Feeding Koi & Goldfish: Natural Food of Carp

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Page Summary: You can be pretty sure that if you never feed your koi your fish will continue to thrive. OK they will not grow as big and you will not have the fun and excitment of seeing your koi or goldfish feed actively (your fish in the pond are pets after all) but they will scrape together a living from the other aquatic and terrestrial life forms that appear in every pond... the most common food item is the larvae of mosquitoes. Other morsels might be snails, worms, "drowned animals", and other lifeforms that find their way inevitably into a fish pond. The major problem associated with feeding koi or goldfish is to feed too much rather than too little. This creates significant bio filter problems and possibly health problems for the fish in the pond. One critical rule: always feed high quality food. Cheapest food is definitely NOT the BEST nor frankly the cheapest economically

Carp is a common name that we use to describe various species of freshwater fish. While many carp are found in the wild, in dams and lakes, most people are more familiar with ornamental carp, particularly goldfish and koi.

The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) was introduced into Japan from China during the early 19th century, where it was bred selectively to create what we now know as koi carp. Goldfish were originally bred from the Prussian carp (Carrassius gibelio) which is a native of Asia. Like goldfish (which were first bred in China), koi were originally bred for their colour. Today both types of fish are found in a wide variety of forms and are kept in ponds for their decorative qualities.

The common carp is a popular fish for angling. It is fished for both competition and for food.

Nature's fish food

While commercial food manufacturers cater for the needs of the koi, goldfish and other fish species we keep in our ponds, carp in the wild fend for themselves. Perhaps ironically, it is to the wild carp that the manufacturers look when setting their standards.

Koi food manufacturers have researched what the carp eat and what kind of food supplements makes them thrive, and all these ingredients now go into commercial pellets and food sticks. Koi and goldfish should ALWAYS be fed floating pellets or sticks

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The common carp is an omnivorous feeder, which means that it eats pretty well everything – both plant and animal-based. There are some that say the carp is in fact the "pig of the pond" because it digs around on the bottom of the pond in the mud looking for anything it can find to eat. It also gobbles whatever is floating about in or on the water. Carp will devour anything from microscopic plankton and oxygenating water weeds, to worms and the larvae of insects.

Types of natural carp food

The fish food that common carp devour includes:

  1. various tiny crustaceans from water fleas to freshwater shrimps,
  2. insects and the larvae of insects including black mosquito larvae and the larvae of various worms,
  3. some developed worms including the square-tailed (Eiseniella tetrahedral) worm – which is related to the terrestrial earthworm – and the sludgeworm (Tubifex tubifex) which lives head down in the mud on the base of the pond,
  4. molluscs, including snails that they are able to crush with their teeth, and
  5. both algae and a wide range of aquatic plants that live in and around the pond.

Plant life is very important in the diet of the common carp, just as it is in the diet of both domesticated koi and goldfish. While wild carp aren't going to find every possible source of plant food, they will feed on anything from the roots, tubers and seeds of marginal plants like reeds, rushes and sedges, irises and watermint to lilies that float on the water. They will also feed on the great mass of blanket weed, a type of algae that forms on the surface of the water when it gets hot. They also love to eat various oxygenating plants, including Canadian pondweed, Elodea Canadensis, and the dense water weed, Elodea densa, which is considered a noxious water plant in some hot-weather climates, including South Africa.

Food for domesticated, decorative koi carp and goldfish

Since a good mix of food cannot be guaranteed in domestic ponds, manufacturers of commercial fish food, particularly koi food, formulate it to ensure that it contains all the carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and trace elements required to ensure healthy growth and energy.

Not only will a good quality food encourage good growth and colour in your koi fish, but it will give them all the energy they need. A good quality koi carp will live for anything from 20 to 50 years – some have even been recorded as living up to a century. You can be sure that the old timers ate well to keep them going for that long!

On this site we don't pretend to be "Koi Crazy" despite the fact that you will see I refer to koi more often than not.

Make fish pond maintenance easy all year round ... Pond vacs, pond nets tools and protective clothing for cleaning your pond

Fish food and water treatments for pond and fish

Ready for Breeding Koi in Spring

In spring when loves comes around the koi will need somewhere to lay their eggs. In a natural environment eggs will adhere to submerged aquatic plants but in a koi pond there are not always plants because the koi tend to eat them.

You'll be amazed at how simple it can be to breed fish with the help of spawning brushes. Spawning BrushYou'll need one mature female and at least two males.

Put the brushes one above the other at the edge of the pond. Spawning usually occurs in the early morning after a night of flurried activity and can take several hours. Most of the eggs will stick to the brushes which can then be taken out of the pond and put in filtered water of the same temperature. If the eggs are not separated from the adult fish they may be eaten.

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