What do Koi eat?
Koi are gregarious eaters. This means that they eat a lot for their relative size, relative to other fish species. Koi can typically consume 2% of body weight per day even when fully grown which for a fish is doing pretty well.
They are omnivorous and they have grinding teeth at the back of their mouths. They are not piscivorous in that they do not eat other fish but they will eat small crustaceans, worms, larvae and the like that they like to dig up in the mud in their natural environment. They are natural bottom feeders although in Koi ponds they learn to surface feed very quickly.
Koi will also consume a large quantity of vegetable matter such as algae and plants as anyone who has had unprotected plants in their pond will attest. But pretty much anything and everything that they can get into their mouths, Koi will eat.
As such their diet is highly varied in the wild, allowing them access to a wide range of habitats and contributing to the successful propagation of the species into just about every water course in the world. It has in fact also contributed to the black listing of the species in many nations in the world, ours included. In South Africa, cyprinus carpio has been listed as an invasive species, with Koi requiring specialist regulation overseen by an industry body in order for it to be sold.
Koi are thus relatively easy animals to feed. Herein lies potential danger however because as an aquatic life form the Koi's natural source of food lies within the aquatic eco-system. This means that the protein (amino acid profile), carbohydrate, fats and oils, mineral profile etc of the food you feed your Koi should reflect this.
Koi will adapt to eating dog food pellets if this is all they receive. However, this is not a long term solution as gaps in the nutritional profile requirements of a Koi will manifest themselves in deficiencies within the animal itself that will result in a long term compromise of the overall health of the Koi. In other words, there may be small trace elements and essential amino acids and lipids that are missing that cause the Koi to develop abnormalities.
These can sometimes be seen physically on the Koi and can manifest as bad body shapes, lumps in the Koi, poor colour, poor lustre, lethargy, tumours, cancers and all manner of physical ailments that we may or may not be able to diagnose.
The important word is thus 'balance'. Whatever you feed your Koi it needs to be along term nutritionally balanced Koi specific food. It is not a trout food modified to suit Koi - this cannot and does not work. It is not a Tilapia feed, similarly modified. It is also not green and red pellets comprised of wood shavings bound together by glue...
A good quality Koi food is expensive. But it is necessary to maintain the long term health of your pets. And don't necessarily believe the labels on the side of the bag. We have seen too many times a food, reputable brands included, that report a 36% protein count, only to reflect a 12% content upon analysis! There is NO legal requirement in South Africa to back claims on a label when it comes to Koi food, and unscrupulous vendors take advantage of this fact blatantly.
A good quality Koi food should cost a bit. This is because the quality of the ingredients going into the food need to meet a certain minimum standard. As sad as it maybe, price is a great indication of what you are getting in your food. A bit of basic research online (you're doing it right now) will also tell you very quickly which foods to consider, and which to avoid like the plague.
Of course, as the importers of Hikari we have a vested interest in promoting Hikari Koi food. We make money like this - it is an important revenue stream for our business. We make no bones about it, and nor we claim Hikari to be a cheap food. It is not. What it is is the world's best fish food manufacturer, particularly when it comes to Koi. It has no equal and that is the sole reason we chose this brand to import above any other. You cannot get better, and when it comes to our Koi we Never, Ever compromise in providing them, and you, with nothing less than the very best.