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Thread: Winter Care

  1. #21
    Nisai Scrmnkg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    I do not know, Ric. The first question is whether winter fasting is even a good idea. Matt Sklar has reviewed scientific studies showing that food carp continue to eat over winter even at very low temperatures. His advocacy of continual feeding has been misunderstood by some. He cuts back the quantity considerably as the water cools. When he gets to the point of just a couple of pellets per fish per day, there isn't much difference compared to a total fast (but, Matt would tell you that the protein in those couple of pellets may help the fish maintain its immune system). [BTW, Matt Sklar's thoughts on feeding should be taken as a whole and not in pieces and parts. For example, his regimen is based on high protein foods, not high carbs.] On the other hand, one of the early lessons I was taught came from Toshio Sakai, who believes koi should have a minimum 6 week fast. [I do not know if he still advocates that position, but I think I would have heard something if his view had changed.]


    I have been intrigued by Matt Sklar's study of the subject. But, I've not been willing to discard the practice that has come down from the elders of koikeeping. I think Matt is correct in his reading of the studies. But, those are mainly studies of european food carp. I do believe the in-breeding of nishikigoi has affected their strength. For at least 30 generations, koi have been over-wintered in unnatural conditions. Since the 1970s, the over-wintering has become increasingly in greenhouse ponds with no feeding and no 'naturalized' food sources. (The 'perpetual summer' style of keeping has been reserved for just a few koi, and many of these are fasted.) Has this separation of nishikigoi from carp made a physiological difference affecting how feeding should be handled over winter? ...I do not know. I think it has, to some extent. I do know that egg impaction deaths do occur with nishikigoi, particularly in warm climates. Dick Benbow has pointed out that he is not aware of any magoi-based Matsunosuke Sanke having egg impaction issues (a 'non-observation' I share). Egg impaction conditions are not reported among food carp (which does not mean it does not occur). Food carp are in-bred, but not nearly to the extent of nishikigoi. These observations are consistent with the idea that nishikigoi genetically distant from wild carp are different, but hardly sufficient to prove the point.

    Would Darrell's Gin Matsuba have avoided her death if he had fasted last year? Nobody can say. But, I do know that after I commenced fasting for 6-7 weeks each year, I no longer had any fish die from 'egg bloat'. It did occur prior to then. The correllation does not establish anything. I also have not had health issues in the period after the fast ends. So, why am I doing things differently this year when my old routine worked? ...Good question. I generally recommend that folks not deviate from success. Undoubtedly, I would not be trying a different approach if Matt Sklar's thoughts had not made an impression on me. Plus, a few folks whose views I especially respect have tried the continual (but reduced) high protein feeding Sklar has advocated and have found they like the results. After two years of reading about the approach and reading about happy experiences, I am ready to see if it can give better results. But, I am not ready to plunge in. I'm doing the two-week fast anyway. And, I will be giving very reduced feedings thereafter, even though the water temperatures will likely be within the 65-75F range often considered optimal for feeding. Egg bloat deaths are a real issue in Florida. So, what I am doing is not at all the Sklar approach. I borrow from his ideas, such as using high protein year-round, and I am much influenced by his take on the limited science regarding unused eggs being an early source of protein when fasting occurs. But, it is still not his approach. It is very much a compromise between Matt's ideas and Sakai's injunction. If there are improved results, great. If not, then I'll go back to fasting for 6-7 weeks without regard to water temperature.
    Mike, though I can't say I know Matt's entire philosophy on feeding. I'd like to just add that he suggests fasting more into spring, of course this will very depending on your location, basically when water temps begin to rise and conditions will get better for the fish. Fasting too early or when going into winter can leave your fish ill prepared for the colder winter. Additionally the fasting period should be extended to 3 weeks.

  2. #22
    Jumbo Appliance Guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrmnkg View Post
    Mike, though I can't say I know Matt's entire philosophy on feeding. I'd like to just add that he suggests fasting more into spring, of course this will very depending on your location, basically when water temps begin to rise and conditions will get better for the fish. Fasting too early or when going into winter can leave your fish ill prepared for the colder winter. Additionally the fasting period should be extended to 3 weeks.
    I like that idea. Makes sense to me.

  3. #23
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    I have not spoken to Matt recently, so his thoughts may have changed. When I last spoke to him, he did not advocate fasting at all. Given that some will fast their koi due to egg absorption concerns, he suggested that a comparative short fast would suffice for that purpose. Two weeks was his suggestion to me. (Perhaps 3 weeks was suggested in the context of a koikeeper whose pond water actually gets cold??)

    The approach Scrmnkg outlines is consistent with Matt's view that fasting in low temperatures adversely affects immune response, exposing the koi to higher susceptibility to health risks as the water warms and parasites/bacteria/viruses become more active. The idea of fasting at the point where feeding would be commenced per existing standard practice matches Matt's focus on immune system response. It is, of course, 180 degrees from the recommended feeding practice appearing on the labels of every koi food except Kenzen; contrary to the recommendations in all the leading publications; and contrary to the teachings of the leading lights in the hobby and gurus on feeding.

    There is real science behind Matt's views. There is a lot of real world experience behind the prevailing recommended practice. I do not know what I would do if in a true winter climate. Being in a warm climate where pond temperatures in the 60sF are 'cold', there would never be any fasting per the conventional recommendations. But, long ago it was begun to be recognized that koi in warm climates needed to be treated differently. Egg bloat deaths, prematurely aging skin and declining beni are just the most frequently mentioned affects of going without a winter season. (Fatty liver disease is mentioned in reference to not fasting in perpetual summer conditions.) Folks are still working on creating a recommended best practices for warm climates. No consensus exists.

    So, for the persons from wide ranging climates reading this thread, I think it is important to keep in mind that no one true road to success has been found for all climates and conditions. At the same time, I would recommend against a relative novice in a true winter climate experimenting. I would recommend that they follow the lead of the successful hobbyists in their area, which highly likely means a long fast when pond temperatures fall. The experimenting with new approaches should be left to the more experienced hobbyists. Let them find all the potholes first.
    ageinghippy likes this.

  4. #24
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Does fasting benefit male koi, or is it just for female koi that is egg-bound? Other than preventing death by bloat, what other benefits come from winter fasting (or cold weather fasting if no winter)? If the answer is the improvement in conformation, it seems clear that a relatively thin svelte koi would not benefit. Looking for a good reason for cold weather fasting that would have a positive impact on all koi, I can only think of color consolidation. Would it be right to say that arresting the koi's growth by fasting would allow color the chance to catch up?

  5. #25
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    I have not spoken to Matt recently, so his thoughts may have changed. When I last spoke to him, he did not advocate fasting at all. Given that some will fast their koi due to egg absorption concerns, he suggested that a comparative short fast would suffice for that purpose. Two weeks was his suggestion to me. (Perhaps 3 weeks was suggested in the context of a koikeeper whose pond water actually gets cold??)
    The approach Scrmnkg outlines is consistent with Matt's view that fasting in low temperatures adversely affects immune response, exposing the koi to higher susceptibility to health risks as the water warms and parasites/bacteria/viruses become more active. The idea of fasting at the point where feeding would be commenced per existing standard practice matches Matt's focus on immune system response. It is, of course, 180 degrees from the recommended feeding practice appearing on the labels of every koi food except Kenzen; contrary to the recommendations in all the leading publications; and contrary to the teachings of the leading lights in the hobby and gurus on feeding.
    There is real science behind Matt's views. There is a lot of real world experience behind the prevailing recommended practice. I do not know what I would do if in a true winter climate. Being in a warm climate where pond temperatures in the 60sF are 'cold', there would never be any fasting per the conventional recommendations. But, long ago it was begun to be recognized that koi in warm climates needed to be treated differently. Egg bloat deaths, prematurely aging skin and declining beni are just the most frequently mentioned affects of going without a winter season. (Fatty liver disease is mentioned in reference to not fasting in perpetual summer conditions.) Folks are still working on creating a recommended best practices for warm climates. No consensus exists.
    So, for the persons from wide ranging climates reading this thread, I think it is important to keep in mind that no one true road to success has been found for all climates and conditions. At the same time, I would recommend against a relative novice in a true winter climate experimenting. I would recommend that they follow the lead of the successful hobbyists in their area, which highly likely means a long fast when pond temperatures fall. The experimenting with new approaches should be left to the more experienced hobbyists. Let them find all the potholes first.
    Remember some of us that don't fast; feed just a couple of pellets per fish per day, or feed a very small amount once a day, or feed a very small amount every other day during the coldest weeks.

  6. #26
    Tategoi
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    There is real science behind Matt's views.
    A white guy does this and it's called science while the ancient Japanese koi practices is called culture and traditional. I love reading.

    I fed my koi nothing since late October and they will get nothing from me until I feel like it is time for spring cleaning. Maybe March? Water remained solid green and pumps are turned off since early Dec. Cold snap just came in yesterday. Last time I saw the white on the koi, it was white.

  7. #27
    Jumbo Appliance Guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chang26k View Post
    A white guy does this and it's called science while the ancient Japanese koi practices is called culture and traditional. I love reading.

    I fed my koi nothing since late October and they will get nothing from me until I feel like it is time for spring cleaning. Maybe March? Water remained solid green and pumps are turned off since early Dec. Cold snap just came in yesterday. Last time I saw the white on the koi, it was white.
    Three month fast, pumps turned off, green water, spring cleaning???? Wow. That's unorthodox!

  8. #28
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    There are areas of the U.S. experiencing extreme cold this week, with a further arctic front on the way. I hope all with koi in the areas where plunging temperatures are causing ponds to freeze over have taken steps to protect their koi. It is hard for me to even imagine temperatures staying below 0'F for days at a time. I worry over getting a frost that damages the more exotic plants in the garden. ....With real cold on the way just as this year's two-week fast is ending may cause me to extend the fast a few days. I'll see if the pond goes below 65F before deciding.

  9. #29
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yerrag View Post
    Does fasting benefit male koi, or is it just for female koi that is egg-bound? Other than preventing death by bloat, what other benefits come from winter fasting (or cold weather fasting if no winter)? If the answer is the improvement in conformation, it seems clear that a relatively thin svelte koi would not benefit. Looking for a good reason for cold weather fasting that would have a positive impact on all koi, I can only think of color consolidation. Would it be right to say that arresting the koi's growth by fasting would allow color the chance to catch up?
    One reason to fast is to cause the fish to use up fat stored in the liver. This benefits both sexes. How long a fast is needed to accomplish this purpose is something I have not seen discussed. It would be more relevant to koikeepers whose koi have great bulk from very heavy feeding.

  10. #30
    Oyagoi HEADACHE6's Avatar
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    It all goes to one thing, Do you want your Koi to Thrive or just Survive

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