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Can Goldfish Choke on Food, Bread, or Gravel? Safety Tips

Once or twice, I’ve noticed that my goldfish seemed to be choking, particularly when I gave it certain types of food. That made me wonder: can goldfish choke on stuff like food, gravel, or ornaments?

Quick Answer

The unfortunate reality is that yes, goldfish can choke on their food, bread, gravel, and more. If the food is too large or if you aren’t feeding your goldfish the right types of food, it may lead to what appears to be choking, which can lead to serious health issues and even death.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about your goldfish choking on food, gravel, bread, and more. I’ll provide you with some useful tips on this front.

Can Goldfish Choke on Food or Ornaments?

Yes, just like many other fish out there, goldfish can choke on their food. That said, it’s not exactly the same type of choking that you might think of when you think of a human choking. 

A hungry black and gold goldfish is at the surface eating its food

In us humans, we have very complex digestive tracts and breathing systems. Our throat is linked to both our digestive tract and our lungs.

Therefore, when we eat food that is too large and it gets stuck in our throats, it leads to us choking and suffocating due to a lack of oxygen. This is not quite the same thing with fish, whether goldfish or otherwise.

Goldfish have a much more simplistic digestive system. They more or less have a straight line from the mouth to the anus, with the digestive tract being in the middle. As far as breathing is concerned, goldfish use their gills.

When a goldfish tries to eat food that is too large for it, that food can get lodged anywhere between the mouth and the anus, which can lead to serious issues. In some cases, if the food is very large, it may actually stop the gills from working properly, which in some very rare cases may actually lead to suffocation.

However, in general, eating food that is too big for the fish, which causes it to choke, may lead to compaction, blockages, buoyancy issues, and various other digestive issues, many of which can lead to death if not resolved.

How to Prevent Goldfish From Choking on Food

There are a few good tips that I can provide you with to help prevent your goldfish from choking on its food, so let’s take a quick look at all of them right now.

The Right Size of Food

One of the things you absolutely need to do is to ensure that you give your goldfish the right size of food, which more or less starts with buying specific goldfish food. There are plenty of commercially available goldfish pellets and flakes that are designed for various types of goldfish.

Remember that there are different types of goldfish out there, this is something you need to pay attention to. If you have a common goldfish, get food designed for a common goldfish. Either these goldfish pellets or these goldfish flakes should be just fine.

If you want to be absolutely sure what to feed your goldfish, make sure to check out our guide on the ideal goldfish diet here.

Soak Dry Foods

If your goldfish appears to have problems with choking on its food, whether flakes or pellets, something you can try doing is soaking them in water very briefly before you give them to your goldfish. This will help soften them up a bit, and will ultimately make them a bit easier to digest.

Monitor the Goldfish as it Eats

In general, you should just monitor your goldfish while it eats to see what happens. If you notice that your goldfish has trouble with any one type of food, or if certain pieces of food are too large, immediately remove them from the aquarium. 

It might take a bit of trial and error to figure out exactly what your goldfish can and cannot eat.

A Good Feeding Schedule

Furthermore, you also just don’t want to give your goldfish too much food, as this can lead to issues as well. If you overfeed your goldfish, which means that you give it more than it can eat in about three minutes, it might ingest way too much food, which can also lead to some pretty serious issues.

Check out the best goldfish feeding schedule here.

Can a Goldfish Choke on Gravel?

Something else I’d like to touch on today is whether or not a goldfish can choke on gravel. The fact of the matter is that yes, if it is present in the aquarium, and it is of the right size, a goldfish may choke on gravel. Again, this doesn’t necessarily have to involve suffocating due to a lack of oxygen.

Rather, fish may ingest gravel, and because they don’t have a choking reflex such as gagging or coughing, they ingest that gravel. If the gravel is swallowed, it can become lodged in their digestive tract, which can lead to blockages, injuries, and death. Below are some tips that you should follow to ensure that your goldfish does not choke on gravel.

  • When choosing the appropriate substrate for your goldfish, make sure that it is too large for your goldfish to swallow or to even attempt to fit in its mouth. Large aquarium safe decorations, smooth river rocks, and very large pieces of gravel should do just fine. As long as the goldfish can’t fit the gravel in its mouth, there shouldn’t be any problems.
  • You may also just want to supervise your goldfish while it is eating. If you see that your goldfish is trying to pick up food from the substrate and swallows gravel in the process, you know that you then need to adjust the feeding method. This brings us to the next point.
  • An issue that can lead to your goldfish swallowing gravel is if you give them sinking food. Sinking food quickly makes its way to the bottom of the tank and rests on the substrate. Then, when your goldfish goes to eat that food, it might also scoop up some substrate along with it. Therefore, the best solution here is to provide people with floating food, as this will help avoid this issue altogether.
  • If you see food resting on the bottom of the aquarium, or if there is any extremely loose substrate that may be eaten by your fish, it is best to use a gravel back to remove those items from the tank. One of the best treatments for any problem is prevention.
  • Whenever you add any new addition to the aquarium, especially when it comes to the substrate, observe your fish to see how they interact with it. If you notice that your fish is overly curious about the new substrate and it keeps trying to eat it, you might want to rethink your decision.

A Note on Feeding Goldfish Bread

Some people choose to feed their goldfish pieces of bread. However, this is really not recommended. I actually did this once when I first started keeping fish, and it did not go so well. 

Goldfish are technically omnivores which means that they should be able to consume a wide variety of foods, including both sources of meat protein as well as plant matter. However, bread is not an ideal choice of food for goldfish for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, the majority of the diet of a goldfish should be made of animal-based protein. Bread is of course not a source of animal-based protein, nor does it contain many minerals, vitamins, or other nutrients that goldfish require for health and survival. 

In fact, giving your goldfish too much bread may lead to nutritional deficiencies over a prolonged period of time.

At the very least, having too much bread in the water can lead to some pretty serious water quality issues. If bread is left uneaten and starts to dissolve in the tank, it can start rotting and releasing ammonia, which leads to poor water conditions.

Furthermore, bread just isn’t healthy for your goldfish at all. Goldfish have a very simple digestive tract that is designed to process natural foods. 

If you feed your goldfish too much bread, it can cause difficulties with digestion. It can cause stomach expansion, bloating, compaction, buoyancy issues, and in some cases even death. The bottom line is that you need to avoid feeding your goldfish bread at all costs.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the reality is that just like most other animals and fish out there, goldfish can choke. Although the choking might not involve suffocation due to a lack of oxygen, it can involve compaction, bloating, digestive tract blockages, and even death.

Therefore, it is essential that you provide your goldfish with the right type and size of food, that you pay attention to how your goldfish interacts with gravel, and more. 

Furthermore, don’t give your goldfish any nutritionally lacking foods such as bread, especially because bread is also known for causing digestive issues in fish.

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