Koi Barbels

koi fish with barbels

 

Although there are many types of koi carp, they share one thing: barbels. Although, other species also have barbels, such as Zebrafish, Hagfish, and Sturgeon.

These appendages, which look like whiskers, hang from the mouth and hang down on the lower lips.

Barbels are found on the top and bottom of the mouth- and act as sensory organs that help koi feed by sensing food particles within the water.

Koi fish use their barbels to communicate with other koi and find a mate during the breeding season. Male koi fish will flare their barbel when they court female koi, while females will do the same when ready to spawn eggs. Both sexes will also open their barbs to defend territory. 

The barbels help them “taste” food, sensing the chemical composition of the water.

How old are koi when they get their barbels?

Koi are born with no barbels. The first barbels will appear after they turn a few weeks old. These barbels will disappear in a few months and are temporary. It will take approximately one to two years for the next barbels to develop on the bottom lip. But don’t worry; the first set will come back.

The second pair must be fed protein food to grow. Consider how it feels to not eat for a while. It’s difficult to think clearly, and your stomach begins growing like mad. Barbels need the amino acids in protein to reach their full potential.

The final and third barbels will be between 3-4 years old. They will have the same stipulations (a protein needed).

Koi without barbels?

Three scenarios can occur when koi don’t have prominent barbels.

  1. A young fish that measures less than one inch. Koi fish don’t get their barbels until they reach one- to two inches in length.
  2. The barbels of the fish have been removed or broken off by improper netting, and they are now being transferred to another tank or pond.
  3. A fish with 149,999 siblings is more likely to have congenital disabilities and deformities than one that has just one. It is not unusual to see koi with one or two missing or badly deformed barbels. You can even have too many barbels. In a flock spawning environment, Koi can inbreed with fish like goldfish. This can lead to hybrids without barbels. A fish that doesn’t have barbels is a goldfish. A combination can appear all around like a koi until it reaches the whiskers. If you look closely at the fish, you will see other hybrid traits, such as a body that resembles a goldfish.

It isn’t easy to believe that young fish can have barbels, but they do. If you look carefully enough in their mouths, perhaps with a magnifying lens, you will see a small non-functional barbel. This is temporary and will disappear in a few weeks.

This second scenario is much more common than you might think.

Losing a pair of barbels will not have any lasting effects on your koi. Hobbyists often feed their koi floating food, so koi don’t need their barbels to find food. If there is enough healthy tissue, the barbel organs can regenerate.

Why let an injured barb grow back when it gets hurt again?

So that the fish doesn’t get stressed by injury, fish store owners often remove damaged and broken barbels from the netting process.

The barbel’s growth is the most distinctive feature of a koi fish, and it is worth debating whether it is a koi or a goldfish. It’s possible to spot two black dots vertically on the side of the mouth rather than horizontally.

Are baby koi allowed to have barbels?

The barbels of baby koi are very small. They only last for a few months or weeks, and then they disappear in about two years. These barbels will eventually fall off, depending on how quickly the koi fish grows. It is essential to ensure proper nutrition during this growing phase.

How do barbels look?

The first set of barbels is less developed than the third and fourth sets. They look like little stubby things sticking out from the bottom lip, almost like little growths rather than barbels.

The second barbels will appear on the bottom lip and grow upwards. Temporarily, the first barbels remain for a few weeks while they regrow and fall off.

The third pair of barbels are usually more significant than the other two and can measure one to three inches in length. Some fish may have difficulty swimming with these barbels because they can droop slightly.

Barbels come in various colors, including black, brown, and white. You can dye your koi’s barbels to match their scales (not sure why one would get that crazy, though). 

When selecting a koi fish, you want the barbels that are not distracting and proportional to the head of the fish.

Conclusion

The first set of koi barbels is less developed than the third and fourth sets. They look like little stubby things sticking out of the lower lip, almost like little growths rather than barbels.

The second barbels will appear on the bottom lip and grow upwards. Temporarily, the first barbels remain for a few weeks while they regrow and fall off.