Koi ponds can be a great addition to any landscape. They are not hard to install, and koi fish are relaxing, fun to watch, and can live many years if the water doesn’t freeze completely. However, one of the questions we get most often is what you should feed them. If you are thinking about getting a koi pond on your property but would like to know more about what they eat, keep reading while we take a closer look at their diet as well as some other interesting facts to help you make an informed purchase.
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What Are Koi Carp?
Koi carp are the ornamental version of common carp, an oily freshwater fish that you can find in many parts of the world. The koi version is several colorful species of decorative fish that people usually keep for ornamental reasons. China bred the first color mutations of carp more than 1,000 years ago when they used selective breeding to create the goldfish. There are several koi fish varieties in modern times, including the Kohaku, which has a white body with red spots, and the Showa that has a black body with red and white markings.
What Do Koi Carp Eat in The Wild?
If koi carp are freed in the wild, they become an invasive species. These fish are opportunistic omnivores that dig around in the mud, looking for food eating whatever they can find. This action stirs up the dirt and will cloud the waters, preventing light from penetrating down to the plants. This digging action can also uproot the plants and wear away the banks, degrading the water quality and causing habitat loss for other organisms.
The koi carp will eat insects, fish eggs, fish smaller than itself, larvae, seeds, crustaceans, and almost any plant leaves or other organic material, often leaving little food for anything else.
What Do the Koi Carp Eat In Captivity?
The koi carp in your aquarium or koi pond will be a commercial koi fish food. When choosing a commercial fish food, we recommend looking at the ingredients list to make sure a fish protein is listed first. Acceptable proteins include whitefish, fish meal, squid meal, shrimp meal, anchovy meal, blood meal, and herring meal. Your koi carp will also need some carbohydrates, so you should check the ingredients for wheat germ, soybean meal, and corn gluten. Wardley Pond Flake Fish Food is a good example of a food with high-quality ingredients.
Another way you can check to make sure you’re providing high-quality food for your fish is to look at the nutritional values printed on most packages. You want the food you serve to have between 32% and 36% protein and 3% to 9% fat. You want the phosphorus content to be as low as possible, and vitamins like A, C, D, E, and K will also benefit your fish.
Flakes vs. Pellets
Flakes are best for koi carp that are still quite small. Most goldfish that you win at a carnival will do well enough on flake food, though pellets are also a good option.
If you have outdoor koi carp, they can grow quite a bit larger, so pellet food is a better choice. Switch to pellet food when your fish can swallow the pellet whole.
There are several healthy treats you can give your koi carp as an occasional treat. These healthy treats include grapes, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, rice, Cheerios, and whole wheat bread.
Floating vs. Sinking
The type of food you give your koi fish will depend on the preference of your fish. Some will prefer to consume floating food, while others find it more natural to get their food from the bottom since they naturally enjoy digging in the mud. We recommend starting with floating food because it’s fun to watch, and it’s easier to tell if it gets eaten and even which fish ate it. Food that sinks to the bottom can get lost, and your fish might not eat it for days, especially if the floor isn’t smooth. Food that sits can break down and cause the water to become cloudy. It might also increase the nitrites and nitrates in the water.
How To Feed Your Koi Carp
Sprinkle the food slowly over the water for up to 5 minutes. Your goal is only to provide as much food as your fish will eat during the 5 minutes. It can be challenging and take some practice if you have several fish, but each fish will only eat what it needs then make way for the next one.
You can do three 5-minute sessions each day unless the water cools down and slows the carp’s metabolism.
Don’t feed near the skimmer or drain because they can pull in the food.
Your koi carp will primarily eat commercial pellets in your pond and flakes in your aquarium. You can also treat your fish with several fruits and vegetables, and they will even eat Cheerios and wheat bread, but we recommend serving high-carb treats like these closer to winter when the carp’s metabolism begins to slow down. Your fish won’t overeat, so you don’t need to worry about weight gain, but excess food can drop to the bottom, where it might break down and cloud the water.
We hope you have enjoyed reading over this short guide and found the answers you needed. If we have helped you provide a better diet for your fish, please share this guide to what koi carp eat on Facebook and Twitter.
Featured Image Credit: Piqsels