Yes, koi fish do have teeth. Also known as “Pharyngeal Teeth,” koi teeth are tiny and located in the throat’s rear part.
Koi use their teeth not to kill prey but only to grind and chew food.
Even though a koi fish can bite you, unless you plan to stick your hand way down the fish’s throat, a koi’s bite will never hurt you. On the contrary, koi fish bites can pose a danger to their pond mates.
Do Koi Fish Have Teeth?
Contrary to popular belief, koi fish have teeth, quite a lot of them. The only problem is that we rarely get a chance to see them.
This is because koi teeth are located past the gills, way down at the back of the fish’s throat, making it impossible for you to see or reach an adult koi’s teeth.
Similar to other fish, the koi’s teeth are attached to the pharyngeal bone behind the gills, which gives them the name “pharyngeal teeth.”
Simply put, the koi fish has a pharyngeal arch near the end of its throat, and this is where the tiny bony projections in the form of teeth grow, pointing upwards and inwards.
The koi’s teeth are surrounded by strong muscles that give them the strength to smash shells.
Even though the pharyngeal bone isn’t the jaw bone, it plays an integral role in helping the koi chew, crush, and grind food particles in a repeated chewing motion.
A koi fish can also rub its teeth to produce sound and communicate with each other.
How Many Teeth Does a Koi Fish Have?
The exact number of teeth that a koi fish can have depends upon two factors; the age of the koi fish and its subspecies. Therefore, there’s no accurate answer to this question.
Unlike the teeth of mammals, koi fish have a modified boney version of teeth situated in the lower end of their throat.
The koi fish teeth are called pharynx and are formed into either three or two rows of teeth. Little do people know that the tiny koi fish teeth aren’t even attached to the fish’s jaw.
How Do Koi Fish Use Their Teeth?
If you carefully observe your pet koi fish, you might hear them chewing. However, you might not even see any teeth at first glance. Strangely amazing, isn’t it?
Koi fish are bottom feeders and will try to eat just about anything. The koi fish will suck and often spit out any food item that it cannot digest through its gills.
On the other hand, anything that a koi fish can eat will get pushed back into its throat, where the row-like teeth will grind the food before it enters the digestive tract.
Found at the bottom of the fish’s jaw, the koi only use its teeth for the purpose of grinding their food.
The teeth are in the form of a tough cartilage pad called “Carp Stone” and are attached to the koi’s very strong jaw muscles, enabling the fish to chew and swallow anything.
Can Koi Fish Bite You When You Feed Them?
Koi fish are docile and won’t ever bite when you are feeding.
Even if a koi bites, it won’t hurt unless you plan to insert your finger deep inside the koi’s throat. And there’s no reason for anyone to do that ever.
With koi being known as interactive and intelligent creatures, many pond owners enjoy hand-feeding them. Sometimes the koi might accidentally consider your finger food and try to suck it.
Koi fish have muscular mouths, so you might feel a noticeable “pull” or tickles.
Because the koi’s teeth are deep inside its throat, the chances of getting hurt or bitten by a koi are minimal.
While it is possible to touch and feel the teeth of a younger koi, as the fish grows older, locating their teeth becomes impossible.
In case your koi has flukes, and you are checking its gills, you might be able to get a glimpse of its teeth. However, even then, a koi fish will never bite you.
So, whether you are feeding a hungry small or jumbo-sized koi, the worst encounter that you will have is a slight pull of the finger while it tries to eat the food out of your hand.
Remember that koi are peaceful and loving fish and will never purposely bite or hurt their pond owner.
Can Koi Fish Bite Other Fish?
Koi fish aren’t hunters, so you will never see them actively hunting for smaller aqua animals. However, when hungry, the koi can eat anything that fits in its mouth, including snails and tadpoles.
According to research conducted in 2011, koi fish can act aggressively toward goldfish under certain conditions.
During the experiment, the koi fish exhibited three types of aggressive behaviors: chasing, biting, and mock biting.
While biting resulted in tearing the fins of the goldfish, leaving them prone to disease, the koi fish used the mocking tactic to chase and scare the fish away.
The study proved that koi fish and fancy goldfish should never be kept in the same pond. Relatedly, because of poor water conditions, the koi fish can also hunt small fish like tilapia.
With that said, note that generally, koi fish are very calm and peaceful creatures. In fact, a male koi fish will only be aggressive when mating.
That is when a male koi tends to bite a female koi fish. However, at times, the bite can be so violent that it can cause significant damage to the scales and fins of the fish.
Can Koi Fish Lose Teeth?
Like all other fish species, a koi fish will naturally shed a certain amount of teeth throughout its life. In fact, some koi fish specimens might shed more than thirty sets of teeth in their lifetime.
Depending on the color and the substrate type you have chosen for your koi pond, you might even find old koi teeth while cleaning the fish’s home.
While shedding its teeth, the koi fish will stick to the bottom of the tank or pond, and it might seem like they are hunting other fish or are frustrated.
Furthermore, until a new set of teeth grows, the koi fish will refuse food and only eat soft meals.
Signs of Koi Fish Shedding Their Teeth
As stated earlier, it’s normal for a koi fish to shed off its teeth. Some common signs of your koi fish shedding teeth are as follows:
White Teeth-Like Pellets at the Bottom of the Koi Fish Pond
Have you recently noticed white pellets on the koi pond’s dark non-gravel floor?
Take a torchlight, and you will be surprised by what you see. These white pellets are actually koi teeth.
Your Koi Fish Isn’t Eating Properly
Did you know that during the teeth-shedding process, a koi fish can easily go two to three days without eating?
This is because a koi fish cannot bite with painful and loose pharyngeal jaws. However, instead of fasting, some koi fish might opt to swallow soft food.
Bony Structures in the Pond Filter
Did you find some tiny bone-like particles clogging the filter system of the koi fish pond? These small bony structures are the koi fish’s shed teeth.
They are a clear indicator that your koi fish is in the process of shedding teeth.
Your Koi Fish Is Shaking
Is your koi fish convulsing or shaking at the bottom of the pond? If yes, there’s a probable chance that your koi fish is shedding its old unhealthy teeth.
Wrapping It Up
Now that you have learned everything there is to know about the little teeth of koi fish, do you feel the urge to head over to the pond in order to have a closer look?
If your koi is older, there are fewer chances that you will be able to see the fish’s teeth.
The bigger the koi fish, the more difficult it is to spot their teeth. The reason behind this is the fact that as the koi grows, its teeth begin to descend deeper inside its throat.
While the koi fish loves to suck and eat everything that comes its way, it will rarely bite you.
Koi fish have pharyngeal teeth behind their gills and throat, so it’s unlikely that your finger will reach that far.
This means that even if a koi bite’s you, all you will feel are tickles. However, to assert dominance, larger koi fish enjoy feeding on smaller fish.
Therefore, make sure to keep the pond clean, feed the fish on time, and maintain an appropriate environment for the koi fish to thrive in.
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