches. They are not tiny goldfish you are accustomed to seeing in a constrained space such as a fishbowl, small fish tank, etc.

How long do goldfish live without food in such a competitive environment? The answer depends on the state of aggression in the natural world encompassing them.  

Aggressive goldfish types have a better chance to survive in the wild than docile types.

Regardless of sufficient food availability, the fish have adapted to the fluctuation of nutrition supply and can survive for more than ten days without food.


over populated goldfish habitat

Space is also another limiting factor within their habitat. Over-populated pond and the aquarium tank leads to depletion of oxygen in the tank.
Lack of proper ventilation, water circulation pollutes the water in the aquarium tank; it can cause the goldfish to drown and suffocate to death.

How long do goldfish live without food in a toxic environment that is deficient in oxygen? The answer depends on the adaptation of the fish to carry out its metabolic functions under such conditions.

Regulating the flow of toxic substances within the pond depends on goldfish food consumption. 

These toxic substances are produced by the leftover food and the fish’s biological waste, decaying organic compounds. 

Goldfish Habitat – to determine how long do Goldfish Live Without Food:

To determine how long a goldfish can live without food, you would want to know more about goldfish habitat.

Proper Filtration:

Whether you house them in a tank or pond, one must ensure proper filtration of the water.
What role does filtration play? To get a better picture of the answer, assume that you live in a locked apartment. Your daily activities, such as cooking, washing, feeding, disposing of waste, etc., are done within the four walls of your house.
Nothing goes out; only food comes in periodically. Does it sound like the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown operation is in place? Well, your fish would be in such a situation with no proper filtration.

Choice of Filtration System:

When you house goldfish, the right filtration should be on the top of your list. Filters are not only to filter out suspended or solid particles in the water. Aquarium filter houses beneficial bacterias or the enzymes necessary to digest Ammonia produced by the fish waste. One bacteria converts Ammonia into nitrite, another set of bacteria converts nitrite into nitrate, a less harmful substance than Ammonia and nitrite. This process is called the nitrogen cycle.
Nitrates are allowed to build to a certain level in the water(20 ppm). It becomes dangerous when it goes over 50 ppm. Nevertheless, 20 ppm of nitrate is the maximum recommended level in an aquarium tank or a Pond.
While choosing the filter size, you must consider a minimum of 10 cycles per hour; the filter should circulate the entire water in the aquarium tank or pond ten times per hour. For example, if you have a 20 gallons tank, then the filter should circulate 200 gallons per hour.
You can use either a hang-on-back filter or canister filter or even under gravel filter or sponge filter. Sometimes you can choose a combination of filtration depending on the capacity and your requirements.
Many aquarists choose the Dry Sump Filter System along with a sponge filter.
You can read about the different filtration systems here.

Stock Level:

Your goldfish stock determines the size of your aquarium tank. In other words, your aquarium tank size should decide your goldfish stock to maintain a healthy habitat for the goldfish.
There are many ways to calculate the size of the tank requirements. The simple method is to measure the length of the fish, excluding the tail. The recommended size is 60 sq. cms of surface for every 1 cm length of the goldfish. For example, in a 60 x 30 cms (24×12 inches) tank, you can house 30 cms (12 inches) long fish.

Feeding properly:

The best way of feeding the fish is to feed the quantity only what the fish can finish eating within 3 minutes.
Doing so is crucial to maintaining a healthy water environment for the fish. When you see the aquarium tank water, cloudy, or murky, or dirty, or unnatural behavior of the goldfish or its tank mates, the first thing to do is stop feeding.

Then, test the water for all the necessary parameters with the test kit and correct them to the desired parameters if they have gone off the recommendations.

The Bottom Line:

To answer the question, how long can your goldfish go without food? You probably have noticed by now that the answer is environmentally subjective. Your goldfish is prone to survive longer if it has the provision and supportive environment. 

One can’t ignore that the fish in a food deprivation climate can resort to other available food sources. New food sources might result from studying its environment and experimenting with components in the surrounding. Algae and frozen food craps can be food in a time of dire need. The enemy number one for survival in the pond is poor water sanitation.

Some amazing facts about goldfish:

Besides answering the question, how long do goldfish live without food, which in itself is a feat to reckon, there are interesting facts to learn about goldfish:

Invasive and aggression nature:

Invasion here refers to their characteristic to ‘grab’ and colonize new environments. The lionhead variety behaves just like the jungle counterpart, king Lion while invading new territories. The golden, brown, shubunkin and fairground types come under the same category.

They inhabit vast water-body terrains in Asia, Europe, America, Oceania, Caribbean islands, and Africa. 

Studies show them as aggressive competitors with Pahrump pool fish in Nevada, interbreeding with Crucian carps in Europe. Attention seekers, huh? Maybe or maybe not. In the world of first-come-first-served that we live in, most goldfish species have learned the order of the day at much ease.

They have peculiar eyesight:

Many animals lack color vision capabilities. Among the few privileged are humans and goldfish.

The fish can differentiate between red, blue, green, and ultraviolet colors.

This peculiar ability categorically groups them as tetrachromats, the capacity to discriminate among four colors observable in the universe.

Their sight is sophisticated to the point of differentiating their owners from strangers.

Cognitive abilities:

If you have found joy in your goldfish’s range of stunning colors, it’s time you figured out a kindergarten for your goldfish. It is a scheme that will astonish you, the realization of just how advanced these almost transparent species can see into your tricks. 

Goldfish’s visual acuity helps them draw differences between shapes, sounds produced, and colors reflected.

Other impressive facts about goldfish you would want to familiarize yourself with include:

  • They change their color from birth onwards, assuming different colors in the cause of their lifespan.
  • They can live to a maximum of forty years, something unique to these small-sometimes finger long-creatures.
  • Due to the absence of light, which plays a crucial role in pigment identification, the fish’s golden color disappears. They might appear pale white in the dark.
  • If you are considering putting it on your menu, hold on for a moment. Only if you can’t go another day without food, well, these aren’t the type of easy menu to put on your plate. Its family members, the carps, are quite bony and greasy to bother foraging on it. Additionally, there is a reason why other fishes like the salmon are fast-fish foods though not colorful as goldfish are.

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