Koi Tutorial Lecture
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Koi Tutorial Lecture


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Koi Tutorial Lecture By Douglas Dahl ZNAOC Koi Club Revision 7/15/02 I have been active in the koi hobby since 1986 and have been a certified koi Judge since 1995. I have given this 4 hour lecture plus question and answer session once each year for many years. Several interested people have not been able to attend the single day event so I created this lecture text for those who were not able to attend but still want the information. This lecture is intended for the new koi hobbyist and will touch all aspects of koi ponds and koi care but not any one topic in depth. For in depth discussion of Koi Diseases & Medication, I highly recommend Dr. Eric Johnson’s book “Koi Health and Disease”. For in depth discussion on building ponds and filters, I recommend the AKCA Guides on these subjects from the AKCA Bookstore on the web or by mail thru the advertisement in each KOIUSA magazine. Each of the topics I will discuss has been covered in depth by articles in KOIUSA magazine over the years. An index of these topics is available by mail thru an advertisement in KOIUSA or on the KOIUSA website and past magazines can be ordered for $6.00 each from KOIUSA. Much of the information I will present is also contained in the AKCA books Practical Koi Keeping 1,2 & 3 that are compilations of articles on these subjects. These books are also available from the AKCA Bookstore. The opinions presented in this lecture are my own experience or information ...


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Koi Tutorial Lecture By Douglas Dahl ZNAOC Koi Club Revision 7/15/02      I have been active in the koi hobby since 1986 and have been a certified koi Judge since 1995. I have given this 4 hour lecture plus question and answer session once each year for many years. Several interested people have not been able to attend the single day event so I created this lecture text for those who were not able to attend but still want the information. This lecture is intended for the new koi hobbyist and will touch all aspects of koi ponds and koi care but not any one topic in depth. For in depth discussion of Koi Diseases & Medication, I highly recommend Dr. Eric Johnson’s book “Koi Health and Disease”. For in depth discussion on building ponds and filters, I recommend the AKCA Guides on these subjects from the AKCA Bookstore on the web or by mail thru the advertisement in each KOIUSA magazine. Each of the topics I will discuss has been covered in depth by articles in KOIUSA magazine over the years. An index of these topics is available by mail thru an advertisement in KOIUSA or on the KOIUSA website and past magazines can be ordered for $6.00 each from KOIUSA. Much of the information I will present is also contained in the AKCA books Practical Koi Keeping 1,2 & 3 that are compilations of articles on these subjects. These books are also available from the AKCA Bookstore. The opinions presented in this lecture are my own experience or information derived from articles written by experts in each area printed in KOIUSA or books on koi like Dr. Johnson’s book described above. There is no intention to represent the Associated Koi Clubs of America in this lecture. If you have reason to question any statement in this lecture, I will try to provide my source of information to your request for it. This lecture may be copied for other koi people but may not be sold. I did not prepare this lecture text for profit but for the expansion of koi knowledge to further the koi hobby.     I will proceed thru the topics in the order usually requested by vote of people attending my yearly tutorial lecture.  Ponds    Most people attend my tutorial lecture because they bought a home with an existing pond or are considering the construction of a pond in their yard. The second group is luckier because they still have time to avoid many common mistakes in pond and filter design. The first thing you need to decide before starting to design a pond is what do you really want from your pond? Do you want a landscape feature only? Do you want the sound of moving water from a waterfall to add sound to your visual treat? Do you want to be able to watch large fish swim gracefully to add relaxation to your view or do you really just want a water garden with plants and maybe some goldfish? Do you want to buy expensive koi to compete in shows for prizes as a hobby? The answers to these questions are critical before you take the next step so think about them. The consequences of the answers are mostly financial in the cost of building and running a pond. Small water garden ponds, say less than 1000 gallons, may or may not have a waterfall. If they just contain water plants and some fancy goldfish, they do not require 24hr/day pumping of water and do not require a filter. They may have a fountain squirting water to aerate the water for the goldfish or no pump at all. If this is the kind of water feature you really want, contact Van Ness Water Gardens in Upton, CA for their catalog or your nearest water garden dealer for instruction on how to build, properly stock and maintain a balanced water garden. The purpose of this lecture is koi ponds although some of the materials and processes also could  1
apply to water gardens. I recommend koi ponds to be at least 1000 gallons (8.5ft by 4ft with 4 ft average depth) and they cost more to build than small water gardens. Koi ponds DO require a filter to clean the contaminants the koi put into the water and a pump to feed the filter running 24 hr/day to maintain the bacteria in the filters costing more electricity than water gardens. I will discuss more on cost when we get to the discussion on pumps.     How Large and how deep? - So, you want to build a pond for koi. The next decision is how large of a pond. The general rule of koi ponds is “build the largest koi pondt he first time that fits into your landscape, budget and koi collection plans”. The larger the pond, the less sensitive it is to small mistakes in water or pond management. However, the larger the pond the more it will cost to build and in electricity to run the pump for reasonable water turn over rate thru the filters. Not to mention the fact, 90% of existing ponds become overstocked with koi for the size of the pond. When you think about it, koi in a wild or natural lake have thousands of gallons of water each. A conservative rule of thumb for koi pond stocking is one 12 inch koi for each 200 gallons of water and each 10 square feet of surface area. You can cheat on the 10 square foot rule by adding aeration of the water with a waterfall or air pump with air stones. You can cheat on the 200 gallons per 12 inch koi by having an oversized or larger filter system for the size of the pond as koi dealers must do to keep very high stocking rates. More on this in the filter discussion. Koi ponds should be a minimum of 3 feet deep sloping to greater depth at the bottom drain. 4 to 6 feet depth is better for several reasons. Koi feel less stressed from potential predators and their bodies grow better with greater pond depth. Greater depth yields more water volume. Greater depth provides a more stable water temperature. However, larger and deeper koi ponds make it more difficult to catch koi. Raccoons and Blue Herons love fish ponds 18 inches deep. We call these ponds buffets.  Where to Place the Pond? - Do you want to only be able to enjoy this water feature when you are outside on your patio or do you want to enjoy this feature during the winter months from the warm environment of your home? I suggest the second choice based on my personal experience. So place your pond where you can see it from windows or glass doors in popular living space like dens or kitchens. This will also give you more opportunity to hear fish jumping while trying to tell you there is a problem in your pond like parasites. Local building codes probably restrict how close a pond can be built to the property line (8 feet in my city). You will need a pipe to dump water from filters being cleaned to the sewer so figure that into your design. Yes, you can dump the dirty water into gardens and onto the lawn as long as you never put salt into your koi pond and I can tell you now, you will use salt someday to counter parasites. So plan for a sewer dump. Do not place the pond under deciduous trees with leaves if you can avoid it. If you do, plan to clean the leaf trap or surface skimmer daily. Ponds can be below or above ground or partially both. The ground helps to stabilize the water temperature in the pond. Note- many city codes require locked or self closing gates and doors from homes to the backyard, high fences and perhaps even a wrought iron fence around ponds to keep children from drowning. So check the local code requirements. Do not place koi ponds where rain runoff can get into the pond from hillsides, adjacent ground or from roofs. Add gutters or French drains to resolve these issues if necessary. How does this water feature fit into the overall landscape plan for your yard? Balance of pond to gardens or lawn is usually important in any landscape.  What Shape and Design for the Pond? – Ponds can be formal shapes like long boxes and round bowls or informal Japanese style garden ponds as long as there are no dead water corners  2
or stagnant locations. However, ponds imitating bent rivers or L shape are best for koi because the koi can’t see around the corner and will spend all of their time swimming back and forth from one end of the pond to the other looking for food. This exercise is good for koi. The old style koi pond with downflow, gravel filter at one end of the pond separated by a block wall that stops 6-12 inches below the surface accomplishes this same curiosity in the koi who can’t see thru the block wall so are constantly swimming into the filter area. Koi in a round or kidney shaped pond will do Ok but jets may be needed to make the koi swim more against a current for better growth and health. Any shape pond can work but there are some rules. Make the walls vertical or almost vertical. If you add a ledge 18 inches deep to place water plants into your koi pond you are providing access to raccoons and blue herons to your pond and koi. If you must add plants, use the floating plastic baskets designed for water lilies and do not build a ledge into your pond if you can avoid it. If you must have a ledge, there are electric fence devices and motion detectors with either sound or spraying water to combat these predators to some degree. But even with them, you may lose some koi to predators. Local building codes usually treat koi ponds like swimming pools if they are over 3 feet deep. So the rules for concrete swimming pools including permits, rebar, bond beam perimeter and grounding of rebar will apply. You should also ground your pump. You MUST use GFI or Ground Fault Interrupter plugs or circuit breakers for any electrical used for a pond for not only the safety of the koi but for yourself. Many of the materials, processes and codes applying to swimming pools will also apply to koi ponds but DO NOT let a swimming pool contractor design your pond and filter system. Use someone that knows pond design or learn and design it yourself and then use swimming pool contractors to build to your design. Koi pond and swimming pool systems have much in common but the differences are very important to proper functioning and maintenance of a koi pond. One difference is a koi pond requires a bowl shaped bottom sloping to a bottom drain with no corners or flat areas for proper automatic bottom cleaning. Swimming pools have flat bottoms that would require constant cleaning for a koi pond owner. Swimming pools use expensive to operate, high Hp pumps and pressure filters intended to mechanically filter the water for 4-5 hours each day. Koi ponds use inexpensive to operate, low Hp pumps feeding filters that grow beneficial bacteria to treat the water 24 hrs/day. Always design 3-4 inch bottom drains into your pond at the far end from the water source or waterfall and every 20 feet across the bottom with the bottom of the pond sloping to these drains. A surface skimmer will also be required to keep the surface free from the dust and debris on the surface of your pond. Place the skimmer furthest from the waterfall or where the wind usually blows across the pond for maximum efficiency. Either a swimming pool skimmer or a no niche skimmer may be used. The no niche skimmer requires pump suction to operate properly. A swimming pool type skimmer line is often Y branched into a line from a bottom drain so the flow from the bottom drain pulls the flow from the skimmer. Rocks, bricks or material surrounding the pond must be raised to not allow any runoff form the surrounding area. A 10inch drop from the top of the rocks surrounding the pond to the surface of the water will resolve any raccoon or cat problems and will usually keep the koi from jumping out.  Pond Materials – Prefabricated fiberglass ponds are available up to 2000 gallons and can be installed above or below ground. PVC or Butyl rubber liners are also available to create in ground ponds and will last 20 or more years. Bottom drains are available for liner ponds. Many ponds are made with concrete blocks placed on a concrete base. However most ponds are concrete, shot-crete or gunnite. Concrete ponds with Red Label additive will harden quickly and tight so no sealer is required and they can be filed immediately. Shot-crete or gunnite ponds are porous and will require a sealer on the inside of plaster, Thoroseal (plastic cement 3 
compound), Hecht rubber or other sealer compounds for water basins. Hecht rubber requires proper surface preparation and primer for proper adhesion. All concrete, shot-crete and plaster ponds will require Muriatic acid wash to remove lime and lye from the surface layers or gallons of vinegar in the first water fill to do this task over 3-4 weeks. People have also laid their own fiberglass pond using resin and matting because they could do it in stages. Plaster must be applied in one application to provide a good seal and must not ever be exposed above the water line so the top 8-10 inches of your pond will probably require Thoroseal which is not sensitive to cracking with air exposure like plaster. All of these products work if instructions are followed. Caution – do not ever allow treated wood to come in contact with pond water, it contains arsenic. Bare redwood or cedar is OK if not treated. Know what is in your stain or surface coating on decks that could have runoff into your pond. Even some decorative bricks have been known to poison ponds when in constant contact with pond water. Do not use copper or galvanized pipe for koi pond plumbing, use PVC or ABS plastic pipe. Some brass valves are probably OK.  Pumps and Skimmers – You next have to estimate the volume of your pond in cubic feet using equations for the shape or by drawing top and side views of your pond to scale on graph paper and counting the squares. Each cubic foot equals 7.5 gallons of water so find out how many total gallons of water your pond will hold. Remember, you will need to keep the water level 10 inches from the top of the rocks, bricks or what ever material you have surrounding the edge of the pond to keep critters out and fish in the pond. Koi can jump higher than you think and many have jumped out of a pond when startled. Once you know the gallonage of your pond, then select a pump that will turn over that amount of gallons within 2 hours. Less time is better. So if you have a 4000 gallon pond, add 25% for the water in the rest of the system and filters for a total of 5000 gallons and select a pump that can pump at least 2500 gallons per hour or dividing by 60 minutes gives about 42 gallons per minute. It is much, much better to use two pumps for your pond for the following reasons. First, you can plumb your system so if one pump goes out you can switch the total filter system to the other pump. Second, when you go to treat your pond with chemicals for parasites or bacteria, you will need two pumps to run the pond and the separate filter system. A 1/6 Hp pump will deliver 42 gpm and will cost about $350 to purchase and about $15-20 per month to run depending on your electricity rates. High efficiency ¼ Hp Lim brand Wave pumps are available for about the same purchase cost and run for about $35 per month electricity and pump 80-100 gpm depending on the head. What is head? Head is the distance in vertical feet the pump must raise the water from the pump to wherever it is going, say to your filter. For above ground tank filters this is probably around 6 feet. But there are losses in the piping due to friction so you may have another 5 feet of head due to these losses. So when you look at a pump curve, you see a curved line showing less pump flow for higher heads because it takes more work for the pump to push the water higher. Look at the point on the curve with a head of about 10-12 feet to determine your true water flow. Always use 2 inch diameter PVC piping into your pump and from your pump to the filter to reduce head loss. Always use a minimum of schedule 40 PVC pipe or ABS that is the black plastic piping for drains. Minimize the use of sharp 90 degree elbows by using two 45 degrees together, ABS generous 90 degree sweeps or PVC flex pipe. PVC flex pipe must be painted to protect it from the sun’s UV. Koi pond pumps are not the 1.5 – 2 Hp monster pumps used for swimming pools. Koi pond pumps are good at pushing water but not good at sucking water so koi pond pumps should be placed in a water tight vault below the water line of the pond or pre-filter to always maintain positive water head pressure on the inlet. Pumps will suck down a pre-filter 1-3 inches before equilibrium is obtained on incoming water from the pond and outgoing water from the pump. If you must place a koi pump above the water line of  4
the source, install a flow directional gate or check valve to keep water in the pipe going to the pump when the electricity goes off. This will keep the pump primed with water and avoid the pump sucking air when the power returns. This check valve should be below water line. This type of valve is also important if you forgot to design a bottom drain into your pond and you are bringing the water up and over the edge of the pond to the pump. You must keep water in the line going into the pump when the power goes off to have the pump work properly when the power comes back on. Pumps don’t pump air very well. Swmiming pool pumps resolve this with high suction, high Hp pump design. In-pond submersible pumps like Cal or Rio pumps can work for koi ponds. However, be forewarned, I have had Cal pumps leak oil and also leak small amounts of electricity into the water which will damage the koi. But I use these pumps to move water from one place to another and am always handling the pump. If placed into the pond and left alone, this may take years or may never happen with Cal pumps. Rio pumps are ceramic without oil so that issue is resolved but they will destroy themselves if run while dry without water present. High efficiency koi pumps are usually available in 1/15, 1/6, ¼ and 1/3 Hp models. Several manufacturers are available with good pumps but I can recommend the W. Lim pumps series called Wave pumps or Dragon pumps for efficient pumps as the ones I chose for maximum efficiency and water flow.  Waterfalls – Waterfalls add a lot of charm and relaxation to a pond. Make sure the sound is blocked to the side neighbor’s yard. The sound is usually blocked to the rear by the hillside the waterfall is on. Liners work well for the base of waterfalls to block water loss. Rocks can be mortared over the liner and sealed with Thoroseal. Volcanic rock will wick water so be careful if you use it. Whatever materials you use for your waterfall, make sure they do not contain any poisonous compounds because the water will erode the materials. Many small drops aerate the water better than few large drops in a waterfall.  Filters system will work much better and be maintained more easily if you pre-screen out the large particulate debris in a pre-filter usually filed with brushes or matting. The pre-filter needs a bottom drain to drain this large amount of debris to a sump and eventually to the sewer weekly. I have a sump pump with a float valve to automatically pump the sump to the sewer. This also allows me to put a standpipe in my pre-filter at pond water level to deal with torrential rains which will overflow thru the standpipe into the sump, turn on the float valve and pump the water automatically into the sewer. I never have to worry about my pond overflowing in torrential rainstorms. Properly designed filters can be cleaned in 15-20 minutes each week making pond maintenance easy. Cleaning filters depends on how much food you are feeding your koi since you are really feeding the filter with the koi as an intermediary. During the winter, I clean my filters once per month at most. During the summer I clean 2 of my 6 filters weekly. There are many, many prefab filters and filter materials available today from matting, high density foam, plastic ribbon, Bubble bead, plastic Bioball and Trickel filters in addition to the old favorite, gravel filter. All of this media will provide area for beneficial bacteria to grow that will turn ammonia waste from the koi into Nitrite and then Nitrite into harmless Nitrate in the water. New filters usually require 2-3 months to properly seed bacteria before the pond water will be safe for koi. But you need the ammonia from koi to start this process or some people have suggested starting a filter with no koi and ammonia from a bottle. Ammonia can be treated chemically by adding Amquel water treatment but high Nitrites can only be corrected by water changes. The biological process starts with an ammonia spike in the water followed by a F –rits, ew ende ot idcssu s arp-eiftl 5re .   eY,s  aiftlre ebofer ht eiftlre .  oYru iftlre 
Nitrite spike in a day or two. A filter can be quickly seeded with bacteria if you collect buckets of dirty water from a friends filter during cleaning and pour this dirty water into your new filter. Enough bacteria to seed your new filter within 1 week will be transferred. But, beware, you will also get any bacterial diseases or parasites that person had along with the water so make sure your friends pond is stable without problems. Filters must run 24 hours per day to maintain the live bacteria. In case of a power failure, the bacteria will start dying off within 2-4 hours and most will be gone in 8-12 hours due to lack of oxygen from water flowing thru the filter. Many koi hobbyists have gas generators to run the pond in the event of a long power outage. Another approach is to use storage batteries to run air pumps and stones in the bottom of the filter to provide oxygen. Some of these automatic systems are very clever. Prefab filters like the BubbleBead or Bioball are much more compact than gravel filters but also much more expensive. The gravel filter is the easiest to build yourself as I did. The general rule for gravel filters is 2gpm of flow for each square foot of filter surface area. So our example of a 5000gallon system with a pump flow of 42 gpm says we need 42/2 = 21 square feet of filter. Two filter tanks 4feet in diameter again is the answer providing 24 square feet of surface area. Or seven 2 foot diameter filter tanks could be used to obtain 21 sq ft. It is always better to have multiple filters instead of one in case you over clean one filter you still have another functioning. All filters are in parallel flow and not in series flow for maximum efficiency. The plastic barrel is 4foot diameter cost $75 but the transport cost another $50 so say $130 per barrel. A 4foot diameter barrel provides 12 square foot of surface area. First, you plumb the tank to the sewer line and also to the return to the pond or to the top of the waterfall using 3 or 4inch pipe. PVC tank fittings are used to plumb thru the wall of the tank. I also put bottom drains and valves on my tanks in case I ever want to drain a tank. Next on our Upflow, gravel filter is the water delivery pipe that is a 4 foot length of 4 inch diameter ABS with a flat end cap bonded to one end. The end cap is then predrilled with 8 holes 1 inch in diameter equally spaced. Into these holes we will bond 1inch diameter PVC spokes to span from the center of our tank to within 3 inches of the outer wall. Each spoke has 3-4 holes ½ inch diameter drilled along the length of each spoke to spread the water and an end cap. This wagon wheel system is placed into the tank with the spokes on the bottom. On top of the spokes is placed a grid of some kind to support the gravel. Burt Ballou who designed this filter system drills hundreds of ½ inch diameter holes into a 4 foot diameter disc of PVC with a 4 inch hole in the center of the disc for the 4 foot ABS pipe. I found the disc too expensive and too time consuming and purchased two rectangles 2x4 feet of PVC grate 1 ¼ inch thick from Laguna Koi Ponds for $25 each and cut the 4 foot diameter semicircle our of each 2x4 grate. This grate or disc goes on top of the spider in the tank. On top of this grate or disc goes the cleaning system consisting of a pair of 2 inch PVC risers and horizontal T with ¾ inch spokes about 3 inches apart to cover the bottom of the tank. Each spoke has 1/16” holes drilled every 3 inches along the length alternating to the adjacent spoke so every 1.5 inches there is a hole and each spoke has a cap on the end. This air system is made up in two semi circles covering the bottom of the tank with a 2inch diameter PVC riser next to the 4inch center pipe in the tank. On top of each 2inch air riser, you install a 2” PVC open/close valve. This pair of valves allow you to select this filter instead of the next one to clean with a 2Hp Jacuzzi air pump that produces 90 cubic feet per minute of air to bubble up thru the gravel taking all dead algae or bacteria cells with it to the surface to be overflowed to the sewer. Now is the time to add 7 inches of 1.5inch river rock on top of the grate and the air cleaning pipes. Next goes 17 inches of ½ inch crushed granite. Burt prefers the smooth ½ inch or 3/8inch gravel. Warning note – you can’t just go down to the local rock quarry or material dealer and buy ½ inch granite and throw it into your filter. You will need to sieve the small stuff from the ½ inch gravel and also to wash the dirt off of the gravel before putting it into your  6
filter. I know one person who did not do either of these who ended up with a 4foot diameter 17inch thick concrete plug for a filter when the small particles and dirt formed together to create concrete. On top of the gravel I place 7inches of #12 silica sand to mechanically polish the water. Then you simply plumb the 2inch line from your pump to the center 4inch diameter pipe and plumb the 2 inch line from your Jacuzzi blower to the two 2inch PVC air system pipes. It is a good idea to put an adjustable gate valve on the water inlet line to your filter so you have the opportunity to balance the amount of water going to several filters from the pump. Swimming pool high rate sand filters are mechanical filters and not suitable for a koi pond plus they require too much pump for efficient operation. However they can be modified with Bioballs or plastic media and efficient pumps can then be used. Also in the filter category are foam fractionators or protein skimmers as they are called in the aquarium industry. Foam fractionators bubble out DOC or dissolved organic carbons floating in your pond water making it more clear. This material is not known to be a problem with koi but clear water is always appreciated. A foam fractionator I believe will also help to reduce your Nitrate levels. Ultra Violet (UV) systems are also included in the filter category. These systems kill algae cells and also some bacteria if the flow is slow enough to give the correct water contact time. UV systems can be purchased for any size pond and usually require a bypass line from your pump. I consider both foam fractionators and UV systems luxuries for a koi pond and certainly not essential. Your filter will determine how many koi you can have in your pond. Remember, as a koi doubles in length from 12 inches to 24 inches the amount of ammonia waste that koi puts into the water goes up by a factor of 8 or so. So one 24inch koi equals eight 12inch koi or sixty-four 6inch koi in waste products.  dnoPLoading Equivalent Koi Ammonia Loading  Data              koi length  No. of koi   nature - one 12" fish / 1 million gallons  without tail  equivalent   fishing lake - one 12" fish / 100,000 gallons  (inches)  to a 12" koi   breeder pond - one 12" fish / 1,000 gallons  2  90   conservative koi pond - one 12" koi / 200 gallons 4  36   conservative koi pond - one 12" koi / 10 sq ft surface 6  8        8  4        10  2        12  1        16  1/2        24  1/8         32  1/16                            This is how people find their koi dying after several uneventful years of raising koi. Their koi stocking level has outstripped their filter capacity. Koi will usually grow 6-12 inches the first year, 4-6 inches the second year, 2 inches each year after up to about 22 inches and then ½ inch per year until they reach their max length. Food, water quality and pond size will affect koi growth but genetics will usually win. Solid color koi tend to grow to large size, multi colored koi are more hybrids and tend to grow slower and are weaker physically like poodles.   7     
Water – The key to successful koi care is excellent water. First, source water usually contains chlorine or even chloramines that must be removed to be safe for koi. Some koi people believe they can have a small constant flow of fresh water into their pond and the filter will make it safe for the koi. Note – they also have an overflow to the sewer to maintain pond level. This may work but I do not trust it so I always use Amquel when I add water to my pond. Novaqua or Dechlor will also work for chlorine but not for chloramines. Many people have killed all of their koi because they forgot they were filling the pond and chlorinated their koi to death. So set that timer and keep it with you. There are automatic fill systems available but anything mechanical can break or fail. The most important measurement in a koi pond is temperature in my opinion. Pond water temperature will tell you: if the temperature is swinging too much day to night, how much to feed your koi, when you are in the 58-62 F Aeromonas Alley danger region discussed in the Disease section and how many days to space treatments for parasites to make sure you have broken the cycle. So go down to Radio Shack and buy the indoor/outdoor digital thermometer with a 6foot cord and sensor to put into your pond for $15.00. This will be the best investment you will make.     What regular pond water tests are important? If you are starting a pond and your filter is weak or you see fish dashing or scratching (flashing) first test for ammonia. There are many ammonia test kits available. If you are using Amquel, make sure you wait 2 hours after using Amquel to use an ammonia test kit. Next test for Nitrites (with an I) which is the second phase of filtration. Koi are more sensitive to ammonia poisoning with higher pH and more sensitive to nitrite poisoning with lower pH. So also test your pH. The chart below will show the effect of pH on ammonia poisoning. pH is the measure of free hydrogen ions in water that affects chemical reactions. Neutral pH is 7.0. pH less than 7.0 is acidic, more than 7.0 is alkaline. Your city water system provides a pH usually about 7.4-7.8 but 8.0     Ammonia Sensitivity Chart    source - Debby Young article in KOIUSA, Volume 20, Issue 2     Ammonia test kit reading in ppm    0.25 0.5 1 2 3 4  7.0     0.006 0.011 0.017 0.022  7.2 0.002 0.004 0.009 0.019 0.027 0.035  7.4 0.003 0.007 0.014 0.028 0.042 0.056  7.6 0.005 0.011 0.022 0.044 0.066 0.088 pH7.8 0.008 0.017 0.034 0.069 0.103 0.137  8.0 0.014 0.027 0.053 0.107 0.160 0.213  8.2 0.020 0.041 0.082 0.164 0.246 0.327  8.4 0.031 0.062 0.124 0.248 0.371 0.495  8.6 0.045 0.091 0.183 0.366 0.549 0.732    true NH3 (ammonia) concentration                       safe  stress  slow death  rapid death                    8
pH can be increased by adding aeration to strip CO2 pH can be reduced by lowering aeration to retain CO2       Nitrite is more deadly in acid pH 6.0-7.0 water  Ammonia is more deadly in alkaline pH 8.0-8.6 water    is still OK with koi and it is not worth the trouble to try to adjust the pH of your pond unless there is trouble. Koi do fine at pH of 6.5 and also at pH of 8.0 but they do not like drastic changes in pH of 0.4 or so since pH is a logarithmic scale. (pH of 7.4 has 20 times H+ atoms of 7.2). Low pH, soft water (few minerals) like in Japan is thought to be better for red color and skin quality. Higher pH, hard water (many minerals) like most of the US is thought to be better for black color. Concrete ponds leach minerals into the water to create hardness that helps to buffer or stabilize the pH. Liner ponds do not provide that buffer and if the source water does not have sufficient minerals or hardness and if your filter is dirty creating CO2, your pH can dive over a short time irritating the koi. They will clearly let you know when this happens by flashing over and over telling you their skin is irritated. pH can also shift with day and night. If your have a drastic pH shift towards acid, you can use Baking Soda at one teaspoon per 100gallons of water to increase the pH quickly. If you want to reduce the pH, you can slowly drip Muriatic acid into the pond in an area with good circulation. In Japan, they place bags of oyster shells in their filters to increase the water hardness and buffer pH. A simple block of hardened plaster of paris will do the same thing. If you are drawing water from a private well, have the water tested for contaminants like fertilizer or copper which may cause problems in your pond. Oxygen test kits are available but usually not necessary. Oxygen is usually highest in the afternoon and lowest around 3-4 am and can be reduced lower at night by plants in the pond. Koi need at least 6mg per liter of oxygen for health. This is easy with cold water with a saturation level of 14 mg per liter but warm 80 F water in summer saturation level is 8gm per liter and this is when koi can have problems. Also, when you use pond treatments like potassium permanganate or formalin, oxygen is used up by the treatment and fish can be found gasping at the surface. A quick solution to this problem is to spray hydrogen peroxide into the water to oxygenate the water or to place an air stone into the water to aerate it. Your filter also uses some oxygen but I have never been able to test the difference going in or coming out of the filter. It is recommended to add fresh water equal to 10% minimum of your pond weekly. It is easy to forget this in winter when not cleaning filters and the result will be higher Nitrates and Potassium which will feed algae (floating and string varieties). You will often get string algae in your oxygenated waterfall in early Spring due to not changing enough water during the winter. Salt is the best cure for algae of any kind. 0.3% salt is recommended or 2.4 pounds per 100 gallons. Remember, salt will not evaporate and only is reduced by water changes so test your water for residual salinity before adding more salt to your pond. Eventually your filter will eliminate algae. Potassium Permanganate (PP) used in the Spring to reduce bacteria and parasite loads will also kill your algae. Some people have also put tarps covering their pond or waterfall to starve algae of the needed sunlight with some success. There are some algaecides available but I do not have any experience with them and cannot recommend them. Salt and potassium permanganate always work for me. Water clarity or turbidity can be affected by DOC in the water. This also shows up as foam in your skimmer usually in the morning. Eliminating DOC is discussed in the filter section. A new product to the US manufactured by TerraPond is Calcium Montmorillonite clay that ties up DOC but also provides minerals for the koi. See the food section.  9 
Landscape Around the Pond - Many plants or parts of plants like the berries are poisonous to koi and should not be used around koi ponds. A list of these plants is provided on a separate sheet. Make sure there are no deciduous trees that can drop leaves into your pond or you will have to clean the skimmer daily to remove the leaves. Landscape around the pond will be determined by the style of pond (formal or informal) and the overall landscape plan whether it is a Japanese Garden or a tropical jungle. Baby tears make a nice surround for a pond with stepping stones. Part of the landscape is the shade cloth covering for the pond. I recommend 50% shade cloth covering your total pond unless you have lots of water lilies already shading the water surface. The shade cloth provides a barrier so your pond can’t radiate all of its heat to the clear sky at night or absorb a lot of heat in the sun during the day. The overhead shade cloth also keeps large birds like Blue Herons out of your pond because they usually will not go under an overhead cover. A good source for shade cloth made to size with sewn edges and grommets along each edge is Wind & Shade Screens, 6211 Yarrow Dr., Suite E, Carlsbad, CA 92009. The last phone number I had for them was (619) 471-2922. Charlies Greenhouse catalog also has finished shade cloth to size. If you use decking over your pond, never allow treated wood to come in contact with your pond because the treated wood has arsenic in it. Use redwood or cedar. Be careful the stain or cover coat is not poisonous to fish. Some bricks have been known to contain poisonous material to fish if they are in constant contact with the water.  Koi Food – Koi are omnivorous so they will eat almost anything from grains to worms. Commercial koi foods are made to provide the nutrients and amino acids koi need to grow and be healthy. It is best to change koi foods every so often to give variety to the koi. The biggest problem with koi foods is age that can break down the amino acids as soon as 1 year after milling. This makes me unsure about recommending koi foods made in Japan or Taiwan because they are not dated and you don’t know how many months they have been sitting in a warehouse or on a boat coming to the US. I prefer foods made in the US and also prefer to buy from a koi dealer that moves a lot of food so I know it is recently stocked. Do not keep koi foods in the refrigerator, keep them in the freezer if you must store them for a length of time. It is best to buy an amount you can use at room temperature for say 2 months. Keep foods out of the sun and hot temperatures. Long, stringy waste casings floating in a pond is a sign the food may be bad. I give my koi grapefruits or oranges cut in half for extra vitamin C although any koi food should have stabilized vitamin C in it. Koi are fed according to water temperature because they are cold blooded and will eat food in cold water because we train them to come to eat and then the food will rot in their intestines and they will die. Do not fee koi at 50F or below. A feeding regimen by water temperature is provided on the chart below.    Some koi hobbyists believe in 20 or more feedings per day and use automated feeders to accomplish this. Feed koi as much as they will eat completely in 5 minutes. In warm summer months, higher protein foods are required and the first ingredient listed should be fish meal of some kind. In colder months, food with wheat germ and more grains with less protein are required. Cooked barley is good for koi in winter. Raw peas or other green vegetables are always good for koi. Cheerios, trout chow and catfish chow are not good for koi. Some people add sliced raw sardines to their koi diet in the summer. Summer months are when you can feed color enhancing food for better red colors which   01
 Recommended Koi Feeding Regimen  source - Nichirin magazine                   below 450 F no food   more grains & veggies  50 F - 54 F one or two times weekly less protein (25%) 55 F - 58 F two or three times weekly less fat    59 F - 62 F  one or two times daily Aeromonas alley  63 F - 65 F two or three times daily less grains & veggies  66 F - 71 F three or four times daily more protein (35%)  72 F - 77 F five or six times daily  more fat    78 F - 81 F three or four times daily    over 81 F feed sparingly due to high heat    usually has spirulina or color enhancing material in it. Stop feeding color food 2 months prior to koi shows so the whites can return from the yellow color the color food creates. Many people like to make fresh food for their koi and koi recipes are out there. I have used gelatin and pulverized koi food to make my own food with oxolinic acid bacterial medicine for koi. Dr. Galen Hansen has written an article in KOIUSA describing how he uses a home made koi food to give other medicines to his koi. I prefer the smaller pellets to make my koi work harder for each meal and it allows all of the koi some food so the pigs don’t scoop it all. There are excellent powder foods from Japan you can mix with water to form a paste but they are expensive and difficult to allow all of the koi to eat a share. In Japan, silk worm pupae are added to the koi diet to add more protein and these are also available in the US. Japan has known for decades some mud ponds were better for reds and some better for black. It was always thought to be the result of clay ingested by the koi as they search for food. A new product to the US manufactured by TerraPond is Calcium Montmorillonite clay. This clay can be sprinkled into your pond or can be sprinkled onto damp koi food to be ingested by the koi. The brand name product is expensive but cheap sources of this clay from the US have been found. A side benefit of this clay is it also acts as a flocculent to the DOC in your water.  Fish Care & Handling – Koi are cold blooded, hibernate below 50F and their digestive system shuts down. But we have trained them to come to eat when we approach the pond so koi will eat out of response to this training if we let them. So watch your water temperature and feed accordingly. Their immune system also starts to shut down below 55F. The important fact is you need to observe your koi when you are feeding and any other opportunity so they can tell you if something is wrong with them. How do you know when a koi is stressed? Red veins appear in their skin and they get a pinkish tint. If this stress indicator goes away when the stressor is removed, fine. If a fish is always stressed, and not all of the fish, then there is something wrong internally or externally with that fish. If a koi is alone, that is a bad sign it has separated itself from the school. Koi on the bottom with their fins clamped is also a bad sign of illness. Koi on the bottom with their fins spread out for balance in the winter is fine, they are just resting or trying to reserve energy. If all of the koi are showing symptoms, suspect your water quality and run for your water test kits. Koi flash or skit around the pond when their skin is bothered by parasites, bad water conditions or change in pH. So watch for flashing. If  11
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