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Feeding Goldfish

You can't just feed anything to your goldfish.

By Stephen M. Meyer

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Q. I keep a calico fantail goldfish in a 10-gallon aquarium. This aquarium has a fluorescent tube, which I only turn on at night. It also has an undergravel filter, and five plastic plants. I change roughly 50 percent of the water about every two weeks.

All the books I've read about goldfish suggest feeding them a varied diet. My fish east goldfish pellets, ham, earthworms and brown bread readily, but I cannot get it to eat plants! I've tried lettuce, broccoli and parsley, but it won't eat any of these, even though I don't feed it the day before "veggie day," which is once a week. I've tried clipping a sprig of parsley to the side of the aquarium. It looks like the fish is trying to eat it, but can't get a good enough hold on the leaves to rip off a piece.

Are their any cheap or free ways to get plant matter that my fish would willingly eat? I've thought about collecting aquatic plants from a river. The two rivers that I have access to contain lots of algae and plants. They also contain water bugs, a few water snakes, freshwater fish, frogs, tadpoles and turtles. I know for sure that one of them has some small leeches. Both are parks, with beaches set aside for swimming. Would it be okay to collect plants there, or could I bring diseases into the aquarium?

I've had this goldfish for almost two years and it has been totally healthy except for a swim bladder problem. I would be very grateful for any ideas you could give me.

A. Ham for goldfish food, huh? That is a new one on me. Smoked or honey-baked? Seriously, I would knock off the ham. Animal protein and fat will not do much for your goldfish. You are absolutely right, though, to want to get the fish over to a vegetable diet.

The vegetables you have been offering to the goldfish are probably too unusual for it. Broccoli, in particular, is pretty weird, but then again so is ham!

Try par-boiled peas. Buy a small bag of frozen green peas (very cheap) and take five or six, place them in a shallow dish of water, put them in the microwave for a minute or so and cook them (or do this on the stove). Wash them in cold water and then remove the outer shell. Notice each pea will split into two halves.

Drop a pea half into the aquarium in front of the goldfish. It may go right after the pea. It may not. If the pea remains in the water for more than an hour, remove it. Do not feed the goldfish anything else, and try again the next day. Keep this up for a week and the finicky fish will soon start to eat veggies. Peas offer considerable nutritional value, and they will enhance the orange coloring in your goldfish, too.

Some goldfish books offer recipes for goldfish "cakes" that include substantial vegetable material. Try one if you like cooking for fish.

Some hobbyists find that goldfish are voracious consumers of live aquarium plants. You could try purchasing some Cabomba spp., Myriophyllum spp. and other soft-leafed aquarium plants. This is, however, likely to be expensive over the long run.

Absolutely under no circumstance should you collect aquatic plants from local rivers or streams. First, this type of collecting can be very harmful to natural wetlands. Second, it may well be against the law in your state. Third — and you guessed right here — the chances of bringing harmful parasites and small aquatic predators into your aquarium (leeches, hydra, water beetles) are very large.

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