So you want to build a Koi pond? I get it. I am the proud owner of one myself! Few things are more enjoyable and hypnotizing than listening to the sound of cascading water while watching colorful fish swim languidly around. Koi ponds have been focal points of gardens for hundreds of years. With all the new technology and pond kits available today, designing, building and enjoying your own Koi pond can be a reality.
When making a decision about building a Koi pond, first ask yourself if you have the financial resources, the right spot in your yard, and the will, knowledge and expertise to do the project yourself. Do-it-yourself ponds can be simple or elaborate, and installation can average around $3,000. For a larger project, costs can escalate quickly.
Determine your site, the size of the pond, and whether it will be built in-ground or above ground. Decide on the style and features. Do you want a waterfall, water plants, rocks and fish? Gather information about building and maintaining ponds and caring for water plants and fish. You can find a wide selection of pond kits, plants and fish online from reputable websites such as Aquascape, Webb’s Water Gardens, The Pond Guy and Atlanta Water Gardens. Southern Lawn Designs in Senoia has everything you need locally to build and stock a pond.
Once you have taken the plunge and constructed your pond, it’s time to add plants to create a natural look and a balanced habitat for the fish and other critters that will call your pond home. Most ponds have varying depth levels that can support three types of plants—marginal, floaters and submerged—all crucial to your pond’s health.
Marginal plants thrive in shallow water. Their roots sit in the water, but the rest of the plant is above ground. Situate these plants around the edges of the pond to give it a finished look. Examples of marginal plants are iris, horsetail, water arum and umbrella palm.
Some plants are floaters, with roots planted in pots and submerged in the pond, allowing stems to grow up to the surface and the foliage to float across the water and provide fish with shade and shelter from predators. Parrot’s feather, lotus, water lettuce and water lily are examples of floating plants.
Submerged plants add oxygen to the water during the day, remove excess nutrients and prevent algae build up. They help to keep your pond healthy and balanced. Submerged plants are sold in bunches and
can be anchored at the bottom of the pond under rocks. Underwater arrowhead, parrot’s feather, water thyme and hornwort are examples of submerged plants.
Fish add personality to the pond, but while it is tempting to add lots of fish, only add what the size of your pond can accommodate. Koi are considered the royalty of the fish pond and have been featured in Asian ponds for centuries. A descendent of wild carp, the Japanese started breeding Koi as an ornamental fish in the 1600s for their unusual color variations and patterns. Koi became prized and were collected by rich and royal families. In the 1900s, Koi found a market in Europe and the United States.
While Koi are a stunning addition to a pond, they do provide challenges. Koi can get large quickly. Adults can average between one to three feet in length and weigh as much as 35 pounds. When properly cared for, Koi can live over 20 years. They need plenty of space to roam, so your pond should contain at least 500 gallons of water for each adult Koi, and the center of the pond should be at least 3 feet deep. Good pond filtration and aeration are important to support the health of Koi.
Koi can exist nibbling on water plants, insects and algae, but most owners enjoy feeding them fish pellets, not only to keep them from destroying plants, but for the pure fun of watching the Koi race around for the pellets. The rule of thumb to prevent overfeeding is to only toss enough pellets in the pond for fish to consume in five minutes. Leaving uneaten fish food only contributes to poor pond health.
Koi are sociable fish that enjoy swimming in groups and will welcome smaller fish, like goldfish. If you want to introduce Koi into your pond, start small with a couple of 4-5 inch fish. Get to know your Koi and notice if they start to behave differently. If fish are gasping for air, swimming erratically, jumping or flashing excessively or scraping on the side of the pond, it can be a sign of some type of stress—a change in water quality, a predator, disease, injury or a parasite. Test the water quality and treat for any infection or parasite.
Be prepared for the spawning ritual of Koi. When water temperatures heat up in spring or early summer, the male fish may start chasing a female fish around the pond and nudge her up against the side of the pond. The males are pushing the female against a hard surface or vegetation to deposit her eggs. Then the males will fertilize the eggs and you may end up with lots of baby Koi! Google a YouTube video on spawning so you aren’t concerned by this behavior when it happens!
Goldfish are related to wild carp from southern China and come in a variety of colors. The common goldfish is hardy and cheap to buy. One of the most popular and beautiful is the comet longtail, with a long flowing tail that ripples in the water. Shubunkins (calico fish) are red with spots of black, blue or violet. Many goldfish are easy breeders and will periodically provide new additions to your pond. Since goldfish don’t get as big as Koi, you can add more to the pond.
Stay on top of your pond’s health by maintaining the correct water pH and the right balance of fish and plants. Skim off any floating debris before it drops to the bottom. Periodically clean the filters and pump and prune back water plants. I recommend using Maintain for Ponds by Aquascape. The liquid contains beneficial bacteria and other formulas to ensure optimum water quality and is safe for fish and plants. Safeguard your pond and you will enjoy it and your Koi for years to come!