Secrets to Feeding Koi

by Pamella Neely

Sitting by a peaceful koi pond is a lovely stress reliever in the spring and summer; until it is time to feed and care for koi in the fall and winter. With a little bit of knowledge, understanding and a thermometer the stress of feeding outdoor koi is minimal.

When and what to feed outdoor koi is determined by water temperature. Koi grow and build up reserves for winter during warm temperatures. During the summer months, koi need more protein because the bulk of their growth takes place at this time. They eat voraciously and can be a lot of fun to feed by hand since they are especially social creatures.

Seasonal adaptations to their feeding schedules need to be made to account for varying feeding habits. In spring and fall, when temperatures to drop, their food needs change, as their growth patterns decrease. It is time to add wheat germ to their normal summer food.

Monitor water temperatures closely during the fall. When the temperature drops to 70 degrees, feed a combination of low protein food and wheat germ. At 60 degrees, feed koi only wheat germ. When temperatures drop still lower to 50 and below, discontinue feeding altogether.

Keeping track of the weather during the temperature drop is helpful to determining when to stop feeding. If the weather will be changing in the days after the feeding, stop feeding them early. Koi can not digest food at low temperatures and undigested food will to decay causing illness. A mild antibiotic added to the last feedings of winter will help keep the fish hearty during the cold months when the bacteria are low and the water’s balance is not regulated as well.

If this all sounds a bit high maintenance, automatic koi feeders will do the work for you. While they won’t load themselves with the seasonal food needed, they will dispense the food you load into them at specific times and intervals. Research that it is better to feed koi small meals several times a day rather than distributing one large feeding. An automatic koi feeder also insures that the food is not wasted and the fish are not overeating.

Automatic koi feeders range from under 50 dollars to over 200 dollars. Some are a bit unattractive and detract from the beauty you value while others are beautiful pagodas that enhance the Japanese feel of a lovely koi pond. Either way, a vacation is much more enjoyable when the worry of fish being up when you arrive home is eliminated.

Once spring arrives, reverse the process and including wheat germ. As temperatures rise even more, add low protein foods to the wheat germ until the temperatures rise above 70, when you need to resume summer feeding. koi will become energetic and to entertain and calm you for another season.

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