There are a mind boggling number of koi and goldfish foods currently on the market. The nutrition you provide your fish will
help determine what it grows up to look like. If you want healthy fish with the best conformation and color in your pond, a
well-balanced diet is a must. But what IS a well balanced diet? Koi and goldfish are omnivorous, which means they eat both
plant and animal material. In nature, koi use the highly sensitive smell receptors in their barbels (whiskers) to find food.
Additionally, both koi and goldfish are naturally engineered to be bottom feeders. But this ain't nature, remember?
Let me start by saying that what and when you feed your fish is entirely determined by the water temperature. DO NOT, under
interested in food once the water temperature drops to 55º, but there are some beggers out there that are so conditioned to
come to the surface and eat that you may be tempted to feed them. The truth is that koi and goldfish, being cold-blooded
animals, can't process food they have ingested in water temperatures under 55º and the food will stay in their system and rot.
Feeding them, even if they act hungry, in cold water conditions can cause serious illness due to the rotting food in their
systems during their weakest time. They need all the strength and build up immunity they have stored to make it through the
long winter months.
In the spring, when your fish are just coming out of their dormancy period (and the water temperature tops 55º), their systems
can't yet handle a food with a high protein content, and because of that, if you feed them a food high in protein, most of the
protein will be excreted back into the water as ammonia. Since your beneficial filter bacteria is just getting up and running in
the spring, it won't be able to handle the excess ammonia, and this ammonia will build up in your system and possibly kill your
fish. At the very least, it will put your fish under undue stress when their immune systems are at their weakest. Some koi
owners start their koi on medicated food (see Medications) in the spring for this very reason, but any koi food with a protein
content of less than 30% will work. As a matter of fact, Cheerios will do just fine until the water temperatures top 65º.
Once the water temperature reaches 65º Fahrenheit, you can switch to a higher protein food. In either case, only feed your
fish as much as they'll eat in five (5) minutes. If they are still acting hungry, you can feed them more, but it's important not to
over feed them and have a bunch of rotting food pellets floating around or stuck to the skimmer net. Part of the joy of owning
a pond is feeding your fish, so take a minute to WATCH your fish eat. This is a good time to visually inspect your fish for signs
of stress or infection, so take advantage of it.
The best foods do not have corn or corn by-products listed in the top three ingredients. Corn is used as a filler in many
packaged pet foods, and feeding something with a high filler content will only cause your fish to produce more waste. They
will also eat more food with a high filler content because their bodies aren't getting the nutrition they need, so it's a lose/lose
Another VERY important consideration is freshness. Don't buy food in bulk because it's cheap if your fish are not going to be
able to consume it in a couple of months - tops. If you are buying off the shelf at a major retailer, please keep in mind that the
foods they are offering as "high quality" are often imported from Japan, which means that these little (and often expensive)
bags of food may have spent several weeks as cargo in the bottom of some ship before they were delivered to the distributor,
who then sends them out to the retailer, who may keep them in storage for MONTHS until the pond season starts up again. The
truth is that retailers can get HUGE discounts on foods purchased at the end of the season, making it more economically for
them to buy it then if they have the space to store it. Check for a freshness date, or better yet, a manufacture date, to ensure
the best food for your consumer dollar.
My suggestion is that if you are determined to buy off the shelf, you READ THE LABEL and become familiar with the nutritional
content of the foods available to you.
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Koi can and will eat the same things that are healthy for you and me to eat. I said HEALTHY for you and me to eat! They will
gobble up shrimp, a slice of watermelon, a sliced orange, chopped zucchini, leaf lettuce, minced garlic, brown bread, and a
number of other things you and I would pass up for a bowl of ice cream or a handful of potatoe chips. Feel free to try different
things with your koi to see what they like and don't like. It may take them a while to get used to the idea of eating an orange
off the rind, but give them a chance. You may be surprised!! My fish LOVE shrimp. You don't even have to get the peeled
kind. Just stay away from fried foods and make sure whatever you feed your fish is fresh enough for YOU to eat!
Once purchased, keep your food in a cool, dry place. DON'T keep it out on a bench next to the pond for the sake of
convenience as heat and sunlight dramatically affect the composition of the food. Although bagged koi food is considered
"dry", it does have a moisture content. When the bag heats up, the moisture in the food will condense onto the sides of the
bag. This condensation will be reabsorbed back into the dry food, but it won't be reabsorbed evenly, making parts of the food
more moist than others and compromising the integrity of the food. Molds and bacteria are introduced every time you open
the bag, and in a matter of hours, your bag of fish food can become toxic if left in the sun. Also, many nutrients in the food do
not stand up to heat and may be lost if you leave the bag out.
Once the food is opened, use it up. If you have food left over at the end of the season, don't try to freeze it as this also
compromises the integrity of the food. You wouldn't want to eat a bag of something that had been opened, was a year old, and
then frozen, would you? Not to mention all the times you had stuck your hand in that bag over the course of the previous
If the food gets wet, throw it out. If you notice mold, throw it out. If it smells foul, THROW IT OUT! It's cheaper in the long
run to buy fresh food than it is to treat sick fish.
I do offer pelletized food for sale after May 15th. At that time, the water temperature is just about where it needs to be to
start feeding, so I purchase fresh (dated) 40 pound bags of staple, growth and color enhancing koi food (which is also fine for
goldfish). I sell this food by the pound, usually in 5 pound bags, for $20.00, but you can buy as much or as little as you like by
the pound for $5.00 per pound. I can and do reorder later in the season to ensure product freshness, so don't feel like you
have to buy enough to last you the whole summer, as you can get more when you need it.
In your 5 pound bag, you can get staple, growth, color enhancing, or a mix of two or all in the same bag for $20.00. (If you
need it shipped, it will cost more.)