As a new keeper of koi fish, the new owner of a truly unique piece of original art, there are many things you’ll need to know to be successful. Let’s start with one of the most important aspects of keeping your koi fish happy and healthy; how to feed your Japanese koi fish.
There’s no need for you to feel stressed or overwhelmed! These beautiful creatures are actually very hardy animals; their ancestors, the common carp, survive in the wild on their own, without the watchful eye of an expert koi fish collector.
They get all the nutrients they need on their own in the wild; you’re just taking over that job for them in your pond.
Keep reading to learn more about how you can cultivate the most perfect environment for your koi, keeping them happy and healthy.
Koi In The Wild
You probably won’t find any Nishikigoi in the wild. But you will find the common carp! Carp is the distant ancestor of our beloved, beautiful Japanese koi fish. Carp are opportunistic feeders; they eat whatever floats their way! This is primarily algae, plant matter, bugs, worms, and animal matter.
Koi fish actually hibernate during the wintertime! Well, it’s actually called “a state of torpor,” which just means they’re hibernating for a short period of time. They sit very, very still at the bottom of the pond, where the water is cooler.
It takes time for them to come out of this state, so be patient!
Koi fish and common carp manage to find the right balance of nutrients in the wild; carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. If they can do it, so can you!
Just follow these tips and you’ll have healthy koi fish that grow as big as their pond will let them.
Nishikigoi Truths: Koi can live up to 200+ years old with the right diet and proper environment.
1. Feed Your Koi Based on the Season
Koi fish have different needs for different seasons. In the wintertime, they’re eating less; their metabolism slows down to a crawl due to the cold.
They are cold-blooded! Their digestion is impeded due to the cold and you won’t see them growing much at all during the winter; they may even lose weight. You may even notice their colors aren’t as bright.
In the spring and summer time, as the weather warms, you’ll want to get feeding them like crazy! This is the prime growth season. You’ll notice those colors coming back strong, especially if they’re out in the sun.
The warm weather speeds up that metabolism, and their bodies need more and more high-quality food to keep up; especially if you want, show quality, grand-champion Jumbo Koi fish!
Pro tip: start feeding your fish again based on the water temperature, not the outside temperature. You may get confused when it heats up and then cools down again for a few weeks if you don't start feeding based on the water temperature.
Your best bet is just resuming feeding when the water gets up to 60° Fahrenheit (~16° Celsius).
Pay attention to your kois behavior! Some koi fish will eat sooner than others, and some will eat later. Patience is key!
Pay attention to water quality! During the summer, they’re eating more and they’re excreting more waste.
2. Feed Your Koi Based on their Age
This tip is pretty straightforward. Tiny, Nisai koi, or koi fish in their first year of life, will certainly need different koi feeding techniques than a jumbo sansai koi. You feed your bigger koi fish more food because they’ll eat more food, and you’ll feed smaller ones less because they don’t need as much.
Nisai koi mouths are small, so you’ll want smaller pellets, or the bigger pellets will need to soften before they can eat it. The pellets will soften regardless of whether or not you have sinking or floating food.
If the pellets are larger you can crush them for ease of eating. Koi fish will also actively try to eat the larger pellets by trying to eat it and then when it breaks down to the size they can eat the koi will eat the larger pellets. This can be good for growing the koi.
Nishikigoi Truths: Depending on the breed, and with regular feeding, you can teach your koi to eat from your hand!
3. Automate Your Koi Feeding Schedule
We get it; you’re busy! Your koi fish still need to be fed regularly, especially during warm spring and summer months. It ultimately depends on how much you want to grow them.
In our current building, we feed our koi two big handfuls of Nijikawa protein and saturated fat-based food three times a day to encourage growth.
Our ponds are also indoors, kept at a comfortable 65-70° Fahrenheit, so we don’t have to worry about not feeding them during the winter months.
We highly recommend automating your feeding schedule with an automatic fish food feeder, like this one from EvoFeed! This model is fully customizable; you control when your fish are fed, how far the food is propelled into the pond, and how long the fish food is dispensed for.
With an automatic feeder, you won’t be at work or on vacation worrying about feeding your Japanese koi. The only thing you’ll have to worry about is recharging the batteries every three months!
4. Stop Feeding Them Low Quality Koi Food
We get loads of questions about what food our customers should buy. This really depends on what your goals are, like if you want to grow them bigger or if you want to improve colors.
However, the bottom line is it will save you money in the long run to buy higher quality koi fish food up front.
Koi will happily eat whatever you give them, but if you want to keep them healthy, you have to invest in high quality food. High quality koi fish food means there are none of those useless fillers, low-quality ingredients, or harmful additives.
Any additives will be passed as waste immediately! The only thing additives and fillers do is cause water quality issues in your pond. Nobody wants to spend extra time and money troubleshooting your water garden's water quality.
High-quality koi food will keep your koi's patterns and colors vibrant, their scales and fins healthy, and will keep them growing into big, beautiful koi!
Very high-quality koi food will have...
Essential Amino Acids
Vitamins & Minerals
They will eat healthy, organic foods like lettuce, watermelon, and other fruits & veggies.
We’ll do another post soon on how to choose the right food for your Japanese koi! For now, check out the food we feed your next hand-selected Japanese koi fish in our ponds; Nijikawa by EWOS. We carry Nijikawa Growth, Nijikawa Professional, and Nijikawa Four Seasons.
5. Don’t Feed Your Koi Before Storms & Transportation
Your koi fish need to have a properly aerated environment to digest their food! All that yummy oxygen is just as crucial to the digestion process as nutritious food.
Because of this oxygen dependency, you’ll want to hold off on feeding your fish before a storm; rainfall lowers the oxygen levels in the pond. It’s dangerous for your fish to feed during this time.
If you’re moving, plan to stop feeding for at least two weeks before transporting them! This way, when they’re swimming around the bag, small tank, or bucket, they’re not actively digesting and excreting waste. Definitely unhealthy for them to swim around in their own waste; we do not want that!
Nishikigoi Truths: Koi fish do not have stomachs!
Select Koi Uses & Carries Only the Best Koi Food
There are many varieties of koi bred in Japan, from Kohaku to Sanke, from Goshiki to Kikokuryu... but they all have one thing in common: they all need high-quality food to ensure their health and your success as a koi collector.
When taken care of, when you're thinking of the health of the koi's body, they're sure to bring you good luck and peace to the home. We highly recommend Nijikawa's selection of high-quality premium koi food for all of your feeding needs!