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Can You Eat Koi Fish? & Things To Know About Koi Fish

So you wonder if you can eat koi fish, the pet that you have swimming in your pond or tank. Before anything, pets are not food so don’t forget this part. But if you genuinely want to know and they are not your pets, then it is a different story. In case temptation gets the best of you, you are at the right place. I will tell everything you need to know about koi fish, and whether or not you can and should eat them. It is going to be a long explanation with details to resolve your doubt, so get ready for them.

Can You Eat Koi Fish?

The answer is yes, you can. Koi fish is a type of edible carp, and people eat carps all over the world. However, it is not that simple. Many people who have eaten koi fish mentioned that it made them feel uncomfortable right from the sight. The bright color of the fish and the presentation of the whole thing, in general, is not appetizing. There are also people who said the opposite because they claimed that koi fish is delicious. You will find many people out there from various regions who eat would eat koi fish like normal fish.

So Why Not Many People Eat Koi?

Glad you asked, there are many reasons why koi fish is not popular as food. Because we often see them as pets, and the idea of consuming them feels different. It is not about them being fish, it is about them being anything but food. To clarity this, there are some reasons why koi fish is not suitable as food for many people out there.

Reason Number 1: The Culture

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Koi fish has been the symbol of good luck and prosperity in Japanese cultures for decades or even centuries. In some areas, koi fish is a sacred fish that resembles good fortune for those who have them. With that being said, having them as pets will bring you all the good things in your life. This means you should take care of them so that they live healthily, and eating them is not a shortcut. Simply put, the worldwide reputation of being sacred makes people become sensitive to consider them as food. But what can I say, koi fish was originally raised in rice paddies for food before they become colorful and sacred.

Reason Number 2: The Taste

Koi meat is not like other carp for it is a bit tough. At the same time, the appearance of koi fish is not that appealing either. Many people also mentioned that they could not stand the smell and the after taste of koi fish. This is another big factor that discourages others from consuming koi fish. However, you never know if you never try and see for yourself. The perfect example of that was from Amanda Omeychua, whose pet koi fish died after a mishap with pond maintenance. She decided to cook the fish, and her caption said “Cooking Fails of the Day” went viral on Facebook. There are fish that are perfect as food and there are fish that are not, and that fish is koi. That brings us to another reason below.

Reason Number 3: The Risks

Koi fish spend most of their time in shallow and stagnant water, and they can transmit bacterial infection without proper cooking. Another reason is that koi fish are ornamental fish that people keep as pets. Sometimes chemical ingredients that we feed them can be harmful to our bodies. So if you decide to eat your koi fish, you have to be careful with cooking and preparation. This is to ensure that your colorful fish becomes a safe food that will harm your health after cooking.

Reason Number 4: The Price

We all know that koi fish are very pricey, but that doesn’t matter if you are rich. Many people don’t eat koi fish because they are so expensive, ranging as low as $100 to $1000 or more. This is another reason because koi is high in both price and value, so eating them doesn’t seem right. But once again, if you have the money to spend then it is all up to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Do koi fish taste good?

Depends on who’s cooking, if I’m being honest. It is almost impossible for you to cook koi fish for the first time and it tastes good. Plus with the fact koi meat is a bit tough, chances are you will not like the final results. Koi fish can taste good if you go to a restaurant where professional chefs prepare them for you. So if you want your first time eating koi fish to be a good experience then go to a restaurant.

Q2: Are koi fish dangerous to eat?

Koi fish are not poisonous if you cook them properly to get rid of the possible chemical substances. Once again, koi fish is just a type of carp so it is not dangerous to eat them. In case you have trust issues, choose a restaurant that serves koi fish to dine in. That way, you know that the koi that you eat is 100% safe to consume.

Q3: Where Can I Eat Koi Fish?

In case you want to try koi fish for once to find out if I am right, here’s some advice. There are many restaurants that serve koi fish regularly to go to, and that is better somehow. This is because there is also a huge number of koi fish that people raise as human food. So if you go to the restaurants, the preparations and the taste of the fish are going to be better and safer. The chefs use different kinds of spices to create a good taste that you might like. It is probably difficult to find this type of restaurant in the states, but it is common in Asia. So if you happen to visit once, maybe it is time to find out the real taste of koi fish.

Q4: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Personally, koi fish has much more value as a living animal than as food on a dinner plate. It is true that koi fish was originally a food, but things change, so is their taste. Since they are now a symbol of luck and wealth, having them swimming freely is so much better. And if you want to try, don’t cook your pet koi fish. Go to a restaurant for the best experience, that is all I can say.

How Long Do Koi Fish Live?

Owning koi fish is a big commitment due to many reasons from the maintenance to the lifespan to consider. And if you ask how long do koi fish live, there is no one answer to conclude that. Different koi fish species have different lifespans, and here are a few things that you should know about them.

  • An average koi breed outside of Japan can reach about 15 years of age.
  • The average Japanese koi’s lifespan is 40 years or even longer. The oldest koi fish in Japan was Koi Hanako who died at the age of 226 years old.
  • You can tell the age of a koi by analyzing the rings on their scales, very much like tree rings. However, it is more difficult because you need to use a light microscope to do so.
  • Environmental factors that contribute to the long lifespan of koi fish are good pond filters, long cold winters, and quality food. Hibernation greatly increases a koi’s lifespan because they go to hibernation. It is a natural environment for koi fish to live in, and most Western countries don’t really provide that.
  • Japanese koi fish live longer because people breed them with the purpose of using them as ornament fish. Those who breed koi fish outside Japan focus on faster growth which shortens their lifespan. Another reason is that many Western breeders overfeed their koi with an over-rich diet for faster growth. This simply leads to obesity and the early death of the koi fish. Meanwhile, Japanese koi breeders naturally feed the koi and allow them to gain weight and strength in a natural way.

How To Make Koi Fish Live Longer?

You can increase the longevity of your koi fish with proper care by creating ideal tank conditions for them. There are 7 main factors that you have to focus on to make your koi live longer including:

  • Diet: This is one of the most important things to have in mind when you have koi fish. The growth, health, and lifespan of koi also depend on nutrients that they receive from their food. Select the food that contains carbohydrates, minerals, proteins, and vitamins that are beneficial for them. At the same time, make sure to avoid overfeed them for it will lead to obesity that shortens their lifespans.
  • Environment: The environment that koi fish live in should be as natural as possible. You should put a generous layer of muddy substrate in the fish tank or pond outdoor. This is to mimic the natural environment that they thrive for more suitable living conditions.
  • Filter & Water Quality:  A strong filtering system is very important for the fish that live in a tank. It should cycle the entire capacity of the tank at least 3 times a day for the best water quality. Koi fish needs high-quality water to live happily and healthily. It should be free of ammonia, chlorine, nitrates, and other substances that cause bacterial diseases or damage their skin.
  • Lights: For tanks, you should illuminate them with daylights between 8 to 10 hours a day. As for outdoor ponds, make sure to have shaded areas for koi to retreat during summer days.
  • Oxygen Levels: This is among the most important things that affect the lifespan of koi fish. In fact, one wrong move can lead to the sudden death of koi fish immediately. This is why many koi fish owners experience the death of koi fish in the whole tank. Sometimes it is the power cut, and the solution to prevent that is getting a backup generator for the tank. Another thing is the algae blooms, and too many algae can affect koi in the ponds. You have to remove algae from your koi fish pond because they take oxygen which causes the koi to die. Things are the same when a large number of algae suddenly die.
  • pH: Make sure to keep the pH level between 7.0 and 8.6 for a healthy environment. This level is the suitable pH that koi fish thrive so you should remove all decaying vegetation and leftover koi food. That way, you will be able to maintain the pond’s pH levels to create the best conditions for your koi fish.
  • Tank Setup & Size: Koi fish are extremely active, so make sure the pond or tank size is proper. A juvenile koi fish requires between a 30 to 50-gallon tank to swim in. Meanwhile, a mature koi fish needs around 200 gallons of water in an aquarium. As for the pond, it should be at least 36 inches deep with at least 100 gallons of water. Because koi fish live in a group, you will need a large pond or tank of no less than 1000 gallons.

Final Thoughts

To sum everything up, koi fish have a lot of fascinating things that we can learn from. They are ornamental pets that people want to try to have a bite of. Koi are also the fish that break many owners’ hearts when sudden deaths occur. It takes a lot when you want to have koi fish in a pond or tank at home. The thing is that it is just the type of responsibility that every koi owner has. Maybe there are many cool things about koi fish out there that we don’t know of. Until then, stay tuned for more.

One Comment

  1. Hi Maritza,
    Gio here from Giobel Koi Center I am a koi fish keeper and breeder, maybe we can exchange content to each other

    Best regards,

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