Koi are such heavy eaters during the summer that it might freak new owners out when their appetite starts to decrease into nothing during the winter.
How long can koi fish go without food? There are a lot of factors that contribute to how long your koi can go without eating. Things such as the weather or the temperature of their water contribute to how much they will eat throughout the year.
During the summer months when their metabolism is high they can go two weeks without being feed. Mostly because they are feeding on whatever comes upon their pond. Anything more than that and you are risking your koi’s life.
Read further to understand the feeding cycle of the koi, what to do if you have run out of food, and how to feed your koi while you are away.
Feeding cycle of the koi
How long koi can live without eating is highly dependent on the temperature where you live. During the colder parts of winter (40° and below) koi can go weeks without eating. However, during the summer they can only live for two weeks without food.
The koi’s metabolism fluctuates during the year. In the winter when the temperature of their water goes below 40 degrees F koi will go into hibernation mode.
Originating from colder environments like Japan, koi conserve their energy for the coldest periods. During this time they will not eat and will not move around a lot.
Summer is a different matter entirely. Their metabolism is a lot higher so koi need to eat a lot more during this period. Once the temperature reaches 75° koi need to eat at least 4 or 5 times a day.
The only time in the summer that koi will stop eating is if their water gets above 95°. Due to where they originate koi are not use to this high-temperature range will stop eating to conserve their energy.
The two-week summer estimate also has a lot of variables such as:
- Type of environment: pond or tank
- Where the pond is located
If your koi is hungry, but you are not feeding them they will find what they can in their environments like plants, algae, random bugs, and smaller fish. Differences in any of these variables influence the amount of time they can go without food.
So if your koi live in a tank with no live plant life or algae to snack on don’t count on the two time period. The number of fish in your koi pond will limit the time your koi will survive without food due to the competition.
During the fall and spring months, depending on the variables above, they can last a little bit longer than the two weeks since their metabolism is not as high. Here is a helpful temperature guide to understanding the koi’s appetite in connection with the water temperature.
- Extreme heat 95-over 100° F – Koi will lose their appetite, feed once or twice a day
- 75-95° F – Four to five times a day
- 75-65° F – Four times a day
- 65-55° F – Three times a day (start to decrease their protein intake)
- 55-50° F – Two times a day
- 50-40° F-Start feeding them three times a week
- Under 40°- Stop feeding them
We also recommend reading our articles on what to do with koi fish during winter:
Now given that information you know that it isn’t a good idea to let your fish go without eating when they need food. If there is a situation where you will either be out of town or have run out of food check out the tips below.
Feeding alternatives if you have run out of food
If you are in a bit of a bind because you don’t have a local place that sells koi food and you are waiting for a shipment of food to come in don’t worry there are few things that you can check.
First what time of the year is it. If it is during the hotter months your koi will need more food, whereas in the cooler time they eat less.
Check your pantry for food that they can eat. Again the time of year plays a part in this. If it is during the summer they will enjoy protein with some carbohydrates. So if you have frozen shrimp boil them until they are tender they cut them up in pieces that they can eat.
Your koi also loves fruit and vegetables. Watery textures are a big winner with your koi so lettuces and watermelons fair well. They will even eat oranges, melons, broccoli, and kale. For food that is harder like broccoli boil it until it softens then cut it up enough for them to eat.
Harder carbs are better during the chillier months or for one meal during the hotter time. Things such as rice, potatoes, and bread are ok, but there needs to be some caution here.
The white versions of these foods are starchy which can cause your koi to swell up. Go for the whole wheat types of starches instead or sweet potatoes.
For rice and sweet potatoes boil them first, then cut them up in smaller enough bits for your koi to eat. You can lightly add honey to the food if you want. For bread they like crumbles.
The koi’s teeth are in the back of their throat so if it isn’t soft enough to break down then you will need to cut it up into pieces. Texture comes into play with harder fruits and vegetables.
Boil anything too hard for them to break down with their mouths. Let it cool down before you give them the food. You can also mix honey with the crumbly food, your koi love honey. Keep it in moderation, honey has a lot of fructose in it.
How to feed your koi when you are away
Ugh traveling while owning koi. You can’t take your koi to a local pet sitter and depending on the time of year they need care throughout the day. If you are lucky then there is already someone you can trust to take of your koi.
Not everybody has that person or they don’t trust the people around them to take care of their precious koi. Understandable for the novice feeding koi is a bit overwhelming.
For those that want a human to care for their fish while away check with your local dealer to see if any trustworthy experienced koi owners wouldn’t mind babysitting your fish.
If that isn’t an option for you or the thought of someone you don’t know taking care of your fish sends up red flags then try an auto-feeder. For indoor tanks, they are easy to find and you have a lot of options.
Outdoor auto-feeders are a little more difficult to locate. Ask your local fish person if they have any in stock or you can purchase the one below.
When purchasing an auto-feeder for your pond check the fine print to ensure it will work outside. The elements will do a number on the feeder that isn’t equipped to deal with rain, wind, snow, and the sun.
An outdoor feeder will be weatherproof and protect your koi food from any damage. These devices can be automated to schedule food times and have portion control.
If you are planning a trip purchase one a little bit before you go so that you can get the portion and timing correct. If you have a larger pond purchase two of them.
Automatic feeders can be programmed for any time of the year so you can set it for the heavy summer feeding and the slowed downfall.
This outdoor auto-feeder works well for those who away. Time and portion are both programmable on the P7000. It protects your koi’s food from damage and takes 4 C batteries so you don’t have to worry about something running while you are away.
As an extra precaution, people place these automatic feeders in a plastic tub and hang it above the middle of the pond. This is to prevent the koi from swimming up to the edge of the pond where they will be exposed to predators while you are away.
Auto-feeders such as these work better with pellet type food rather than flakes, which can jam the dispensing mechanism.
If you have a tank it’s a lot easier to find an auto-feeder for your koi. This particular model (click to see) has the same programmable features that the outdoor model above has, plus measures to keep the food dry like ventilation fan and splash-proof buttons.
Don’t freak out if your koi has stopped eating if it is cold outside. It’s their natural process to hibernate in the winter like you see bears doing. When the spring comes their metabolism will kick back up and you will be feeding them several times a day again.
Luckily enough the koi will eat just about anything so if you have run out of food and are waiting for the shipment to arrive. For trips check out auto-feeders so that you know they will be feed when you are away.