Koi aren’t the lazy, inept creatures people think fish are. They can learn to eat from your hands because they have long-term, well-functioning memories. It all depends on their personalities and how you train them.
Many hobbyists consider learning how to hand feed koi fish a hallmark of koi ownership. It allows them to form a close bond with their carp. Hand feeding can also be an enjoyable activity for the whole family or memorable for guests. Koi are gentle fish that don’t bite (but do have teeth). Hand feeding will also allow you to spot any signs of illness and injury immediately.
You’ve probably experienced koi and know that every koi fish has a unique personality. These personalities can range from bold to timid. The same holds for all animal species. Koi are no exception. The most confident fish will respond faster to humans than the more nervous.
Don’t let others down. The Kawarimono Koi variety, particularly Chagoi, is more likely to become best friends instantly and be more hungry. Chagoi can be bought to help control the group. Many more reluctant members will eventually learn the routine and follow the leader.
Temperature and the Time of Year
Your koi’s eating habits will be affected by the seasons. Your koi will eat less if the water is colder than 60 degrees. Hand-feeding your fish in the fall and spring is a sure way to fail. This is when your fish will be entering or exiting Torpor.
Start Slow in the Begining
Hand-feeding your koi should be done slowly if they aren’t used to being in close contact with you. You can let your excitement get the better of you and rush the hand-feeding process. However, this could cause the fish to view you as predators instead of caretakers. Several weeks can pass between the moment you decide to hand-feed and when it happens.
Don’t allow others to join the hand-feeding process too quickly. Hand feeding is a process that your koi will recognize. They will be more open to new feeders as they get used to them.
Do not force koi to be fed if they start in your pond. They will need to adjust to their new environment, their new pond mates, as well as to your feeding schedule. They may perceive you as a threat and seek to avoid you by forcing fresh fish to be fed immediately.
You can also customize your pond to discourage predators. If you keep your Koi in areas prone to predators, they will be less likely to swim to their surface.
Wait Until Your Koi Are Hungry
Hand-feeding is easier for a hungry koi. To make your koi more hungry, you can reduce the amount of food that you feed them at each feeding. You can also increase the number of meals to compensate. Slowly lower the amount of food you give your koi as they become more comfortable with hand-feeding.
One trick is to stop feeding for five days.
You can choose a spot around the pond that you feel comfortable with and then throw small amounts of food. You can either stand or sit. Wait for the Koi to come to the food. You are done if they don’t arrive to eat the food within 10 minutes. They saw you.
You can repeat the process daily at the same place, but only with small amounts of food. There is not enough food for all the Koi. Within a matter of days, your Koi will be able to recognize your face and take you to the proper feeding spot.
Set up a Routine for Feeding
Koi are creatures of habit. You can make them more responsive to the same thing every day. You can establish a routine for your pond’s meal times by visiting it at the same time each day. Your pond will learn your habits and recognize you.
You should choose a spot where you will conduct the feedings. Your presence will be associated with food for the fish. They will eventually gather at that spot as soon as you are there.
Go in Small Steps
Take note of where you are when you feed your koi. Also, how hard you throw food into the pond. If your fish are happy eating at a distance from you, you can move closer to the pond or not toss their food. Continue this until you’re standing or kneeling at the edge. To help cement the relationship between you and your food, stay put until they finish eating.
Show Them Your Hand
You can introduce your hand once your koi are comfortable with their feeding habits and whereabouts. Place your hand in the water, keeping the food in your fist. You can allow a few pieces of food to escape by moving your hand slowly. The fish will be forced to swim closer to your hand, but they won’t have to eat from your hand. Do not move fast, and don’t push your hand towards the fish. The koi will eventually recognize your hand as food.
Next, get them to feel comfortable touching you. Slowly, lower your hand into the water and fill it with food. Don’t let any of it escape immediately. You want the fish to prod you for food. At that point, you can release small amounts of the food for each touch. You can then open your hand and offer the rest of the food to the fish at the end.
This is the final stage. Dip your hand in food and place it on the water surface. Your koi will then enjoy the sensation of eating from it. There might be a few greedy fish who want to eat the whole supply. To allow the polite fish to access your hand, you can submerge it the same way as the previous step. If you aren’t sure if each fish has had enough, it is a good idea to add some food afterward.
Do Not Overfeed Your Koi
When you start to learn how to hand feed koi fish, be careful not to give them too much food. This can make the process enjoyable, and you may want to feed your koi more often. Multiply this risk by the number of people in your household.
Overfeeding can cause many problems in your fish pond and your water quality. It is crucial to limit the amount you feed your fish. Although your feeding schedule might look different now that your koi can eat from your hands again, the amount should remain the same.
Video Showing How to Hand Feed Koi Fish
Predators & Stress
It is understandable that if there are predators like hawks, herons, or domestic or wild cats, your koi may be less inclined to come to the surface of the water and eat from your hand.
Stressed fish may not want to eat from your hand or not eat at all. A stressed fish may be prone to swimming upside down or on their backs, scraping against rocks and the sides of the pond, acting erratically, and losing color. These symptoms can be related to the subheadings above – stress fish can experience various symptoms, including lethargy, loss of color lethargy, skin flukes, and poor water quality.
Are some Koi breeds better at hand feeding?
Some varieties train faster than others. Chagoi, Kigoi, and Ochiba Shigure are the most friendly varieties of koi. These varieties are quick to learn to feed by your hand and will soon encourage others in the pond.