Homemade Koi & Goldfish Food Recipes (Healthy Pellets & Pastes)
While there’s nothing wrong with providing your koi with high quality store bought food (so long as it contains the necessary nutrients), and doing so is certainly convenient, making your own fish food comes with a variety of advantages! For starters, much of the time creating your own fish food is more affordable as well as more environmentally and economically sustainable, particularly if you have a well-stocked pond and are able to make the food in bulk (storing the leftovers in the fridge or freezer for later use). Costs can be trimmed even further by utilizing your own food scraps, such as fruit and vegetable peelings, that you would normally simply throw away or compost. In addition, do-it-yourself koi food allows you to choose the exact ingredients that your fish consume and as such enables you to better monitor nutrition as well as their overall health.
Producing the food yourself will also ensure that fresh ingredients are used, as opposed to manufactured food that is dried, may contain preservatives, and has likely been sitting on a shelf or in a box for a while. Plus, it’s a great way to spoil your fish and discover more about what they do and don’t enjoy!
Also, all of the ingredients and recipes in this article are perfectly suitable for pond goldfish, so they can be used to create some tasty homemade goldfish food for most pond varieties, such as common goldies, comets, and shubunkins.
What Ingredients Are Nutritious for Koi?
When choosing which ingredients to incorporate into homemade fish food, it’s important to keep in mind the nutrition requirements for koi. Ideally, your koi’s diet should contain approximately 35% to 40% protein and be supplemented with fruits and vegetables to provide other essential vitamins as well as carbohydrates and lipids. Some solid choices include peas, squash, spinach, citrus fruits, broccoli greens, raspberries, and watermelon.
1) Carbohydrate Sources & Options
As mentioned in a previous article, protein intake for koi should decrease in tandem with seasonal temperature drops, while carbohydrate consumption should increase to provide much-needed quick energy in cooler temps. Wheat germ, bread, Cheerios and other similar dry cereals, and fruit are all excellent carbohydrate sources. As a general rule of thumb, keep your koi’s diet composed of less than 10% carbohydrates to prevent liver degeneration from occurring. Be aware that bread and cereals such as Cheerios are very starchy and so should be given in minute quantities, perhaps as an occasional treat, and should not be a staple of your koi’s diet.
2) Protein Sources & Options
Koi have evolved to readily digest plant-based proteins, and can be combined with natural animal proteins, such as bloodworms and shrimp, for a varied source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids. Common plant-based protein sources for koi are soybeans, spirulina, and wheat germ, and preferred animal-based proteins include krill, shrimp, and insects – all of which can be bought fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried – check here for prices. If you’re wanting to use only fresh ingredients, you can simply check your local supermarket for fresh krill or shrimp which can be blended into foods.
3) Fats, Vitamins and Mineral Content
Lipids (or fats) provide double the energy of protein or carbohydrates, while also containing essential fatty acids that aid in healthy growth, stave off deformities and skin issues, and help support healthy pigmentation. Fats should make up around 5 to 10% of your koi’s diet and can be obtained from linseed oil (flaxseed) or fish oil, though linseed oil is preferable as it contains both of the essential fatty acids required by koi – linolenic acid and linoleic acid. Increase the amount of lipids by a few percent when heading into fall and winter if you intend on keeping your koi in an outdoor pond to overwinter! Koi also require various vitamins and minerals, primarily vitamins B, C, A, D, and K as well as iron, copper, and magnesium that can only be obtained via consuming food as they cannot be absorbed from the water like some other minerals.
Homemade Koi Food Recipes (Paste & Pellets)
1) Homemade Koi Paste (Super Summer Food)
• ½ cup cooked or frozen peas, peeled
• ¼ cup krill
• 1 fresh orange or 1/2 cup of orange juice (the amount of juice can be adjusted depending on the consistency that you wish for your paste to have)
• 1 sweet potato
• 1/8 cup linseed oil (or ground linseeds)
• 1-2 packets of gelatin powder (you can add more or less to achieve the desired consistency)
Information and instructions:
The peas in this recipe provide plant proteins, some carbohydrates, and nutrients like vitamin K, manganese, copper, and vitamin C, as well as fiber. Krill is quite rich in protein, contains omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants that help fend off disease and illness, and is known for aiding in color enhancement. Utilizing fresh oranges (or orange juice as a substitute) will give a boost of vitamin C and a small amount of quick carbohydrates, plus adds a bit of zest and flavor that your koi will likely go nuts for. You can substitute in other citrus fruits, such as lemons or grapefruit, if desired.
Sweet potatoes will also provide carbohydrates, can help boost color, and are very rich in thermostable vitamins (meaning that they won’t readily break down if exposed to extreme temperature – a handy feature when storing any excess food). Linseed oil, as discussed above, is comprised of the two fatty acids that koi absolutely need – linolenic and linoleic acids. The gelatin powder simply helps bind it all together. You can also use agar, a gelatinous substance obtained from seaweed and some types of algae, to hold everything together and thicken the mixture up in lieu of gelatin powder. Combine everything in a blender, adding in the gelatin powder or agar after blending, and then pour into a pan or in ice cube trays and freeze for later!
2) Homemade Koi Pellets (Super Winter Food)
• ½ cup cooked broccoli greens and/or spinach
• ¼ cup carrots
• ¼ cup spirulina
• 1 cup wheat germ
• ¼ cup raspberries
• tsp crushed garlic
• ¼ cup krill (optional – if used in summer)
Information and instructions:
This simple recipe contains all of the main dietary requirements for koi! The broccoli greens and spinach provide a host of vitamins (such as A, B2, C, and K) as well as fiber, folate, and beta carotene. Carrots contain carotenoids that help to naturally boost color. Spirulina contains all of the essential fatty acid chains as well as eight amino acids, is a natural plant-based protein source, and helps enhance fish pigmentation. The wheat germ will also provide plant proteins and help to hold the pellet together. If you’re wanting to use this feed in summer months when koi are more active, supplement with added krill, shrimp, or blood worms to boost protein for better growth and color.
Raspberries will add more flavor while also providing vitamin C, vitamin E (an absolutely vital component of healthy cellular metabolism and staving off infection and disease!), manganese, and a multitude of other vitamins and minerals – and koi tend to love them!
To get things ready, simply chop up the veggies, add all of the ingredients together, mix (or blend) them until a dough-like consistency is reached, then form them into small patties. Place the patties on a non-stick baking sheet and bake them at approximately 375° Fahrenheit (190°c) until hard. The pellets can then either be refrigerated or frozen, making this a good option for making koi food in bulk.
In the winter, you can add in a teaspoon or so of garlic to help repel parasites. Be sure to use fresh garlic cloves and crush them, as doing so will release allicin, the enzyme in garlic that is commonly used to treat parasites (and is responsible for garlic’s trademark scent). Furthermore, allicin has been found to be a potent natural antibacterial, with a series of laboratory tests revealing that at certain concentrations it severely impedes the growth of many bacteria. You can purchase concentrated allicin supplements, but be aware that too much of this enzyme can disrupt your fish’s mucous membranes, and so it is advised to simply use crushed garlic or garlic powder. If desired, you can soak the pellets in orange juice for a couple of minutes prior to feeding to add some extra flavor and vitamin C.