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

Published on September 1, 2014


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.

Aqua UV
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.

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.


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.

Aqua UV
 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!

Kloubec Koi Farm

40 thoughts on “Beyond Koi Pellets: Expanding your koi’s diet for nutrition and fun”

  1. 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.

    1. Thank you so much for this interesting information! I didnt know they could eat all of these foods! Mine love bananas! I cant wait to try other treats on this page!

      1. I was wondering if they liked bananas! Good to know! How much would you feed 4 adult koi and one adult goldfish? Do you chop them up??

  2. 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!

    1. 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. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. 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,


  5. 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.

    1. Avatar photo
      Lora Lee Gelles

      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

  6. 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.

    1. 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. 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?

    1. 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,


  8. 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!!!

  9. 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

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

  11. You made a great point about how you need to have complement foods, not things that can replace regular food. My husband just bought some koi fish and he is looking for tips on feeding them since he has never had one before. We will keep these tips in mind as we search for a professional that he can get different types of healthy food from.

  12. Is there a live plant that large Koi won’t shred? I gave up on parrot feather & water lilies because my koi pulled the lilies out of the pots every day, and shredded the other water plants into small pieces that clogged the filter. Two of my koi are 20+ yrs old, the other 8 are various ages. My pond is 900-1000 gals.

  13. Toni Jacobs Lopez

    Hello Loreni,

    We noticed in several ponds that it has nothing to do with what kind of a plant you have in your pond. If you introduce koi into a pond that already have plants in it most koi will leave them alone. But if you put new plants into a pond that already have koi in it they most likely start to shred them into pieces. Maybe it’s a idea to plant marginal plants around the edges of your pond. They are beneficial and attractive and koi like to play with them without making a mess of your pond.

  14. I’m enjoying reading all these ideas. Should fruits & veggies be cut into small pieces? I read about the watermelon & oranges, but I want to give my Koi (6) canteloupe. I cut it off the rind & into human bite- size pieces but didn’t know if they could bite it so threw in smaller pieces which promptly sunk.Will they find them on the bottom? Our pond is about 30′ x 50′, going to about 5-5 1/2′ deep. I won’t be able to remove rinds so would it be detrimental to just leave them in the pond? We also have Mollys in the pond. Thank you!

  15. My baby Koi carp, about 2-4 inches in length, enjoy eating banana, peanut butter, and cilantro in small pieces as treats. How often can I give them these? multiple times a day or once in a few days? Please help!

  16. How often can I feed koi these treats? I’m having trouble finding an answer to that online. So not every day you said so like once a week, twice a week?

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