An Introduction to Koi, Getting Your Koi Pond Ready for the Winter Months, Facts About Koi, And A History of Koi Fish.

Koi fish are a wonderful pet to have. They can be trained to eat from your hand, and will even recognize you and greet you as you near the pond.

We would like to welcome you to the wonderful world of Koi. While many people don’t view fish as pets, they can indeed become treasured members of your family. Koi will let you feed them from your hand, and can even be let you pet them once you have earned their trust. These are all behaviors that you would expect from a pet.

Koi is a domesticated pet that was actually bred by man. The wild relative of the Koi is the black common carp, which can be found throughout Europe. These black common carp, Cyprinus carpio, are thought to have been brought to China, Korea, and then Japan to be used as a general food source.

Carp began to be transported to China approximately 2000 years ago. As time passed they continued to move east. The fish did not arrive in Japan for about 1000 years. Carp were kept in rice patties to serve as an additional source of protein for the farmer and their family.

Being confined to rice paddies soon caused a certain amount of inbreeding in these fish, which in brought about the brilliant colors we now associate with the Koi. Since they were beautiful and interesting the carp with beautiful colors would be kept by the farmers.

The Japanese term nishikigoi, which translates brocaded carp, was given to these fish. The short form of nishikigoi is Koi. Koi soon began to be seen as a symbol of strength. There is even a legend that King Shoko gave Confucius a Koi on the occasion of the birth of his first son.

Koi can now be found around the world. You can find thriving Koi industries in Southeast Asia, the United States, and Israel. Koi’s bred outside of Japan do not come with the official Japanese nishikigoi pedigree and are therefore less expensive.

Displaying Your Koi

Your garden pond can be brought to life by displaying a beautiful palate of red, orange, yellow, gold, platinum, white, gray, blue, and black Koi fish.

Koi are very actually very good pets that can learn to recognize you, eat from your hand, and even nuzzle your finger.

Koi are always bred to be seen from above, and there are 14 different classes. Many Koi are now bred in the United Sates, while some breeds come from Japan, China, Israel, and Singapore. Baby Koi can be purchased for a local dealer when they are just a few months old and often cost as little as $3.00 each. There are, however, prized Koi specimens that actually sell for upwards of $20,000 each.

You local Koi deal is usually the best place to begin when you are thinking about starting a Koi pond. Your dealer should be able to show you a variety of Koi, steering you toward the ones with the most desirable color and shape. If you are lucky your dealer may even let you take a try at feeding the fish in the shop from your hand.

Almost all high quality dealers are very knowledgeable and can give you advice on building your pond as well as picking the right fish. Many have excellent referrals for landscape professionals who can create your pond. When your pond is built they will be able to offer recommendations for the right fish to match your budget and your experience level.

There are some Koi dealers that allow you to purchase inexpensive Koi (in the $3 -$5 range) and the trade up to more valuable fish as you gain in experience. High quality dealers want your Koi pond to succeed using fish that they sell, although not all will offer the trade in option. Some Koi dealers can actually ship fish to you using overnight delivery by placing the Koi in a container of super oxygenated water.

Using this technique very few fish are lost during the shipping process. You can also purchase other items from dealers, such as commercial Koi food and pond plants. Many dealers also offer helpful advice about water quality and seasonal feeding plans for your particular climate. Dealers can also help you test your water to ensure that it does not contain elements that could be harmful to your fish.

A History of Koi Fish

Koi fish are a very popular variety of the common carp fish that originated in China and then spread through Japan as a domesticated ornamental fish to be used in garden ponds.

You most often find Koi used as ornamental fish in garden ponds. They are a variety of carp and their domestication originated in China and then quickly spread through Japan.

With the exception of their large size they closely resemble their relative, the goldfish. Koi are considered good luck so people love to have them in their gardens, or even tattooed onto their bodies.

The term Koi is actually Japanese even thought the fish originated in China. Koi is the Japanese word for carp, and is used for any carp, whether beautiful and colorful or dull and grey. In Japan they actually use the word Nishikigo, which means brocaded carp, for what we commonly call the Koi.

Back in the 19th century in the Niigata prefecture of Japan breeding carp became a popular hobby. Colorful carp were captured by farmers working in the fields and then bred to become the highly ornamental fish we know today. The colorful carp were actually quite vulnerable in the wild, as their color made them easy prey for a variety of predators. Their lot in life changed dramatically as they become the prized possession found in garden ponds.

The most noted type of Koi by the 20th century was the red and white Kohaku, although there were a wide variety of patterns and colors established. The popularity did not really begin to spread beyond Asia until the Niigata Koi was placed on exhibit during the annual exhibition in Tokyo in 1914.

Once it become safe and easy to transport Koi around the world keeping and raising Koi become a popular hobby all over. You will probably need to purchase your Koi fish at a store that specializes in Koi or exotic fish species, as they are not usually available from your local pet store.

Facts About Koi

There are two main factors to be considered when determining the value of Koi: their shape and the way they look when viewed from above.

Koi were specifically bred to be viewed from above, as they were created to be pond fish. Koi that are for sale at aquarium shops will usually be small and displayed in tanks. A store that specializes in Koi will usually display them in ponds. This enables you to get a good view of the shape of the Koi while it is swimming.

A Koi has the ability to grow up to 40 inches in length, although a baby Koi starts out as a little fry of only about 1/16 of an inch. Some Koi are as big as a large salmon. Koi are not naturally aggressive fish, although you will some jostling about during feeding.

Koi fish do not have a true stomach, just a long belly. This means that any food that is consumed that is too much for their belly just comes back out. Those who have Koi will tell you that they are always ready to eat, as there is no off switch when it comes to consumption. Koi do have teeth which are located in their jaw areas.

Koi are fairly discriminating eaters and will actually pull food into their mouth before deciding whether they really want to eat it. Food they like will go on to be chewed while anything they don’t like will just be spit out. Koi’s have two sets of barbells on each side of their months, one large set and one small set. These are feelers which operate just like they do on a catfish. Koi have big mouths which face downward, as they are bottom feeders. The design of their mouths is perfect for hunting around the bottom of the pond for food.

If a Koi is spooked or doesn’t like the water it can actually jump. In often takes a Koi quite a while to adjust to new water. Koi can actually jump right out of the water and die during the adjustment period to a new pond. A new Koi pond should always be covered with a net to prevent this from happening.

Often Koi at a show will flip around in the water and jump, a behavior called flashing. This is typically due to the change in water environment, even if the new water is of perfect quality. Sometimes jumping Koi is a sign of fish desperately trying to escape water of poor quality.

It is important to test your Koi’s water regularly to ensure that there is very little nitrate, and no ammonia or nitrite. You can pick up a simple to use water test kit at just about any aquarium shop. Flashing could also indicate the presence of parasites on the fish which are irritating their skin.

Getting Your Koi Pond Ready for the Winter Months

Early fall is the perfect time to begin preparing your Koi pond for the winter ahead. Here are some helpful tips on winterizing your pond.

Staring in early fall you will want to pay careful attention to water temperature, as this is the indicator that changes will need to be made in your pond. Be sure you are watching water temperature as opposed to air temperature. To help ensure a healthy pond come spring a water thermometer is vital. In order to be able to easily read your thermometer it is best to tie a string to one end of the thermometer then attach it to a rock on the side of your pond.

Fish Care

As the water temperature in your pond drops to the lower 70s it is time to switch your fish food to a wheat germ based food. This food is much more easily digested by your fish, and colder water temperature makes it more difficult for your fish to digest their food. While your fish will need to add some bulk in preparation of winter it is important not to overfeed them.

Whether you feed your fish once or twice a day, never give them more food that they can eat in a three to five minute span. Any left over food should be promptly removed from the pond. A fish processes food using bacteria in its digestive system. These bacteria can no longer do their job once the water temperature drops below 50. Stop feeding your fish entirely as soon as the water hits this temperature.

Plant Care

To prevent debris from building up in the pond any dying plant material should be trimmed and removed. Pots should be divided and replanted in the fall. This should give your plant plenty of time to heal before the onset of cold temperatures. You are likely to get additional blooms from your plant the following summer if your plant is properly potted and fertilized in fall. Your climate will dictate what needs to happen with your plants. In colder climates tropical plants, as well as some surface and submerged plants, will need to be brought inside or discarded when the temperatures drop below 60°. Lilies should be trimmed and bog plants should be removed before your first frost. Plants can be placed on the bottom of the pond if it is sufficiently deep to prevent them from freezing.

Water Change

Fall is an excellent time to change the water in your pond, especially since you are already out there moving plants and fish around. Excess debris that is allowed to stay in your pond will decompose, producing hydrogen sulfide (a toxic gas) and using up valuable oxygen. Use a find weave aquarium net to sift out excess sludge. Be sure to leave a small amount of sludge in your pond for those inhabitants of your pond that prefer to burrow.

While water changes can occur at any time during the fall, they will be less stressful on your fish if conducted before the water temperature drops below 60°. You may want to try a 50 percent water change on one day, and repeat it the next day if your pond is still too murky. Always remember to use a de-chlorinator if your tap water contains chlorine.

Debris Control

As soon as the leaves begin to fall your entire pond should be covered with mesh. Netting out every leave by hand is an almost impossible task, so it is much better to cover the pond with a net. Once it is stretched out across the top of the pond and anchored to the sides it will barely be visible. The netting should always be above the water surface.

Dump the leaves off as they accumulate by removing the anchors from one side and turning the net over. Don’t forget to re-anchor the net when you are finished. If you prefer not to install a net you will need to remove debris daily with a skimmer.

Using a Heater

The net should be left on top of the pool until it begins to freeze over for those in colder climates. A heater can be put in place after you remove the net. Rather than heating up the entire pond a heater simply keeps a small area from freezing. This allows oxygen to enter the pond and toxic gases to escape.

Pumps and aerators will need to be run year round by those in warmer climates where the water does not freeze over. It helps to lift the pump and aerator a few feet from the bottom of the pond if the water temperature drops below 40°.