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Thread: Koi Foods - proteins and carbohydrates

  1. #1
    Tosai
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    Koi Foods - proteins and carbohydrates

    Hi,
    I have often wondered where the myths surrounding koi foods originate. There are many very good koi foods on the market. We just have to look at the results koi keepers are achieving.

    Think of koi foods as you would a cake mix. Different ingredients are added at certain proportions to get the final mix of the cake. These proportions are calculated around the final product - the 100% cake.

    View koi food as a ton (1000 kg) or 1 kg or one pellet - you mix different ingredients to get to your final product. The ingredients are added at certian proportions to get to a final product.

    Much research has been done over many years on each individual ingredient. The exact composition of each ingredient is know before hand.

    The effect of the manufacturing process on the ingredients is known before hand. The digestability before and after manufacture is known.

    Most important is finding out what the creature (in our case our koi) actually needs. Its just not cost effective to have 100% protein in our pellets when the koi can perhaps only digest and absorb 40% protein. The levels of the vitamins and minerals needed have also been researched. So we need a target to begin with.

    There is much information available on this aspect of nutrition. For arguments sake lets imagine we need (or want to produce) a koi with say 38% protein.

    Before we look at the protein sources we realise that the creature needs energy to perform the metabolic tasks in the body - so we turn to energy sources - carbohydrates (and lipids).

    Carbohydrates are essential in koi foods. Studies have found that fish foods with out carbohydrates have retarded growth rates. So carbs are good. Carbs also perform a vital function they act as a digestable binder to deliver the nutrition to the gut of the koi in an aquatic environmnet. A very important task. Carbs also have another very important function - to dilute the protein to levels which are required.

    To begin with we add perhaps 25% carbohydrate, after looking at the various carbohydrate sources available.

    Now we add a protein source. There are many, but it has bee found that fish meal is a vital source of protein. Studies have found that if fish meal in koi foods is below a certain percentage of the diet then growth is affected.

    Many studies have been undertaken to find alternative sources of protein for fish diets.

    Fish meal in its raw state is about 60 - 65% protein. It contains many, if not all the nutrients needed in a koi diet. The quality of fish meals do vary but this is known before handand and taken into account.

    So to get the protein level down to about 38% we add more carbohydrate and reduce the amount of fish meal. A koi diet with about 38% protein has around 30 - 32% carbohydrate.

    We tend to worry about that level of carbohydrate and have been led to believe over the years that around 10% carbohydrate is deseriable. Well the facts are that you will have around 32% carboyhdrate in a 38% protein koi food. But there is more to this aspect -

    As you decrease the level of protein in the pellets you have to make up the 100% of the forumlation. So if you reduce the protein to an unhealthy 16% (which some koi foods have) the carbohydrate levels will go up to 68%. Also an unhealthy level. Do you really want to feed your fish 68% carbohydrate?

    From a practical point of view there will always be a balancing effect between protein and carbohydrates in koi foods. The more protein the less carbohydrate.

    Is it not perhaps better to feed a "high" protein diet but feed less in terms of quantity? The koi will be getting its daily dose of protein and the carbohydrate levels will be kept down.

    The metabolic rate is temperature dependant. This we all know. As temperatures decrease the metabolic rates decrease - it does not change. Our koi need less of the same things - the nutrition elements of the pellets i. e. protein, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins and minerals - the important thing is that the digestion does not change - it simply operates at a lower level.

    When we get to about 10C or 50F everything has slowed to the point that our koi have very little appetite as the metabolism is very slow - at a minimum. Their bodies still require the nutrition that was fed to them at higher temperatures - but much, much less of it. They can get by a very little food.

    So if you feed the same food you simply reduce the frequence and the amount until they stop feeding naturally. You always get some individual koi that breaks the rules and keeps on feeding when the whole collection is lying freezing on the floor mumbling obsenities at the weather.

    In winter Koi do not need more digestable protein - there is no such thing. They need a very little protein. Koi do not need higher carbohydrate sources - they are cold water creatures and carbohydrates are not needed to produce body heat as in mammals. Their enery requirements are minimal. So they need less of everything that we nomally feed them.

    Wheatgerm:

    Wheat germ in its raw state has about 28 - 30% protein. It is deficient in many of the essential amino acids needed koi. It is therefore impossible to get a pure wheat germ food. We see that most wheat germ koi foods have around 32% protein (am I correct on that one?). To get to this level of protein you will have around 36% carbohydrate, 10 - 15% wheat germ and another protein source. This other protein source would in all probability be fish meal. It could well be other sources of protein such as blood meal, feather meal. Some of the leading brands of wheat germ foods have excellent amino acid profiles which leads me to suspect that there is a high proportion of fish meal.

    So there is no such thing as awheat gem koi food - but there are koi food with wheat germ in them.

    As for the digetability of wheat germ. Again we look at what koi really need at low tempertures. Very little food, so we do not need more easily digstable anything - they simpy cannot use it.

    Wheat germ is a plant source of protein. Plant sources tend to be less digestable than animal source of protein. The only reference I can find about the relevant digestability of wheat germ is that wheat germ is "more digesable than other plant sources of protein". It seems as though it was a short step to modifying this to "wheat germ is more digestable".

    Kind regards,
    Chris

  2. #2
    Oyagoi koiczar's Avatar
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    Great post Chris. Thanks for the rationalization. It puts things in a different light for a lot of us. As for myself, I will continue to feed OSI multi-season and continue to do what I have always done. Cut way back on the food supply but feed just enough to keep the fish interested. It seems to keep their activitly level a little higher so they don't just sit on the bottom. Seems to reduce the risk of winter time infection. Of course, my normal winter water temps are usually slightly above 50F.

    Mike

  3. #3
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    In regard to digestibility.... over the past 18 months my observation has been that I have less visible fish waste in the settlement chamber when feeding very high protein pellets (primary ingredient concentrated fish protein, secondary ingredient white fish meal) than when feeding wheatgerm pellets... but more algae glarf in the skimmer mats. The most visible fish waste is when "staple" pellets are fed. Of course, I've not done dry weight comparisons, so I'm not sure what the observation is worth.

  4. #4
    Oyagoi Bob Winkler's Avatar
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    Great Post as always Chris, Thank you

  5. #5
    Daihonmei PapaBear's Avatar
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    Mythbusting

    Good information all the way around and much appreciated.

    Mike,
    Your observations pretty much mirror our experience this past summer. The primary solid wastes in our filter seem to be from the algae they eat and/or tear loose while eating. After using up the hikari staple we stuck with the other high protein summer staple (non-advertiser here so I won't mention brand), which had high fishmeal content. The fish seemed to thrive very nicely and our water quality was excellent throughout the season.

    Chris,
    On the topic of high protein feeds, there are a few out there with protein contents of as high as 45-55%. What are your thoughts on the overall health benefits/detriments of such a high formulation?
    Larry Iles
    Oklahoma

  6. #6
    Banned
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    Quote Originally Posted by PapaBear View Post
    Good information all the way around and much appreciated.

    Mike,
    Your observations pretty much mirror our experience this past summer. The primary solid wastes in our filter seem to be from the algae they eat and/or tear loose while eating. After using up the hikari staple we stuck with the other high protein summer staple (non-advertiser here so I won't mention brand), which had high fishmeal content. The fish seemed to thrive very nicely and our water quality was excellent throughout the season.

    Chris,
    On the topic of high protein feeds, there are a few out there with protein contents of as high as 45-55%. What are your thoughts on the overall health benefits/detriments of such a high formulation?
    We need the koi Mythbusters.
    Chris Neaves?? You look like a good Mythbuster.

  7. #7
    Jumbo jnorth's Avatar
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    Great post! Thanks Chris
    Koi-Unit
    My personal koi page Updated 7/8/07
    ZNA Potomac Koi Club

  8. #8
    Tosai
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    Hi Larry,

    Its not just the protein that is important. There are a host of other things that all work together that are in a koi diet. For example the vitamins. If they are not there then proteins and energy sources don't work. So view the vitamins as the spark plugs of koi food.

    Look for koi foods which have fish meal as their primary source of protein. Around 36 - 40% protein. The lipid content is also important. Look for around 4 - 6 (or even 8%). Many koi foods have low levels of lipids. This is primarily for shelf life for some brands of koi food. At 2% or 3% lipids a portion of the protein gets used as an energy source. So the full benefit of the protein is not available for growth + cell repair etc. Low levels of lipids may also be an indicator that the oil soluble vitamins may be on the low side.

    45 - 55% protein is high. When koi are very young this is fine but after a few months a 36 - 40% will be just as beneficial. I do not believe koi that are older than a few months can utilise protein levels this high. So in effect you are producing a large amount of ammonia with out much benefit to the fish. Therefore it would cost more, if fish meal were the primary source of protein, but you would not get the benefit you were paying for. You could use a high protein food as a supliment but not as a daily feed. Raw spirulina is a good suppliment - it has around 60 - 65% protein level plus a host of minerals and vitamins and colour enhanchers.

    Many koi foods which have meat and bone meal are not allowed into certain countries for fear of spreading mad cow disease. On the other hand many countries do not enforce these regulations.

    Another ingredient that may become a problem in the fucture is chicken meal. This is used in many koi foods. It is a good source of protein but should never be a complete substite for fish meal. With the spread of bird flu we may find some countries prohibiting the inclusion of this protein source.

    Hope this helps.
    Regards,
    Chris

  9. #9
    Daihonmei PapaBear's Avatar
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    Thanks a bunch Chris

    Once again, very insightful and well balanced information. Each part of the diet needs the other parts in order to provide the maximum benefit to the whole Koi both in terms of good growth and overall health.

  10. #10
    Oyagoi bekko's Avatar
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    Excellent information Chris. As the myth buster, what's your take on feeding the high protein, high fat commercial aquaculture diets. Here are the specs on one:

    protein 40%
    fat 10%
    fiber 3%
    ash 12%
    sodium 2%
    phosphorus 0.9%
    Vit A 8000 IU/KG
    Vit D 450 IU/KG
    Vit E 200 IU/KG

    Fish meal, soybean meal, wheat flour, blood meal, stabilized fish oil, wheat middlings, poultry by-product meal, wheat germ, dried whey, hydrolized feather meal, lecithin, and et cetera into the vitamin/mineral premix.

    I have to admit to feeding a lot of this stuff, but being paranoid enough about it to be sure to supplement with fresh seaweed to dilute the richness. It seems to work - despite the very low price. Am I kidding myself?

    Thank you for your insight.

    -stevehopk ins

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