Koi have been thought to bring good luck in Asia for thousands of years. But more than luck is required when feeding koi fish in the fall and winter. Knowledge, understanding and a thermometer take the guesswork out of feeding outdoor koi.
Water temperature determines when and what to feed outdoor koi. During warm temperatures koi grow and build up reserves for winter. Koi need more protein during the summer months because so much of their growth takes place during the warm season. They devour their food voraciously and can be amusing to feed by hand since they are particularly social creatures. A seasonal feeding schedule needs to be followed in spring and fall which includes wheat germ and a lower protein diet.
In spring and fall, a seasonal feeding schedule needs to be followed, which includes a lower protein diet and wheat germ. When the cooler weather arrives and the water temperature drops to 70 degrees, it is time to start altering the routine. At that point, a wheat germ based food needs to mixed in with your summer koi food.
You need to keep a close check on water temperature and when the temperature begins to drop in the fall, getting below 60 degrees, use the wheat germ food only. Their metabolism slows when water temperatures get below 55 degrees and their feeding needs comparatively drops. Once the temperatures reaches 50 degrees or below, discontinue feeding altogether until spring when temperatures rise again. Remember the 70-60-50 rule. At 70 degrees, feed low protein and wheat germ. At 60 degrees, feed wheat germ only. At 50, stop all feeding until temperatures rise again in the spring.
Monitoring the weather as cold fronts and other weather systems come through is useful to determining when to end feeding. If the weather will be changing in the days after the feeding, stop feeding them just before the temperature change. Koi can not process food at colder temperatures and unprocessed food will begin to decay causing potential infection and disease. A mild antibiotic added to the last feedings of winter will help keep the fish healthy during the wintry months when the bacteria are low and the pond water’s balance is not in harmony.
Automatic koi feeders will do the work for you if your schedule is too hectic to maintain daily feedings. Automatic koi feeders dispense the nutrients you load into them at various times and intervals. Research shows that feeding koi small meals several times a day is healthier than giving koi one large feeding. Too much food allows the koi to overeat and the pond skimmer can filter the food away before the koi have an opportunity to eat it.
You can buy an automatic koi feeder for more than 200 dollars or as little as 50 dollars. Some are a rather ugly and take away from the beauty of a tranquil koi pond while others are lovely Japanese style pagodas that enhance the Asian feel of a well landscaped koi pond. A vacation is much more pleasurable knowing your koi will be healthy when you arrive home.
When spring arrives and the temperatures begin to rise, you need to reverse the feeding process. As temperatures rise, increase the feeding. First, add back the wheat germ, then go to the wheat germ and low protein feed, and finally, go to the full summer feeding as the temperatures get above 70 degrees. Follow a reverse rule, the 50-60-70 rule. Careful attendance to koi feeding will keep you fish healthy and happy. They will then give you many hours of enjoyment.