What’s The Best Food For Koi Fish?

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Koi fish are one of the most popular types of fish to keep, and for good reason. They are very hardy, grow large and are very beautiful.  

Given this, you should consider purchasing the best koi food you can for your koi. But, what is the best food for koi Fish?

In this article, we will review the following koi foods:

Read on to learn what is important when it comes to feeding your koi.

What Do Koi Fish eat?

Koi fish are omnivores and have the ability to survive eating almost anything. In the wild, this includes insects, plants, algae, and animal matter. In captivity, they will eat almost anything people do if given the chance. This includes cereal, broccoli, shrimp, rice, peas, and watermelon. They will basically eat whatever they can fit into their mouths that isn’t a threat to them.

But just because they will eat anything doesn’t mean they should be fed anything.

What is the Best Food For Koi Fish?

In order for koi to be healthy and beautiful, they require a balanced diet. This includes the correct amounts of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. So, although it may be fun to feed your koi treats like peas and watermelon, the core of their diet should be a well-balanced koi feed.

High-quality food will be more nutritious and will maximize your koi’s growth potential. Likewise, if you have low-quality food you will have to feed more food to get the same growth rate. This is because quality food has a better feed efficiency. There will also be less fish waste and less water pollution with a high-efficiency food. So you’re really not saving yourself money by purchasing cheap food.

Your koi fish will also be more enthusiastic about eating quality food. This adds to their contentment and overall quality of life.

Feeding to Maximize Koi Growth

Unless you buy mature koi fish one of your primary concerns may be the growth of your young koi. So how and what do you need to feed your koi to maximize their growth potential?

First, you should make sure that are feeding your koi food that has a high feed efficiency. The feed efficiency determines how well the nutrients in the feed can be converted into body mass. Higher quality food will have a higher feed efficiency and your koi digestive system will make better use of it. Additionally, some quality foods will also include enzymes and beneficial bacteria to aid in digestion.

For growth, you will want to feed your koi high protein food. A good koi growth food will have 38% or more protein. In complete feeds, the protein is usually in the form of wheat germ, fish meal, and/or shrimp. For greatest growth koi can be fed a diet up to 45% protein. To add more protein to your koi’s diet you can also feed things like shrimp and daphnia.

Koi grow their fastest up to two years old. Once they get over 2 years old you will want to adjust their food away from a growth diet. This is because their growth slows and feeding a growth diet can have negative effects on their health. You will also want to feed a lower protein/higher carb diet when the water temperature is cooler such as in the winter.

Keeping the water temperature in the upper 70° ‘s F will keep the koi’s activity and metabolism high. You will be able to feed them the most and they will put on the most size in this temperature range. But you should consider giving them a hibernation phase as explained in the “seasonal effect on koi feeding” section.

Feeding to Maximize Koi Color

Koi color and vibrancy is determined by a few different things. Genetics certainly play a role, but so does, sunlight, stress and of course nutrition.

There are various color enhancers added to some koi foods to bring out more vibrant coloration. These color enhancers all add carotenoids to the food. These carotenoid pigments add vibrancy and depth to a koi’s natural coloration.

The best color enhancer additives include spirulina and krill or shrimp. These additives are natural and contain other vitamins and nutrients which are also beneficial to koi. Other additives include beta-carotene, astaxanthin, and canthaxanthin. Be aware though that it may take a few weeks for these additives to have a visible effect on the color.

Be warned that you can overfeed color enhancers to your koi. You can determine this if the normally white background of the fish becomes green or yellow-tinged. This can be cleared up by simply feeding the koi food without color enhancers.

Foods with color enhancers should also only be fed to koi when the water temperature is warmer. This temperature should be 65° F or 19° C or higher.

Best Food For Koi Fish

Check out the reviews below for koi food recommendations no matter your need.

Best Cheap Koi Food

For those of you who are budget-minded but still want a quality koi food give Kaytee Koi’s Choice Premium Fish Food a try. Manufactured in Chilton, WI this is a floating koi food that is available in 3, 10 and 25-pound bags.

In comparison to the other budget koi foods, Kaytee Koi’s uses fish meal as the primary ingredient. Other koi foods use inferior things like wheat or corn as their first ingredient. Animal sources of protein are complete proteins and are superior for koi fish.

As far as protein content this food comes in at 35%. This is a solid amount of protein and is enough for koi in any stage of growth. Although you may want to supplement with a high protein treat if growth rate is a priority of yours.

The pellets are 3/16th of an inch (4.8 mm) so they are best suited to koi that are 6 inches (15cm) or larger. Koi smaller than this will have trouble ingesting the pellets.

Some people report their koi not liking this food much. Whether its a lack of taste or smell is hard to say. When switching over from different types of feed koi sometimes just need a little time to adjust to their new food. So if you experience this, give them a week or two before you consider switching foods.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Fishmeal is the first ingredient
  • Manufactured in the USA
  • 35% protein
  • Floating pellet

Cons

  • Some koi are slow to feed on it

Best Koi Food For Color

Blackwater Creek is a small, family-run Koi farm that has also developed their own line of koi food. Since they breed their own koi it goes without saying that they know what they are doing.

Their color enhancing koi food is a great choice for everyone who wants to bring out the best colors in their koi. Over 30% of this food is made up of the color enhancers shrimp meal, spirulina, and Canthaxanthin. These are all great ingredients for bringing out those reds and yellows in your koi.

Many companies will only put in just enough color enhancers to get them on the ingredient list. Blackwater Creek doesn’t cheap out here as their color enhancing koi food is made up of over 30% of these color enhancers.

It also has 38% protein which is an adequate amount. You can supplement with a high protein treat if you want both color and growth.

Pros

  • Great for color enhancement
  • 30% shrimp, spirulina and Canthaxanthin
  • 38% protien
  • Great family run company
  • Floating pellets

Cons

  • Not ideal nutrition for cold water

Best Koi food for growth and color

Many companies use cheap plant-based protein sources like soybean meal. Dainichi, on the other hand, uses quality ingredients like krill, shrimp, and whitefish meal. These animal sources of protein are complete proteins and are more easily digested by koi. These ingredients give this formulation 42% minimum protein. This is plenty of protein to grow your koi to their full potential.

While not a color intensifier formula it does contain the natural color enhancers krill, shrimp and spirulina. Although it isn’t as potent as some other color intensifiers this can be fed year-round to bring out their color. The more potent color intensifier formulas must be cycled throughout the year. They can also cause issues if overfed.

The protein and color enhancers are only half of what makes Dainichi Premium Koi food a great choice for your fish. Dainichi also adds ingredients other producers simply do not. These include calcium montmorillonite clay and a special vitamin coating on the pellets. This calcium montmorillonite clay has over 60 different mineral compounds. These compounds aid in digestion, growth and neutralizing toxins.

The special vitamin coating process sprays the vitamin blend on each pellet after it has been cooked. This ensures the vitamins and enzymes remain intact and are not denatured.

So, if you want one food that is great in all areas this is the best overall koi food for growth and color. The only downside is, of course, the high price.

Pros

  • 42% protein from quality sources
  • Color enhancers spirulina, krill, and shrimp
  • Calcium montmorillonite clay 
  • Special vitamin coating
  • No cheap fillers
  • True show quality food

Cons

  • Far more expensive than budget brands

Best Koi food for growth

The Blue Ridge Growth Blend is a great choice for those of you who want a quality growth blend but can’t quite afford the super-premium brands. I would consider this a great middle of the road choice.

One particular thing I really like about this Blue Ridge food is that it contains two sizes of pellets. It has both 1/8th and 3/16th inch (3mm to 4.8mm) pellets so it can be fed to all sizes of koi. This is great for those of you who have a pond with mixed sizes of fish.

The pellets hold their shape well in water and don’t quickly break down like some cheaper koi foods. If you have any experience with koi ponds you know that this can cause dirty polluted water very quickly.

With minimum crude protein at 36% and fat at 6%, your koi will certainly grow but could use a bit more protein. The primary ingredients also aren’t the highest quality. Soybean meal is the primary ingredient and fishmeal only the third. But, this food is much more affordable than the premium brands so it’s a fair trade for some.

Pros

  • Mix of small and large pellets
  • Doesn’t fall apart or cloud water
  • Great balance of quality and price
  • Includes important vitamins and minerals

Cons

  • Has some low quality ingredients
  • 36% protein is a little low for a growth formula

Best all season Koi Food

If quality is the top concern for you, you cannot go wrong with any Dainichi food. You won’t find any cheap fillers like corn with Dainichi. Only the highest quality ingredients to include white fish meal, krill meal, pea protein, and spirulina are used.

Another thing that sets Dainichi far above other competitors is their use of calcium montmorillonite clay. This clay contains dozens of minerals that aid in digestion, growth, and neutralizing toxins. Additionally, each pellet is coated with a vitamin and mineral blend after the cooking phase.

All of this not only leads to healthier fish but a much higher feed efficiency. They are absorbing much more of this food than they would with cheaper alternatives. This leads to less fish waste in the pond and cleaner water.

Dainichi’s all-season koi food is available in small, medium and large pellets. An all-season food this can be used year-round. It even has more protein than other brands “growth” blends at 39% minimum protein.

As I stated from the get-go this isn’t a koi food you buy if you are price conscious. As such the cost is the only negative I can find with this food.

Pros

  • No cheap fillers
  • Fish meal, krill meal, pea protein, and spirulina
  • Calcium Montmorillonite clay
  • Special vitamin and mineral coating process
  • High protein – 39%

Cons

  • More expensive than many other Koi foods

How Much to Feed Koi Fish?

Generally speaking, you should only feed koi as much as they can eat in 5 minutes. Any more than this will lead to food waste building up in your pond. This will of course negatively affect your water quality. If you still have food floating around after 10 minutes you should do your best to clean this out of the water.

How Often to Feed Koi Fish

How often koi fish has a lot to do with the water temperature. Measure the temperature of your water and let this determine how often you feed your fish.

For instance, if the temperature of the water is 50-55°F you should only feed them once per week. If the water temperature is between 60-70°F, then it’s recommended to feed them up to three times per day.

Koi Water Temperature Feeding Frequency
Water TemperatureFeeding Frequency
73-80° F
23-27° C
4-5 / Day
66-72° F
19-22° C
3 / Day
61-65° F
16-18° C
2 / Day
56-60° F
13-16° C
1 / Day
50-55° F
10-13° C
1 / Week
<50° F
<10° C
Do Not Feed

Once the water gets to a temperature where you have to feed more than once per day it can become a real chore. A great way to automate this is by using an automatic fish feeder. Not only will this make things easier for you but also will give the fish consistent feeding times.

Factors That Affect Koi Feeding

Koi Size

Koi will eat just about anything that fits inside of their mouth. Koi food ranges in size from small pellets to large pond sticks so you need to take the size of your koi into consideration. Small immature koi will have a lot of trouble trying to eat large pond sticks. Likewise feeding large koi tiny pellets will only make eating a long drawn out chore and they may not get enough to eat.

If you have both large and small koi in your pond you will need to feed two kinds of food. Feeding large floating pellets and small sinking pellets is usually the way to go in this instance. The large koi will be distracted by and go after the large floating pellets. While the small koi will be able to get to the small sinking pellets.

For the smallest koi, you can feed flakes, blood worms, and daphnia.

Recommended Pellet Size For Koi Fish

  • 3/32 inch (2.4mm) – Koi 4 inches (10cm) or smaller 
  • 3/16 inch (4.8mm) – Koi fish 6 – 10 inches (15-25cm
  • 1/4 inch (6.4mm) – Koi fish 8 – 12 inches (20-31cm
  • 9/32 inch (7.1mm) – Koi fish 10 inches (25cm) or larger
  • 5/16 inch (7.9mm) – Koi fish 12 inches (31cm)or larger

Seasonal Effect on koi feeding

Koi kept in outdoor ponds year-round will experience a wide range of temperatures. This is actually a very healthy, safe thing for koi as long as the water temp doesn’t get too extreme. As the temperature and sunlight changes so will a koi’s behavior and metabolism.

In warmer temperatures no more than 85° F or 29° C koi will be at their most active and have a high metabolism. This is when they can be fed a diet high in protein and be given treats to supplement their diet. As it gets cooler in the late fall and spring their metabolism slows down. During this time they should be fed a more carbohydrate-rich diet.

When and if the temperature drops below 50° F or 10° C koi will go into hibernation mode. In this state, their metabolism and biological functions will slow to a crawl. Their behavior will be sluggish and they may just sit in one place in the pond. At this point, they should not be fed at all. With fat stores and very slow metabolism, they can survive without food all winter until spring.

Of course, all of this may not even apply if they are kept indoors. Even so, if you do keep them indoors you should consider adjusting the temp seasonally somewhat. The cooler temps in the winter give them a chance to slow down and take a bit of a break. Allowing a bit of a hibernation phase will also promote longer-lived fish.

Why Is My Koi Not Eating?

If your koi simply won’t eat and you can’t figure out why don’t fret! There are a handful of common reasons why koi may not be hungry. These include:

  • Change in water temperature
  • Poor water quality
  • Sickness and parasites
  • Stress

If you have had an abrupt change in water temperature or it has gotten too hot or too cold koi may stop eating. As long as the temperature has not reached unsafe levels don’t worry. The temperature will fluctuate with the changing seasons and your koi will be back to normal was the temp normalizes. An abrupt change in water temperature in of itself can also cause koi to stop eating. Generally, after a couple of days with stable temperature, they should return to normal feeding.

Another factor to check is your water quality. Did you use tap water for your pond and forget to dechlorinate? Is there ammonia or nitrate buildup in the water? Buy a test kit and find out where your levels are at.

Perhaps you only have 1 or 2 koi that are not eating. If they are acting unusual and are hanging out away from the group they may be sick or injured. If this is the case, you need to act quickly to remedy the cause. Check out this great guide on diagnosing koi illness, it’s a great place to start.

Floating vs. Sinking Koi Food

If you have already been looking at different koi food options you may have noticed there are floating and sinking pellets. Some koi feed will come with floating and sinking pellets. Which should you choose? Which is one do the koi prefer? Does it make a difference?

Floating koi food

Most of what you will find available for sale is floating koi food. There are a few different reasons why floating food seems to be more popular.

The first of which is the fact that it is more enjoyable for the koi owner. With floating food you will get to watch all the koi come to the surface and feed.

This is why we own koi in the first place, isn’t it? So we can watch them and admire their beauty.

 Another benefit is the fact that you will be able to check the health of your koi and see which ones are eating and which are not.

 A minor downside to floating food is it may get sucked into the skimmer. This can be remedied in a few different ways. You could stop the pump while the koi feed or put the food in some type of floating ring.

Sinking Koi Food

Aside from floating food, the other option is sinking food. Sinking pellets are made from the same ingredients as floating pellets. The way they get them to sink is by forming them at higher pressures which makes them denser.

Sinking koi food has its own unique advantages. It is denser and thus has a higher concentration of nutrients and calories. This means that your koi will get more nutrients for less work. This also means that you koi can ingest more food in each feeding. If they eat more food each feeding they can also grow faster!

Another advantage is that it gives the smaller koi a chance to get something to eat as well. With floating food the largest most aggressive koi will get most of the food. Sinking food will sink down in the pond where the smaller koi have a better chance to feed.

A downside to feeding your koi fish sinking food is that you will not be able to get as good a look at them. You will also have a harder time determining if they ate all of the food before it gets lost on the bottom. Uneaten food will contribute to dirty water.

Feeding Koi Treats

As I mentioned, koi are omnivores and will eat a wide variety of foods. In fact, one of the most fun things to do is to feed your koi treats.

When the temperatures are warmer feel free to supplement their diet with some treats. Foods to avoid would include any type of processed junk food.

Suggested Koi Treats

  • orange slices
  • watermelon
  • grapes
  • broccoli
  • lettuce
  • cabbage
  • cooked pasta or rice
  • tomatoes
  • pineapple
  • pears
  • whole wheat bread
  • mealworms, blood worms 
  • daphnia
  • frozen shrimp

Foods To Avoid

  • white bread
  • beans (hard to digest)
  • peas (hard to digest)
  • processed food

Enjoy your koi!

Whew, that was a lot of info! If you made it this far you surely care about your koi. Remember to feed them the best koi food you can, at the right times, and the right intervals. 

If you do so you will have the biggest, most colorful, and healthy koi possible. Enjoy!

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