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How do I know when I can feed my koi again? – Decorative Ponds & Water Gardens Q & A

Koi FeedingQ: How do I know when I can feed my koi again? – Jim in Michigan

A: Now that we’re at winter’s peak, many of us begin to think about the coming spring.  As we start the spring to-do list, we remember those poor little koi that are out in the water garden.  Since you’ve kept a hole open in the ice all winter, you really have nothing to worry about, right? But your koi seem to be a little more active lately with the approaching spring and look like they have a mighty appetite since they haven’t eaten all winter. Should you start feeding now, or later? This all comes down to water temperature. Let me explain.

During the winter months koi go into a state of near-hibernation where their bodily systems are doing just enough to keep them alive.  Much like the frogs and turtles, koi typically do not eat during this time.  This is because their digestive tracts have slowed down so much that food cannot be fully digested by their stomachs. It is for this reason that we recommend that you stop feeding your koi altogether once water temperatures dip down below 40ºF.  As water temperatures being to climb between 40ºF & 55ºF the optimum food to feed your koi is a wheat germ based fish food like Spring & Fall Fish Food.  Wheat germ is specifically designed to be easy on the digestive tract for koi as they transition in and out of winter.

Fish FoodSo in summary, during the spring thaw watch your water temperatures. As they approach 40ºF, you will notice the koi becoming more active. At this point, throw in a very small amount of Spring & Fall Fish Food to see if they are interested. Once they start eating the pellets, you can begin ramping up the spring feeding. As the koi eat, continue to increase their rations (never more than they can clean up in a few minutes) until the water temperatures reach their normal levels for the summer. At this point, switch them over to a higher protein fish food like Growth & Color or Professional Fish Food.

POND TALK: When do you start feeding your fish?

6 Responses

  1. Thank you for the information. My husband died 2010 unexpectedly and left me to care for his project the pond. Having very little knowledge these Web sites are truly valuable. Keep up the good info.ps are there any floating plants to cover my pond to stop the sun turning the water green. Thanks again bev stone.

    • Hi Beverly – We’re sorry for your loss. We are happy to answer any questions we can and I hope you are finding the pond to be enjoyable. Floating plants such as water hyacinth or water lettuce are great at filtering pond water and do provide surface coverage. Hyacinth do fare better if you receive a lot of sun. If these plants are restricted in your state any bog plants or water lilies can also help provide shade for your pond.

  2. Thank you for the info. I was worried it may harm the koi if I feed somehow. It is nice to learn they can go dormant again if need be but no food in digestive tract is best for survival.

  3. It is still winter, but it feels like spring weather outside. It is very warm for this time of the year. Can I feed my Koi, as they appear to be searching for food? If I feed them and it gets cold again would this feeding harm them? Or do not feed them until spring actually gets here?

    • Hi Vic,

      I would hold off on feeding until the water temp consistently stays above at least 40 degrees. The fish will still feed off algae or other food sources in the pond for now but feeding them fish food may be detrimental if they return to dormancy without having fully digested it.

  4. I have generally stopped feeding my koi below 50 degrees. I agree that they definitely need a lower protein food in the spring and fall. Koi owners should learn about what type of food to feed and when to feed it so that they can choose the best koi fish food for their particular situation! Thanks for the great information and a good place to get spring and fall koi food!

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