What are you feeding your koi?

Koi food pellets in hand
Koi Food Pellets in Hand

It is springtime now, and I am sure many of us have begun to feed our hungry koi.

But what are you feeding them? Is it nutritious? Have you checked the expiration date on your koi food? What about the amount and when to feed? These are all questions I will tackle in this article.

We all want what is best for koi, and koi need nutritious and proper amounts of food so they can grow, especially for those of us interested in showing our koi in competitions.

Check the water temperature of your koi pond

So, the first thing is to check the water temperature in your pond. Koi feeding should begin when the water temperature is consistently at 50°F. If the water maintains that temperature the koi will be okay to start feeding.

Now in early spring, do not overdo it as they do not usually eat all the koi food. The best approach is to start off slow with a small handful then watch them to see if they consume it all. If they eat all the food, try another handful.

As the weather warms up, so will their appetite. It is important to remember not to overfeed them. Any uneaten koi food will foul up the water and create problems. Springtime is known for koi pond problems as koi keepers must remember to have a good filtration system in place so that the water quality will be good for the koi and their feedings will also be healthier.

Koi’s metabolism works best at temperatures above 70°F, therefore high protein diets fed at temperatures below 65°F will be difficult to digest.

I recommend the following temperature-based koi feeding schedule:

50°F – 55°F start feeding a low protein, high carbohydrate diet, such as wheat germ or Cheerios cereal.

56°F – 59°F feed low protein 25%, add some fruits and vegetables.

60°F-65°F increase protein to 35% and quantity of pellets and incorporate some fruits and vegetables.

66°F-72°F majority of diet should be from 35% protein koi food, and still feed fruits and vegetables.

73°F-80°F feed high protein pellets with 35%-40% protein.

Very important: if your pond water reaches 85°F to STOP FEEDING!!

Fruits and vegetables you can feed koi include orange slices (cut in half), watermelon wedges, romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, peas, and cooked sweet potato. Just make sure to watch out for the orange peel does not get caught in your bottom drain, it is always best to monitor the koi when feeding these fruits and vegetables.

For a high protein treat, koi will also eat tofu (firm is best). Since tofu is bland you can season it with some garlic powder or even honey.

Read koi food labels

I am not going to recommend any specific brand of koi food as this is all dependent on what you, the hobbyist, are trying to accomplish. But I suggest you read the koi food label. The protein source should begin with a type of fish, such as fish meal, anchovy, etc. If the first ingredient is corn, drop the bag and search for another type.

Koi food label example
Example of koi food label with fish as first ingredient and high-protein content

Beware of color enhancers as these can mess up the color on your koi if fed at wrong time and for long periods of time. I don’t recommend color enhancers because they can impact the white on koi and make the red bleed out.

Growth food should be used during warmer weather and for only 6-8 weeks, all dependent on your pond water temperature.

One way to help your koi keep growing is to purchase an automatic koi feeder, which will release a designated amount of koi food at various intervals throughout the day so your koi will be fed continuously. All koi food should be kept in a container that will keep it cool and not let in any sunlight as this will destroy the koi food.

Also, stay away from early morning and late-night feedings as this is when dissolved oxygen is at its lowest. Koi need oxygen when consuming food so it could be disastrous if fed at wrong time.

Toss expired koi food in the trash, not the pond

Lastly, don’t stock up on koi food because you got a good deal. The koi food you bought in late fall right before the water temperature dropped won’t be any good in March of the following year. So plan on buying what your koi can consume, and any koi food that smells like paint thinner is toxic, toss it out and go buy a new bag.

Following these steps will ensure your koi will get the proper nutrition and stay healthy for years to come.