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7 Ways to Pamper Your Koi

fish in koi pond

We recently asked Carolyn Weise, author of ABC’s of Ponds, how we could best pamper koi. Carolyn is also the resident koi guru and customer service extraordinaire at Ecological Labs (makers of Microbe-Lift). She’s been with Ecological Labs since 2005, and has been officially ponding since 1990 (although her appetite for ponding began as a young child, a story worth asking her to share if you ever talk with her). As one of the most sought after experts when it comes to koi health, we were excited to have the chance to talk to her and share her wealth of knowledge with you. Please enjoy these 7 tips for pampering your koi.

1. Keep their water clean & healthy

Good husbandry of your pond water and proper feeding are at the top of Carolyn’s list for pampering koi. It’s imperative to make sure their water is clean. Much like we rely on good air quality, koi rely on good water quality to thrive. She says, “do your water testing, do your water changes, and avoid overfeeding.”

“A lot of people have the idea that they can make their fish grow big and strong by feeding them a lot, and that’s just not true. The size of your fish is determined by their DNA.” And any food that they don’t eat is going to sink to the bottom and cause organic waste to build up. Carolyn suggests that the best way to know how much to feed them is to watch for when they go under water to chew, explaining that koi go underwater to chew and digest. “Once they eat from the surface and go down, that’s it. No more.”

In addition to the standard water tests (pH, ammonia, nitrite and phosphate), Carolyn wants everyone to add testing water for kH to their pond checklists. kH stands for carbonate alkalinity and it’s what stabilizes your pH (preventing pH crashes which can lead to fish loss). She went on to add that if you have a proper kH level it’s actually ok to have a slightly higher pH level—up to 8.5. If you start off with a 9.0, she notes there’s no need to panic as a lot of ponds start with a naturally high alkaline level. Here she pointed out it’s actually more stressful on koi when you try to force your pH level up and down unnecessarily. Her final notes here: “If you want to pamper your fish, let them have a stable pH, whatever it is.”

2. Feed them special treats

Perhaps one of the most fun ways to pamper your fish is to feed them special fruits, greens and delicacies. For fruits Carolyn tells us, “They love watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe. Feed them seedless varieties to avoid extra waste in the pond as they won’t eat the seeds. For greens, peas are a nice treat that can also be used to help with bloating.” Carolyn continues, “don’t kill off all algae, either. Koi enjoy munching on it, especially on sunny days during the winter.”

Of special note, the MicrobeLift Fruits & Greens product packs a full bundle of 14 fruits and greens that your fish will love—all in one product. Carolyn named almost all of them from memory! It includes apples, apricots, kiwis, mangos, papayas, peaches, pears, broccoli, cabbage, peas, red peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and spinach.

Wrapping up our discussion on treats, the koi guru, shared that silkworm and krill delicacies are also great treat options for koi. She said that silkworms are wonderful for their skin. Interestingly enough, she’s found that some koi absolutely love krill and some won’t eat them, so you’ll have to test your fish on that one.

3. Avoid over-stocking & make sure your pond filter is sized appropriately

Over stocking and undersizing of a pond filter both lead to low quality pond water. When it comes to overstocking, we asked how many is too many?

“You need to have 10 gallons of water per inch of fish (for regular koi). For butterfly koi, don't count the tail. Keep in mind that koi can grow up to 36 inches.” A 36 inch koi needs 360 gallons of water. If you have a male and female it’s also very likely you’ll end up with babies, so always remember that when stocking, too. Just one inch over the recommended balance will degrade your water over time.

When it comes to filters, Carolyn doesn’t like to see corners cut. “Most people will spend a lot of money on a fish and pond, and then they’ll try to save money on their filter. Don’t save money on the filter! Buy the best filter you can buy and save money elsewhere on the pond.”

According to Carolyn, if your pond ends up overstocked or under-filtered, your water quality will “slowly diminish and stay murky no matter what you do.” Both lead to poor water quality and are stressful to fish. Keep them in check and your fish will feel the love.

4.Complete regular water changes, using the right water conditioner if you are on city water

An expansion of tip #1, regular water changes are very helpful for keeping pond water clean and koi happy. If you have a backwash on your filter, Carolyn says a 15-20% water change once a week or every other week will help keep your fish healthy. If you don’t have a backwash option then a full water change once a year is needed.

Anytime you add city water to your pond make sure to treat the water with a dechlorinator. Picking the right one is also important. If you don’t have chloramines in your water a standard dechlorinator like Microbe-Lift’s Super Dechlorinator will work. If you do have chloramines in your water, you need a product that also removes ammonia like Aqua Xtreme from Microbe-Lift. Word to the wise, if a product doesn’t explicitly say that it “removes ammonia” then it most likely doesn’t. And if your water has chloramines in it, you may experience fish loss without the correct product. (In order to find out whether or not your water contains chloramine, contact your city or local water provider.)

While water changes are great for your pond and fish, not all cities and states will allow them (such as California residents on water restrictions). Make sure to check your water use guidelines before proceeding. Also, if you live in an area with these restrictions we’d love to hear alternatives you use for keeping your pond water clean. Carolyn suggests using Microbe-Lift PL and Sludge Away to help break down as much organic matter as possible in the pond.

On the flip side, in areas that receive lots of rain, Carolyn advises that one should not rely on heavy rains for water refreshes. In fact, she suggests testing your kH levels as soon as possible after a heavy rainfall. The kH levels often get off balance after rainfall and can lead to fish loss. If your kH is too low, use a product like Microbe-Lift KH Alkalinity Booster to get it back to a healthy level.

5. Quarantine new fish before adding to the pond

Next up, Carolyn explains that when introducing new fish to your pond the last thing you want to do is also introduce new illnesses. You’ve worked hard to pamper your koi, so, “No matter how nice the person is that you got them from, you have to treat new koi as if they’re sick.”

Quarantine them for 6 weeks following this process provided by Carolyn before adding them to your pond:

  • Once you have your new fish, start their quarantine with a 3-day MicrobeLift BSDT treatment combined with a 25% water change each day.
  • After this treatment, wait 24 hours and then begin a 10-day treatment of MicrobeLift Sabbactisun and Parazoryne. Both can be used on the same days by spacing their application 12 hours apart. No water changes are required during this treatment. However, if you have UV or carbon in their holding tank make sure to turn the UV off and remove the carbon during this treatment.
  • Keep the fish quarantined for another 4 weeks to ensure they are healthy. Then introduce them to your pond.

All of your fish will thank you for their new, healthy friend.

6. Feed them a probiotic

All Microbe-Lift fish foods contain a probiotic which promotes a strong immune system. Carolyn said that, while there may be others out there now, Microbe-Lift was the first company to add probiotics to their formula.

She also noted, “All our fish foods contain probiotics in the form of Source of Live (Viable) Naturally Occurring Microorganisms. And they help the food to not cloud the water.”

Feed your fish a food that contains a probiotic, and they will be more likely to stay healthy. The Calcium Montmorillonite Clay also brightens their colors!

7. Give them shade

We wrapped up our conversation on pampering koi by talking about the importance of shade for koi. Koi need places to hide from both predators and the sun. Of course, plants can help provide this naturally. Carolyn is a fan of the shade sails for a man-made option, and if you’re in a pinch during the dog days of summer she suggests cutting up sheets of styrofoam that will float. She added that they don’t contain anything toxic for the fish.

We also provided some tips for protecting fish from the heat in our previous blog post published during the nationwide heat wave in July. 


So there you have it. Seven ways to pamper your koi! We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. If implemented your fish will thrive. Thank you to Carolyn Weise for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us!

Article Posted: 08/23/2022 02:40:46 PM

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