Koi Hard Truths and Facts!
Koi keeping is not a destination. It is a (lengthy) journey.
We're here to help you get started...
It all begins with the Koi pond. Answer these questions!
1. What is the size Koi pond I want and what is my budget for it? (Hint. Double it. Then double it again).
2. How long do I intend to have the Koi pond for?
3. What is my budget for electricity?
4. What is my budget for water?
5. What is my budget for Koi food, Koi fish?
6. What is my budget for medications? And other expenses?
7. What is my budget for my OWN time that I will spend on my pond?
This will get you into the correct sort of mindset about what it is that is involved in keeping Koi. If you have a budget that is critical for you to stick to in terms of making ends meet in a month, keeping Koi is not for you. The hobby is an indulgence, a whim, a very long term and expensive expression of what it means to keep beautiful fish in an environment conducive to their long term well being (think 20 years plus) and if you cannot aim to have your fish thrive and prosper as opposed to eke out a survival in less than adequate conditions then this is not the hobby for you.
What you will need
Time. Effort. Energy. Some money although it is never going to be less than you might expect.
The Koi is the elephant of the fish world. You cannot keep an elephant in a mouse cage. It's simply cruel and it will not work. Koi do NOT grow to the size of the pond they are in - they typically have a minimum size of 60cm for a 'runt' and around 80cm is a more typical average these days.
You need a minimum of 10 000 litres of well filtered water in which you can stock Koi at a rate of one fish per 1000 to 2000l of water.
With Koi, the fewer your fish the vastly easier the hobby. Top high end hobbyists allow 10 000l+ of water PER FISH to give you an idea. Most of us though prefer a few more Koi in our ponds.
Your filter system should be designed to cope with the maximum load of fish in your pond, even if it takes you several years to reach this loading level.
Koi ponds run their filter systems 24 hours a day. Running swimming pool pumps will set you back a lot more than perhaps you bargained for. 'Open' filter systems that are not pressurised are more efficient to run and can be very much easier to maintain. Such systems are typically gravity fed or pump fed. Examples of these abound on this website.
Keeping Koi is a hobby. Too many people under estimate the demands that a Koi pond can and does make on your time. Koi are living creatures that can survive a long time in a Koi pond and they, like all pets, require attention in terms of feeding, care and maintaining an adequate environment.
We often say 'build the filters for you, because this is where you will be spending your time'. It's so very true. Make your life as easy as possible for maintenance and it becomes a pleasure as opposed to a chore. Well maintained ponds are successful ponds. Poorly maintained ponds are a source of constant frustration and ongoing expense.
You can spend literally any amount of money you like on Koi. They can cost a few hundred rand to a few hundred thousand rand. No matter what you spend on your Koi understand the realities.
1. It is a living creature and it will one day go the same way as all living creatures.
2. It will never increase in value. 'Investing' in Koi is not financially viable. The best Koi in the world, typically the Supreme Grand Champion at the All Japan Show will halve in value the day it wins the show.
3. It helps to think of Koi as living art forms. They start off as small swimming canvasses on which a pattern is formulated and developed. This pattern will eventually peak at some point after which it will then slowly decline.
4. Only the rarest of rare Koi, literally one in a million will ever achieve excellent pattern as a fully grown Koi. They are exceedingly difficult to find and hence they are exceedingly expensive.
5. All Koi are priced on their potential. If a breeder of a Koi can see that the Koi has excellent potential to be a large finished Koi of beauty you will pay the price for the potential of the fish. A breeder is not going to give his fish away for less than he could justifiably obtain for it when it is a larger fish.
6. Hence, a Koi is generally worth what you paid for it. It is then also worth what someone else is prepared to pay for it. Just because a Koi is large and old does not make it valuable. Neither, too does a collection that someone paid 'hundreds of thousands for' merit the same value when it comes time to sell them.
7. Koi are our pets to us. We don't see them as tradable commodities. That said, with the running costs and time costs of a Koi pond, it makes no sense to us to stock a pond with R50 Koi. A good collection that can be truly enjoyed is in our opinion, built over time with one or two good quality fish added to it year in and year out.
We would be remiss in pointing out that you should try and feed the best possible food you can afford to any Koi collection. Good food keeps them in good health. Healthy Koi are much hardier, tougher and disease resistant than Koi that are dealing with a rubbish food. ALL fish require fishmeal as their primary protein source and it is a fundamental fact of life that good quality fish meal is pricey. Hence a good Koi food will never be cheap, owing to the cost of the ingredients therein. Forget about the 'protein content' printed on the side of a bag of food. It is mostly meaningless - in the case of a cheap food the protein content is a) probably wrong and b) almost certainly composed of protein that Koi cannot assilimate or digest in any way.
The best Koi food comes from Japan (we are biased so take that with a very small pinch of salt. It's still true however!).
The Koi pond
A Koi pond is NOT a swimming pool. It is considerably more complex and there is a lot more than can and does go wrong.
Architects, bless them, love the idea of Koi ponds as features. They are not. Koi keeping is a hobby. It requires time, effort and dedication. Architects by and large, bless them, have no concept of this 'filtration thing' or the practicalities of maintaining a Koi pond. We work closely with them in guiding them as to what to do and to allow for.
If the person building your Koi pond has not done it before avoid them. We cannot stress this enough. If your Koi pond builder has built ponds before GET REFERENCES and PHONE these references. This is one of those times when references are EVERYTHING. Please, no matter what you do when considering a Koi pond, do this one thing.
Our list of preferred Koi pond builders, after 12 years in the business, comprises of one name. That is an indictment.
It is sad to say but you can not trust your pond builder - his interest is aligned with finishing the project and moving to the next one as rapidly as possible - YOU are the one who has to live with his 'creation'. Our rule of thumb is to check what filtration is being planned on - swimming pool pumps and anything vaguely resembling a sand filter irrespective of what it is coupled to is generally NOT a good start.
We will work with builders and project manage/advise - our time based costs are insignificant compared to the costs of a badly built pond (for which there is no solution other than truly massive additional costs to fix problems). Remember you are working with a ruddy big concrete structure - these are not easy to change or fix. And doubly so when it is filled with fish.
So whatever it takes, get the pond right! A pond that is right will be a thing of pleasure, a source of joy and a value adding element to your life. A pond that is wrong will be a source of pain, irritation, cost and frustration. You have ONE chance to 'build it right' so take your time, plan it properly and get it done.