Do Koi Eat Snails?

koi fish eating pond snails

Wondering if Koi Fish Eat Pond Snails?

Although it is not super common in koi ponds, koi fish do eat pond snails. Many pond owners report seeing their koi trying to shake them out of their shells. Although, if a snail is unwilling, koi will happily suck them out. Let’s dive into this a bit deeper.

First, a word of caution. Some experts warn that snails should be avoided in a koi pond. Snails are known to host tapeworms that they pick up from bird poop. The cycle looks like this:


  1. The sexual reproduction of eggs within the trachea is how adult worms make eggs.
  2. The fertilized eggs are released by female worms, swallowed, and voided by feces.
  3. Infective larvae develop from inside the hatch and egg.
  4. Earthworms, snails, and slugs eat eggs.
  5. Infective larvae hatch and then become entangled in the bodies of invertebrates.
  6. Koi fish eat infected snails.


If you want to ensure the snails the koi are eating are “clean,” you can look at their mucus scrapes with a microscope(although not many people have a microscope or will do this.. so maybe best to avoid snails as a food source). 

Koi fish can eat a wide range of food and get sustenance from many different foods. Let’s have a closer look at the food koi would eat in the wild.

Koi are brightly colored carp fish (the Japanese named them nishikigoi) and are highly opportunistic and omnivorous when it comes to food—spending a lot of time digging through silt, mud, and rocks looking for bugs, spiders, worms, and crustaceans.

They also feed on the surface from time to time, which you may have seen. They are usually sucking on small snacks such as midge larvae, floating bugs, and plant debris.  

It is also possible for them to eat at the middle column of a body of water. Koi fish will suspend in the middle water column to eat forage such as water fleas and insect larvae.

Bug hatches provide an excellent opportunity for koi to rest suspended in the water column while tons of bugs rise to the surface to start their adult lives.

Koi will eat any food, including dead rotting fish and snails. They also eat small crustaceans like freshwater shrimp, small crabs, and various amphipods, along with water-borne insects such as mayfly larvae and caddis fly larvae.

A koi carp fish can also eat worms and other food sources such as plants and algae.

Mollusks can also be found on the dinner table during the winter months. Since they don’t disappear altogether, carp can dig them up below the surface when it feels like they are there.

Carp/koi have teeth in their throats. These teeth, also known as pharyngeal, look like molars. They crush food such as seeds, snails, and plant matter.

Koi also have two sets of barbels. These barbels can detect dissolved substances and tell the fish if something has nutritional value. They assist with bottom-feeding by acting as a fish version of a metal detector. They cruise and catch hidden food as they swim above it.

Koi fish have incredible food-finding abilities- having tastebuds on their bottoms, with the pectoral and pelvic fins facing down to the pond bottom. These “taste buds” also aid koi in finding food at the bottom, such as snails.

They also have the eyeballs, the last but not the minor way they find food. However, their eyes are a lesser tool for food discovery. While it’s essential for navigation and spotting dangers, other devices are better suited to the role of food-finding.

A koi fish will sniff out a snail, for instance, in the silt. It uses its vacuum-like mouth to collect the debris and “hopefully” the snail into its mouth.

The bottom-feeding koi will eat a lot of organic matter, such as dirt and mud while hunting for snails. And use particular lumps to hold large food items while spitting out the unwelcome debris.

So to wrap up the question, “do koi eat snails?”- we can see that carp eat snails in the wild.  It certainly would make sense that koi fish could eat snails in a koi pond.  But again, due to potential issues, it is to be avoided. But it shouldn’t be a problem if your koi get ahold of a few unlucky random snails. 


Last Updated on March 8, 2022 by Davin