One of the most enjoyable parts of pond keeping is watching your graceful Koi gliding in the water. Koi, although often mistaken for goldfish, are in the Carp family. With hundreds of categories of Koi in many different colors and patterns it is no wonder they are referred to as living jewels. Many pond keepers are confused about how much, how often, when and what to feed their Koi. Should they be fed once a day or five times a day? Do I feed until they cannot eat any more? Do the ingredients in the Koi food really matter?
Search for Koi feeding on the internet and you will find many different answers to these questions. Look at the instructions on different brands of Koi food and they vary as well, which only adds to the confusion. Your goal, of course, is to have a healthy pond with healthy, happy fish. The truth is your Koi could easily go two weeks or more without being fed. They are bottom feeders by nature and will eat the algae and muck from the bottom or sides of your pond helping to keep it clean. The rule of thumb is to feed your Koi a quality high protein Koi food in warm weather once or twice a week and only what they can eat in three minutes time. Any more than that and you will only be feeding the muck in your pond making it hard to keep your filters clean and your pond clear and healthy. Koi will not stop eating when they are “full”. They will continue to eat as long as you are feeding them leading to unhealthy obese, sluggish fish.
The ingredients in your Koi food are also important. Crude Protein percentage is an important factor. It is what helps the fish to grow. Look for 32-38% crude protein in your Koi food or 40% or higher in high growth foods. While protein should be high the ash content should be low. Ash is basically preservatives and non-digestible ingredients. You want to look at the first 4 or 5 ingredients to determine the quality of the food. The first ingredient listed on the package is what it contains the most of. In many “junk” fish foods, cornmeal or soymeal is used as filler, stay away from foods that list these items first. It will make the food cheaper & help fill the package but it will not fill your fish. Koi do not retain nutrients from corn which is passed quickly through the fish and expelled as waste in the pond creating muck and cloudy water. Fishmeal listed as a first ingredient is a sign of a quality food. You cannot go wrong with foods made with natural ingredients like garlic, spirulina, fruits and vegetables. Quality Koi food will be “used” by the Koi resulting in less waste and a cleaner pond. There are many quality brands on the market but we recommend Legacy Koi food by Ecological Labs.
How do you know if you are feeding too much or too often? If you are losing fish or have ammonia present in your pond water, you are feeding too much. If you have a problem with algae or muck built up on the bottom of the pond then you are feeding too much! If you have green water, then you are feeding too much! Of course, algae & muck may be caused by other problems like leaf decay, an overstocked pond or a pond in full sun with no plants, but 90% of the time it is caused by over feeding. Pond and Koi lovers are groaning “but I love to feed my fish”. There is a compromise, if you must feed every day try substituting fresh fruits and veggies a couple days a week. Koi go crazy for watermelon and bananas, Zucchini and frozen peas to a name a few. If it’s good for you then it’s good for your Koi babies. Plus this is a great way to use up those over ripe fruits and veggies that you hate to throw away. Remember a healthy pond means less work for you and more time to enjoy your living jewels.