koi keeping basics

If you are only going to read 1 page on this website, this just might be the one. Here we outline the common misconceptions and mistakes we see clients make that frankly are easily avoidable with just a little knowledge and common sense. Unfortunately, we even sometimes find that experienced pond keepers are making some basic mistakes that will hinder the performance of their ponds and potential hurt their fish

Pond Stability: Fish require slow changes

Changes should happen slowly in your pond. The key word is "stability". In nature, fish are accustomed to a gradually changing environment. While air temperature can change dramatically in a single day, your local lakes water temp will barely budge. The high specific heat capacity just won't allow this type of fluctuation. Water chemistry also has a a continuity that the fish are accustomed too. The bottom line is, if you are to be successful, you need to provide a stable environment with a regular routine that is not stressful to its inhabitants

Pond stocking Rates: quality over quantity

Do not overcrowd your pond. This is really the bane of the hobby - most want to add that one more fish they fall in love with. But the reality is, over crowding is sure to cause problems at some point. Even if the water quality is good, when you start stocking over 3 lb. of fish per 100 gallons, you inviting trouble. Some people smugly break the rules but it catches up with them - your favorite fish can only die once, and their are no second chances

I have seen some misleading info regarding stocking on the web - recommending "inches of fish for a given area." This is bad advice. To illustrate the point, compare the mass of a small 1 inch long fish to a 1 inch portion of a 18 inch fish. Obviously the larger fish requires much more water volume and oxygen. The bottom line, use a stocking rate of less than 2 lb. of fish per 100 gallons of water to help stay out of trouble and give your system some tolerance for error. A 7" fish is about 1/4 lb, a 12" fish 1 lb, and an 18" fish 3.5 - 4 lbs.
  • New fish should be floated to equalize temperatures. Add some pond water to the bag too
  • Never submerse your refill hose in the pond. Use a timer refill for auto shutoff
  • We carry an extensive water quality kit with us - and use it

Water, water, water

Water Conditioner

Conditioner should be on hand at all times. This will give your fish a chance if you have a crisis and need to move the fish to a new holding system or refill your pond. And although conditioner has a lower freezing point than water, if it does freeze it will no longer work effectively

I did an emergency health consult
to find some dying fish and after many questions, discovered that the water conditioner used for the Spring clean out had been stored in the garage for the Winter. There was an instant positive reaction when I sprayed good conditioner in the pond as the fish immediately looked better

In another scenario, I had client bring an ailing fish into the shop this past summer [2009]. It was July and the measured water temperature was 15, way below what it should have been. I discovered that the neighbour was running a hose into the pond every day for 2 hours, without water conditioner, to keep the pond "clean". Not only was it decreasing the temperature, the addition of chlorine and chloramines was hurting the fish

Water Changes

Less more frequently is the general motto for changing water, Also avoid a temperature change of more than 2 celsius. It is a great idea to perform water changes on a weekly basis. Monthly can suffice for well filtered ponds. It is better not to change too much water at a time - 10-20% is the norm

You need to be aware of the potential temperature change you will create
. For example, if the pond is 10 degrees in Spring, a large 50%+ water change can be performed without ill effects. Since tap water is about 9 degrees, the net temperature change will be a negligible -0.5 degrees. However, if this same water change is performed in July, when the pond water temperature is north of 20 degrees, the resulting 50% water change will drop the pond temperature to <15 celsius. This will result is fish death I had a long time client make this mistake this past Summer when he dropped the temperature from 70 - 50 Fahrenheit. 13 of his 14 fish died. A horrible tragedy

Water Quality

Test your water regularly. The success of your pond will rest primarily with the water quality. Poor water quality will result in fish illness and possibly death. The big key to understand about water testing is that it will reveal potential problems before the fish show signs of distress. Strong fish may look fine for a long time in poor water quality. If water is tested regularly, poor conditions can be rectified before things degenerate

You can see the reagents are showing high ammonia and nitrite levels in the picture right. But for all intents and purposes, the fish exhibited normal activity in this pond. Hi nitrates can also cause immunosuppression, delaying the healing of wounds and in extreme cases cause blindness

buy a hose timer: stop forgetting the hose is on

You will eventually forget the hose is on when you are refilling your pond - and this usually has dire consequences. If fish don't die, gills can be damaged and issues can arise shortly after. Every Summer several clients walk into our shop having had this preventable tragedy occur

We sell a volume based metered refill, in which you dial the volume of water you want to add [50-1600 gallons]. This is advantageous to the time dialed units as water pressure fluctuation do occur and it is hard to predict how long it will take time wise to fill properly. I use this refill on my own pond and in the Summer, just trickle fill the pond so as not to change the water temperature. Our timer costs $30 which is far less than the cost of having to replace your koi collection

Filter Cleaning: Use pond Water

Use pond water, not cold chlorinated city water when cleaning your filters ! We find clients are power washing their filter media on a weekly basis, destroying beneficial bacteria cultures. The pond water may be clear with this approach, but clarity does not mean it is chemically clean for the fish. The keys to filter maintenance are to clean the media with pond water and not to over clean

new fish: purchase and Introduce cautiously

Fish get sick first and foremost from the inoculation of parasites by the introduction of an infected fish. Extreme caution needs to be exercised. This means you should quarantine or buy from a reliable source that has quarantined and performed a microscope analysis. Your water quality should be impeccable before adding fish, and new fish should not be introduced during the Spring when your current population is weakened from Winter

murphy had a pond - you need Backups

We all know mechanical failure is inevitable. We all also know about murphy's law [Mr. Murphy definitely had a pond]. But yet, so many people run their ponds on just a single pump. Of course the pumps quits when you have gone away or when you are unable to easily procure a replacement. The bottom line, have an air system running and consider having a backup pump on hand. Plugging equipment into different circuits is another common sense recommendation

pond Pump Placement: elevated off the Bottom

We often hear of ponds being pumped out completely when a hole develops in the hose to the filter or waterfall. This is unfortunate and can leave the fish without water. If you pond is setup with a submersible pump in the pond, make sure to elevate it 8+ inches from the bottom. This also reduces the chance of your pump clogging with debris. Of course none of this is a concern if you set up the pond properly in the first place with a bottom drain

Algae: changing water is not the answer

If you don't have a UV Sterilizer, your pond will typically experience an algae bloom during the Spring. The water turns green, sometimes very very green with visibility of just a few inches. The bloom will run its course and usually clear on its own. Changing the water and scrubbing the liner is not the answer, and is totally counter productive. This simply resets the cycle and destroys organisms that actually consume algae

Without a UV Clarifier, algae blooms will die back in time as your plants and filter mature. Additionally, make sure to maximize aeration as this drives out CO2, essential for plant photosynthesis. It also provides oxygen to the fish, particularly at night when the algae is consuming oxygen through respiration. Tips on controlling algae

Sick fish: get a proper diagnoses

If you keep fish they will eventually get sick. Being able to spot ailing fish quickly is paramount. Then you need to get a proper diagnoses. Unfortunately, buying meds based on mere conjecture can do more harm than good. Water testing and performing a mucous scrape to view under the microscope ensure you find out what is really going wrong. Ideally a slime coat analysis is done routinely with a scope so that small problems can be rectified immediately. This allows you to take informed action to correct the issue