After a cold winter, koi will slowly come out of their “torpor” state when the water’s temperature increases. In early spring, the water temperature is still on the cold side. Many koi owners wonder what you feed koi in the spring, and when do you start feeding them? Let’s address the question together.
In spring, feed your koi germ wheat-based pellets that contain a healthy mixture of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial ingredients, found in the following products:
- Kodama Koi Food
- Blue Ridge Probiotic Plus
- Hikari USA Gold
- Kaytee Koi’s Choice
- The Pond Guy Spring & Fall Fish Food
A koi is omnivorous, eating anything smaller than themselves. When observed in the wild, algae, plants, bugs, and flies are on the menu. However, koi owners worldwide want only the best for their beloved koi, ensuring that they feed them a healthy diet. We want our koi to be healthy, happy and growing.
Feeding Koi In Springtime
Many successful koi breeders worldwide and owners of pond koi are very much aware that diet plays a crucial role when growing happy and healthy koi.
Koi living in a well-balanced ecosystem can live on nutrients found in the pond – plankton, pond plants, plant roots, insect larvae, worms, and other small animals, without an owner feeding them once.
Although the chances that koi can survive from food sourced from their living environment is high, we love our koi, and feeding is part and parcel of looking after them. We love our koi, so we feed them nonetheless.
Feeding them makes owning koi such a pleasurable experience, and the right food with balanced proteins, vitamins, and minerals helps keep their immune systems strong and safe from bacterial infections.
Many koi food manufacturers recommend a diet consisting of the following minimum:
Feeding is a year-round act of love, not so much in the winter, though. That’s when koi go into hibernation – called torpor – to survive extremely cold and icy winters. When in torpor, the following happens:
- Koi regulate their body temperature, acclimatizing to water and air temperatures.
- Koi decrease their metabolism (they don’t need to feed when in a torpor state.)
- Koi conserve energy by reducing their immune systems, breathing rate, and primary body functions (they appear to be in a deep sleep with super slow movement and actions.)
- Koi lives of stored body resources accumulated during the year.
The koi will slowly come out of inactivity when spring starts as the water temperatures rise. I mention the above because it’s important to know that your koi is not in the healthiest state after a torpor session.
Even if you have a massive urge to start feeding them lots and lots of healthy koi chow, don’t return to your normal feeding regime, as it can be harmful to your fish and its pond. It’s highly suggested that you prepare your pond after winter for the “spring season.” More on this later.
What To Feed Koi In Spring
We know that koi will hardly eat anything during winter, only restarting their metabolism when spring starts. That doesn’t mean you can’t feed them in the winter.
Watch for out days during the winter when the koi are more active (warm winter days), and feed them small food quantities – Mandu Fu treats work well on these winter active days.
The quality of excellent nutritional koi foods found on the market today will ensure that your koi gets all the proteins, vitamins, nutrients, and minerals required for a healthy diet and good growth.
You will find these essential ingredients in wheat germ pellets. The pellets are usually of the floating kind, as these work the best, but can be bought in stick form, which is typically less dense than pellets, resulting in more feeding volume.
Steer clear of flaky foods as these are made for baby fish but can often lead to more waste and messiness when fed to larger koi. My advice is to stick with what the winners feed their koi (koi breeders) and feed your koi with wheat germ-based (fish meal included) pellets.
Let’s examine some of the best food to feed your koi in spring:
Grand champion Mamoru Kodama, founder of Kodama Koi Farm, once stated, “There wasn’t a Koi food that satisfied my needs, and so I made this for myself in order to raise beautiful Japanese koi at my farm.”
A 10-acre farm that grows up to 60,000 koi, all healthy and many of championship quality. Mr. Kodama’s koi is his babies, his pride and joy, and he knows what’s best for them when it comes to diet.
Ingredients found in Kodama Koi Products are:
- Fresh Wheat Germ.
- Spirulina (Floating microalgae that’s more digestible than Chlorella): Known to improve flesh quality and immunity; contains proteins, vitamins, minerals, and used to enhance color (especially the color red.)
- Fishmeal with added minerals and vitamins and the lowest form of histamine and ethoxyquin can cause koi certain health problems.
- Bio Stone: A mineral that contains silicon aluminum that keeps koi healthy; it also helps maintain the water’s quality by absorbing ammonia.
Kodama Koi Food – All Season/Wheat Germ is best for growth and keeping your koi healthy all year round, thanks to the digestibility of the pellet. Wheat germ oil is often used in nutritional food for humans, and what’s left after getting our share is a defatted wheat germ or koi food for short.
Kodama Koi Food uses only the freshest wheat germ (before the oil is extracted) before bio stone and silicon aluminum are added to the mix, keeping the koi healthy and happy. Also, ensuring better water quality as it absorbs ammonia.
Ingredient data for both Kodama All-Season and Color Up:
- Crude Protein – 38% (min)
- Calcium – 15% (min)
- Fat – 4% (min)
- Phosphorus – 15% (min)
- Ash – 11% (min)
With added spirulina to enhance the health and color of the koi scales, Kodama Color Up has some other benefits too:
- Smooth & Easy Digestion
- Vibrant Colors
- Stronger Immune System
- Beautiful Scales
To be used in conjunction with Kodama Koi Food – All-Season, when the water temperature is between 65-80 F.
Mandu Fu Koi Food is infused with a nutritional enzyme called Manda Nishiki, which ensures that koi coming out of “torpor” gets the right nutrition at the beginning of spring. Mandu Fu has an overall digestion rate of 98.2%, indicating that koi loves Mandu Ku (some refer to it as koi crack.)
It can be fed in water temperatures as low as 45 F and is specially designed for low water temperature consumption. It’s very digestible, as koi metabolism systems are not operating at their fullest when coming out of winter hibernation mode.
Mandu Fu Koi Food will have your koi eating out of your hand, literally and figuratively.
Blue Ridge Probiotic Plus can be used all year round to feed your beloved koi. However, it’s most effective in early spring and late fall when the water temperature is colder (when koi immune systems are at their most compromised.)
Blue Ridge Probiotic Plus boosts immunity, increases resistance to ulcer disease, and helps prevent fin and tail rot by adding primalac, montmorillonite, and vitamin C to the mix. Feed fish and see if there’s any food left after 5 minutes. If there’s uneaten food, remove it and reduce the feed amount accordingly.
- Protein – 32% (min)
- Fat – 5% (min)
- Fiber – 6% (max)
- Phosphorus – 1% (min)
- Ascorbic Acid – 1% (min)
Hikari has spent the last 140 years studying koi. From their ideal habitats, breeding koi, producing koi-specific diets and monitoring the impact of the food we feed our special koi. Hikari knows what to provide koi to keep them healthy and growing into beautiful specimens.
Hikari USA Gold is a budget-friendly option containing soybean meal that’s easily digestible compared to animal protein digestibility. Added to the mix is carotene (natural color enhancer), ideal for koi whose color is fading a bit. The best of both worlds in one feeding action, what’s not to like?
Hikari USA Gold is a medium-sized pellet intended for medium breeds of koi, can be fed the whole year-round, but is best used in colder temperatures like early spring and late fall. A stabilized vitamin C infuser, a blend of powerful minerals, vitamins, and protein, helps koi lead a happy and healthy life.
- Protein – 40%
- Fat – 4%
- Fiber – 4%
- Color Enhancer: Carotene
Kaytee Koi’s Choice comprises 35% protein that helps koi grow new muscles tissues and provides them with energy to live healthily. The medium/large-sized pellets are easily digestible, float on the water, and leave little waste behind.
Secondary nutrients include; fish oil, alfalfa meal, and wheat germ, which helps enhance koi colors. Kaytee Koi’s Choice is designed to improve cognitive functions (the heart and eyes), strengthening the koi’s immunity systems.
- Protein – 35%
- Fat – 5%
- Fiber – 4%
- Ash & Phosphorus Content
- Color Enhancer: Alfalfa Meal & Wheat Germ
Kaytee Koi’s Choice is made for all seasons. When feeding in springtime, ensure that you only feed the amount that your fish absorbs in 5 minutes. Temperatures ranging between 40-50°F, feed every other day (3 times per week.)
The Pond Guy Spring & Fall Floating Fish Food is a plant-based wheat germ formula for feeding in cold weather (easy digestion.) The wheat germ formula is ideal for assisting koi transition in and out of cold weather.
This high-growth formula is all-natural, contains plant-based vegetable koi food, and is very digestible. Your koi gets to enjoy a unique blend of amino acids, digestive enzymes, and natural vegetable proteins when you feed them this product.
Feed the koi up to three times per week, trying not to exceed the amount of food which the koi eats comfortably in 5 minutes when temperatures are between 41-50°F. The pellets can last up to five years when opened and are 3.0 mm in diameter.
- Protein – 28% (min)
- Fat – 4% (min)
- Fiber – 5% (max)
- Moisture – 11% (max)
- Ash – 7% (max)
For carbohydrates, you can feed the koi the following in small amounts (once per week):
Store-bought treats like the following is also an option:
- Wax Moth Larvae
- Black Mosquito Larvae
- Silkworm Pupae
- Tubifex Worms
Or treat them to the occasional treat from the kitchen:
- Cooked Rice
- Whole Wheat Bread
When To Feed Koi In Spring?
Water temperature is the main indicator of when you can start feeding your koi when spring comes around. Winter came, and you correctly stopped feeding your koi when the thermostat showed 41 F, as this is the temperature that they should go into hibernation. When do you start feeding them again?
When the thermostat indicates a temperature between 41-50°F, you can start feeding your koi once a week. To get the amount of food right, watch how fast they consume the fish food. Don’t expect too much from your koi at this stage; they may even decline your generous offerings at first.
When the water temperature ranges between 50-59°F, you can start feeding them 1-2 times a day if necessary, or scale it down to once per day depending on the koi, as their digestive systems are still slowed down at this temperature.
As the water begins to heat up to 59-68°F, continue feeding them 1-2 times per day. Brace yourself because a feeding frenzy is about to occur in your pond! When the water temperature hits the 68-86°F range, you can expect to feed your koi 3-5 times a day. Koi are at their most active and hungry in this temperature range.
Temperatures above 86°F warrant five feeding sessions a day. Many believe in only starting to feed koi when the temperature reaches 55°F, but it’s up to them if they want to eat at lower temperatures.
Always ensure that uneaten food is removed from the pond, as it will cause decay in the pond. The food waste will only put even more stress on the hibernating ecosystem.
Koi in hibernation mode struggles to digest high-protein food. Undigested food can rot in their stomachs, causing a deadly bacterial infection (feed them Mandu Fu in these low temperatures as it’s highly digestible.)
How To Prepare Your Koi Pond For Spring
As previously mentioned in the article, you must open up your pond correctly when spring arrives. Remember, a winter pond is not fully functioning due to hibernation and cold weather. A transition is required from a sleepy, cold ecosystem to a warm and very active one.
Kodama Koi Farm’s owner and grandmaster, Mamoru Kodama, suggests the following steps when opening your koi pond to spring:
- Monitor Water Temperature
- Treat The Whole Pond
- Activate Your Filter
- Be Patient In Feeding
- Pond Cleaning
To read the article on opening your pond like a grandmaster, click here for more information.
No koi fish is the same regarding eating habits, so it’s vital to know your koi. The above-listed spring and autumn feed products contain all the necessary ingredients that your koi will need coming out of or going into hibernation.
It’s best not to start feeding them too soon, but if you see some activity in early spring, even when water is still too cold to feed, treat them with some Mandu Fu – like the grandmaster breeder from Japan – Mr. Kodama.