Welcome to the wonderful world of raising Koi fish in your outdoor koi fish pond.
While this is a “hobby” that takes time, effort, and patience, more and more people are finding Koi ponds to be a great investment not only because of their enthusiasm for the fish, but for the koi fish pond itself -the sense of escape, of peace, of harmony that a good Koi pond can bring a person. For many, having a koi fish pond is like having a wilderness temple all to themselves. That escape from stress and the rigors of an increasingly busy and stressful society can be one of the many major benefits of an outdoor Koi pond.
While there are other types of small koi fish ponds or water decorations for a garden, the Koi ponds offer the additional bonus of beautiful fish that add a beauty that a birdbath or natural garden pond just cannot match. The outdoor Koi ponds are designed specifically for two purposes, which are:
A) To provide a safe and healthy environment for your Koi
B) To provide a “clear as glass” water surface to give the owner a clear view of these beautiful and amazing fish.
The ideal outdoor koi fish pond is one that satisfies both of these criteria. You can have perfectly healthy fish in a darker water pond, or vice-versa, with unhealthy and suffering fish in crystal clear water. The ideal situation is to not have either of those situations, but to have the best of both worlds with healthy fish and clear water: which will add to the tranquility and enjoyment of having a Koi fish pond. There are different ways to do this, and the explosion of members in “Koi clubs” has made advice on these matters much easier to find than in the past, but this book will cover some of the most popular and conventional methods for going about this, as well as everything else you will need to know in order to be prepared for the perfect backyard addition.
Building a Koi Fish Pond – How to build a Koi Pond
Following steps will give you important tips on how to build koi pond:
Part I. Counting the Cost
Building an outdoor koi fish pond is by no means a small project. Even if you don’t have plans to landscape your entire yard into a plush garden with an elaborate pond as a centerpiece, and instead have in mind a small pond tucked into the corner of your yard, this is still true. There are moving parts that if not taken into account can significantly complicate, even frustrate your enthusiastic efforts and leaving you feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. As with anything, a degree of planning and counting the cost is involved.
Once we get past the excitement that comes with deciding that we want to build an outdoor koi pond, the next logical step is to find out if this is feasible. Do you have the time and the resources to devote to this project? Do you have the proper space to incorporate this pond into your garden or backyard? What sort of research have you done on outdoor koi ponds in order to have a clear idea what sort of pond you would like to install?
You will have to consider what this project will mean in cost of materials, manpower and in subsequent expenses associated with general upkeep of the pond as well as those associated with the care of your koi. Taking these necessary first steps before you go out and buy materials will save you both time and extra expense in the long run and leave you feeling that you spent your money wisely and to maximum effect in bringing this beautiful project to life.
Some of the following points should be considered before you commence with your building project. They are mentioned here only briefly as each will be covered at greater length in the following chapters.
• What is your budget?
• Excavation -Do you hire a contractor or do it yourself?
• What kind of materials will you use?
• Koi Pond Design -Basic or Complex?
• Filtration system -biological koi pond filters, waterfalls for aeration
• Koi Pond Maintenance -cost of chemicals, water testing, etc.
• Landscaping choices
Part II. Consulting the Experts
Another important aspect to planning this project is seeking out those who have already taken the plunge and currently have outdoor koi ponds. One would think that this would be an obvious step, but many move forward blindly without taking the necessary time in order to gain a clear picture of what they will be getting into.
Koi clubs, for instance, are a viable means to gain access to private ponds and gardens. By doing this you can take some of the uncertainty out of your koi pond design choices and also find out what sort of filtration and plumbing system work the best -or at the very least get a stronger grasp of the variations and to make informed decisions and, hopefully, avoid costly mistakes. Online groups and owners of fish stores that deal with koi and know about their natural habitats as well as how to manage them in the artificial pond environment can provide valuable insights into both the process of building as well as share some of the pitfalls one can encounter. If you feel you have researched the subject thoroughly enough and, hopefully, gotten some advice from those who know the ponds then you are ready to begin.
Part III: A Healthy Environment:
Several considerations have to be taken into account when building a koi fish pond. Some of the most important aspects of the koi pond design that cannot be overlooked include:
1. The size of the pond -You want it to hold a minimum or 500 gallons of water, and most Koi experts will tell you bigger is better.
2. The Depth is also a concern -Think of 36 inches as a minimum, but deeper is also considered better.
3. Straight walls -These not only provide a larger potential area for your Koi, but also act as protection from local predators.
4. One or more bottom drains, and a bottom that slopes towards those drains and away from any incoming water (such as any waterfalls you add)
5. Some form of a surface skimmer to help keep the pond clean. Some Koi experts have suggested that a pool or spa skimmer with a “weir” work the best.
6. A biological filtration system. Maybe the most challenging part of building a Koi pond is the responsibility it creates. For the pond to be successful, you need to install an entire functional ecosystem. A good koi fish pond should be able to manage to strike a good balance between:
B) Ease and effectiveness of koi pond maintenance
C) A healthy environment for the Koi
For many Koi pond owners, the process of creating, and then maintaining, that balance can create a calming peaceful effect, akin to meditation. By building a Koi pond, you will be creating a miniature world of water, koi pond plants, and animals. The location of the pond is obviously important -you don’t want it to look out of place, since that would interrupt the peaceful feelings that are a large reward to creating and maintaining a Koi pond. The far majority of Koi owners will tell you that the pond should be somewhere that can receive mild lighting at night, be visible from the house, and have a place where you can sit and relax nearby. The tranquility of the Koi pond is pointless, after all, if you can’t enjoy it!
As stated earlier, in order to have a healthy Koi pond environment you need a biological koi pond filters, a source of aeration, a circulation koi pond pumps, and enough space so your Koi are free to mature and grow without constraint. The filtration system purifies the water and keeps waste out of the pond. An aerator, such as a waterfall, pushes air into the water. This has several benefits, as the fish will have oxygen and the aerator prevents the water from stagnating. A waterfall is probably one of the most popular methods, as it also adds an additional aesthetic quality to your Koi pond.
The circulation koi pond pumps should move the water through the koi pond filters and aerator. This cycle is necessary for your Koi pond and is the backbone of your newly created ecosystem. This will lead to ongoing expenses in electricity, as well as koi pond filter materials, and needs to be balanced to be affordable to you while keeping the pond and Koi healthy. The best way to figure out how to design your Koi pond to be affordable while keeping these necessities in mind is to consult an expert, or another pond owner. This way the koi pond design you install is as efficient as possible while remaining affordable.
Earlier you saw the recommended numbers at 500 gallons. You can have a smaller pond, but there are still some limitations on minimum size. The absolute minimum depth is at least three feet, and must be able to hold 50 to 60 gallons of water, which is recommended for every eight to ten inch Koi. Keep in mind, though, that it is best to have at least three Koi since they are social fish that do best in a community.
On the plus side, your Koi will not grow to be larger than the pond can support. Since the environment will dictate their eventual size, you should figure out what size you want them to attain before planning the size of your pond. If you’re not quite sure which way to go, plan to make your pond a little bigger rather than smaller, and for most Koi pond owners that tends to turn out to be the right size for them.
Another matter to concern yourself with is local animals. Depending where you live, there are various animals that might act as predators including, but not limited to: cats, ducks, raccoons, or other birds. When you design a Koi pond, you will want to design the landscaping so your fish will have hiding places from these, or any other type of predator.
Part IV: Building & Landscaping Considerations:
First and foremost, before you start building, it is an absolute necessity that you call your local building inspector to learn what the local building codes are, and to find out what you actually can do. There would be nothing worse than having large plans laid out for your first Koi pond, only to find out that after ordering your materials, your plan is in violation of the local building codes. The rules vary from place to place. In some areas, all ponds are classified as swimming pools, and so have the exact same requirements. Other places have limits on the size of the pond, allowed drainage, above or below ground, or even whether you can do it yourself or need to hire professionals. You will usually need to stay a certain distance from the property lines. Some of these rules may constrain your options and so affect what you decide to do.
Before you decide where your pond will go, find out about buried utilities. Most areas will have a free service where you can call them up and they will come out and mark your lawn wherever your buried gas, electric, phone, cable, water and other lines are. This is crucial. Do not guess, don’t assume you can figure it out: let the professionals do their jobs. Bravado isn’t worth your life.
There are several options for what materials to use in constructing a pond, though the most popular seems to be EPDM liner. Concrete and Fiber glass can also be used to line ponds, though that can be expensive to install and much more planning needs to go into materials, design, and everything else. Koi pond liner tend to be less costly. Many Koi pond liners available have a life expectancy of ten to twenty years. The life expectancy varies from one manufacturer to another, and so the best option here is to look up the nearest Koi club and join up. There you will be able to find individuals with the expertise on who to buy from and which brand suits your need.
If you decide to go this route and buy a liner koi fish pond, make sure to dig the pond before you purchase the koi pond liners. This is very important because now you can accurately measure the pond and purchase the proper sized koi pond liners. Otherwise if your original idea was for a pond that measured 10’x10’x4′ but then part way through you changed your mind and ended up digging a 10’x 15’x5′ pond, you would now be stuck with a liner that is too small and everything would be messed up, including measurements for other essential equipment such as koi pond filters and koi pond pumps.
While speaking briefly about koi pond filters and koi pond pumps, one piece of equipment very few ponds have, but is useful, is a protein skimmer. These help reduce the amount of organic wastes that come from the foam under your waterfall, uneaten koi fish food, etc. Also, you would be amazed at the surprising amount of debris that ends up in the bottom of the pond. It is strongly recommend a bottom drain be installed.
Location has a big factor in protecting your Koi from predators. For example, a single Great Blue Heron is capable of eating over one hundred six-inch Koi in just a single meal. Most Koi owners don’t like the idea of bird netting (and understandably so, since it detracts dramatically from the overall appearance) then when you have your koi pond design you need to figure in some type of a structure, like a pergola, that is built over the pond. These also have the added advantage of giving your Koi much needed shade, while (if done right) not detracting from any of the natural beauty and calmness a Koi pond should be able to provide an owner.
Part V: Oxygen Sources
Oxygen comes from the movement of water. Koi are not meant to be in stagnant water, only in water with movement, since water will also bring the extra oxygen they need. A waterfall is not only the most efficient way to supply this oxygen, but it is also very visually appealing, not to mention the beautiful sounds a waterfall makes, one of the few types of sounds that can send you into a meditative bliss. A fountain can also work, as does any method of exposing water to the air, but a fountain can disturb the water surface so much that one cannot view the Koi, which really defeats the purpose.
The Koi must have oxygen and the biological koi pond filter needs even twice the amount that the Koi do. They also must have oxygen 24 hours a day. This is critical. A power outage of more than half a day (12 hours) will result in your Koi coming to the surface gasping for air, and eventually dying. Your first thought might be, what about koi pond plants providing oxygen at night? Nope. Plants provide oxygen during the day when there is sunlight, but use up oxygen at night. Therefore plants are:
1. Competing with Koi for oxygen at night
2. Causing stress to the Koi by affecting more rapid pH changes between day and night. Plants utilize carbon dioxide during the day but excrete it afterdark. This does not mean that you cannot have water plants in your Koi pond; it is possible to strike up a perfect balance, though many truly hardcore Koi enthusiasts do not have plants in their ponds because:
• The Koi hide under them
• They encourage the Koi to spawn and lay eggs that attach to the plants
• As the Koi grow, they eat the plants. What are the ideal requirements of a waterfall? The longer and broader the waterfall, the greater the aeration. This is the goal, and this is what you want. The larger the area of water surface broken up by the waterfall entering the pond, the better. The entrance area of the waterfall into the pond needs to be a direct drop of a few inches otherwise the water will shoot directly across the surface and two things can happen:
A. It will not mix oxygen into the depths, and
B. It will roughen the water surface thereby obstructing the viewing of the Koi. Do not forget: Waterfall needs to run 24 hours a day, even at night.
Koi are a fish whose natural habitat is a running stream, meaning that a great Koi fish pond is one that does everything possible to simulate their natural environment. In a water current provided by jets, the Koi swim more, building up their strength, and therefore improving their shape, their health, and their resistance to disease. It also minimizes dead areas, and pushes debris toward the bottom drains.
Water jets should be added in addition to a waterfall. To make a jet, T-off a one half to one-inch flexible PVC pipe from the pipe returning filtered water to the waterfall. Put in a valve to control the amount of flow on each pipe going to a jet. It is ideal to have at least two jets, one 18 inches deep and one at a deeper level. A pond four feet deep or more should have a bottom jet. In the winter, when Koi are inactive, shut off the deep-water jets.
The water jets need to all be pointed in the same direction, so the water current all flows in the same direction. The experts contend that Koi all tend to swim counter-clockwise. Therefore, this is the best direction to direct the jets. Coordinate this with the waterfall so that the two are not opposing each other.
Koi tend to jump at times. This is especially true when:
1. Koi are new.
2. New Koi are put in the koi fish pond in the evening.
3. Koi have parasites.
4. Water quality is poor, irritating their exteriors or gills. Almost all Koi owners at some point have gone out in the morning to find one of their Koi on the lawn. Koi can be revived even after out of the water more than an hour. Sometimes, by working their gills under the waterfall the Koi will revive, even
after looking very stiff, dry, and dead.
The following encourages Koi to stay in the pond even if they do jump:
• Keep the water level six inches down from the top of the pond edge.
• Do not slope the sides of the koi fish pond but have them go straight down for at least the first two feet of depth. This prevents a running start by the Koi.
• Some even put a lip overlapping the edge of the pond so that if the Koi do zoom along the sides and jump, they will hit the lip and stay in the pond.
• If Koi do manage to jump out, they will try to flop back in.
You want to minimize the elevation of the pond edge, keeping the surrounding water out but still allowing an errant Koi to flop back into the pond.
Part VI: Koi Pond Filters
One very interesting koi pond filter is called a “bubble bead filter” and the smaller model looks like a big hourglass that stands six feet tall. The newer model has the hourglass part enclosed so the whole thing actually looks like a water heater. There are many floating beads in it and as water flows up through this contraption debris is trapped. There are many variations as far as size and shape, but the principles are the same.
Bacteria form on the small fiberglass balls and serve the purpose of a biological koi pond filters. The beauty of the koi pond filters is that all you have to do to clean it is cut the pump off. Open a valve or two to drain the koi pond filter and you are done with your maintenance of the koi pond filters. You don’t have to clean brushes, or filter pads.
The down side of the bubble bead koi pond filters is that if the pump is idle for 45 minutes or so the useful bacteria die and anaerobic bacteria multiply. There are those who believe that toxic material can be produced in the koi pond filters and can, under proper circumstances, be harmful to your fish. One problem that developed with the earlier bubble bead koi pond filters is that if the owner did not clean frequently enough, the beads would clump up in the top of the koi pond filters and needed to be broken loose mechanically. Since then many of the newer koi pond filters have air pumps, or water pumps inside that force air or water into the beads to break them loose. It is so easy to clean that a daily cleaning usually only takes two or three minutes, making that part of koi pond maintenance much easier.
Landscaping for Koi Pond
Choosing plants for the area in and around your pond is an important concern for multiple reasons.
Aquatic plants should be surrounded with a protective barrier because Koi will nibble at them. Still, aquatic plants work well to provide cover for your Koi if somehow a predator manages to get into the ecosystem. Ground plants work well as a way of camouflaging the koi pond pumps and koi pond filters, allowing for the full aesthetic effect that you desire.
While there are plenty of options, you also have a series of factors to consider. One obvious aspect is the aesthetic value. Each person has their own preference for appearance, and the Koi pond and surrounding garden should be made to your standards, because you are the one who will be maintaining it, and you are the one who should enjoy it. The plants will help bring the type of ambiance you want to build.
There are a lot of web sites to find fake rocks for landscaping. While the instinct may be to go natural, using fake rocks can help to preserve the ecosystem, since there is no danger of bringing in unknown algae, toxins, or microscopic pests. The general consensus even seems to be that the fake rocks are a good idea, and are done well enough that the difference visually is negligible. While it is always your choice in the end, the fake rocks are not a bad way to go, and if the thought of having fake rocks bothers you, find a Koi expert in your area to discuss. The expert will be able to give you all the pros and cons, and help you make the best-informed decision based on your individual situation.
Algae are not good for Koi fish ponds. While it is possible to have a pond full of algae and still have healthy Koi, algae can also cause a lot of problems, and more often than not, does just that. In addition, one of the main points of having a pond is because the clear waters make a beautiful, pristine environment that feature some of the most gorgeous fish that can be found on the entire planet. What good is having beautiful Koi if you can’t see past the green, algae choked water? Most Koi pond enthusiasts would also agree that algae infested water simply does not bring the same beauty, and what good is an “okay” place to go to relax?
The issue of how to deal with algae varies, depending on the type, amount, and situation. One of the most popular methods is to include in your pond tiny bottom-feeding fish that can get along with your Koi, or even snails into your ecosystem to keep the pond vital and minimize algae. Another key point is prevention. If you construct your pond so that is heavily shaded, that will not only strongly inhibit algae growth, but also maintain the color of the Koi and keep the water cooler.
While there are a lot of stores that will always have items to sell, it is best to take as detailed notes and observations, and to find other Koi enthusiasts who have dealt with the same problems who can offer solutions, or at the worst, tell you exactly what not to do, which sometimes can be just as important.
The Best Koi Fish for Koi Pond
After the landscaping and building of your Koi pond is complete, the next step is obvious; you need to find which type of Koi best suits your particular pond. Many varieties of Koi come in almost every color. Certain species are also very expensive, running in the thousands of dollars for one fish. Many Koi enthusiasts will tell you that Koi are almost indescribable because of their brilliant colors and unique patterns. In addition, these fish enjoy nothing more than coming up and taking a cracker or piece of bread out of a child’s hand! Often times they will be waiting near the shore for their owner to arrive, and they are, without competition, the most personable of fish.
There are almost countless species and types of Koi, but here’s a brief list of some of the more popular general varieties:
1) Kohaku – Characterized by their red blots on a white background. A pattern to look for include the symmetry of red blots, whiteness of the white background. The lips and eyes are forbidden to have any redness, since when this group was bred redness on the lip signified wearing lipstick, a symbol of a prostitute in old Japan. These fish are more rare and can be worth thousands.
2) Taishosanke -Has red, white, and black coloring. The more beautiful ones have a nice pattern that includes speckles of black dots. Symmetry and balance of fins are also stressed.
3) Showa -These Koi are only black. They make up for the lack of patterned colors by having a black color that seems to almost shine. In old Japan, the importance of having one Showa in a koi fish pond was to balance out the white and red colors. The Japanese believed that a Showa represents the evils and therefore keeps the force of world balanced against white Koi fish, which represents the goods. While a Showa adds great diversity to the Koi pond, the one major drawback that has been noted is that they tend to lose color each year, so the water quality is extremely important.
4) German species -These Koi are scale-less, and as the name indicates, were bred outside of Japan later by breeding Koi with a German carp. This type is most known for usually having blue skin with a small spattering of orange speckles on the side.
Koi in general have many different colors, including white, black, blue, purple, red, green, yellow, and cream. In addition to the amazing variance of colors, Koi can also have a metallic sheen to its scales. There is also a scaleless version for nearly every Koi and Japanese koi fish breeders call it Doitsu (German). This is the earlier aforementioned “German Koi”, and breeders created the scaleless versions by crossbreeding the Nishikigoi with German mirrored carp.
These major Koi Fish varieties include:
• Kohaku -a white-skinned Koi, with a red pattern
• Taisho Sanshoku (Sanke) -a white-skinned Koi with a red and black pattern
• Showa Sanshoku (Showa) -a black-skinned Koi
• Asagi -a Koi with light blue scales on its top and red scales on its bottom
• Shusui -the partially scaled version of an Asagi
• Bekko -a white, red, or yellow-skinned Koi with a black pattern
• Utsurimono -a black Koi with a red, white, or yellow pattern
• Goshiki -a mostly black Koi with red, white, brown, and blue accents
• Ogon -a Koi that is one solid color, it can be regular or metallic; known colors -red, orange, platinum, yellow and cream
• KinGinRin -Koi with shiny scales
All of these fish are still referred to be the generic term “Koi,” but each has a different appearance and therefore will give your Koi pond environment an entirely different look and feel. That is part of the reason research and pre-planning is so important. Thinking these questions through ahead of time will allow the perfect Koi to be matched with the perfect backyard pond.
Water Maintenance for your Koi Pond
Maintaining a good environment for your Koi is of great necessity.
Like a regular fish tank, a Koi fish pond needs regular cleaning and maintenance. Uneaten koi fish food collects at the bottom of the pond and, as it decays, can produce chemicals that are actually toxic to the Koi. Skimming uneaten koi fish food off the surface after five minutes or so is one way to minimize this waste. Draining about ten percent of the water from the pond and replacing it regularly can also minimize this. The water you drain from the pond is rich fertilizer for your house and garden plants.
Koi are strong fish, with good resistance to most sickness and disease. As long as the environment they are in remains normal and healthy, your Koi should do well. There are some basic tips and tools to keep the water clean and healthy:
1. Keep your pond free of coins. A Koi pond is not a wishing well, and coins are toxic to the fish. Resist any temptation to throw in even a single penny.
2. Chlorinated water is hazardous to fish, and needs to be neutralized before being put into your pond. This is especially a concern for city water.
3. Keep your pond aerated and filtered 24 hours a day. Don’t bring down the defenses for even a moment. Proper equipment for these tasks is easy to find at several retail stores.
4. Keep your pond clean of debris on the bottom. Debris can come from falling leaves, from blowing bits of seeds and pollen, or just from the leftover crumbs after a feeding. All of this needs to be cleaned.
5. Have a chloramine remover to use whenever you add fresh tap water. Once again, most cities have chloramine in their tap water, and so it is necessary to neutralize it to avoid inadvertently harming your Koi.
6. Have a consistent schedule to test the pond for any type of irregularity, whether it’s chloramine, pH balance, ammonia, or anything else: this is especially important after adding water.
7. Change or add new water about every three to four weeks, and be sure to see tip #6 for every time you do this.
8. Keep an eye out for parasites. Use Dylox every three months to kill parasites and prevent new ones from coming in.
9. Keep a schedule to clean the koi pond filters. All koi pond filters need to be cleaned every so often, even if the water looks crystal clear.
10. Have medication on hand for emergencies, as well as air pumps, water pumps, and other necessary equipment to handle unforeseen circumstances.
11. It is a good idea to have a spare tank for use as a quarantine to treat sick Koi. Remember any side tank or pond still needs a filter and to be aerated. This way any parasites or sickness won’t spread to your other Koi, while the sick fish can still be nursed back to health. A common mistake made by many first time builders of a Koi pond is to use the same filter that a swimming pool uses. Using a swimming pool filter is not a very good idea for a Koi pond for several reasons. One is that the swimming pool filter systems do not work well on Koi ponds because they are designed for
mechanical and chemical filtration of water, and not so much on the biological considerations. Swimming pool filter pumps rely on a pump that operates for so much time every day. In addition, pumps that are used for biological filters have to run 24 hours a day. If you use a swimming pool filter, not only will it not do a good enough job, but also the jump in your electric bill will probably wipe out all the sense of peace and harmony that came from having a Koi pond.
There are a lot of biological koi pond filters offered through a variety of retailers that provide koi pond supplies and koi pond kits. Some of these are very good products, others aren’t. The point of the retailer is to get you to buy his/her item, so a good method is to talk to other individuals who have had a successful Koi pond for years. They will be able to give you a much more accurate idea of what to buy, what to avoid, and all the other information you need in between.
After getting good advice from a knowledgeable source, just remember a few basic tips of things not to do:
• Don’t keep the water level too high. If the water is too close to the edge of your pond, the Koi may have a tendency to jump out. A general rule of thumb is to allow six inches of clearance.
• Never change all the water in your Koi pond at once unless you have no other option. The stresses resulting from a sudden temperature change in water or movement can be unhealthy.
• Resist the temptation to put more fish in a small area. As Koi grow they will need more space, and like any aquarium, overcrowding is a bad idea
• Although fairly obvious, don’t let any fertilizer, insecticide, or pesticide into the environment. Don’t even use these on the garden plants. All those items can be extremely toxic to your Koi. While Koi can survive and do well in colder temperatures, they do best at warm temperatures at around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and can survive at fewer than 65, but their immune systems tend to get sluggish when it gets colder. The best solution for most outdoor koi fish ponds is a heating system. There are several different options for outdoor heating systems, and once again, other Koi Fish Pond owners will be able to give you solid advice on how they go about this.
How to care for your Koi Fish and Koi Fish Pond
Caring for your Koi Fish will require consistent effort day to day, but is not overly difficult to the point where the work seems like a burden to the reward. Caring for the Koi requires some effort and a keen eye, but is easy once you repeat the motions a few times and become comfortable with the routine.
Koi Fish should be fed twice a day. Each meal should be five minutes long, and you should feed the Koi as much as they are willing to eat in those five minutes. The appetite of your Koi will vary based on season. With warm weather they become hungrier, with cold weather they become less so. Almost any aquatic pet store will have specialized Koi food, often times in the form of pellets. Allow them to eat whatever they will in those two five-minute sessions, but it is important not to overfeed! The two times are more than enough, and overfeeding is Koi is like over-medicating: there are only negative side effects to it.
Sickness & Treatment
Illnesses in Koi are rare because of the fish’s hardy immune system. Still, sickness does occur, but most sicknesses with Koi can be treated easily. If a Koi does appear ill (the most common signs are sluggishness, swimming alone, or hugging the bottom of the pond), place it in a separate tank until treated. Medications for common fish diseases are available at any aquatic pet stores.
When sickness does occur, it is usually caused by stress that causes a temporary break down in the Koi’s immune system. For a Koi to become ill, it usually requires an environmentally stressful (i.e. unhealthy) situation along with the actual disease agent. Controlling stress is the best way you can keep your Koi healthy, and like with many things, prevention is better (not to mention easier) than treatment.
Some of the most common causes of stress include:
• High ammonia level
• Handling and/or moving fish
• Bad water quality
• Water temperature either too high or too low
• Other toxic chemicals (chloramines, oak blossoms, weed spray, etc.)
• Sharp edges in and around pond
• Improper feeding
Avoiding these potential pitfalls will help you to keep healthy Koi.
There are four main sources of Koi illness:
• Fungal, and
The bacterial illnesses are one of the main causes of mortality among sick fish. Most bacterial infections are secondary results of some stress-causing stimulus. Once you fix the stress, the rest of your fish won’t be as likely to fall to the same bacterial agent. The one notable exception is “columaris,” which needs to be treated separately.
Most bacterial infections are still very treatable, and there are an entire series of acceptable treatments, including acriflavin, chloramphenicol, kanamycin, nitrofurans, oxytetracycline, and sulfanomides: which are delivered through various means. Consult an expert before giving treatment with one of these methods, and be sure not to over medicate. Koi are strong fish, and do not need a lot of help. If you’re not sure how much to give, shoot for the low number. Koi only need a little help, so under medicating will often still allow a full recovery, while over-medicating can be harmful.
Occasionally Koi can be sickened due to a fungal infection, which is usually secondary, but telltale of a different injury at the ame site. This can also damage fish eggs, and the most common treatments are acriflavin, iodine, malachite green, methylene blue, or salt. The best approach to this is best suggested from others who have already had to deal with this problem.
As with all fish, Koi can also fall prey to parasites. Some of the most common of these parasites will include anchor worm, fish lice, ich, monogenetic flukes, and tricholphyra. Most fish, in fact, carry some parasites, but usually develop a degree of resistance that will help to prevent problems. On the other hand, parasites such as anchor worms and fish lice are a problem whenever present. Young fish are more susceptible to illness caused by parasites than older fish.
Many times it will be stress situations and/or changes in seasonal weather that make Koi susceptible to infection. Some parasitic infections can be mistaken for bacterial diseases or viral infections. Recommended treatments include Dylox, Demilin, Formalin, Malachite Green, Masoten, potassium permanganate or salt to be place in the entire outdoor pond. Here are a few of the various methods of chemical treatment, (listed from basic to most drastic):
• External swabbing
• Dip – five minutes in a separate pond or aquarium
• Bath (30 to 60 minutes)
• Sick tank or whole pond (low concentration for 12 or more hours)
Treating the entire pond has the advantages of apparent ease of administration and the ability to destroy all the harmful pathogens in an entire area. The disadvantages are that drugs used in the treatment tend to be absorbed by organic debris in the pond, making potential toxins more likely to stick around. In addition, the appropriate drug levels may not be reached.
External swabbing with antibiotics or disinfectants can be surprisingly effective. The disadvantage is that the fish is exposed to handling and possibly anesthetics. This can be extremely stressful to an already ill Koi. Medication should be attempted only after the water quality and stress conditions have been improved. Partial water changes can be effective in improving water quality and relieving stress.
It is always a good idea to have several items ready, as kind of an “emergency kit” in case your Koi fish seem to be ill. A brief list of items that should be included are: Ammonia test kit, Chlorine/chloramine test kit, De-chlor, Demilin, Dylox, Formalin, Malachite green, Methylene blue, Nitrofuran powder, Panalog ointment, pH test kit, and rock salt. With those materials, you should be prepared for about any problem that may arise.