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Koi Nutrition

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What you feed your Koi is an important decision, as ultimately it will have an effect on their overall well-being. It is vital that the correct foods are fed at the right times of year to avoid problems.

Floating sticks are a popular choice of food but they can prove expensive as each stick contains a lot of air. Pellets are a better food source as each one contains far more substance that a comparable food stick. Paste food is also a good choice, but many people are put off because it is not readily available and has to be prepared daily.

It is important to ensure that the correct size of pellet is chosen for the size of fish in the pond. Many keepers now recommend that even large Koi are better fed a medium-size pellet (6mm diameter) rather than large ones of 8mm and above.

You should also consider feeding a certain amount of sinking food, as this not only encourages your Koi to feed at different levels of the pond allowing more of the Koi to get some food, but it also prevents damage from occurring when they come to the surface in a feeding frenzy and bump into one another. There are also health benefits to using sinking food as excess air is not taken in, which could cause swimbladder disorder.

Whatever style of Koi food is chosen, it will be made up of a number of ingredients. First there is protein which is important as it encourages growth and tissue repair. As protein have to be used before they are excreted from the body as waste, it is important not to over feed, and only to feed higher protein food in warmer weather when your Koi's metabolism is higher, so allowing more of the protein to be utilized.

Secondly, fatty acids are also an important part of any diet, as they provide an essential supply of energy. Lack of essential fatty acids results in serious health problems. Other main ingredients of their diet include carbohydrates which are used for energy, vitamins which are essential for the well-being of your Koi, and minerals like calcium, which is vital for bone structure, and sodium and potassium, which help to maintain the nervous system. The final ingredient of any good quality food will be trace elements which include iron, manganese, zinc, iodine and others.


Many keepers now mix additives with their chosen brand of food. These include propolis for its health and immune system benefits, vitamins and trace elements, or spirulina to enhance red pigmentation. Whatever additive is used. It is generally necessary to hand-mix this with the feed. To maintain freshness this should be done either daily or every other day using only the volume of food that will be fed. Additives allow for specific ingredients to be mixed with the food, and of course they are much fresher than if they are included within the food at the time of processing.

Feeding for Color Enhancment, the Amount to Feed, and a List of Live Foods Click Here.

Vitamins: Functions, Sources, and Results of Deficiencies

A Healthy skin/Eyesight Fish liver oils, liver, carrots, green & yellow vegetables Anorexia, fading color, hemorrhages of the skin & kidney, poor growth, blindness
B1 Nerve function/Digestion & Reproduction Meat, dried yeast, whole wheat, bran, oatmeal, vegetables Poor growth, fading color, fin paralysis, hemorrhaging at fin bases
B2 Aids growth: helps carbohydrate metabolism & oxygen absorption in muscle & tissue Liver & kidney, yeast, green leafy vegetables Retarded growth, anemia, loss of appetite, bleeding in the eyes or from the gills & nostrils
B6 Aids the metabolism of protein; contributes to blood formation Meat, wheat, yeast, green vegetables Poor appetite, ataxia, nervous disorders, epileptic fits, abdominal dropsy, rapid ventilation of the gills, pop-eye disease
B12 Promotes growth, increases energy, forms and regulates red blood cells Meat & yeast Anemia
C Combats viral and bacterial infections, heals wounds, plays a role in the development of cartilage and collagen Green & leafy vegetables Deformities of the spine & gills, internal hemorrhaging, lack of resistance to infection
E An important antioxidant (preventing fat from turning rancid) Wheat germ, vegetable oils, leafy vegetables, & whole-grain cereals Anemia, clubbed gills, exopthalmia, skeletal disorders, fatty degeneration of the liver, declining reproduction, poor growth
Nicotinic acid Crucial to promote growth in young Koi Meat Anorexia, anemia, muscle spasms, swollen gills, skin hemorrhage, lethargy
Choline Contributes to the utilization of fats & cholesterol Meat, cereal, & wheat germ Anemia, fatty liver degeneration, hemorrhage in kidneys & intestines
Pantothenic acid Important in the process of metabolizing fat & carbohydrates Liver & Kidney Loss of appetite, abnormal mucus production, flared opercula, necrosis of the jaw, barbels, & fins
Folic acid Contributes to red blood cell & tissue cell formation Liver, kidney, yeast, deep green leafy plants Anemia, anorexia, exopthalmia, lethargy, pale gills, poor growth

Both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins are necessary in the diet of fishes. Most water-soluble vitamins (B complex and C) are coenzymes used in cellular metabolism. A constant supply of these vitamins is required in the diet as they are not stored in the body tissues. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) may be stored in the liver or other tissues after ingestion.

One of the first signs of any vitamin deficiency is a decreased appetite, resulting in poor growth. More specific signs of a particular vitamin deficiency will develop after several weeks of feeding a vitamin-deficient diet.

Vitamin C deficiency is a common problem of Koi fish. Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is necessary for the metabolism of collagen for bones and joints. A deficiency causes poor bone and cartilage formation resulting in scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

Good Sources of Vitamin C

Pineapple has 1.6 mg of Vitamin C

Watermelon has 8.2 mg of Vitimin C

Orange has 48 mg of vitamin C

Vitamin & Mineral Deficiencies

  • Vitamin A ~Impaired growth, body depigmentation, pop eye.
  • Vitamin D3 ~Poor growth, impaired calcium balance.
  • Vitamin E ~Anemia, increased water retention.
  • Vitamins C ~Scoliosis, deformative growth, hemorrhagic skin, liver, kidney, intestine, and muscle.
  • Riboflavin ~Cloudy eyes, hemorrhagic eyes, dark body coloration.
  • Niacin ~Loss of appetite, jerky or difficult motion.
  • Menadione ~Prolonged blood clotting, anemia.
  • D-pantothenic ~Loss of appetite, clubbed gills, gill exudate.
  • Folic acid ~Lethargy, fragile caudal (tail) fin.
  • Pyridoxine ~Hyper-irritability, loss of appetite, rapid and gasping breathing.
  • Thiamine ~Poor appetite, convulsions, loss of equilibrium.
  • Biotin ~Spastic convulsions, skin lesions.
  • B 12 ~Poor appetite, anemia.
  • Calcium ~Reduced growth.
  • Manganese ~Loss of equilibrium, dwarfism, high mortality.
  • Zinc ~Anorexia, fin and skin erosion.
  • Iodine ~Thyroid hyperplasia (abnormal increase of thyroid cell growth).
  • Copper ~Lack of important metabolic enzymes.

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How to Make Paste Food

  1. To make paste food, measure out the required amount of powder.
  2. Add water to the powder as directed by the mixing instructions.
  3. Mix water with the paste until a dough-like consistency is achieved.
  4. Roll and shape the paste in your hands to form large pellets of food.
  5. Roll pellets to suit the size of Koi in your pond.

Remember that it will sink, which will encourage your fish to feed at different water levels.

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