Since rice is found in most people’s pantries, it is tempting to offer if you run out of flakes. Or maybe you have some leftover rice that you don’t want to see go to waste. I remember asking myself these questions too… “Can fish eat rice?”
And should it be cooked or uncooked rice? Let’s take a look at what rice has to offer in terms of nutritional value and convenience!
Why is Rice a Good Food?
Rice is a seed-bearing grass and excellent food – for humans. But using it to feed your fish is another matter. Humans can easily eat rice because it is easy to grow and thrive in conditions other plants cannot tolerate (flooded paddies full of mud).
Rice is low maintenance yet high yield. And it is very gentle on the stomachs of people with digestive issues because it’s so easy for our bodies to break down.
Here is the nutritional profile found in a single cup of rice (nutritional data for 1 cup of rice sourced from Nutrition Data):
As you can see, carbohydrates are by far the most significant part of what rice has to offer. Human foods often contain loads of starch because carbohydrates are an important part of a balanced diet.
Carbohydrates are the most easily assimilated of the three types of organic molecules (the other two being fats and protein). Carbs give us the quick bursts of energy that our muscles demand. Besides rice, bread, potatoes, pasta, noodles, and other starchy food find their way into cuisines worldwide.
Nutrients Found in Healthy Fish Food
But rice starch is not part of a nutritious diet for fish. Think about the kind of plants that provide starch. Besides cooked rice, we grow potatoes, wheat, corn, carob, plantains, and other starchy plants to give us simple energy in the form of plant matter.
But few aquatic plants contain loads of starch. A few lilies have starch-rich tubers, as well as Sagittaria, which are often called Duck Potatoes for this reason. But that’s about it.
Pet fish tend to find much more protein and fat in their food. Their digestive system isn’t designed to make good use of starch. In fact, according to this intensive study done by Virginia State University, fish can only obtain 1.6 calories of energy from starch, compared to mammals, which can extract up to 4 calories of energy.
What Do Goldfish Normally Eat?
Goldfish, like humans, are true omnivores. This means that they eat both plants and animals in the wild. Aquatic plants, worms, insect larvae, crustaceans, algae, snails, fish, eggs… Anything they find along the bottom of the tank or pond is fair game for them! So they need an adequate amount of protein and fat, and diversity in their diet to truly do well.
Goldfish are similar in this way to their larger cousins, the Koi Carp. Koi forage along the bottom continually for anything organic, plant or animal, living or dead. But rice is not something they are likely to find in a natural environment.
Feeding your fish a wide range of live foods, frozen foods, prepared pellets, flakes, and occasional pieces of fresh leafy greens will ensure they stay healthy and happy. Koi and Goldfish will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths.
Most pellet and flake formulas offer plenty of different food sources, so supplementing them with some plant matter and frozen food will cover all of your nutritional bases!
Can Fish Eat Rice?
Can goldfish eat rice? Absolutely – but should they eat rice? That is the more important question. Unfortunately, offering them carbohydrate-rich foods can lead to several health problems in fish.
Rice is poorly digested since fish need more fat and protein than starch, which leads to intestinal bloating as gut bacteria consume the undigested carbohydrates. This burst in bacterial activity can become severe enough to lead to swim bladder and gut disorders that require medicating, lest your gold
This is a worst-case scenario, though. Generally, feeding rice to pet fish will result in a small amount being digested, with the rest going to waste. And as you can see from the label above, rice has a poor nutritional value when it comes to other elements like protein.
Cooked Rice vs Uncooked Rice
We should not feed rice unless we have absolutely no other choice. And even then, boiled rice is the only real option. Raw rice is far too hard for most goldfish to swallow. And even if they do, offering goldfish rice that’s uncooked can create even more problems.
Rice absorbs water, which is why it puffs up when cooked. If a fish were to swallow eat rice that’s dry, the grains would continue to absorb water even within the digestive tract. The rice can swell dangerously if the goldfish has overeaten. Enough to block the gut entirely, which is usually fatal. Or lower the water content enough to impede digestion, which is also a big issue.
Instead of rice, I recommend feeding them peas if the goldfish flakes run out! Peas contain loads of protein to balance out the starch and are sized perfectly to be eaten by an adult goldfish.
Simply take frozen peas out of the freezer and boil them for a few minutes (blanching) to first thaw them and then make them more digestible. They are perfectly safe to feed to your goldfish once cooled down and faster to cook than rice.
Wrapping Things Up
Can goldfish eat rice? They absolutely can; goldfish eat rice like any other item that hits the water. But should they eat rice? Unfortunately, rice is one of the worst foods to feed goldfish in a home aquarium.
The starch content makes it poorly digested, and when it comes to vitamins, protein, and other elements, the nutritional value is very low. When feeding your fish, stick to prepared goldfish foods, live food, frozen foods, aquatic plants, and other items goldfish prefer. Save the rice for feeding humans!