A comparative study with candid insights regarding the differences between some of the most popular Koi food brands commercially available to Koi keepers within the USA.
One of the questions we receive most often from Koi keepers is “which Koi food is the best?” At first glance, the answer to this question is a very simple one. It depends. But the real answer to this question involves asking a very different question of the pond owner. What are your goals? There are as many different types of people involved in the Koi keeping hobby as there are varieties and quality levels when it comes to Koi fish themselves.
Many pond owners simply want to come home from a hard day’s work to watch a few inexpensive “pretty fish” swimming in their humble backyard water gardens, perhaps with a few water lilies or floating plants. While some hobbyists dedicate a great deal of their time and money to raising championship quality nishikigoi, the Japanese term for Koi fish, to compete in Koi shows throughout the USA and abroad, showing Koi is not for everyone. And determining which Koi food is the right choice for you and your Koi requires you to first decide what type of hobbyist you hope to become.
Many water gardeners decide to add a few inexpensive fish to their ponds after seeing them on sale at Wal-Mart or at their local pet shop. There is nothing inherently wrong with purchasing Koi fish from these sources, but Koi originating from these outlets are largely viewed as “culls” by true Koi aficionados. The term “cull” refers to lower quality Koi fish which are generally disposed of or sold cheaply by Koi breeders to provide maximum tank space for Koi of higher quality which typically command significantly higher prices from collectors once grown on for a year or two.
Just as a human being could technically survive by eating nothing but cheeseburgers and fast food, a Koi fish can also technically survive by eating a lower quality Koi fish food. In fact, Koi are scavengers in the wild and can survive just fine by eating algae and other waste found naturally in your pond or water garden. But there is a difference between surviving and flourishing, and when it comes to Koi fish, the quality of food being used is major factor to overall fish health, maximum growth, and color conformation.
There are well over 100 commercially available brands of Koi food available in the USA alone, with hundreds more available abroad. With so many choices available, many Koi keepers begin to question themselves whether there is actually a difference when it comes to commercial food types on the market. Specifically, Koi keepers may wonder whether a “premium” brand is really worth the premium price, or whether a more economical food offering may provide similar results at a far lower price point.
There is most definitely a difference when it comes to quality. Top Koi breeders will only feed their top fish a quality food they believe will yield the best results. During our research and ongoing communications with literally dozens of top minds in the Koi community, we have found only one established Koi importer who genuinely believes all fish food brands are the same. To put it mildly, this un-named Koi dealer is largely viewed as “ill-informed” by mostly everyone in the pond and water garden industry.
Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows there is a difference between the premium dog food sold at their specialty pet store and the cheap supermarket brand. Marketing aside, there is a quality difference between dog foods. And this same reality applies to Koi foods as well. So again, it comes down to the same question previously asked: What are your goals as a Koi keeper? Knowing your goals is the key to choosing the best Koi food for your specific situation.
With so many Koi food brands on the market today, to help make sense of the seemingly endless sea of choices we generally classify Koi foods into one of three categories. The top tier of Koi foods we classify as premium quality fish foods. These top-tiered foods include only the best quality ingredients and are commonly used by hobbyists who raise show quality Koi fish. The second tier includes Koi foods we would consider to be quality Koi foods. These Koi food offerings are definitely a notch below premium foods in terms of ingredients used, but also tend to be offered at more economical price.
The third and final tier is what we commonly refer to as Koi staple foods. Don’t let the fact these we classify these foods at the bottom fool you. Staple Koi foods are not of inherently lower quality than some fish foods classified as mid-grade, or even premium for that matter. Perhaps a better term to describe staple foods is “value foods.” Staple or value foods are simply Koi food brands that are most often milled in bulk, which commonly stay in a warehouse for one, two, or sometimes three years before they are finally sold to a retail customer. Value Koi food brands offer a significant cost savings over top-tier premium brands, which explains their popularity.
It should be pointed out the question of which fish foods on the market are truly worth of being classified as “premium” brands is also a topic of debate. Many Koi fish foods on the market which we typically classify as mid-grade or staple foods, are actually named “premium foods” by their respective manufacturer. This is yet another reason why choosing the right Koi food for your fish can be a challenge for even the most studious Koi keepers.
Based on our own extensive testing and feedback received from literally hundreds of Koi keepers, we would classify the following Koi foods as top tier, premium quality foods. These brands are recommended for those interested in raising championship quality nishikigoi or showing Koi in competitive events. These foods are milled to order in many cases, guaranteeing freshness, and contain only the highest quality ingredients to ensure fish health, vibrant colors, and optimal growth.
· Hi-Silk 21
Koi keepers interested in purchasing premium quality Koi foods without the premium price tag may be interested in choices categorized as quality Koi food varieties. These foods contain many of the same quality ingredients as high-end foods but are available at lower price points due to various reasons. Quality mid-grade Koi Foods are extremely popular with Koi keepers with a lot of fish to feed.
· Aqua Master
· Holistic Choice
· SHO Koi Impact
As previously mentioned, value Koi foods are among the most popular Koi foods in terms of overall sales. Again, these value foods are not low quality by any stretch of the imagination. These are good foods with quality ingredients available at affordable prices, making them a popular choice among today’s’ discerning Koi keeper.
· Blue Ridge
· Koi Kichi
· Pond Star
· SHO Koi Impact
· Ultra Balance