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Thread: Cool Water Feeding Philosophy

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    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Cool Water Feeding Philosophy

    Water temperatures in my pond are down to the mid and upper 60sF (around 19C). The cool period has arrived a bit early this year, thanks to Superstorm Sandy blowing Canadian cold all the way to Florida. Still, it is the time of year when I begin cutting back on the quantity of food leading up to the annual 6-7 week fast. Normally, I switch to a lower protein mix of foods leading up to the fast. This year, however, I will continue using the high protein sinking Kenzen and just reduce the quantity fed. That is a major change in my approach to koikeeping in the cool season.

    There has been a debate within the hobby about whether to reduce the protein fed in cool temperatures or to use high protein in lower quantities. The 'reduce protein' viewpoint has been the prevailing idea and I have followed it. I first became of aware of the different perspectives when it was debated on the old NI board in the late 1990s. Much of the debate ending up centering on what folks believed carp consumed in the wild over the cold months of the year. Some believed high-protein animal life became scarce and carp's main diet was vegetable... roots, algae and such. Others believed the animal life remained an important part of the diet. Insects might be gone, but crayfish, snails and other crustaceans were still to be found by burrowing into the muddy banks and bottoms, although in reduced numbers. I've tried to do some research into the eating habits of carp in the wild, but have not found much and nothing I would consider definitive. My impression is that carp continue to eat whatever they find. They just find less. It would seem logical that when the most nutritious foods are unavailable or available in only low quantities, the proportion of the less nutritious foods increases... algae, roots and such. Another factor is that carp do not digest vegetable-based protein as well as animal-based protein. More vegetable foods are required to provide the same level of nutrition as a diet of crustaceans. The debate also involved concern over the effects of feeding in cold periods and the prevalence of ulcer diseases when koi were fed over winter in a cold winter climate.

    After considering the competing arguments, I did not find either to be compelling, but those espousing the view that cool temperatures call for lower protein and wheatgerm-based foods were people I knew to be successful koikeepers. JR was a leading advocate of that view, and I have found I seldom go wrong heeding his advice. So, I have followed that approach. However, I have continued to read and hear of instances of the contrary approach being followed successfully. I have also come to distinguish between 'cool water' koikeeping and 'cold water' koikeeping. These are two very different environments for koi. In the cold water experienced in northern climes, koi do not function well. They are pushed to the edge metabolically. It makes sense to me that the koi need an extended fast during cold periods and that their diet should be one that prepares them for the rigors of the cold. I think cool water koikeeping is different. The koi remain fully functioning, there is no period of stasis; but there is a slowing of physical systems. So, there is a certain logic in continuing the same foods, but feeding less.

    This year, I happen to have enough high-protein Kenzen on hand to make a slight change. I will be reducing the amount of food given, but continue using the high-protein Kenzen sinking. At three-quarter rations, dropping to half-rations and then to quarter rations, I have enough to just about last to December 25, the usual start of the fast. I stocked up on sinking wheatgerm to begin using it in December leading up to the fasting period. If I run out of Kenzen, I may use it. Otherwise, I'll save it to use when the fast ends. There will still be a fasting period of 6-7 weeks. Since I began imposing a fast years ago, I've not had egg-bound females dying from septicemia. Prior to imposing a fast, it seemed there was one every year. (It is a problem that seems more prevalent in areas that do not experience a cold winter with a necessary long fast.) So, the fast remains part of the seasonal scheme. It is just the protein level of the food that I'll be approaching differently.

    It's not a radical change, I don't think. But, having followed a particular approach rather rigorously for so many years, it seems almost revolutionary!

    JR: See what happens with you out of commission? ...in a handbasket, you know.

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    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
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    This will be my 3rds season of feeding 49% protein food thru out the winter. So i have it done pretty well. I do reduce volumn as I allow the water temperature to fall to 52 F where i try and hold it for the rest of winter save for one two week period that I allow the water to dip to 48 F. First year I used tomi-gai floating and last year kenzen sinking. I'll repeat kenzen as i'm rather a fan of the excellent skin it seems to produce and limited amounts of waste.

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    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Dick: How do you handle fasting?

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    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    I did not know that pond temperatures in the 60sF was considered cold water.

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    Sansai
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    we have seven months water temps under 50 degrees here in seattle i have no problem keeping weight on fish provided i got it on them in the first place . seven month fast is fine temps get down to 35 degress at coldest ive keeped a few for twenty years like that and there still winning awards.

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    MCA
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    I have already transitioned our koi from Blackwater Gold to Hikari Wheatgerm. I did purchase the very small pellets (the size of BBs) as they are considerable cheaper per the same weight. Being smaller they also have greater surface to mass ratio for a given weight or volume...compared to larger size pellets. So there is more surface area to be exposed to digestive processes. Interesting if size does really matter, even if food pellets.

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    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MCA View Post
    I have already transitioned our koi from Blackwater Gold to Hikari Wheatgerm. I did purchase the very small pellets (the size of BBs) as they are considerable cheaper per the same weight. Being smaller they also have greater surface to mass ratio for a given weight or volume...compared to larger size pellets. So there is more surface area to be exposed to digestive processes. Interesting if size does really matter, even if food pellets.
    What about teeth?

    See JR's post on Koi teeth <-- Link

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    MCA
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    What about koi pharyngeal teeth? Koi grind their food before it enters their gut.

    Logic tells you a smaller pellet in with end up generating small ground pieces on the output side. How much smaller? Don't know and don't care. But if you want small...start small....specially if the food is cheaper that way by weight.

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    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    IMO this is a topic that really depends on the local area and climate conditions being discussed. There is little in common with conditions in the upper midwest and the southern states. The pond/filter system and fish load are other variables. Better to err on the side of being conservative and feeling less protein and less food over the colder months. I also believe in fasting female koi during the coldest period for 6-8 weeks. This seems to work for me and my pond in South Texas during average winters.

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    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricshaw View Post
    I did not know that pond temperatures in the 60sF was considered cold water.
    LOL...It's not. That's why I call it 'cool water'... not cold. I think of 'cold' as water temperatures in the 50sF and lower (15C and lower).

    My koi don't experience cold. They do know about cool. They are showing the signs of the changing season with appetite being a little less. They would eat the same quantity of food, but not as quickly. I reduce feed somewhat more than necessary to match their appetite to simulate a winter experience. So, instead of the approx. 1.25 pounds per day thay were getting in late September/early October, they are gradually being taken down to about 0.8 pounds per day, and around mid-December will be taken down to about 0.5 pounds per day leading up to the start of their fast. (There are 14 koi over 27 inches, and 3 youngsters in the 20-inch or smaller range. One will be going to get down to my limit of 16 fish. No new koi without one getting re-homed.) The schedule will be shortened if we get a strong cold front that drops pond temperatures close to 60F. [My idea of a perfect 'winter' is enough cold for the pond to be 60-62F, but no freeze that burns the camellia blooms or requires hauling staghorns to the garage.]

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