If you’re the type of pet owner who likes to sneak a bit of your chicken dinner to Fluffy under the table, then you’re going to love this list of fun foods to feed your koi. One of the great things about koi is that you can quickly teach them to eat right out of your hand, which makes feeding time fun whether you’re doling out commercial fish food or scraps from your table.
Koi are naturally omnivorous, which means they’ll eat anything from algae and plants, to bugs and even small fish. Much like us, they need a variety of foods and nutrients to be healthiest, including proteins, vitamins, minerals, fats and carbohydrates – all in the right balance, of course. Too many carbs, for example, are just as bad for koi health as they are for our own.
And some ingredients have other effects on koi. For example, spirulina will enhance the color of your fish.
Here are some fun human foods that you can feed your koi as a special treat, and we’ve added a few at the end that you should avoid. When in doubt, always ask a professional for guidance and you’ll keep your koi happy and healthy, and enjoy feeding time almost as much as they do!
Lettuce And Leafy Greens
Who doesn’t have a bit of leftover lettuce that never made it into that lunch salad? Fortunately for our overstuffed refrigerators, lettuce makes a great treat for koi and you may even get to enjoy watching several koi work together to tear it into pieces.
Lettuce isn’t known for its high nutritional value, so be careful not to stuff your koi on lettuce and leave them no room for other valuable nutrients.
Other leafy greens are just as delicious for koi and more nutritious as well. Spinach makes a good treat, as does romaine. Whichever greens you choose, do keep them clean. Your koi shouldn’t be ingesting salad dressings or spices.
Koi share our love for this summer treat. It’s a good source of carbohydrates, which means do feed in moderation. Aim for the seedless variety, or remove as many of the black ones as you can. Seeds are difficult for koi to digest and can end up sitting at the bottom of your pond decaying.
To feed watermelon to your koi, simply cut it into small chunks and let them nibble it right out of your hand. Or for a really fun trick, cut a whole watermelon into thin slices – seeds removed! – and float it on the surface of your pond. Leave a small hole in the center of the red fleshy part so they can poke their heads through and watch them dart up and around and enjoy! They won’t eat the rind, so you’ll need to be mindful of removing it when they’re done.
Grapefruit And Other Citrus
Koi seem to be particularly fond of grapefruit but they’ll also eat orange and lemon slices, too. Cut these fruits into sections and let them float at the top of your pond. If you want to impress the kids, let them hold out a mandarin section and watch the koi snatch it right out of their hands.
Be sure not to leave any rinds or skin in the pond. They can end up clogging your filter and wrecking havoc.
Like all of these treats be mindful of the quantity you feed to your fish. These acidic fruits can scorch their lips and turn them a pale pink. Fortunately, if this happens you can cut down on the citrus and the fish will return to normal with no permanent harm done.
Shrimp & Sardines
If you’re worried about your koi snacking on the other fish in your pond, don’t be. Koi are peaceful fish and will not attack other fish no matter the size. They will only eat fish much smaller than they are, which means if you have a decent sized koi, it’s best not to stock your pond with other fish less than an inch in length. Otherwise, koi might simply mistake them for dinner.
But that doesn’t mean koi don’t enjoy a seafood dinner as much as we do! You can safely feed them shrimp, sardines and even crayfish. Just be sure that if you’re using a frozen variety, that they’re thawed beforehand.
Large koi can consume shrimp whole, or chop them into pieces for smaller koi. Shrimp are full of nutrients and make a healthy, tasty snack. Much like us, koi will overindulge if given the opportunity, so instead of laying out a buffet, treat your fish to a healthy hors d’oeuvre.
Apples, Bananas, Berries And More
Fruit in general is a great source of carbohydrates, fiber, antioxidants and vitamins for your koi. Bananas (minus the peel, of course) are soft, easy to eat and easy to digest. Cut them into chunky slices and float them on the surface of your pond.
For other fruits, like apples, remove the skin first, as this can be more difficult for the koi to digest.
Strawberries are a great treat, as are blueberries. Other melons, such as cantaloupe and honeydew are also excellent choices, just be sure to remove the rind and cut them into small chunks first.
If you really want to impress the kids, let them feed their breakfast to the koi! Cheerios are a low-sugar, high-nutrient snack that float nicely on the pond and koi really seem to enjoy.
They’re still carbs though, so feed only in moderation.
Want to try a little experiment? Feed your koi Cheerios one day, then switch to Honey Nut Cheerios the next. You might be surprised by the difference in reaction. (Hint: most koi seem to prefer one over the other. Can you guess which?)
This culinary delight can be harmful to other household pets, but it makes a nutritious and much-enjoyed treat for koi. It helps boost their immune system and most koi can’t seem to get enough of it.
You can chop up pieces of raw garlic, soak koi pellets in garlic oil or even sprinkle pellets with minced garlic or garlic powder and watch your koi go to town.
Garlic seems to be so desired by koi that it has been used to acclimate new koi to a pond and encourage them to eat.
Human Food That Should Not Be Fed To Koi
For the happiest, healthiest fish, it’s important not only to know what to feed them – but what to avoid. There are some things that can do more harm than good, so keep these out of your pond, starting with bread. It may be fun to bring a loaf down to the duck pond (though it’s not the healthiest thing for birds, either), but it can really wreck havoc with koi.
While not overtly harmful, white bread especially is high in carbohydrates and refined sugars which are just as unhealthy for fish as they are for us. If you must feed bread, stick to whole grains and only in very small, occasional doses. There are so many other good treats to feed your koi that you can skip bread entirely and stick to the good stuff.
Stay away from peas and corn, which are not only high in carbohydrates but have tough outer casings that can be difficult for koi to digest. If you really want to feed peas to koi, you can skin them first, but why go through that effort when other things like Cheerios and watermelon are far simpler, healthier, and so much fun?
Don’t feed koi any fish that you’ve caught yourself. You may have enjoyed a lovely weekend on the boat and be looking forward to a fresh seafood dinner, but wild-caught fish can introduce parasites into your pond that can make fish sick, or worse.
These are just a few dos and don’ts when it comes to feeding people-food to your beloved koi pets. You should always keep their overall nutritional needs in mind, and choose a commercial food that is specifically balanced for maintaining and promoting good health and longevity during each season and growth phase of their lives.
But for a fun treat and some bonding time with your fish, there’s nothing quite like sharing a mealtime treat!
If you have questions about what to feed your koi or other fish, or any other question at all about your pond and its health, contact us and let us know. Our pond pros are here to offer advice and recommendations, and to make sure that you’re enjoying your pond as much as humanly possible!