Koi are food lovers they can go from chewing whatever you feed to not eating for a long time at all. Its eating behavior is dependent on various factors like weather, habitat, and temperature.
The Koi’s feeding cycle fluctuates during winter and summer as the temperature affects the frequency of their eating cycles.
During winter Koi go into a state called ‘Torpor‘ which is essentially like hibernation where most of their system is shut down and they preserve their energy. When the water temperature reaches below 40 degrees Fahrenheit Koi go into Torpor, being cold-blooded Koi are affected by the surrounding water temperature. In torpor, Koi can go weeks without eating.
- When the water temp is between 51-40 degrees F Koi’s behavior pattern changes, reduced activity in intake of food is observed & they might even deny food if overfed.
- It’s recommended to stop feeding Koi when they prepare to go into torpor based on the changes in water temp as overfeeding might slow down their torpor process which can cause stress on fish.
- During this stage they are preparing to go into torpor by reducing external food intake and relying on their internal resources, they may even scrap through algae or live plants present in their environment to meet their food requirements.
Koi like their food a lot they forage and scavenge for almost any type of food to chew it up. Summer is the time when these fish are most active as the higher water temperature allows them to be active compared to winter.
- When Summer is approaching the water temperature of the pond gradually increases, this in turn gradually increases the metabolism rate of the fish and it is usually highest during summer.
- As the food intake is almost nil during winter and as the water temperature gradually changes, Koi slowly start eating again. The feeding pattern and frequency are dependent on the water temp.
- When the temperature is around 50*F start feeding them a few times a week, when it reaches around 55* F increase the frequency to two times a day, around 65* F increase it to three times a day & four times a day when the temp is between 75-95*F. If the temp is above 95*F the fish might stop eating as they are not used to that high temp and they might start conserving energy.
- During summer Koi can go up to 2 weeks without eating anything depending on their reserved energy. They might rely on microorganisms and algae found at the bottom of the pond or they might attack any small fish around.
- Although they can live up to 2 weeks it’s not advisable to not starve them, rather just reduce the feeding.
- Signs of overfeeding are a cloudy atmosphere in the tank due to the waste released by the overfed fish.
Koi food items
Koi are omnivorous and eat wide varieties of food, docile by nature few fish can be trained to recognize when it’s time for food and to eat it from their hands. Even though they can live without food for a while, not feeding them properly might hamper their growth.
- Protein & nutrient-rich food with essential minerals and vitamins are preferred. Varieties of protein, fat, and carbs can help to maximize their growth rate.
- Along with commercial pet food they can feed on vegetables, a few fruits like citrus, watermelon & on insects like earthworms, and mealworms too.
Though they have an appetite for wide varieties here is a list of a few food items to avoid feeding the fish.
- As these fish are water-based animals, feeding them any land-based animal meat like pork, chicken or beef may cause indigestion problems.
- Given their high appetite and tendency to eat most things, try to avoid carbs like white bread when healthier options are available.
- It is also advised to avoid dairy products.
- Avoid feeding cat or dog food though they may eat without hesitation as they are land-based meat foods it is better to avoid it as it may cause digestion problems in the long run.
- Also, food with tough outer skin like corn, beans, grains & raw seeds should be avoided.
Feeding koi food when away
Auto-feeders can be used for both indoor tanks and outdoor ponds. They can be programmed to deal with the amount of food portion and time schedule for feeding. Make sure that the outdoor feeder can deal with different weather conditions & protect the food from any damage. These feeders can be scheduled during any time of the year.
Can the Koi starve to death?
Yes, they can starve to death if they go for weeks without feeding during summer, though they usually scrape for food from the pond environment. Also when there is a shortage of food due to the competition the larger fish might feed on the smaller ones.
So the Koi can survive without food for a long time during winters by conserving their energy & feeding up to micro organisms and up to 2 weeks during summers. Usually, they die due to a toxic environment rather than starvation hence it is essential to maintain a healthy and clean pond & it is recommended to feed them protein & nutrient-rich plants & meat-based food for optimal growth and health.