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Should I Feed My Fish During Winter?

Updated: May 1

We get a very common question- Should I feed my Fish During Winter?

That is a simple answer, generally NO-yet it is more complex than that.

Theoretically, we typically feed when temperatures are above 50 degrees F, spring through fall and not during the winter .

Koi and Goldfish are poikilothermic or "cold blooded" creatures which rely on environmental temperature to regulate their metabolism. During the winter their

metabolism slows to a crawl, especially when it is around or below freezing when fish go "dormant" by resting on the bottom to conserve energy. It is important to raise aerator diffusers closer to the water surface or even slow down your pumps flow so fish are not super cooled while they are dormant.

If you live in an area that has harsh or very cold winters it is easy to say do not feed at all during the winter months. In the PNW and other areas that have mild winters, the temperatures may fluctuate greatly with many days being over 50 degrees. Fish then become active and behave like they are "hungry" which can make feeding your fish tempting. This is when the question about feeding more complex.

It has been recommended that you feed "wheat" aka Spring/Fall diet during the cooler months April/May and September/October as the protein is easier to digest than summer staple feed. Another popular suggestion is to sparingly feed your fish "cheerios" during the winter if they become active.

If you do feed your fish during winter, accept that the is a risk that if you over feed or incorrectly feed them it can have detrimental results. During cooler temperatures that hover around 50 degrees fish are slow to metabolize their food and under 50 degrees often can't digest their food at all. If they can't digest the food they consume they can get a condition called Dropsy- when their kidneys and liver shut down, causing bloating which usually results in fish mortality. Fortunately this is not contagious to other fish, but is upsetting to the fish keeper.

So that is why it is important to keep an eye on the temparture before you decide to feed your fish during the winter. And in the spring when you start to feed your fish do it gradually- like 1-3 times per week alternating days- until temperatures warm to above 65-70 degrees or so when they can be fed daily.

If you have questions about your fish- stop in to the store, call or email us and we also have fish keeping classes.

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