Hey pond keepers, I get lots of great questions from friends and customers about ponds and fish keeping. Alot of these questions deal with how we feed our fish.

I want to share with you a good question that came in to me. Check it…

Q: Mike, I have had ponds in the past and the fish had no problem coming to the surface to eat the food. These fish, for whatever reason, refuse to eat surface food. I have to feed them the sinking pellets. Is this normal? Is there any way to get them to eat surface food?

A: Hi Enid. Fish have such funny feeding behaviors. So as you said, you’ve had ponds in the past and those fish (goldfish or koi I am assuming) came to the surface without problem. They behaved the same way that millions and millions of these fish behave in millions of ponds. But the fish in this pond of yours won’t come to the surface to eat. Your fish are pulling one over on you! I’ve had populations of fish that I have worked with over the years that have done the same thing. I’ve had to force fish that were used to feeding at the surface to feed from the bottom, and I’ve had to force fish that wanted to feed at the bottom to come up and accept food at the surface. So many species, not just koi and goldfish, will adapt (sometimes reluctantly) to feeding from the surface. Catfish for example, TRUE bottom feeders, even adapt; sometimes a little too well! I encourage you to take a hard stance with your finned friends and switch to floating foods until they adapt, no wavering on your part or giving in. I also will say that you should feed your fish along the edge of your pond, right up against the rocks actually. DON’T throw food out to your fish, make them come to you, or they will train you to adapt to them!! It takes time, and some patience, but they WILL adapt and begin coming to the surface; they are too smart not to figure out that your going to feed them this way. And they love their food and treats!! They will come around. -Mike


I love getting questions like these. I’ll also add that it can take time for fish to become comfortable feeding in front of humans sometimes. At other times fish adapt immediately. There are alot of factors that go into the group feeding behaviors of fish. Sometimes normal feeding behaviors can be suppressed due to anything from bad weather, to getting spooked by a visiting heron; so don’t take it personal.


Fish keepers need to remember the inherent friendliness and social behavior of koi and goldfish. This behavior surely played a huge role in the domestication of these fish. Keep this in mind, and know that your fish will feed in pretty much any manner you train them too. If the time and energy were put in, koi and goldfish could become pretty well trained! But we are not going for Seaworld with koi and goldfish jumping through hoops of fire at this point. At this point we just want them to eat from the surface of the pond.

Hold your ground fish keepers and pond keepers and your fish will come around to feeding like the hungry little loonies they are before you know it!

Keep the questions coming.


Cheryl Rudolph

I have several large and smaller pond goldfish that need a new home. Their pond is drying up and I’m worried for them. HELP

Mike Gannon

Hello Cheryl. Try creating a post on a website like Craigslist and offer your fish up to a good home. -Mike


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