The Basic Requirements of Koi

The Basic Requirements of Koi

It is easy to keep koi in a garden pond. One have only to provide them with their very basic needs: water, food and oxygen, but these have to be of a minimum quality or condition in order for the koi to remain healthy, proliferate and become an asset to your garden.

Small koi can be kept in quite a small pond, however, it should be remembered that the bigger and deeper the pond, the better it will be for koi keeping. Larger ponds provide a more stable water environment and more protection from predators. Koi will grow better and exercise more. There is really no limit to the size the pond can be. Your pocket and the available space in your garden are usually the determining factors.

Water is the medium fish live in. They feed, breath, procreate and excrete in it. It has to be of a minimum standard for them to thrive. The important thing to recognise is that the waste produced by fish is toxic to them and will build up over time. Apart from the physical waste excreted as dropping, fish also excrete large quantities of ammonia via the gills. Luckily nature provides us with processes to deal with these toxic waste products in the form of bacteria that digests ammonia. These (nitrifying) bacteria are everywhere to be found where there is food (ammonia) for them and a surface to cling to.

If however, the pond is stocked with too many fish, (and most ponds are) additional filtration is needed to prevent ammonia build-up. Many different designs and ready-made filters are available. They all work, but talk to your dealer to get the right one for your particular circumstances. For small ponds with few fish partial water changes is all that is needed to keep the pond water clean. However, do not replace more that fifty percent at a time, since the chlorine in the municipal water can be harmful the fish.

Oxygen is needed by fish to metabolise their food and grow. The simplest way to aerate is with an aquarium pump and air stone, but this should only be attempted in very small ponds. A pump that will circulate the water via a fountain or a waterfall is much more effective.

Koi will eat almost anything, but in order to ensure a balanced diet, they should best be fed on fresh prepared food in the form of pellets or sticks from a reputable manufacturer. All food has a limited shelf life. Do not use food that is more than 6 months old or smelling rancid. Never use food that is mouldy.

Koi do not have a stomach and as a result will feed almost continuously throughout the day. They will dig in the debris that collects on the pond bottom. They will nibble on plants and algae, seek out worms, larvae and insects. In this way they will be able to survive for weeks without getting additional food.

But that does not permit us to be cruel and leave them hungry and in an emaciated condition if we can help it..

Feed the fish regularly once or twice a day. More often in summer and less in winter. Let the fish dictate how much you feed them. Only give a few pellets at a time. When they eagerly consume the food, give some more. You will soon learn their habit and so will they learn yours. They will associate you with food and will become very friendly towards you. You will immediately know if their is something wrong when their behavior changes.

Do not dump a handful of food in the pond and walk away. Make feeding time a time to relax with your fish. A time to clear the mind and relieve the stress.

Written for Animal Talk magazine
Servaas de Kock & Ronnie Watt

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