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Losing My Favorite Koi

(And Lessons Learned From It)

by Elmer Epistola

Posted: October 28, 2004



Why is it that every time one of our koi dies, it happens to be our favorite one?  I thought that this was just one of those pretty clever things to say at a party when I first heard it.  After many years of koi keeping, however, it seems to me that the saying may be true after all. 



Just take that instance when I lost my biggest koi some years ago.  It was a pioneer in my pond, being one of the first three authentic Japanese-born nishikigoi (all were Sanke) I bought when I decided to get serious with the hobby.  It had perfect body conformation - truly a stunner when it passes by.


The errors were simple, yet fatal: overstocking and overfeeding.  Buoyed by my success in setting up a nice, big pond and gradually maturing it to a very stable and healthy one, I decided at that time to add a few more koi to my collection.  By then my first koi had been around for a couple of years already, and have grown and developed into really beautiful fish.  I wanted more of these elegant creatures, I told myself.


So I added a koi.  Then one more. And more.  The koi bug, it seems, had bitten me for yet another time.  I had difficulty controlling myself every time I visited the koi store.  In a span of one week, I think I added ten koi. To complicate things, I just couldn't wait to grow these ten newcomers into 20-inch jewels just like the original inhabitants of my pond.  So I fed them heavily twice a day. 


I was unknowingly poisoning my koi to death by throwing too much food into the water.  I didn't check if there were any leftovers because I expected my larger koi to gobble up everything.  I've also stopped checking the water quality of my pond, another common mistake of an overconfident hobbyist.  Lastly, I have grossly overestimated the capacity of my filters. By the time I realized that the water had turned really bad, I had lost five koi already, my biggest pioneer included.  It was such a sorry loss for me that I couldn't eat nor sleep for days.


Lessons learned:


1)  Having a mature and stable pond doesn't mean that it will remain so forever, so always make sure that your filters can keep up with your pond's growing needs.  Adding a few fish can alter the balance in your pond.  In fact, even if no fish are added, the continuous growth of the fish in your pond will eventually catch up with the capacity limit of your original filters.  Heavy feeding also results in heavy waste production. Thus, always ask yourself whether your filters are still up to the task, especially when changes occur.



Figure 1. Always ask yourself if your filters are still capable

of meeting your pond's continuously growing requirements



2)  Regular water quality checks are indispensable, even if you think that you already have the most stable pond in the world. Of course, the frequency of water checks can be reduced as the pond becomes mature and stable, but it should certainly not be stopped altogether.  Water checks are also required whenever changes are introduced to your pond. 



Of course, I will also never forget the day my favorite 16-inch Sandan Kohaku, also a Japanese original, jumped out of the pond.  It was already fried under the sun when I got to it.   That day I had to repair a leak in my main pond, so I temporarily crammed all my koi into my quarantine pond.  After ensuring that it was properly aerated, I proceeded with the repair activities with confidence.  After all, the quarantine pond is big enough to hold the koi for a few days with proper filtration and aeration.  


My shock and horror were hard to contain when I saw a stiff, brownish fish on the floor beside the quarantine pond when I checked on my koi that afternoon.  I was really praying that it was just one of the local ones.  But what did I tell you?  Don't our favorite koi always end up the victim when a mishap happens?  Untold grief weighed down on me when I confirmed that it was indeed my favorite koi that died.


Lessons learned:


3) Koi are good jumpers, so be sure to always keep them from jumping to their death.  A 12-inch wall height from the water line is what's recommended by many koi hobbyists to fence in your fish, but this is not enough if the koi really want to escape. Try to exceed this height by a few more inches if you can.  A net over the water may be a safer bet if you have access to one.



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