Hand Feeding your Koi
by: Brett Fogle
One of the most rewarding and entertaining things about having a Koi pond is when your fish finally start eating out of your hand. There is no better way to learn each fishes' personality and temperament than to have them nuzzle your fingers when they are hungry.
The key to training your Koi to eat from your hand is patience and conditioning. Like any wild animal Koi have a natural distrust for anything that they think can hurt them, and you're plenty big enough to do that as far as they are concerned.
If your goal is hand feeding then you need to start training from the very first time that you feed a new fish. Of course, it's not too late to start training your existing fish, but it's easier if you start out that way.
If you have been feeding your fish by simply broadcasting the food on top of the water then stop doing that immediately. Instead, bring your feed bag next to the pond and kneel down. Then, place a few pellets in your hand, submerge your hand, and let the pellets slowly fall out.
Don't worry if your fish seem to not be paying attention. They know that your hand is in the water and they know that pellets just appeared out of nowhere.
Eventually one or two will swim up and eat. When that happens, the rest of them will follow. Continue slowly dropping pellets from your hand until you have fed your normal amount. Repeat that process for about a week.
The following week, set up as you did last week, but this time submerge your hand and hold the pellets in your slightly cupped palm. Hold your hand steady and don't make any movements. Eventually at least one fish should come over and eat from your hand. It is essential that you do not make any quick movements while this is happening. Remove your empty hand and repeat the process. If the fish will not approach your hand to feed, then do not feed them that day. They won't starve to death, believe me, and they will be a little bit more likely to eat form your hand the next time that you offer them food.
Once you have them to the point that they will eat form your palm, it is time to teach them to take the food directly from your finger tips. Simply grasp a pellet, submerge your hand, and wait until the boldest fish approaches. Once he eats the others will follow. If they don't you know what do to. Just feed the ones that will eat from your hand and let the others miss a meal. Hunger is a great motivator for Koi.
Once you have your Koi eating out of your hands you can alternate between normal feeding and hand feeding for those times when you're in a rush and just can't sit down and enjoy your fish.
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About The Author
Brett Fogle is the owner of MacArthur Water Gardens and several pond-related websites including macarthurwatergardens.com and pond-filters-online.com. He also publishes a free monthly newsletter called PondStuff! with a reader circulation of over 9,000 pond owners. To sign up for the free newsletter and receive a complimentary 'New Pond Owners Guide' for joining, just visit MacArthur Water Gardens at www.macarthurwatergardens.com.