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Thread: Optimal Feeding Frequency

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Optimal Feeding Frequency

    Sacicu suggested a separate thread on this subject, so I'll start one.

    When I first began keeping koi in the late 1970s, the only source of information I had was the old Axelrod book, Koi Of The World. It said koi would eat about anything, suggested trout chow and said nothing about the frequency at which koi should be fed. I always fed my aquarium fish twice per day, so I did the same with the koi. I put no more thought into it than that.

    Along came Waddington's book, Koi Kichi, which said: "Try to feed in the morning and evening with an amount that takes about 10 to 15 minutes to be eaten, in high Summer a mid-day feed can be added". And, that's all the best source of koi knowledge in the 1990s had to say.

    Most of what I have learned about feeding frequency came from internet forums, starting with the old Nishikigoi International board at the turn of the century. There was a lot of talk about feeding frequency, and some heated debates over whether 8 times per day was really any better than 4 times per day. The theorizing behind those old discussions underlies what now appears in Nishikigoi Mondo:

    "Q. How many times should Nishikigoi be fed a day?

    A. Nishikigoi don't have a stomach so they cannot keep food inside their body for long and, usually, eat little food at once. The beginning of spring, when they awake from their winter torpor, their owners can start feeding a little and, after a while, as the water temperature rises, increase the amount of food to twice a day. From the beginning of summer to fall they can be fed three or four times a day. Before Nishikigoi return to their winter torpor their owners should decrease the number of feeds to once a day. The number of feeds is related to the seasonal changes in the temperature of the pond water.

    Q. There are some owners that feed their Nishikigoi five or six times a day. Does this cause obesity?

    A. This way of feeding makes sense to build an ample body on Nishikigoi. If the owner would like their Nishikigoi to have a dynamic structure, it is better to constantly feed them a little amount of food because Nishikigoi have a long intestine to absorb nutrition from food. Owners that are unable to make time to feed them five or six times a day may use machines that feed them automatically."


    My thinking, very much influenced by discussions on the internet, pretty much aligns with what is written in Nishikigoi Mondo. However, living in a warm climate, there are adjustments required since the koi never experience a 'winter torpor'. Still, my work schedule only permits two feedings per day. I do not think my koi have grown less as a result of getting just two feedings per day. But, perhaps their girth would be more if I was comfortable with the risk of an auto-feeder attracting undesirable wildlife??

    However, I do not recall any real study effort comparing the results of a given amount of food fed twice per day to one group of koi and 5 or more times per day to a group of siblings. I am only aware of anecdotal statements, and these are often made by hobbyists who adopted a multi-feeding schedule around the same time they upgraded their koi to include genetics more likely to grow large and robust. Does actual experience match the theory of better growth and girth through multiple feedings per day? And if so, if 4 times per day is better, is once per hour best? ....I can say from my experience raising guppies back when I was serious about guppies, that the maximal growth was obtained through feeding every 45 minutes, particularly for the first three months. With guppies, the focus is on the males which pretty much cease growth after sexual maturity. Female guppies, on the other hand, seem to keep growing up to the time old age leads to their departure from this world. (I have no reason to think carp are the same, or different.)
    Last edited by MikeM; 10-21-2013 at 06:26 PM. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    We just had this discussion (again) at yesterday's Koi club meeting.

    Two important factors; the age of the Koi (tosai vs. mature) and same amount of food only twice a day vs. 4 - 6 times a day.

  3. #3
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    Big topic and here is my short answer. How much and how ofter to feed Adult" koi depends on many factors including your goals for your koi. Pushing koi growth to the max can result in early maturity and shorter lived koi. I have had many interesting discussions about feeding techniques with a number of koi breeders and dealers and have found some key elements that make sense to me and seem to jive with my impressions of keeping koi for over 20 years. Most people over fed their koi/filters and body conformation and water quality suffer as a result. Also most people use food with too high protein level but that is another topic.

    The proper amount to feed is linked with water temperature and also to water quality. When asked how much to feed adult koi during optimal temperatures and conditions the most common answer is as much as your pond and filter will permit without harming the water quality and your koi continue to act hungary. Prime feeding temperature zone is low to mid 70's F. Most important growth occurs in fall as temperatures are dropping throughout this prime feeding zone. Most common recommendation to is feed ~ 3% of body weight during peak feeding periods. Divide amount to be fed into 4-8 feedings but do not feed at night. When asked why not feed at night the answer had to do with pH changes and oxygen levels dropping at night and also the belief that koi need to rest at night. There were strong recommendations to watch your koi's behavior and keep the koi hungry and searching for food as much as possible each day. If koi seem to be less interested in feeding skip the next feeding and back down the amount fed by half. Also it is good to skip feeding a day every week. Koi will feed even more aggressively the next day and will benefit overall from these occasionally fasts.
    Disclosure:These opinions are based on my experience and conversations with persons I consider accomplished koi keepers and do not reflect the viewpoint of any organization.

  4. #4
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    At yesterday's Koi club meeting, it was suggested that feeding high protein (50%) and 3% of body weight was for growing fry and tosai.

  5. #5
    Tategoi Loco4Koi's Avatar
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    My koi never really act "hungry".. they're very casual, slow eaters. In the summer heat is when they are most disinterested. Ray's point about not feeding at night is interesting but almost bothersome at the same time. In hot, 100ยบ+ weather, night time is almost the only time they come close to acting hungry. It seems that mid day is when I see them "resting" in the shade of large pieces of styrofoam. When I wake and look at my fish in the middle of the night, they're always cruising the stones lining the edge looking for food,, snails I think.

  6. #6
    Tategoi mtsklar's Avatar
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    This thread is interesting as I am on the Eve of starting an Endless Summer project.
    4 to 6 koi ... appox. 2000 gallons with 5-10% flow through
    18 hours of light
    72 degree water
    feeding every 90 minutes
    49% protein
    5 year time horizon ....

  7. #7
    Jumbo Appliance Guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtsklar View Post
    This thread is interesting as I am on the Eve of starting an Endless Summer project.
    4 to 6 koi ... appox. 2000 gallons with 5-10% flow through
    18 hours of light
    72 degree water
    feeding every 90 minutes
    49% protein
    5 year time horizon ....
    5 years??? Holy cow.

  8. #8
    Tategoi Loco4Koi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtsklar View Post
    This thread is interesting as I am on the Eve of starting an Endless Summer project. 4 to 6 koi ... appox. 2000 gallons with 5-10% flow through18 hours of light72 degree waterfeeding every 90 minutes49% protein 5 year time horizon ....
    How will you maintain light and temp? Indoors?

  9. #9
    Jumbo Appliance Guy's Avatar
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    Mmm, Like Ray said, long topic- short answer. Depends. I am not interested in achieving growth results. I think a koi can outgrow what it's frame can carry, both long and short term. I don't particularly care for the inflated, looks-like-it's-on steroids look of overgrown koi. I like to the think of achieving a natural growth reflective of the koi's individual frame and characteristics. Obviously this is hard to do with many individuals in a single pond. The differences in varieties and sizes alone will determine somewhat the feeding needs are, not to lessen age/size and gender. I just can't of an optimum feeding strategy that would be fitting for every koi keeper out there. I surely can generalize though...

    I like to feed first thing in the morning (for me, not them), which is around 7-8am. They are the most eager to eat at that time. I give 75-90% sinking with some floating. I add the floating first to give the big eaters something to slurp on and quiet them down (they're rambunctious in the morning), followed quickly by a bunch of sinking. This gives the smaller guys a chance at some food and they all seem to head so the bottom (6'). I've got it down to where they are satisfied at this point, but not full by any means. I let them chow around as I watch them and this gives some quality time with them. I observe and enjoy. I try to learn nuances and minute changes. After about 5-15 minutes I give them more sinking. At this point they are grazing from the water column and picking up any pieces that made it to the floor. Very rarely is there any in my sieve of skimmer.

    So that's breakfast. Generally when I'm around I'll feed them throughout the day, maybe 3 or four small feedings. I usually fed sinking exclusively (especially in summer heat) in small amounts. I believe in feeding til they're satisfied, not full. How I judge this is by thier behavior and how eager they are to eat a pellet (funny we're talking about this because this morning I watched a Showa try to get a pellet from the surface, he took 5 or 6 attempts before he got it... he simply didn't care whether or not he got it because he was satisfied. Wish I had a camera as it was gorgeous morning shot!). When the koi are lazy to eat, they are satisfied. When their anus is extended and they are shitting while eating pellets- they're full.

    So a few feedings throughout the day after a filling breakfast. Now, if I am on a specific feeding cycle (usually prep for a show), I'll even get the wife involved and have her feed the koi so they can stay on my specific regimen (which sometimes includes skipping!). But mostly I know that they will be just fine until I get home. Other than that they get fed several small amounts throughout the day when I am home. And usually once if I'm not home and the wife feeds.

    I like to feed about an hour before sunset. It's another time to observe and enjoy. I do the about the same pattern that I do in the morning except increase the floating- maybe feed 25% floating followed by sinking. Then I'll wait and toss in more if they are still actively searching.

    On occasion I'll feed at night, usually when company comes over. But I find the koi are not only less eager to eat the next day but are sluggish as well, so I try to avoid. (Infrequent visitors will get to feed, but regular buddies no...)

    I need to mention that all of my feeding with Kenzen 49% protein. There are lots of good foods out there, and there are also poor foods out there. I mention this because it needs to be acknowledged that the food one uses will have a major impact on feeding strategy. Just as much can be said about the food itself as can be said about feeding amounts or frequency. To look at all foods the same would be foolish. Just as looking at all ponds as the same would be foolish.

    Don't want to cast the first stone but this antiquated thinking of feeding 3% has got to go. It leaves people thinking that everything is equal. 3% of what food? Huge difference in food qualities. Huge difference in variance from location to location and season to season. And who the weighs their koi? Please someone tell me the last time they heard of a hobbyist weighing their koi. I saw an article in KoiUSA a couple years ago using length and weigh measurements plotted for males and females, but that was it. Heck I'd be happy if most hobbyists would pull their koi once a year to photograph and measure. IMO, A percentage of food based on weight has so many variables that it is a worthless metric and gives the wrong impression. (Anyone second the motion?)

    Use good judgement. At the recent Atlanta Koi Show 2013, during the Sunday walk around, Steve Childers kept saying "underfed", "underfed". And they were. There were many more skinny koi than there were fat koi. So, I don't look at overfeeding as much of threat these days as it used to be. I find that often koi are underfed or nearly underfed. Infrequently I see overfed koi. I understand, we're talking about overfeeding the system and not necessarily overfeeding the koi. But I would question the person that is not able to provide adequate amounts of feeding opportunities in lieu of poor filtration. Seems to me they'd need to rehome or upgrade. But the point is you need to feed your koi what is right for their needs- not the needs of the pond. And if they have crappy system and/or are overstocked- well that's not a feeding issue, that's a pond system issue.

    This IS my short answer....

  10. #10
    Sansai nivek's Avatar
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    Over here where its consistently 28 to 30 degrees celcius year round pond temperature, I feed 3-5 times daily with 1 day of fasting weekly and each feed duration is about 30 mins. Growth rate for a tosai is about 17cm to 50cm in 9 months.

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