1. What are the basics of building a consideration: pond?
The three key elements that are essential in order to succeed.
- · Planning
- · Patience
- · Persistence
Here are the parts of a Koi pond.
1. Liner / Underlayment
2. Skimmer- The skimmer will greatly aide in keeping your pond clear from fallen debris.
3. Filter- The filter will convert toxic ammonia and nitrites to safe nitrates. It will also help remove fish waste. It is better to over size your filter then to have one which is to small.
4. Pump-The pump is the heart of your pond. Choose one wisely for it will be the moving part of your pond which will also be a monthly expense in electric. This should be an external pump.
5. Bottom drain- The bottom drain will greatly aide in keeping your Koi pond free of fish waste. The bottom drain is where most people cut corners but it will cost you in the long run with pond maintenance and water quality.
6. Air pump-You can never have to much air in your pond. Air pumps are helpful on hot summer days when or if your water temperature exceeds 75 degrees. Higher oxygen levels also help the good bacteria grow.
7. U.V. (optional but highly recommended)- The U.V. will help against green water, Bacteria and some parasites. You must choose one for your water flow rate. I would recommend purchasing one larger than the manufactures recommended flow rate, if you can afford it.
8. Lighting (optional)- Lighting will extend you pond experience in the evening. You can use them to highlight the pond or placed in the pond to light the water.
Maintenance-How much time do you have or are willing to put into the up keep of your pond. A well designed and properly located pond will reduce the pond maintenance and you will enjoy your pond much more.
Cost to build-Taking short cuts here will cost you much more in the long run not only in money but time. It is better to wait until you can build one right the first time and will save you many hours of frustrations.
Cost to operate-The pump will run 24 hours a day which will add to your electric bill. Your koi will need food. The water itself will cost you. Bacteria for the water to help maintain water quality. Test kits for monitoring the water quality. Just like any pet, your koi will require care.
Size-If you are like most first time pond builder then your first one will never be big enough. I feel you should build the one you can afford but it should be around 3500 gallons or more and at least 4 feet deep without shelves. The larger pond is better for your koi’s well being an safety.
Location (can you see it from the home ..?)- The location is a personal choice but choose wisely for it will not be moved easily. Most people like to be able to see their pond from a window of the home. We enjoy our pond from a kitchen window in the winter. You can see the water fall and the ice sculpture it creates in the colder days of winter.
How Deep Should a Koi Pond be?
A Koi pond needs to be at least 3-feet deep to protect your koi from predators and water temperature swings. I personally believe that it should be at least 4-feet deep or more. If you are trying to grow jumbo show Koi then some recommend 6-feet or more.
In colder climates 4-feet would be the minimum and an area that is 6-feet in part of the pond. In warmer climates you can get away with 3-feet deep, but remember that a shallow pond will heat up and cool quicker, which is not good for your Koi.
Maintenance Planning - Plan ahead
A Koi pond should be as maintenance free as possible, so when planning the location of your bottom drains keep in mind that they will only draw from a radius of 4 to 6 feet. Plan to have enough bottom drains to remove the debris & silt from the bottom of your pond. Rocks on the pond bottom of a koi pond is highly discouraged. Although, the rocks look natural and are very beautiful on a pond, they will also collect fish waste and other debris. Unless you choose to invest in a good pond vacuum and spend hours of your day cleaning the pond bottom, then avoid them.
Basic design considerations
The pond edge should always be higher than the surrounding ground to avoid runoff water that could have chemicals from fertilizers, fungicides, and just any debris lying on the ground.
Keep the pond away from trees for two reasons: their roots could damage your pond and you don’t want to have to remove leaves all the time. Leaves in the pond will upset your pond’s water chemistry.
You will want to place the pond in an area close to your house, so that you can enjoy it from inside during inclement weather.
The last consideration is probably the most important, your budget. This will determine the size of your pond as much as the space you have allocated for it. You should consider everything for the pond such as; filters, pumps, plumbing, electrical, stonework, landscaping and any other expenses associated with your pond. Once this is done you can begin construction.
The above is just an over view of what it takes to have a successful koi pond and is in no way, meant to cover all the details. Do your homework and look at others koi pond. I would be glad to help you with your pond planning.
* Note: If you do not plan on having fish in the pond then it is what I call a water garden and you will not need a bottom drain and a filter system is not as important. The skimmer is not as important but will help reduce maintenance.
2. How can I learn more about Koi and ponds?
The best place to learn about koi and ponds are by those who have healthy Koi and a working pond. You can also find Koi clubs in your area or search the internet. There are a lot of people out there with different ideas of how a pond should be built. It can be very confusing in the beginning. If you are asking the right questions then you will find out whom you can trust. Does the person you are talking with have a working pond? Do their koi seem healthy which really means are the koi active in the pond and respond to feeding? Does this person just want to sell me something? Are they willing to help me understand what they are referring to...? But also be respectful of a business owners time. You can get books from your library which is a free service. Here are some sites to help you out. Some of these sites are becoming sales driven so be careful of product statements. I have tested my products and can steer you from bad ones.
www.koiusa.com Koi USA magazine
www.koivet.com This site will help you learn about illness of koi.
3. What is the difference between a koi pond and a water garden?
Unfortunately, most people put the koi pond and water garden in the same category. However, there are big differences. The water garden is focused on water plants. The koi pond should be focused on the koi. The water garden doesn’t need to be more then 18” deep and usually has plant shelves. The koi pond is hard pressed to keep most plants from being chewed up by the koi. Your plants will need to be protected. You will want to avoid plant shelves in a koi pond for they become feeding locations for predators such as the heron and raccoon. The koi pond should be at least 3-feet deep but preferably 4-feet deep. Most water gardens will have rocks on the pond bottom but it is better to avoid any rocks on the bottom of a koi pond for they will collect fish waste and debris. Most water gardens will not have a bottom drain and some do not have a skimmer. Your koi pond will function much better with these parts and the water quality will be easier to maintain. Water quality such as ammonia and nitrites are not as important in a water garden but in a koi pond will be a matter of survival.
4. I have heard you should add salt to your koi pond but they are not salt water fish?
Koi are not salt water fish. However, a small amount of salt in your koi pond is helpful for their health. Here is what salt will do for your pond; First it will help prevent some harmful bacteria and parasites and helps with the slime coat to prevent infections. Salt is used to cure some koi ailments but caution needs to be taken. It reduces the toxicity of ammonia should you have an ammonia spike. It helps with electrolytes which also will help calm koi in stressful times. It will help to reduce some algae.
You will need to be aware that some plants are more sensitive to salt levels then other plants. You will need to test the salt level of your pond before adding any salt. You will add 1 cup of 99.8% pure salt per 100 gallons if you have plants or 2 cups per 100 gallons without plants. Add the salt over a period of a few days. You should not go over .2 or 2ppm unless you are treating for illness. Refer to your salt level test kit which should have came with a chart.
5. I have green algae growing on my pond liner, should I clean this off?
Not if it looks like a moss. This layer of algae is good for the nitrification cycle in your pond. The koi will keep it mowed down to a short level. If the algae is long and stringy such as string algae, then yes, for it can be unsightly and the koi will not eat it..
6. How many koi can I have in my pond?
There are different formula’s for this question but to keep it simple, you can use the surface area to inch ratio or one square foot per 1/2 inch of fish. But the real question to ask, is how much fish waste can my filter break down. The better the filter, then the more fish waste can be broken down in the nitrification cycle. I recommend having a larger filter then the manufactures suggestion. Your koi will grow and produce more waste.
7. What should I do with my koi in the winter?
If your pond is designed properly and deep enough for your climate, then you can leave them in your pond. In Ohio, I recommend a pond that is 4 feet deep. In warmer climates where your pond won’t freeze then 3 feet deep will do. If your pond is not deep enough, you may need to place a heater in it. You will want to keep an opening in your pond if it freezes over, this will allow gas exchange.
8. What is the big deal about water temperature and feeding my koi?
The digestive system of the koi slows down with the colder water temperature therefore your koi can not digest some food as well. Once your pond water temperature has dropped down to 65F, it is best to use a wheat germ or cold weather food. You will need to reduce your koi feeding when the water temperature drops to 65F. Once the water temperature gets down to 55F, it is best to stop feeding them. Your koi will begin to get really slow moving and start to settle at the warmest part of your pond bottom. I recommend that you have a thermometer in your pond so you will know what the water temperature reading is at. I use a non floating thermometer which is tied to the edge of my pond in a non conspicuous location. I use the non floating thermometer because I want to know the temperature near the bottom of my pond where the temperature is more stable.
9. What is this nitrification process you have mentioned?
The nitrification process is the natural biological cycle of breaking down waste in the water. It starts with adding fish to your pond. The fish eat and then produce waste. A bacteria will then eat the waste and turn it into Ammonia which is very toxic to your koi. Another bacteria then eats the ammonia and turns it into Nitrites which is also toxic to your koi. Then another bacteria develops and eats the nitrites and turns it in to Nitrates which your plants will absorb to grow healthy. The nitrification process then repeats its self. To help maintain a healthy nitrification cycle, I use Microbe-lift PL and Microbe-lift Nite out II. You will need a good test kit and test your water weekly. The toxic levels can rise quickly and will kill your koi. New ponds and spring time is highest risk times for your pond but if you use the two products which I mentioned, together, then you should have no problems.
10. How can you tell koi apart from gold fish?
Koi have 2 pairs of barbles or whiskers and gold fish do not any barbles or whiskers.
11. Can I use lime stones to build my koi pond
No, the limestone will cause your pH to go very high. Limestone should never be used in building a water garden or a koi pond. You are best to aim at a pH around 7- 7.5 for the best water for your koi and plants. pH out of this range is very hard for most plants to grow. pH effects your koi in this way; high pH has the same type of effect of chapped skin to us and a low pH has the same effect of sun burn to us. You would be very uncomfortable if you had chapped or sun burnt skin all the time. If you have a pH below 7 you are at more of a pH crash risk which can and will kill your koi. The acceptable level by most experts is 6.5- 8.0. If you need to adjust your pH, it should be done very gradually. Microbe-lift has a great product to stabilize pH which is called 7.5 Buffer Stabilizer. Always follow the manufactures instructions when using these products.
12. My Koi have gone to the bottom of my pond and don’t seem to be moving?
First, what is the temperature of your pond water? If it has dropped down to 55F or lower, then your koi have settled to the bottom and have slowed down. This is normal for in cooler water, they become dormant. Koi do not like cold water. They do not hibernate but will be glad when the water warms up again. If you can heat your pond, then your koi will be very thankful.
13. What is the difference between a mechanical and biological filter for my koi pond?
This seems to be one of the most misunderstood topics for koi pond owners. The main reason in my opinion, is because the water garden industry has flooded the market with so called new advanced filters in the price ranges from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Lets look at the concept of how and what a filter needs to do for the water. The mechanical filter should be designed to remove what I like to call the chunks. This is the decaying matter and fish waste, which you can see floating in pond water. If, you can remove this matter successfully, then you will have a much cleaner and clearer pond. The mechanical filter should be kept clean and cleaning, can be as simple as hosing off the pad or dumping a basket. One form of a mechanical filter is the pond skimmer, which will catch larger debris. Another kind of mechanical filter would be a fine filter pad. Try to avoid foams and floss type pads, although they do a great job of catching small particles. These pads don’t hold up well with repeated cleanings. Use a heavier media such as Matala or Poly-Flo to name a few. These media’s will take a heavy cleaning, over and over again. There is also a vortex filter which is the easiest to maintain but probable the most expense to purchase. Next, is the biological filter. This filter is to be left undisturbed as long as possible. The sole purpose of the biological filter is to break down, Ammonia and Nitrites to make them safe. Biological filters should not be used to catch the chunks, but rather a large surface area and a place for good bacteria to live and grow. The challenge with too many filters, is they try to do both at the same time and end up doing very little. I recommend to have the mechanical and biological filter to be separated in a manner to not disturb my biological system.
14. What kind of food should I feed my Koi?
We use Zeigler’s fish food on the farm. There are a lot of food on the market. I suggest that you avoid food with unnatural color additives and has a high ash content. Look at a high protein level for the warmer months and more of a wheat germ for cooler water temperatures. We carry the Koi Grower which is 42% protein, Koi Fancier which is to help bring out color at 30% protein and a wheat germ at 28% protein. Good food will create less fish waste and help reduce the load on your filter.
15. What kind of pump should I use?
First is the pump for a water garden or a Koi pond? If you are building a koi pond then I only recommend an external pump. These pumps will run the bottom drain and the skimmer. These pumps will give you the least amount of maintenance. We use only the Dolphin brand pumps. They are the most electric friendly pumps which we have found and are made in the USA. If you have a water garden with a skimmer then you can put a submersible pump in the skimmer.
16. I have green water, should I use a UV?
The only sure way to get rid of green water or algae bloom is to use a UV. I say that, because most pond owners do not have a filter large enough to remove all the waste which creates the proper environment for algae bloom or we love to overload our ponds with beautiful koi. You will need to have the correct size of UV for your water flow and the bulbs will need to be changed based of the life of them. If your flow is to fast, it won’t kill the algae and the same is true if the bulbs are at the end of their life cycle.
17. My koi are rubbing against the rocks and pond bottom. What is wrong?
The first then to do is a water test for ammonia and nitrites. Ideally, they are zero but less then .25ppm is still considered safe. If they are above that number then you will need to do a partial water change and/or add “Microbe-Lift Nite-out II”. If you are using city water it is important to use a declorinator to treat the water such as “Microbe-Lift Xtreme”. Then find out why your water quality is off. The water test came back OK. Then you have a bigger issue which may be a bacteria or parasite infection. Unless you do a scrapping and look at it under a microscope we are going to assume it is a common infection. Therefore, we are going to treat your pond or if possible catch the fish which has the issue and treat just it. I prefer to treat the whole pond if it is feasible. We use “Microbe-lift BDS”. Be sure to follow the directions on all the bottles. If your fish do not show signs of improvement in 24-48 hours, then there is a bigger issue at hand. You will need to contact a professional in koi care. The faster your koi is treated, the greater the success of a recovery. If you wait too long then your chances of a recovery is reduced.
18. What kind of filter should I use?
This topic will create a lot of high blood pressure for some in the Koi hobby world. I have been testing different filter systems and the system you use would be based on your pond design and the money you have. I would strongly encourage you to avoid any sand filter. The bead filters must have a good mechanical filter before it or it will plug up. I suggest you save your money and avoid both of these filters.
I like to use simple but easy to maintain systems on any pond which I design. There will be a good skimmer to catch the larger debris and possible a filter pad to catch the smaller debris. I then use a filter falls system which I modify. There will be a 300 micron filter bag in the filter falls intake line to catch the next level of waste. The final stage is filter media for biological waste removal. I also use a U.V. This is a simple answer but there is more to it based on your pond, fish load, amount of water and over all design.
19. Do I need additional aeration with my stream and waterfall?
I always put an air pump and air stone in every pond in which I design and build. Aeration is the best and most productive way to increase the oxygen levels in a pond. The oxygen levels go down when the water temps go up which makes additional aeration very important. Your fish will greatly be thankful for the aeration. I don’s use fountain aeration because it only stirs the upper level of the pond unlike an air stone at the bottom of a pond. I run my aeration system all year.