Koi are ornamental carp. They were introduced from China to Japan, and bred as early as the 17th century. They are a beautiful and very hardy fish and can withstand extremes of temperature, pH, etc. This makes them ideal for backyard water gardens.
If Japanese Koi live a stress- and predator-free life, they may outlive their owners. Expected life spans for various koi species range from 25 to 200 years. A Koi that is well cared for in a small pond in someone’s backyard may live 20-30 years.
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Rule of thumb: Koi need 10 gallons of water for every inch of fish. A full-grown 36” fish will need 360 gallons of water. Ten fish at 36” will need 3,600 gallons, not including plant or other aquatic life. Be careful not to overstock your pond; let your fish enjoy their spacious living, because they will grow into their pond and they will be healthier for their long life. Click here for pond volume calculator.
According to some Japanese koi experts, the pond should be 3 times as deep as the length of the longest fish. So, if your longest fish is 12”, your pond should be 3 X 12 = 36” deep.
Our pond is about 4 feet at its lowest point. We have an air pump at the deep end and the aeration keeps a hole in the ice all winter. This is important as gases need to escape and koi like to see ‘light’. Koi will hang out in deeper water as the air and water temperature drops. So far this has been a good depth for our Massachusetts pond. Our largest koi is about 16″ long.
As a rule, feed your fish as much as they can eat in 10 minutes when the water temperature is consistently at or over 50° F. Use spring (low protein food) in early spring and fall. When the water temperature reaches 60° F, feed low protein food twice per day. As the water temperature increases (between 70-90° F) feed your Koi good quality protein pellets twice per day. Stop feeding when the water temperature falls to 47° F or less and rises over 90° F. Always remove unused food to prevent excess nutrients in your pond.
The term “pH” applies to your pond water. It means “Potential of Hydrogen”. A pH of 7 is neutral, meaning there is a balance between acid and alkalinity. A pH measurement below 7 means acid is present; a measurement above 7 is basic (or alkaline).
A pH of 7.5 is ideal for koi. They can survive and thrive at stable levels between 6.8 to 8.2, and pH values should be kept consistent throughout a 24-hour period to keep your koi happy.
Here’s a great link to help you understand what pH is (acid / base): http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/NR_WQ_2005-19.pdf
Here’s a good link http://www.noble.org/ag/wildlife/fish-pond-water/
We have pH meters to monitor your pH, as well as a line of supplies to help you adjust your pH.
Ammonia comes from the fish gills, their waste, decaying food and decaying plants. If there is too much ammonia in the water, it will irritate (burn) the fish gills, which can stress and kill them. If your fish are jumping out of the pond, always suspect they are trying to escape a poor environment (e.g. ammonia, pH extremes).
Some ways to reduce ammonia are:
- Reduce the amount of food, number of feedings or overcrowding of fish. Only feed what your fish will eat in 10 minutes, and remove the excess food that is left.
- Perform partial water changes. Some koi keepers perform 50% water changes until the levels drop.
- Increase oxygen levels by using an air pump sized for your pond. Use a good air stone or air disc to get the air bubbles flowing.
- Remove fish waste and decaying plants.
- Add beneficial bacteria. If you have a biological filter, purchase Microblift gel-type bacteria for the filter (pads/media). Add liquid beneficial bacteria to your skimmer input and/or sprinkle around the perimeter of the pond.
How to Select Plants for your Pond
There are four main types of plants you can select to put in your pond or water garden feature. The four main types of pond plants are: Deep Water Plants, Bog and Marginal Water Garden Plants, Floating Garden Pond Plants, and Oxygenating Pond Plants.
Each type of plant offers beauty to your pond but if you have koi, be aware that koi are agreesive plant eaters. They will eat the plant, remove top soil and small pebbles ‘dressing the pot’. They will eat the roots of any floating plant, so floating plants are best served in an ‘upper pond or stream’ away from koi fish. In our experience, aquatic plants live in harmony with comets, shubunkins and goldfish but not so with koi.
Deep Water Plants Deep water plants like deeper water and will flower or grow to water surface. Such as lilly pads floating on the surface. Both tropical and hardy lillies are examples of deep water plants.
Bog and Marginal Water Garden Plants Marginal plants are placed within the pond itself inside planting pots. Bog plants are usually planted in a ‘bog’ of your water feature. These type of plants like ‘wet feet’ and are usually placed in a few inches of water. Usually Marginal plants are placed on a shelf, which is an advantage for the plants to thrive and raccoons and predatory birds to attack your fish and frogs. There are solutions to making raccoons and predatory birds uncomfortable, such as water cannons and netting. An example of a marginal plant is Canna or Bambo. An example of a bog plant is Joe Pye Weed (loved by butterflies).
Floating Garden Pond Plants Floating water garden plants help cover the water surface, which provides shade to the fish and water below. Shade protects your fish skin and helps reduce algae growth since algae thrives in direct sunlight. Typical floating plants have long roots to help filter / clean the water. An example of a floating plant is Water Lettuce or Water Hyacinth.
Oxygenating (submerged) Pond Plants Oxygenating Pond Plants grow directly in your pond water and introduce oxygen into the water. Fish love to hide in these plants, which also are great at filtering the water. An example of this type of plant is Anacharis or Parrot Feather.