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Thread: Winter Care

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Winter Care

    While much of the U.S. has experienced abnormal cold, freezing rain, snow, power outages and general winter storm misery already this year, it is just now the first day of winter. On other boards I see folks dealing with water temperatures already below 50F. Many shut down their ponds over a month ago and brought their koi indoors for the winter. Others have erected covering structures to hold in heat and prevent winter winds from chilling the water too much. Some inquiries about pond heaters, doing winter water changes and feeding practices have popped up as usual. Things being different in Florida, we have had a couple of welcome cool periods and many days in the 80sF. My garden plants tell me that it is warmer than usual. Bloom cycles are off. Camellias are wanting it a bit cooler, while some orchids are a couple of months ahead of their usual schedule. A recent cool period has brought my pond water down to the low 70sF, but it is rising with near record warmth on the way. We may reach 86F this first day of winter.

    With such diverse conditions, no one set of recommendations will suit everyone. The general literature centers on climate areas with true winters without much consideration for the diversity of conditions. All we can do is try to understand how our koi react to the seasonal change and deal with it as best we can. Successful koikeepers in a particular geographic area can be useful guides for what works in that area.

    I usually begin a fasting period on Christmas day. Holiday plans this year will change things a bit. The fast will begin today despite rising water temperatures. In the past, a full 6-7 weeks of fasting was my norm. The discussions about year-round feeding and immune system decline during fasts caused me to alter my practice a bit last year. I am going to alter it more this winter. The koi will be fasted for two weeks and then receive light feedings (no more than a fourth of normal, and just once per day). I'll use a high protein pellet (sinking, of course). I'm thinking the light feeding period will be 4 weeks before resuming normal feeding. Temperature fluctuations may cause me to alter things a little along the way, but that's the plan. The idea is to try to get the egg absorption benefits of a 6-week fast without having immune system decline. We'll see. Water changes will be continued as normal (much easier to do in Orlando than where freezing temperatures make it a real chore). I see the fasting/low feed period of the year as a time to get water quality to the very best level that can be accomplished. The rest of the year, all the feeding is working against you.

    I'll probably not be frequenting the board much over the next week, so... Happy Holidays to all! May your koi be more brilliant than ever and come through winter healthy and strong.

  2. #2
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for sharing your plans. I will be interested in hearing about the results of your winter feeding experiment plans. Wondering if this approach will alter the wintertime string algae issues that I often have when fasting my koi in South Texas during the winter. Of course mother nature might have her own plans for our area as we have had record cold in S. Texas during December. Who knows what the rest of the winter months will do this season.

  3. #3
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
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    Just an encouraging note on your plans,Mike. Like the sinking food plan and hope next year you may extend the length of it past 6 weeks. this will be my 3rd year continuously feeding just enough to keep their digestion systems going but barely cover energy use for the day. last year i stopped heating my inside pond and it got down to 38 F. In anticipation of downsizing, I re-homed my olde girls and picked up tateshita tosai, just to have something that can be easily rehomed when the time comes. Our first hard 2 week cold snap plunged temps down to 40 and they quit eating at 43. It's back up to 45 today and showing some interest in feeding again. This surprised me and i have to think their age was the variable. This has been a fun learning experince, and re-enforces the power of observation.
    Dick Benbow

  4. #4
    MCA
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    Honmei MCA's Avatar
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    I will follow my usual winter protocol starting New Year's Day.. Bypass the shower tower, put the pond cover in place on the end of the pond, deploy the cover over the pond surface as needed based on current and projected air temps, stop feeding. Depending on temps, by mid to late March I will restart the shower and put away the pond cover. I will restart feeding. Next year I am only feeding Kenzen. I had good experience with it this year. I will likely collect my new showa, kin ki utsuri, and ochiba in March. QT will be over by then.
    Koi keeping is not a belief system; it is applied science with a touch of artistry.

  5. #5
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    With such diverse conditions, no one set of recommendations will suit everyone.

    I usually begin a fasting period on Christmas day. Holiday plans this year will change things a bit. The fast will begin today despite rising water temperatures. In the past, a full 6-7 weeks of fasting was my norm. The discussions about year-round feeding and immune system decline during fasts caused me to alter my practice a bit last year. I am going to alter it more this winter. The koi will be fasted for two weeks and then receive light feedings (no more than a fourth of normal, and just once per day). I'll use a high protein pellet (sinking, of course). I'm thinking the light feeding period will be 4 weeks before resuming normal feeding. Temperature fluctuations may cause me to alter things a little along the way, but that's the plan. The idea is to try to get the egg absorption benefits of a 6-week fast without having immune system decline. We'll see. Water changes will be continued as normal (much easier to do in Orlando than where freezing temperatures make it a real chore). I see the fasting/low feed period of the year as a time to get water quality to the very best level that can be accomplished. The rest of the year, all the feeding is working against you.
    One diverse condition might be if you keep big show quality female Koi.

    Mike, You failed to mention your pond temperature today, the first day of your 2 week fast.

    Where I live, my pond temperature was 58°F a couple days ago. The weather forecast for Christmas day is 72°F. I am not going to fast (if any) my Koi until the pond temperature gets down into the low 50s. I probably will not fast and just cut feeding down to one or two "snacks" every other day during the coldest days this winter.

  6. #6
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Mike, our cold season in Manila usually starts around New Year, peaks at mid February, and ends early to mid-March. Temps range from 22 to 25 C, but I'm only remembering the lowest for the day. I may follow your lead and use your fasting protocol but I was thinking of doing it only for koi I've observed to be egg-laden or close to being egg-laden. I'm finding it hard to fast the rest, as they don't seem to have accumulated fat stores to use during fasting.

    For that to happen, I'll have to segregate my koi with my seine net.

    At this time of year, I'm keeping coconut meat off because of its high freezing point. Will observe nitrate levels when I feed koi pellets. If nitrate levels are high, I may change from hi-growth to staple for the duration, as protein levels are lower with staple koi pellets. I think that without added fat in their diet, koi will still be fine nitrate-wise as their energy requirements are less at these relatively lower temps.

    But I may add spirulina, reasoning that it is during this time that colors consolidate and spirulina will help.

  7. #7
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    I guess I will have to wait until January to cut back on feeding.

    I am back to feeding my Koi the normal amount while Southern California is experiencing near record heat.


  8. #8
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricshaw View Post
    One diverse condition might be if you keep big show quality female Koi.

    Mike, You failed to mention your pond temperature today, the first day of your 2 week fast.

    Where I live, my pond temperature was 58°F a couple days ago. The weather forecast for Christmas day is 72°F. I am not going to fast (if any) my Koi until the pond temperature gets down into the low 50s. I probably will not fast and just cut feeding down to one or two "snacks" every other day during the coldest days this winter.
    Back from holiday travels, yesterday the pond received the normal water change and filter cleanings. The pond temperature was 74F, so there definitely was no cooling off while away. The koi were happy to see I had returned, but disappointed there was still no feeding. They are quite active. Curiously, they do not seem to have spent much time consuming algae. There wasn't much in the way of little 'algae pellets' caught in the filters.

    Ric: I do not recall the pond temperature on the day the fast started. It had been holding in the 72-74F range for quite some time. These are not temperatures recommended for fasting. But, got to work with the climate. If I had confidence there were 60F water temperatures coming in January, I might reconsider the fasting schedule. However, it was a warm Fall and December has seen record-breaking highs. So, this may be one of those 'winters' when water temperatures do not go much lower than 65F... and then, just for a day or three. (By February, pond temperatures are rising in this area, so it is a short window of lower temperatures.) In any event, my goal of having the big gals use up eggs as a protein source is likely advanced by fasting temperatures in the 72-74F range. What studies I've seen indicate that eggs go first and a period of about 2 weeks is likely enough to get the re-absorption process well underway. This is a different approach for me, so we will see.

  9. #9
    Nisai creekds's Avatar
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    Being in the same region as Mike, I have fasted in January. Last year I slipped, and fed in January. Had a 31" Gin Matsuba get eggbound. Having no males, I borrowed two, but had no "action" on their part. Tried to strip her (after procrastinating), but eventually had to put her down. Will go back to my fasting regiment.

  10. #10
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Ric: I do not recall the pond temperature on the day the fast started. It had been holding in the 72-74F range for quite some time. These are not temperatures recommended for fasting. But, got to work with the climate. If I had confidence there were 60F water temperatures coming in January, I might reconsider the fasting schedule. However, it was a warm Fall and December has seen record-breaking highs. So, this may be one of those 'winters' when water temperatures do not go much lower than 65F... and then, just for a day or three. (By February, pond temperatures are rising in this area, so it is a short window of lower temperatures.) In any event, my goal of having the big gals use up eggs as a protein source is likely advanced by fasting temperatures in the 72-74F range. What studies I've seen indicate that eggs go first and a period of about 2 weeks is likely enough to get the re-absorption process well underway. This is a different approach for me, so we will see.
    Thanks Mike.

    I guess the next question for some of us is would cutting the amount of Koi food way back for 4 - 6 weeks achieve the same results as 2 - 4 week fast?

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