With the right high-quality koi fish food, koi can live to be 100 years old. You may have to leave your koi in your will!
For most koi, 25-30 years is the normal lifespan. That’s still a major commitment to feeding your koi the best quality food you can supply.
They can also grow up to three feet long!
There are several components of quality koi fish food you should consider for your koi to ensure a long and healthy life.
Before considering what to feed them we need to determine when to feed them.
This may seem like a trivial point, but how much and when you feed your koi is vital to their longevity.
Koi aren’t like other fish where you can sprinkle some food in the tank whenever you wish.
Succesful koi require some basic understanding of how they eat and metabolize their food.
As a very general rule of thumb, koi should be fed less in cold weather and more in warm weather.
If the water temperature is 50-60F, feeding once per day is plenty.
For 60-70F water, 2-3 times per day should suffice.
For 70F and up, 5 times a day is more appropriate.
People often make the mistake of overfeeding their koi because they want them to grow rapidly or they simply enjoy it (nothing wrong with that!).
However, you need to remember these are animals attuned to their own natural rhythms.
Those natural processes need to be respected for the overall health and longevity of your pet.
On top of that, overfeeding your koi to make them bigger can result in poor water conditions due to excessive koi waste.
This can create a toxic environment for your koi, cutting their lives short in the end.
So, use the rule of thumb at the very least: cold water gets less food, warm water gets more.
Good koi fish food should be rich in proteins.
These are the major building blocks koi need to grow healthy and strong.
Koi fish food that contains wheat germ is a very common and rich source of protein.
Koi are omnivores, so they will eat anything.
In the wild, koi will eat lots of crayfish and worms for protein.
This kind of animal protein isn’t always available in commercial koi food, but a food high in quality wheat germ will do nicely.
Fish or soybean oil in pellets is another good option for proteins.
Animal proteins from pork, beef or chicken are not good for koi.
While they do eat insects and crayfish for protein, koi can’t easily digest terrestrial animal proteins like we can.
In the wild, koi will also eat plenty of plant life.
This will give koi vital nutrients that protein alone can’t provide.
Much like humans, koi fish food is a balanced array of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and minerals.
Since it’s unlikely you’ll have the native plants of East Asia on hand, the next best things to feed your koi are peas, squash, watermelons, and other fruits.
The dense carbohydrate profile of these foods will have your koi eating out of your hand… literally!
Fats & Oils
Fats and oils are often overlooked as essential components of koi fish food.
Much like humans, fats and oils are the essential building blocks of skin, cell walls, organs and connective tissues.
Koi aren’t much different.
Fats and oils are what maintain koi’s healthy fins and radiant skin.
While fats and oils don’t have much to do with a koi’s color, they’re essential for koi health.
Since fat is the primary source of energy for koi, this is an essential part of their diet. About 5-10% of a koi’s diet should be fat.
Look for koi fish food that contains fish oils like cod liver oil or salmon oil.
Linseed oil is also a good and less expensive option.
Most of the minerals koi need will be found in the water or algae of their habitat.
There isn’t much need to add additional minerals to your koi fish food since the trace elements koi need are naturally occurring in the food or water itself.
However, there are a few important things to remember.
The minerals absorbed through the water help to maintain strong bones, a healthy nervous system, and strong immunity functions.
Keeping your water clean and clear is the best thing you can do for your koi when considering mineral content.
Some people make the mistake of adding distilled water to their pond thinking this is “purify” the water.
Distilled water can drastically shorten the life of your koi or even kill them.
Distilled water is actually the opposite of healthy water for koi because all of the mineral deposits have been removed.
Your koi pond is an ecosystem unto itself, and minerals help maintain that system.
Let your fish live peacefully in clean, mineral-rich water.
A common question by owners is how to get richer, more vibrant colors from their koi.
While the health of your koi should be the most important factor, having beautiful koi is probably the main reason you bought koi in the first place.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting vibrant, beautiful koi in your tank or pond. Just be aware that rich color doesn’t always equal good health (although it can).
Carotenoids are the main color additive used in quality koi fish food.
This is what creates that rich orange and red colors sought after in koi.
However, koi come in all types of colors including black and pure white as well.
Orange and red are beautiful, but let’s not forget about all those other beauties out there too!
Carotenoids are naturally found in crayfish that koi will eat plenty of in the wild.
The koi consume and store these carotenoids in their cells.
Typically, koi will need to eat plenty of carotenoid-rich food over a long period of time to affect their color.
This can take months or even years to build up layer after layer of color.
A word of warning: too much color additives can make your koi look worse.
If the white portions of your koi start to become brown or dirty looking, you’re feeding them too much carotenoid-rich food. Cut back and it should fade quickly.
The best time to feed your koi color enhancers is typically when the water is over 70F. This is when koi are in their peak growth cycle.
This growth spurt will add new layers of skin to build up those vibrant colors.
The Complete Koi Fish Food Diet
It’s a good idea to avoid strict repetition with your koi fish food diet. Mix it up a little.
Not only will it keep your koi happy, it’s actually more healthy for them.
Like most omnivores, variety isn’t just interesting, it’s essential.
Adding nutrients in varying amounts and at different times of the year will mimic their natural environment.
If you just feed your koi the exact same pellet every day for their entire life, your koi won’t grow and thrive over time.
You may be thinking that by giving them the same high-quality blend of fish pellet you’re maximizing their health.
This is true to a certain extent.
Yes, you are giving your koi a professionally formulized koi fish food designed for maximum health.
However, your koi are going to live for decades and need variety like they would get in the wild.
Their bodies evolved to require different sources of nutrient-dense foods, different mineral content, and different vitamins.
Don’t deprive your koi of the omnivorous variety their bodies require.
How do I do that?
The easiest way to do this is to simply switch brands of koi fish food from time to time.
As long as you have well-balanced, quality ingredients, the amounts of each ingredient aren’t as vital in the long-term.
Yes, you’ll want to read the ingredients carefully to ensure a good balance of proteins, fats, and vegetables, but don’t stress too much over perfection.
It’s fun and educational to ensure your koi is getting the best possible nutrition, but giving them a varietal base diet will ensure longevity over the decades.
You should throw in some mineral or color supplements from time to time as well.
Even if you’re not focussing on color-enhancement, your koi would naturally be eating supplemental elements anyway.
Help them out and give them some food with algae or carotenoids from time to time.
Many people stress over name-brand, vs non-name-brand food. There are pros and cons to any koi fish food you choose.
If money is no object, get the best quality, most scientifically made food you can buy.
If you’re on a budget, there’s nothing wrong with standard, store-bought brand food.
Just like junk food for humans, if the list of ingredients is longer than your arm, there might be a lot of unnecessary fillers and chemicals in there.
If on the other hand, you’ve done a little research and can recognize the ingredients, you’ll be fine.
The Bottom Line
Like other pets, we certainly want the best for our koi. This is a positive and admirable attitude.
For the same reasons we can’t eat at Michelin star restaurants every day, you shouldn’t expect your koi to be on a premium diet either.
Consider the balanced approach discussed earlier: read the ingredients, adjust to your budget, then mix it up from time to time.
You’ll be able to enjoy your koi for decades to come. After all, balance is the secret of life!
Have any questions about koi? We’d love to help. Contact us today.