Water temperature is the best way to tell
When spring rolls around and you’re anxiously waiting to see your playful koi once again, you’ll be glad you took consideration in the fall to properly care for them. Until the pond water rises above 50-degrees you should not feed your fish. And remember, you can feed them Aquascape Premium Cold Water Fish Food up until the pond water rises above 60-degrees!
When pond temperatures fall below 60-degrees, your fishes’ metabolism and digestive system begins to slow down. Investing in a pond thermometer will help you determine when to change the eating regimen of your beloved finned friends.
You’ve enjoyed watching and feeding your fish all summer, and now it’s time to help them prepare for their winter’s nap. You want to make sure your fish are strong and healthy as Old Man Winter makes his way to your pond. A well-balanced diet is critical to the health of your fish. When pond temperatures fall below 50-degrees it is time to stop feeding.
Overfeeding occurs anytime the fish are eating more than they need. This can make your fish sick, and excessive amounts of waste that strains the limits of what can be biologically reduced, results in a decline of water quality. Fish that are overfed in typical ornamental pond facilities will eventually develop large bellies and begin to look a little bit like tadpoles, with the big body and the wispy tail. That will not usually kill the fish, but the impact on the liver and other internal organs can and will be severe. So How Much is Just Right?
Fish should be fed no more than three times per day. In cooler water (65-70) they should only be fed once per day, if that. In much warmer water (76-82), three times per day is not "crazy,"' however, you have to be wary of bacterial blooms (cloudy water and low oxygen levels) if you feed heavy and there's a lot of waste.
Fish should be fed for about five minutes per feeding. If they don't come up and eat voraciously, they are telling you that they are too cold, too warm or, for some other reason, are not hungry. So feed light. If they are eating like crazy, you can sprinkle food on the water for five minutes as long as there are fish there to carry it off and eat it. Pretend it's a game – never feed so much that there is excess food left to float into the skimmer or filter.
Can I underfeed my fish?
If your fish are growing about a ½ to 1 inch per month, you're feeding enough. If not, you are either underfeeding, keeping them in too small facilities, or the food is not adequate to push growth. Signs of underfeeding include, heads that are wider than bodies, slightly sunken eyes, a kink at the base of the tail, poor color, thinness, trailing white stools, and inactivity.
Where to Feed my fish?
Proper Food Storage
If you do buy fish food in large quantities refrigerate it, don't freeze it. Freezing damages (think freezer burn) the fats in the food and so the fat-soluble vitamins are compromised.
Foods which are packed in nitrogen (no oxygen) by the manufacturer are better than food which is in cans with oxygen. If you can find food which has a bag that allows expression of air from the bag and resealing, that is optimal.
What vitamins do my fish need?
Vitamin C is not so mysterious. Addition of vitamin C to the diet of koi and goldfish is a beneficial for several reasons. First, it's essential to the fish and is a major contribution to disease resistance. Second, food processing degrades vitamin C so that a surplus has to be added so a sufficient amount survives the processing of the food. If available over 180 milligrams per kilogram, the immune system is not only supported, but dramatically enhanced.
Assessing the Fish Food Label: Step-By-Step
- Assessment 1: Protein source. Look for fishmeal, squid meal, whitefish meal, anchovy meal, shrimp meal, blood meal, herring meal or other aquaculture protein as first ingredients. These are the best protein sources for fish and are the ones I recommend.
- Assessment 2: Purpose of plant material. If you find a food that has no aquaculture protein but it has two plant proteins, then the manufacturer is trying to get cheaper plant ingredients to do what fishmeal should be doing. However, if you find a food with fish meal as the first ingredient and then wheat germ meal or similar, they are using the plant ingredient for protein AND energy, letting the fishmeal carry the bulk of the protein requirement, which is as it should be. There will be some plant protein in most foods. It's used as a helper, dual-purpose ingredient and it's not to be eschewed.
- Assessment 3: Ingredient splitting. Look for any ingredient twice on the list. If you were manufacturing a food and found wheat to be cheaper than fishmeal, you would want to use wheat to save money. But, you know the consumers want the fishmeal to be first on the list. So you split the wheat! Here's an example: A fish food has three pounds of wheat and two pounds of fish meal would have the ingredients listed in order by weight. To get around this, the manufacturer splits the wheat in half and lists it as two different forms of wheat. So that label reads, fish meal, wheat germ, wheat flour (in that order). This makes it appear to the consumer that the food contains a higher amount of aquaculture than any other ingredient.
- Assessment 4: Protein percent. Let's say a company who is tailoring a feed to the prevailing market-climate wants to use four aquacultural proteins, and tosses in shrimp, kelp, spirulina, and squid meal. That would be awesome! But it could jack up the proteins to a level unsuitable for fish, or at least unnecessary (and expensive). Koi can't digest more than 32 to 36 percent protein in one pass. Feeding more than that isn't necessarily a bad thing because fish will simply pass what they don't digest – it's just expensive to pay for. So, looking for minimums, and recognizing that an outrageously high protein percentage you might be paying for is unnecessary.
- Assessment 5: Fat content. Find a food between 3 to 10 percent crude fat. The high end of this range is good for smaller fish, and the lower end of the range is good for adult fish. * Assessment 6: Ascorbic acid. Make sure ascorbic acid, or L-Ascorbyl-2-Phosphate is on the label among the trailing ingredients. It will represent a very small part of the diet but it should be added to any milled food.
- Assessment 7: Immune boosters. Some foods are made with immune boosters. These are certainly harmless and they may very well perform as promised depending on which ones we're talking about. Look for any combination of following supposed immune-boosting ingredients: Optimun, Aquagen, Nucleotides, Torula Yeast, Brewer's Yeast, Bee Propolis, Colostrum, Aspergillus niger, beta carotene, lactoferrin. Don't hang your hat on any particular ingredient as a miracle supplement or lifesaver – okay? Just recognize that the addition of these items represents the manufacturer as a little more attentive and knowledgeable, and the food worth a little extra money.
- Assessment 8: Color enhancers. Are there color enhancers in the diet? Look for terms like Spirulina, Bio-Red, BetaCarotene, Canthaxanthin, Marigold petals, Xanthins, Shrimp Oil, Synthetic and Non Synthetic Carotenoids, or Color Enhancers on the label. Generally, the shrimp oil is the most expensive. It performs as well or better than the synthetic carotenoids but either is acceptable. Spirulina cannot push color unless the fish are exposed to sunlight. None of these color enhancers are hazardous to fish but can make a fish with a yellow head more yellow or a fish with a tendency towards pink pinker. No color enhancer can replace the irrefutable contribution of genetics and sunlight to color.
- Assessment 9: Ash content if stated. Sometimes companies will level with you and tell you the "crap" content of their food. Ash is what's left behind when you incinerate (or the fish digests) the food. It's almost all carbon and mineral. So the higher the ash number, the less likely one is to appreciate it. Generally, when ash is high, a smart label guy would just leave it off, and they are allowed to because it's not required on fish food bags.
An oddity about pellet size
Small fish need small pellets that they can wholly engulf, but they will spend time chasing the biggest pellets. It would be better for the fish if they were given a small pellet they could entirely engulf. They could fill their stomachs instead of scraping off a meal over a lengthy time.
Can small fish eat large pellet? Yes, but that is only by badgering the large pellet around the surface of the pond as it softens in the water, and eating off it like a giant peach.
What are good KOI treats?
- Silkworm pupae – Available in various places and comes in sealed, silver bags. This delicacy drives koi crazy. Really, really nutty. They love them. I guess when a silkworm gets old and stops making silk, it is "history" and is freeze-dried for koi. Lip-smacking good, I guess. Fed in abundance, the protein can accumulate a good bit of nitrogen (ammonia) in the water, so please check ammonias if you're going crazy feeding silkworm pupae.
- Grapefruit – Cut the grapefruit into quarters. They'll float and the fish will be attracted at once. Watch out to make sure the skins don't jam up a pump or clog your skimmer. Fed too much, the vitamin C acid will scorch the lips of your fish to a pale pink color, no harm – just back off with the grapefruit. Once per week is plenty.
- Watermelon – They liked it but not as much as grapefruit. It doesn't supply much nutrition so I have not done this as much as grapefruit.
- Orange slices – Big fish will earnestly take mandarin orange slices right out of your hand. Very cool, delicious to the fish, I guess, and loaded in vitamin C. Larger seedless oranges can be cut as Grapefruit and will do as well..
- Peas – The pain in the neck to me about these was that they sank fast and if the koi didn't see them go in, they miss them on the bottom. So there's the chance of wasting the peas and polluting the pond. So make sure you let the fish know you're there, and "here come the peas." They say that the peas could be skinned. Yeah, sure, I have time for that, how about you? My loi liked the peas quite a bit, when they realized they were there.
- Romaine – Nutritionally invisible, but perhaps the least messy of "greens" for the fish to munch on if you like them to have something to eat like that. Don't bother with iceberg lettuce. Get the darkest romaine you can and cut it into six-inch strips of the thinness suitable for your fish. They will chomp on the thick centerspines of the leaf later.
- Hyacinths – Delicious to koi. Cut off the roots because they are a mess!!!! I repeat, cut off the roots. Then fracture the plant so it's barely hanging together and toss it on the pond upside down, foliage in the water. The larger koi especially will eat the youngest leaves first and then pretty much annihilate the whole plant. Do not offer roots because the koi will rip them up and send them directly to your pump's impeller, which could choke to death.
- Duckweed – Koi and goldfish love this, and will eat all of this – if they can. In really large ponds a balance may be struck where the koi cannot or will not eat all of it, but in a standard sized (about 11' x 14') pond, duckweed will be a short-lived commodity. If you want, it's easily grow outside their abode in vats, baby pools, and tubs in a sunny spot with six inches water. The water should be fairly well circulated, and throw in a handful of koi food for fertilizer.
- Worms – Koi eat earthworms, Georgia reds, nightcrawlers, pinks, and others. Some people say that you should drown the worms in water first because the "hazardous soil" is expelled from the worm when it drowns and then goes flaccid. Uh, my fish wouldn't eat them dead, either. Fresh, active earthworms are well accepted and safe and when the first koi hits a worm, the rest quickly catch on.
- Fish – Koi can be trained to like fish. A very good friend of mine feeds his koi thawed sardines chopped up. Nutritious? YES! And sardines (being from salt water) are less likely to carry parasites applicable to koi. So, again, in moderation, these treats are okay for koi, and certainly well enjoyed.
Is there anything I probably should NOT feed
Koi as a treat?
Koi fry and the Cannibals
Love to make custom water features. I am the owner of Gordon's Pond Utopia. Doing what I love building ponds and water features.
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