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Thread: Color Food

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Color Food

    A few days ago RobF commented elsewhere that all foods are color foods, or something to that effect. It drew a few barbs. It was an insightful comment that has had me thinking a bit. Rob was referring to fundamental science, which he explained: "There are three categories of pigment chemicals in fish. Melanin (for black), pteridines and carotenoids (for yellow/orange/red). Each has multiple synthesis pathways, but carotenoid synthesis de novo is very limited (to non-existent) in koi. So the carotenoids for skin color (and vitamins, etc.) must come from diet (rather than being assembled from metabolites). ...the koi farmers realized early on that they could increase the red color of koi with food additives (like shrimp shells, or lettuce, or spirulina). So for koi to have beni ...the food must contain color enhancers. ...[I]n reality most any reasonable formulation of koi food will contain some carotenoids (like in fish meal if nothing else)."

    The usual discussion of 'color foods' breaks down to those who never use foods that are marketed as 'color food' based on the belief that the genetics for beni will be determinative and do not need to be pushed by 'artificially' enhancing color. Some go further, thinking that use of 'color food' can have long term negative effects by prematurely aging pigment cells in the skin or some such idea. Others will trumpet how wonderful 'color food' is for increasing the beauty of their koi.

    I have long been in the 'never use color food' camp. That is my bias and starting point when it comes to 'color food'. My thinking about 'color food' was put in question a couple of years ago when someone posted on this board that Dainichi regularly uses 'color food'. In my mind, I was saying, 'Really? ...for what batch of rejects? Surely just for finishing a koi for show." But, the poster was someone who frequently patronizes Dainichi and was in a position to have observed. So, I paid attention whenever something came along concerning Dainichi's feeding practices. In a couple of video interviews I came across, Shigeru commented positively on using 'color food' during periods of rapid growth. He did not recommend 'color food' for the purpose of increasing the intensity of pigments on the koi in his mudponds. Rather, he spoke in terms of more color-enhancing ingredients being needed during periods of strong growth. That type of thinking is rather different than the marketing promotions and fits with the science explained by Rob.

    Koi hobbyists have long debated what sorts of food are best during different seasons of the year. The use of a higher protein 'growth food' during warm months and a lower protein food during cool months is the most frequent discussion, with the latest trend being an increase in those feeding high protein year-round, but varying the quantity with the seasons. I have come to think that discussion of 'color food' is best done in this sort of context. I remain quite negative about the idea of using 'color food' to artificially enhance colors. But, I can appreciate that the ingredients supplying carotenoids may need to increase in proportion during some periods in order to supply the full range of nourishment. Just as a higher proportion of protein gives the best growth during the time when the most rapid growth occurs, perhaps an increase in carotenoids better nourishes the pigment. Five or so years ago I used a 'color food' in my mix of pellets because it had the highest protein level and helped me put together a mix with the overall protein level I then desired. The 'color food' was about 10-15% of the mix. I was happy with the overall results. I certainly saw no harm... to the pigments or otherwise.

    I have gotten to be an old guy who does not adopt new practices readily. So, I am not suddenly rushing out to buy a couple hundred pounds of 'color food' to get me through the Summer and Autumn growth periods. But, I am thinking along the lines that Rob expressed. All foods are 'color food'. Some have higher proportions of carotenoids than others. Ignoring the marketing fol-de-rol, what is the best proportion of carotenoids for getting the full potential of a koi? .... I do not know the answer to this in any rule of thumb sense. I do think this year I will experiment a bit. My koi love the Tomigai Spirulina pellet as a treat. Perhaps I will treat them a little more often.

  2. #2
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    H Mike I have been intrigued lately about color in koi and how I could help them develop. This has taken a decidedly more interesting turn as I have a handful of fry that are just past 2 months. With nothing much to lose, as these fry are essentially free, I thought it better for me to try something different. Knowing that we are in the middle of summer here in Manila, with my water temp at 30C or 86F, I am mindful not to overfeed my koi due to the low DO at these temps. At the same time, I do not want them to starve, so I have to feed them the best source of energy to supply their high metabolism- fats. And so I've been feeding them coconut meat or avocado.

    Since this thread is about color, which I'm coming around to, let me continue by saying that I was concerned that the koi fry would not develop well color-wise if I don't feed them much protein. Spirulina comes together with the protein in koi food, and so it would follow that I would be feeding little spirulina, and color development would suffer. I am of the persuasion that the early tosai stage is a foundational stage, and what is overlooked in infancy can't be overcome later. Much like us humans.

    I went with small dried shrimp first, which I had mistaken as krill, only to realize it carries very little astaxanthin content. I then switched to a freeze-dried small shrimp from a Singaporean source, which I had ground to be small enough for the fry to eat (I had looked around for arctic shrimp to no avail, arctic shrimp being a much richer source of natural astaxanthin).

    Now I am seeing very nice fry developing as far as coloration goes. While it's possible the fry may have developed just as well without my special food, I will let these fry continue on to their 6th month and take some pictures and videos for you to comment on. At a certain point, I will have to stop feeding this way, as it becomes much more expensive feeding the growing fry as they get larger and consume more.

    When I joined the forum two years ago, I had very little inkling about the relativity of temperatures and can't properly frame what is commonly referred to as warm. I read some posts that discourage the use of color enhancers. And I read some posts about how much more spirulina can be fed to koi at warm temperatures with very little effect on yellowing of shiroji. This was due to spirulina being metabolized much more at warm temps. Over time, I was able to verify this and found it to be helpful. It becomes more and more important to me that I have to account for context. In much warmer tropical weather, which is not the norm in Japan and in the United States, I find I have more limits in some aspects (dissolved oxygen, fasting) but also more latitude in other areas (feeding spirulina, growth rates).

    From my experience, I feel a typical koi food is optimized for temperate climates. There needs to be koi food made specifically for tropical climates, to be sold for tropical consumption. A higher color enhancing content would be one tweak among others. Without any initiative to reformulate, Southeast Asian koi food makers merely kowtow to Japanese breeders' experience in a way that a disciple would unquestioningly follow his master or guru.

  3. #3
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    I too am in the "never use color food" camp, but I believe that certain Koi color foods work. I also believe that "color food" is a great Koi food marketing tool.

    Most people on Koi-Bito, I think, understand that the over use of color food will mess with shiro. There are many Koi show participants that use Saki-Hikari DEEP RED as part of a show prep feeding regimen. At first I was a skeptic, but after talking to Andy Moo (I do not think he sells Saki-Hikari), I believe that it can work.

  4. #4
    Jumbo RobF's Avatar
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    Mike, I respect your kindness. As to any “barbs” they were “bouquets”compared to the “old days”! You commented here at KB that it is “amazing where the love of nishikigoi takes us”. It is amazing, if you let it be so, how every detail of nishikigoi contains ten more levels of detail and then ten times ten connections again!

    One such connection is to sight itself. In the eye, in the retina, the same melanin and carteniods pigments that we adore in koi skin are essential for our eyesight. Like koi we can make melanin but must harvest carteniods (night blindess). But that is the subject for another thread, here we are talking color food.

    And I only know what I read in the newspapers. Here is an article that is freely available online so posting to the limited audience here (without the title) should do no harm. It is an interesting short discussion of fish skin carteniods.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Color Food-cartenoids-fish.pdf  

  5. #5
    Jumbo sacicu's Avatar
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    Almost all gosanke breeders use color food not only for their tateshitas but for their high quality grades. The only difference is the percentage and quality grade of the color food based on their assessment. If the koi needs little color while its growing in the summer months then little color food is given. I have been in the camp of "there is no problem with feeding color food provided the color food is not the one that ruins the beni in the long run." I have seen some hobbyist become ecstatic how nice the pigmentation of their koi after feeding color for such a short period only to see the skin shine , youthfullness and quality go down after 1 yr. On the other hand I have seen hobbyist that dont feed any color and simply grow their gosanke in the belief that the expanded skin would recover after growth slows only to find out the koi's skin has become looking old already before color can recover in an eternal summer setting. Personally, I find color food that are too much effective in the short period of time and cost much cheaper than to regular color food highly suspect.

  6. #6
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobF View Post
    Mike, I respect your kindness. As to any “barbs” they were “bouquets”compared to the “old days”! You commented here at KB that it is “amazing where the love of nishikigoi takes us”. It is amazing, if you let it be so, how every detail of nishikigoi contains ten more levels of detail and then ten times ten connections again!

    One such connection is to sight itself. In the eye, in the retina, the same melanin and carteniods pigments that we adore in koi skin are essential for our eyesight. Like koi we can make melanin but must harvest carteniods (night blindess). But that is the subject for another thread, here we are talking color food.

    And I only know what I read in the newspapers. Here is an article that is freely available online so posting to the limited audience here (without the title) should do no harm. It is an interesting short discussion of fish skin carteniods.
    Guys, don't shy away from reading the attached file. Rob rarely shares something that isn't too technical and this passes for light reading. Good stuff, and thanks Rob. What I learned from the article is that even the simple act of feeding greens aids koi coloration. And it's interesting to read about including oil in the diet making color enhancers more effective. Sounds to me an endorsement for increasing oil content in koi food. It may be that oil acts as an effective medium in transporting carotenes to skin cells to enhance color development.

  7. #7
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sacicu View Post
    Almost all gosanke breeders use color food not only for their tateshitas but for their high quality grades. The only difference is the percentage and quality grade of the color food based on their assessment. If the koi needs little color while its growing in the summer months then little color food is given. I have been in the camp of "there is no problem with feeding color food provided the color food is not the one that ruins the beni in the long run." I have seen some hobbyist become ecstatic how nice the pigmentation of their koi after feeding color for such a short period only to see the skin shine , youthfullness and quality go down after 1 yr. On the other hand I have seen hobbyist that dont feed any color and simply grow their gosanke in the belief that the expanded skin would recover after growth slows only to find out the koi's skin has become looking old already before color can recover in an eternal summer setting. Personally, I find color food that are too much effective in the short period of time and cost much cheaper than to regular color food highly suspect.
    Right. Instant gratification and koi color development don't go together, usually.

  8. #8
    Jumbo Appliance Guy's Avatar
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    So many things to say that I don't know where to begin... This whole "color food" thing is a misnomer in itself. There is no "color food" as all foods have some color enhancig ingredients in them. To think that all koi need the same amount of carotenoids is not understanding the relationship of food nutrition and koi needs. To think that all foods have the same type, amount, and quality of carotenoids further shows an ingnorance to koi food ingredients. When someone thinks that all koi foods can provide the proper amount of carotenoids to all koi, regardless of koi variety, conditions or anything else- that that shows me the person is not understanding the the big picture. In every other manner of the koi hobby we will say that condiions vary and "it depends", yet when it comes to "color foods" there's almost a dogma or stigma associated with it's use. I'll hear silly things like- it's all genetics; you don't need it if the koi is high quality; Japanese breeders don't use it; you'll ruin your koi.... Maybe a koi can suffice on a single diet, but is it plausible that the diet can be beneficial? Now I'm not talking about a temporary conditioning, I talking long term beni development. To me it seems a no brainer. Clearly we would want to optimize the diet according to each fishes needs. And I would say there are beni types that are more or less 'ultilized' with an increase in carotenoids. Some beni may see benefit, some may not. To say that one beni is weaker than the other is not accurate either. It's not any greater or weaker- it's just different in nature. To think that all koi and all beni types can reach maximum potential by the use of any staple koi food (you choose brand) is utterly riduculous to me. It takes in no account of anything.

    In many cases, a color food is mixed with a staple diet. To me this makes sense as the needs of the koi vary throughout the season. We not only see this is with color/pigmentation, but we also see variance in bulk and length as well. There's an ebb and flow to the yearly cycle of nutritional needs. Is it plausible that a koi can benefit from an increase or decrease of a particular nutritional ingredient? Absolutely it can! And we do this in many ways. But when it comes adding any color food- many fall short.

    How many koi have you seen that was ruined by adding a color food? Probably not many. And of those, how many can you conclusively indentify that it was the food alone that caused the ruining? Even less.... Now, how many koi have you seen lose it's beni, fade, break up, crap out, or fall apart? Lot's. Yet, color food gets a bad rap? I don't get it....

  9. #9
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Appliance Guy View Post
    So many things to say that I don't know where to begin... This whole "color food" thing is a misnomer in itself. There is no "color food" as all foods have some color enhancig ingredients in them. To think that all koi need the same amount of carotenoids is not understanding the relationship of food nutrition and koi needs. To think that all foods have the same type, amount, and quality of carotenoids further shows an ingnorance to koi food ingredients. When someone thinks that all koi foods can provide the proper amount of carotenoids to all koi, regardless of koi variety, conditions or anything else- that that shows me the person is not understanding the the big picture. In every other manner of the koi hobby we will say that condiions vary and "it depends", yet when it comes to "color foods" there's almost a dogma or stigma associated with it's use. I'll hear silly things like- it's all genetics; you don't need it if the koi is high quality; Japanese breeders don't use it; you'll ruin your koi.... Maybe a koi can suffice on a single diet, but is it plausible that the diet can be beneficial? Now I'm not talking about a temporary conditioning, I talking long term beni development. To me it seems a no brainer. Clearly we would want to optimize the diet according to each fishes needs. And I would say there are beni types that are more or less 'ultilized' with an increase in carotenoids. Some beni may see benefit, some may not. To say that one beni is weaker than the other is not accurate either. It's not any greater or weaker- it's just different in nature. To think that all koi and all beni types can reach maximum potential by the use of any staple koi food (you choose brand) is utterly riduculous to me. It takes in no account of anything.
    In many cases, a color food is mixed with a staple diet. To me this makes sense as the needs of the koi vary throughout the season. We not only see this is with color/pigmentation, but we also see variance in bulk and length as well. There's an ebb and flow to the yearly cycle of nutritional needs. Is it plausible that a koi can benefit from an increase or decrease of a particular nutritional ingredient? Absolutely it can! And we do this in many ways. But when it comes adding any color food- many fall short.
    How many koi have you seen that was ruined by adding a color food? Probably not many. And of those, how many can you conclusively indentify that it was the food alone that caused the ruining? Even less.... Now, how many koi have you seen lose it's beni, fade, break up, crap out, or fall apart? Lot's. Yet, color food gets a bad rap? I don't get it....
    Tim,

    Have you tried Saki-Hikari DEEP RED?

    You ought to give it a try if you have not.

    I don't mean mixing a little with your regular staple diet.

  10. #10
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Appliance Guy View Post
    How many koi have you seen that was ruined by adding a color food? Probably not many. And of those, how many can you conclusively indentify that it was the food alone that caused the ruining? Even less.... Now, how many koi have you seen lose it's beni, fade, break up, crap out, or fall apart? Lot's. Yet, color food gets a bad rap? I don't get it....
    Just as conclusive proof that use of color food contributed to a pigment problem is lacking, so too is conclusive proof it did not. I have seen no science-based determination of what levels of carotenoids in a koi diet is appropriate. Some want to look to a natural carp diet for guidance. This makes sense on one level, but our koi have been bred to have pigments which are are definitely not the same as wild carp. So, I think everyone has to see what works best for them.... like with all the food debates.

    If we go back in popular koi literature, negative views of using color food are expressed in the 1980s (as well as mention of using color foods to enhance reds). Where it started, I do not know. I can only say the subject has been around a long time. I suspect some of the negativity can be traced to disappointed hobbyists who purchased low quality tosai that had been 'colored up'. When the brilliant color dulled and then faded away altogether, the guy hoodwinked by breeders using color food to increase marketability became understandably negative toward color food. The bigger question is whether extended use has negative consequences. We know it does in terms of affecting shiroji, and there seems to be a corellation with inducing secondary Hi, speckling on Shiros, excessive Hi on Asagi, etc., etc.

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