Koi Keeping Basics
A brief history of Koi
Nishikigoi, or Koi as they are more commonly known, are the national ornamental pond fish of Japan. They are relatives of the goldfish but are far more colourful and grow a great deal larger - sometimes up to 80cm in garden ponds.
Koi originated back in 800AD where they were bred for food by isolated farmers in what is now the Niigata Prefecture, North West of Tokyo.
Eventually, colourful specimens were noticed in the early farmers. ponds and, from the 1800's, breeding for colour became a highly competitive pastime among the Japanese peasant farming community.
These magnificent fish came to be referred to as 'living jewels' and are now enjoyed as much loved (and long lived) companion pets in garden ponds all over the world.
Koi in your garden
A tranquil garden pond, alive with majestic coloured Koi lends a calming and tranquil ambience to any style of garden. And because these pets are so easy to care for, thousands of Australian families are now enjoying Koi keeping as a relaxing hobby.
Your Koi will quickly recognise your voice and the sound of your footsteps. With a little patience, they will take food from your hand.
Koi are classified into thirteen different varieties and, within those varieties, are dozens of different types. Fish come in basic colours of red, black, white, orange, silver, gold, blue and yellow. Overlaid on these colours are a myriad range of patterns and secondary colours. Some fish have elegant leather skin with very few scales, and others have scales in a pristine pine cone pattern or scales which demand attention by sparkling in the sun like diamonds. Getting to know all the varieties is one of the great adventures of Koi keeping.
Shown above are the thirteen varieties.
Your Questions about Koi
If you're thinking about having your very own Koi pond, you'll find that it's a reasonably straight forward hobby, but there are one or two things you'll need to know before you get started.
The Western Australian Koi Society members are always keen to help a new Koi keeper and will give you 'hands-on' help and advice. Here are some questions which newcomers to the hobby most commonly ask.
How Big Does My Pond Have To Be?
Koi can be kept in a pond of almost any size, but in smaller ponds their growth will be stunted and their health and colour impaired as they grow larger. A good rule of thumb is to start with a pond no less than 3 metres long, 1-2 metres wide and at least 1.0 metre deep.
With the right filtration, this will take about eight healthy 30cm fish. In larger ponds, more fish can be accommodated and they will grow larger and faster and in better health. For large fish, allow about 500 - 1,000 litres of pond water per fish. Many people are now converting unused swimming pools to Koi ponds.
Do I Have To Filter The Water?
Absolutely. Your filter and pump should run all year round, 24 hours a day. Today's high efficiency pumps keep electricity costs to a minimum. You can make your own filter quite easily or you can choose one of the proprietary Koi pond filters that are available. They key is to ask for advice BEFORE you get started on your pond and filter.
How Fast Do Koi Grow?
In properly filtered water, a small fish of 15cm can reach 30cm in one year and some fish grow a good deal faster. They usually reach their maximum size of around 65-80cm within 5-10 years and can live to a ripe old age of more than 100 years.
What Do I Feed Them and How Often?
The Koi Society sales table deals in good quality koi food at reasonable prices. They are an excellent basis for feeding, but variety of diet will improve the health, colour and growth of your Koi. They love cooked vegetables (especially pumpkin and peas) as well as salad vegetables, wholemeal bread and cooked porridge. Animal fats should always be avoided. Your Koi's appetite will vary with the water temperature and they can be fed 4-6 times daily to support high growth for showing purposes. This is in the heat of summer. Unlike any other pet, they can go for several weeks without any food at all!
What about Maintenance?
This depends on you. A well designed pond and filter needs far less maintenance then a domestic swimming pool - usually less than 10 minutes per week. However, a poorly designed pond or filter will be a real headache for both you and your Koi. That's why it makes sense to get proper advice from the Koi Society BEFORE you start.
Can I Breed My Koi?
You certainly can. In fact, this is an area of Koi keeping that is an enduring source of pleasure and satisfaction. Your Koi will spawn naturally in your pond, usually at the approach of summer. But Koi don't make great parents and usually eat their own eggs! That's why a second smaller pond is needed for raising the babies.
Help When You Need It
Remember that the Koi Society is there to help its members. All you have to do is ask. Contact the Koi Society to make sure you get the right advice BEFORE you start on a new pond. That way, your new Koi pond will give you and your family years of pleasure.
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