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Reasons Goldfish Eat Aquarium Plants?


Shahbazin

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I was just wondering if there were any identifiable factors in why/if goldfish would eat or not eat the plants in their tank. Age? Hunger? Novelty? Fewer vs more plants? Texture/tastiness? Type of goldfish? Whether fish was previously in a pond or not? Leader dietary preferences?

 

I started with 1 goldfish in a small tank - he was a baby, & as he grew, he ate every plant in the tank - absolutely demolished them, tasty or not tasty types (swords, cabomba, hygrophilia, moss balls, etc.) he was soon moved outside to a pond/tub (100 gal.) with green water, algae covered walls, & a small water lily (not eaten) & 4 other fish (at least 3 of which had no plant experience). 

 

As 2 year olds, 4 of these fish were moved to a 75 g. that had been heavily planted during its fishless cycle, with plants chosen for goldfish compatibility (swords, crypts, hygrophilia, anubis). Occasional plant being dug up if not secured, but no plant eating. The leader of the tank is the original fish, previously fond of plant munching.

 

So, why are they being well-behaved now? Is it that they are older/mature fish, & younger ones are more prone to munching? That the tank was planted before they moved in, with too many plants to focus on one? The tastiness factor seems hard to discern, as it appears to be heavily influenced by individual preferences (although the chewier ones seem safer). I hear that single tails may be more prone to graze on the aquascape, but all 4 of mine are single tails (2 commons, 1 comet, 1 shubunkin).

 

Anyhow, I think it would be interesting to see if there are any common factors in others' tanks, or if it's all random :)

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  • Regular Member

I was just wondering if there were any identifiable factors in why/if goldfish would eat or not eat the plants in their tank. Age? Hunger? Novelty? Fewer vs more plants? Texture/tastiness? Type of goldfish? Whether fish was previously in a pond or not? Leader dietary preferences?

 

I started with 1 goldfish in a small tank - he was a baby, & as he grew, he ate every plant in the tank - absolutely demolished them, tasty or not tasty types (swords, cabomba, hygrophilia, moss balls, etc.) he was soon moved outside to a pond/tub (100 gal.) with green water, algae covered walls, & a small water lily (not eaten) & 4 other fish (at least 3 of which had no plant experience). 

 

As 2 year olds, 4 of these fish were moved to a 75 g. that had been heavily planted during its fishless cycle, with plants chosen for goldfish compatibility (swords, crypts, hygrophilia, anubis). Occasional plant being dug up if not secured, but no plant eating. The leader of the tank is the original fish, previously fond of plant munching.

 

So, why are they being well-behaved now? Is it that they are older/mature fish, & younger ones are more prone to munching? That the tank was planted before they moved in, with too many plants to focus on one? The tastiness factor seems hard to discern, as it appears to be heavily influenced by individual preferences (although the chewier ones seem safer). I hear that single tails may be more prone to graze on the aquascape, but all 4 of mine are single tails (2 commons, 1 comet, 1 shubunkin).

 

Anyhow, I think it would be interesting to see if there are any common factors in others' tanks, or if it's all random :)

 

Typically, as goldfish are growing (i.e. younger) they will be more inclined to feed heavily and at all times. This is probably what you are seeing with your fish and plants. However goldfish planted aquariums will always remain goldfish salad-bar aquariums to me.

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A lot of it is pond/tank culture.  People who have multiple ponds will often observe that they can't grow a water lily in one pond and in the other the fish never bother the lilies.  Often everyone waits for a dominant fish to taste a new potential food.  If Goldilocks eats it, everyone does, if she spits it out, everyone leaves it alone.  In a mixed age pond, I observe that the little ones seldom rush to try new food.  They check it out then back off until one the the big ones eat some, and then rush in.  

 

I think if young fish seem more likely to eat plants it might be by accident.  Fry will always appear to be nibbling at plants, but aquatic plants have nearly every surface covered with edibles that are just the right size for a baby mouth.  As that mouth gets bigger, it might get a piece of a leaf and find that good too.  I toss my found fry in the duckweed tub.  I know they are ready for fish food when I come out one day and find the duckweed population cut in half overnight.  Time to move out kids!

 

The dominant fish can change their minds.  The fish in my front pond gobbled the tadpoles of the Cuban tree frog for three years.  One reason for hating these invasive frogs is that they eat native amphibians, which had completely disappeared in our yard.  As the population of the Cuban frogs decreased,  we began to see native toads.  Then the fish stopped eating tadpoles -- all tadpoles.  Toads have toxic skin secretions, even as tadpoles.  The fish would grab a "toadpole" and quickly spit it out.  After a while they stopped eating tadpoles completely.  

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It's seems to be a combination of genetics (goldfish are hard wired foraging omnivores) and monkey see, monkey do. As already mentioned here, watching other fish do it seems to inspire imitation.

Edited by Arctic Mama
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We must understand that Goldfish are plant eaters. When they decide to eat plants or when they decide to up root them is a matter of time in an aquarium. If you can deal with all that uprooting and chewing, go for it.

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It's also good to note that goldfish can be successfully kept in a heavily planted tank, with minimal damage to said plants. It is, like Sharon pointed out, fish (culture) specific. I know a member here, Lis, has a prime example of a lush goldfish tank. :)

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