Beyond Koi Pellets: Expanding your koi’s diet for nutrition and fun

Koi2 Feeding koi is probably one of the most
enjoyable things to do in our hobby. It’s
always an amazing sight to see your swimming
jewels rushing to greet you at the edge of
the pond with their mouths wide open, begging
for a handful of food. But what are we providing
our precious pets?

As you may have already noticed, koi will eat
almost anything that you offer them. But feeding
them poor-quality food will not fulfill their
nutritional requirements, so it is important to
invest in a good-quality basic pellet food for
optimal development, long-term health and good
water quality.

With that basic premise established, I would
like to introduce you to a wide variety of other
foods that we can provide our koi in addition to
the regular pellet foods. As the majority of you
already know, koi are omnivores, meaning they eat
both plant and animal foods. So when the water
temperature in our ponds approaches 18 degrees
Celsius (or 65 degrees Fahrenheit) we can start
providing our koi some more interesting foods!
Pasta, natural insects and crustaceans (live, dried
or frozen), whole wheat bread, honey and a wide
variety of fruits and vegetables will enhance your koi’s diet and have them churning the
water in excitement!

Pasta, Rice and Hard-Boiled Eggs

Pasta, rice (preferably whole
grain) and hard-boiled eggs are a delicious,
healthy treat for your koi and
a welcome change from the regular
pellet food. Foods like these are rich
in vitamins, minerals, trace elements,
high body proteins and carbohydrates.
Don’t provide your koi raw rice and
pasta, but boil them first without the
use of salt. After cooking the rice or
pasta, rinse the starch off and you
can preserve it in the refrigerator for
a couple of days. To make it more
attractive to the koi you can add a little
bit of honey to the rice or pasta as well.
As for hard-boiled eggs, just cut these
into pieces and give them to your koi.

>> For more information on koi food, maintenance and types, click here. 

Natural Insects and Crustaceans (Live, Dried or Frozen)

Live insects, little fish and crustaceans
are the closest thing we can
provide koi to what they eat in nature.
Throughout the day, koi seek small
amounts of food such as aquatic
animals, aquatic insects and sometimes
small fish. This natural situation is hard
to mimic in our ponds, but we can
provide the koi some of these natural
foods ourselves. A few of the natural
insects, crustaceans and aquatic creatures
that we can give our koi include
mealworms, silkworms, shrimp, earthworms,
gammarus, daphnia, tubifex
worms, bloodworms, black mosquito
larvae, tadpoles, clams and wax moth
larvae. All of these foods are very
high in natural protein, oils, minerals
and vitamins, which help to build
a koi’s natural defense against disease
and improve their digestion. They are
usually available alive, dried and frozen.

It’s important to note that maggots
are not suitable to provide as koi food!
Waste created by rotting meat inside
the maggots can bring disease-causing
bacteria into the koi, along with all its
negative consequences.

Don’t Catch It Yourself!

Another very important thing to note
is that you should never catch live food
in streams or lakes! Some aquatic animals
can be harmful because they carry bacteria
and viruses. If you want to provide
your koi with live food, the safest method
is to breed these animals yourself or buy
them in a store.

Whole Wheat Bread and Oatmeal Flakes

Oatmeal flakes and whole wheat bread
are real delicacies for our koi. They love
bread so much that they would gladly
eat the entire loaf if you gave it to them!
When large koi are present in the pond,
their feeding can create quite a spectacle
— especially when you put honey on the
bread. Some koi can bring almost their
entire bodies above the water to get a piece
of bread with honey. Why give your koi
whole wheat bread? Simple: because it is
more healthy than white bread! In whole
wheat bread, the whole grain is used, so
it still contains most of the vitamins,
minerals and dietary fiber. White
bread, in contrast, has little of that
nutrition, and it has the tendency
to expand more in the stomachs
of the koi than whole wheat
bread does.

Honey

As I mentioned earlier, mixing
honey with pasta or spreading it onto
a slice of bread is a great technique. This
is because honey is a tasty and incredibly
healthy product — both for humans and
for animals! It contains a high amount
of enzymes, antioxidants, minerals, trace
elements and vitamins. Raw, unprocessed,
locally made honey is unpasteurized and
has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal
and antiseptic properties. Keep in
mind that we are not talking about the
clear, amber-colored honey from the grocery
store, but rather the milky or cloudy honey
from a health food store or local source. If
you haven’t tried it, I encourage you to do
so. Both you and
your koi will love it!

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are a rich food
source full of different fibers, vitamins,
trace elements and antioxidants. These
substances are very important for your
koi’s diet and help keep your koi healthy,
vital and happy. Koi love fresh fruits and
vegetables such as lettuce and oranges.
They enjoy pulling the floating leaves
off a head of lettuce and chasing orange pieces around
the surface of the water! In fact, feeding your koi oranges
can be just as much fun for you as it is
for them! Just cut the oranges into quarters
and put them in the pond with the
skin still attached. The koi will jump for
joy, enthusiastically pulling pieces of flesh
off the peel. As a bonus, both lettuce and
oranges are valuable sources of vitamin
C, which is essential for growth, repair of
tissues and reproduction.

 Other fruits and vegetables that you
can provide your koi include beans, peas, carrots, cabbage, radish, garlic,
leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, endive,
peppers, tomatoes, pineapple,
melons, grapefruit, cantaloupe,
grapes, apples, pears, mandarins,
berries, kiwi, strawberries,
bananas and others. Beans, peas
and corn are less suitable for the
koi because they are very hard to
digest. If you want to feed your koi
these vegetables anyway, it’s advisable
to cook them first.

Complements, Not Replacements

Remember that all the foods we have
discussed above are not regular basic koi
food … they should be seen as tasty additions
to, rather than replacements for, the
koi’s normal diet. When feeding your koi
these unique foods, alternate the variety
and provide it in small amounts rather
than every day. Good and healthy koikeeping
starts with a balanced, varied,
nutritious diet and the right feeding habits. And healthy koi make for happy
owners. So buy some fresh new foods, start
expanding your koi’s diet and have fun!

25 Responses to Beyond Koi Pellets: Expanding your koi’s diet for nutrition and fun

  1. Tania June 27, 2016 at 1:35 PM #

    I love this, thank you. My Koi children get oranges, whole wheat pasta, crab meat and earthworms once a week. I adore seeing them feast and will certainly try the other treats you have suggested.

    • Toni July 18, 2017 at 6:29 AM #

      So awesome to read that your Koi love the treats Tania. Thank you very much for your kind words.

  2. Candace July 20, 2016 at 7:32 PM #

    This is great information! I have 3 koi and a handful of goldfish in my pond and I have been feeding them good and solid koi pellets. I have also been offering them some fruits and veggies. I’m wondering how often and how much fruit/veggies that I should be offering, in order to maintain a healthy balance? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    • Toni July 22, 2016 at 2:40 AM #

      Thank you very much Candace. Your Koi’s main diet are the pellets. Normally, good quality pellets contain all the nutrients a koi needs. It doesn’t really matter If you provide your koi two or five times a week an additional healthy treat. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t overfeed them. Alternate the variety and provide it in small amounts.

      Kind Regards,

      Toni Jacobs Lopez

  3. Amanda August 21, 2016 at 12:09 PM #

    Mine love peaches! No stone, of course, and no skin. 1/2 peach, chopped into bits and they sink, but most of the peach bits never make it to the bottom (18 koi and every single one will devour the fruit). Always buy organic stone fruits! Thank you for the article.

    • Toni July 18, 2017 at 6:27 AM #

      Thank you very much Amanda.

  4. Dominic April 2, 2017 at 1:56 PM #

    Hello I have 3 ponds and lots of healthy koi in each. My smallest pond I have 10 goldfish. My medium pond I have 14 medium sized koi and my largest pond has 10 big koi. I try to give them a healthy balanced diet while making sure they mainly get the pellets. However I love giving them treats but I don’t give them acidic fruits like oranges because the acidity in the fruits can cause ulcers around their mouth. But I’m sure giving it to them once in a while isn’t bad I don’t suggest giving it to them every time you give them a snack.

    • Toni July 18, 2017 at 6:25 AM #

      Hello Dominic.

      I never heard that acidic fruit can cause ulcers. Me and many of my customers feed their koi oranges and never had any problems. I agree with you that when you provide your Koi treats, try to variate. Once a week fruits, crustaceans, vegetables and so on. But don’t over do it. It are treats …

      Best Regards,

      Toni

  5. Hannah June 18, 2017 at 9:39 AM #

    Are wild strawberries ok? They grow around our pond and I’ve been feeding it to them. They seem to enjoy them. Both the koi and strawberries are small. I tear up the strawberries.

    • Lora Lee Gelles June 21, 2017 at 11:43 AM #

      Hannah – I found some info for you. Hope this helps you out!

      I see nothing wrong with supplementing your koi’s diet with fresh fruit and veggies. I’m not sure about the nutritional value of wild strawberries. I do know that vitamin C is an immune system booster, so anything high in vitamin C is good for fish. My koi eat the raspberries from my patch and seem to really enjoy them.

      Richard Heimberger
      Healthy Pond

      • Jerry September 3, 2018 at 9:52 PM #

        Mine love fresh blueberries straight off the bushes

  6. carl July 17, 2017 at 9:14 AM #

    All this information has proven I need to know more about these fish I’ve got. I built an 800 gallon or so koi pond and got some plants from a friend who has had a koi pond for years and got them established in the water. I have good circulation with pumps and filtration. I have added cheap ($.17-.35) goldfish from a pet store and they seem to be happy and growing. When could I introduce small Koi, I was pretty selective with the goldfish and got multicolored ones but they aren’t koi.

    • Toni January 16, 2018 at 12:00 PM #

      Hello Carl. I get this question a lot and the answer is long but I will keep it short and simple. Introducing koi in your pond would be the best around May and June and around September early October. Reason? In those months your pond conditions are the best. But be aware …. putting new koi in your pond is never a guarantee that nothing will happen to them but the months I mentioned are in my opinion the best.

  7. Michelle July 17, 2017 at 5:55 PM #

    I would like some help on figuring out if I’m doing it right feeding oranges. When I feed the oranges, do i leave the rinds on when I cut them? Not sure when you say leave the skin on means the rind or the skin of the oranges?

    • Toni July 18, 2017 at 6:40 AM #

      Hello Michelle,

      When you buy oranges wash them at home and cut them in 4 parts and provide them to your Koi with skin and rind. They won’t eat the rind and skin.

      Best Regards,

      Toni

  8. Rene Higgins-Ratcliff August 1, 2017 at 7:33 AM #

    My koi and goldfish love watermelon!

  9. Stacey long November 10, 2017 at 10:44 PM #

    I have 20 Koi ranging from 20 years old to tosi. My Koi all come from Japan. I cut up a whole seedless watermelon as long as i can find them available, and believe me they have no problem getting in there and sucking that rind clean!!! They love snacks! Feeding them fruit and vegetables is great for their immune system. If you only feed them pellets I don’t care if you feed them the best food Hakari like i do myself, they are exposed to parasites scraping themselves and if they have a low immune system they are susceptible to ulcers, pox’s, I could go on. Everyone thinks that you can’t feed Koi anything but this or that, spend a day in Japan before taking your Koi home, lol! Then you’ll find out just how well a Koi can really eat. Don’t feed them junk or empty calories!!!

  10. su November 25, 2017 at 9:53 AM #

    Thank you for listing the foods above.I have been using chia seed to bind the tasty additions, instead of Knox gelatin, I was happy with the natural benefits of the chia seed and after there done eating the food around some seeds sprout under the water in the outdoor pond

  11. berni January 13, 2018 at 2:11 PM #

    I read here you can give broccoli, and carrots to koi. Are these raw or cooked first? Also, a weird question I’m sure, I take vitamin c dissolvable tablets myself. Could I add one to my 1000 gal pond, now and then, dissolved first of course.

    • Toni January 16, 2018 at 12:22 AM #

      Hi Berni. I would cook the Carrots and Broccoli first and provide small pieces to your koi. And your second question is not weird at all. The answer is yes you can but the dose can be tricky. Those dissolvable tablets have a dose specifically made for humans. But if you really want to provide your koi extra vit C, you can dissolve a tablet in water and sprinkle some of it over your food pellets just before you feed it to your koi. Important to know is that most koi labels of food say “don’t feed your koi more than they can eat within 5 min”. Know that this has to be “can eat within 1 min”!!!!! Vitamins in pellets dissolve quickly when floating in the water. So feed your koi small portions.

      • berni January 18, 2018 at 7:20 PM #

        Thanks Toni, I will follow you’re advice and try them with it.

  12. Giovanni Carlo May 7, 2018 at 2:38 PM #

    I feed my koi fish duckweed, watermelon, earth worms, daphnia magna, etc. and food supplement koi food.

  13. Fairuza May 28, 2018 at 11:52 AM #

    What about small cheese crackers?

    • Toni May 29, 2018 at 4:16 PM #

      Hello Fairuza,

      Koi will eat everything but that doesn’t mean we should give them everything. Whole wheat bread sticks or a slice of Whole Wheat bread with honey are nice treats to give to our koi but I would save the cheese crackers for yourself.

  14. k September 1, 2018 at 12:21 PM #

    Can I feed them rhubarb leaves

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