I went out to feed the koi the other day. Stood and watched them crowd up into the corner where they could confine the pellets and get to them better. The big guys pushed their ways in, the little babies came up underneath to grab what was pushed down. everyone else filled in the cracks. Smacking and splashing and more smacking as everyone is gobbling at the pellets.
A normal day of thrashing tails and gulping mouths and after a few minutes cruising fins looking for stray floaters.
But the day before had not been normal. Instead of coming up underneath the big guys, the babies had been the first at the food and when the big guys came up to feed, one was tossed completely out of the pond. Oops.
They do that frequently. Thrash and splash and toss about anything that is above them, those big koi. Usually it's water or maybe some of the floating pellets. The pellets land on the edge of the pond or maybe on the patio along side, food for the skunk wandering by at dusk or, when we had a small dog, or for several years, the Peking Robins in the aviary who would sit on the ledge over the pond and gobble up the fish food. Made me wonder why I bothered with the seeds and fresh fruit for the birds.
But this time out came one of the babies. My grow out fish, as it happened. Flopping onto the patio, a little stunned by the landing and quite surprised to find the change in atmosphere - air, rather than water. We scooped him up promptly and slipped him back into the water. No harm done. He was up and pushing belligerently into the fray the next feeding time.
The Koi Blanket toss is one more reason to stand and observe your koi when you feed them. When they come up to push and shove over the food it's always a good time to watch for sores as they flash their bellies. A good time to observe behavior-- is that aggressive platinum ogon as aggressive as usual or is she lurking at the back of the pac, not interested in pushing forward? Always indicative of something going on -- from an already full belly because she has found something else to eat to an illness perhaps internal with no external signs.
The Blanket Toss is also one of the challenges of maintaining a pond with very mixed sizes of fish. The big guys, and by big I mean 20" or larger, pack too much presence to be fully aware of the babies - the 6 - 8" newbies. Every Koi Keeper is already aware of that facet when he gets splashed by the the flailing tails in the feeding frenzy.
We had picked up a nice little showa at the February Show, and in May when we did a major filter clean out expected to find it had taken a trip down the skimmer pipe and into the filter. Nope. Found the black butterfly, but not the showa. I suspect now that he, too, was a participant in the Blanket Toss only he got tossed out after I had left and flipped himself into some shadowy corner where I never had a chance to find him in time. The skunk did, I suspect if that's what happened. Generally fish just don't "disappear". They die, yes, and you find the evidence, but disappearances in a koi population are rare. And a fellow pond member has to be dead and floating a long time before the remainder of the population will consume the body. You keep them too well fed with easier pellets.
Another reason to share your morning wake up coffee time with the koi. Feed them. Watch them. Watch for sores. Watch of odd behavior. Watch for your amusement and seeing your finny friends. But watch for the Koi Blanket Toss, too.