How to Choose the Best Koi for Your Water Garden

Recently I have put in great efforts to finally build the water garden of my dreams. Giving shape to a dream is not an easy task but is greatly satisfying when one sees it taking form. I had planned everything to the last detail, including what kinds of fish I would like in my water garden. Koi carp was uppermost in my mind at all times. I did detailed research on this too.

So, how does one choose the best Koi for their water garden?

  1. Body shape – slim missile-shaped body with uniform look and rounded nose.
  2. Color balance – choose sharp patterns and even coloration.
  3. Skin quality – check for glossy and bright look with least scales visible.
  4. Robust posture – graceful swimming.

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It is the small things that make a complete whole. Same goes for water gardens too. There are multiple aspects to consider when one plans a water feature. Fish, whether in aquariums or in a water feature, besides adding beauty, provide relaxation to the viewer. That is the ultimate aim of having a water feature in your outdoor garden – a place to gather around with family after a long day and let go of all stresses.

Choosing the best Koi for water gardens

The sight of beautiful fish swimming by gracefully and effortlessly is very calming. Studies have reinforced this again and again. It is an extraordinarily soothing thing to watch. And if you choose fish that are visually stunning, this adds value to the overall enterprise. Koi, which is also known as nishikigoi is one of the most sought-after fish for garden water features. They are essentially colored varieties of Amur carp.

We look at some factors that decide how to choose the best Koi for your water garden:

  • Body shape. A lot has been said and written and researched about the ideal Koi body shape. The perfect one is that which is neither too thin nor too fat. Industry standards require a torpedo-shaped body, which essentially means thick at the middle and tapering away gradually at both ends. Another requirement to judge the body of a Koi is that it should be without any visible deformities. For example, a minimally deformed spine, missing fin, ulcers, or infections on the body would diminish its value considerably. Overall conformity of size and shape is what determines an ideal Koi body shape.

This is where the head of the Koi comes into play too. Ideally the head should be symmetrical and in correct proportion to the rest of the body. The head and the snout should neither be too small or too big in relation to the body. The same applies to fins, which should be in keeping with the whole body. As stated already, it is conformation that matters when judging the ideal body shape of a Koi. These are of course pointers that professional Koi judges look for in fish that are competition worthy. For Koi in a personal water garden, it is okay to relax rules a little.

  • Color balance. Koi are so appealing for ponds and water features owing to their vivid coloration and marked visual impact. The color pattern and balance in a Koi is something that creates an immediate effect on the viewer. No wonder novice hobbyists look instantly at colors and patterns before delving into other details of Koi. To be honest, these are an important aspect of buying the best Koi. Most varieties come in vivid colors like red, yellow, orange and blue with bases of white, cream or black.

There is a lot of expertise required in being able to predict how a particular color pattern in a small Koi will end up looking when the fish attains adulthood. Some patterns that look extremely attractive on a smaller fish might spread out and diffuse as it grows up and end up losing some of its appeal. These are aspects that have been studied in great detail by experts. For most novice hobbyists, the overall colorful look is what really matters. There are as many bright colors as there are pattern varieties in Koi. Ochiba comes in light blue interspersed with yellow. Asagi is sought after since it creates blue and red patterns on the fish. Utsuri resembles ink stains in white, black and red.

  • Skin texture. Another factor that determines your choice of Koi for your water garden should be skin texture. Look out for smooth and taut skin texture. Any irregularities in skin texture may spell trouble. A healthy Koi will have shining lustrous skin. The softness of the skin is seen markedly in female Koi. The skin texture stays good for a longer time and this is one of the reasons female Koi are more prized than males.
  • Swimming posture. Does a particular specimen swim and move effortlessly and gracefully? How is the appearance conformity? Does it hold its fins in proper posture? How much power does it exude when moving around? The body language, if one may be permitted to use that phrase, of a Koi, is one of the major determining factors in making a choice. Power exudes from a variety of factors. The proportion of the body, the color and pattern distribution, pectorals and wide shoulders, and thick tail joint all convey power. It is not true that only size determines power. The way a Koi swims also speaks volumes about its presence. Swimming level with fins out is the perfect and desired posture for choosing a Koi.

What makes Koi so expensive?

Koi is not a hobby that falls lightly on the pocket. This fish demands a lot of preferential circumstances for it to grow unhindered into a thing of beauty. Pond Koi, which are not going into any shows, can cost anywhere from $10-$100.

  1. Koi fish are a result of careful and selective breeding. There is a lot of chance involved in getting a good specimen. They spawn only once a year and the slightest defects can render them useless. Maintenance of Koi is also a matter of great precision and high cost.
  2. Hobbyists generally opt for bigger specimens to be shipped to their water features. This is because it is easier to spot defining patterns and get an inkling of body shape when the specimen is larger than 4 inches in size. The problem is that this size of fish ship in smaller numbers in a box. This increases the price automatically.
  3. Koi that grow to a certain size are certain to have survived several Japanese culls. This contributes to making them expensive as well.
  4. One needs a large water feature like a pond or water garden for Koi to thrive well. Water bodies need to have good drainage, high quality food, perfect water quality, water current and depth. The water feature needs to have good aeration. All of this means that care needs to be taken while designing the water feature. These special features do not come in ordinary small water features.
  5. Koi need a long growing season of over 8 months to come into their form. Time needs to be factored in before Koi are in good enough shape to create an impression.
  6. Special Koi food is needed to ensure healthy fish in your water garden. Their growth, size and color patterns will be dictated by how well you feed them. Specialized Koi food does not come cheap.

Factors to remember when creating a Koi water garden

  • Cost. As discussed above, this is an expensive hobby. One needs to consider this and extrapolate it over a long time, say 20-30 years, since that is the average age of well-cared for Koi. They are hardy fish that have a long life when looked after well.
  • Depth. Koi are big fish that need a lot of water to thrive. Ideally a water garden should be at least 1000 gallons and 3 feet deep to house these fish comfortably. They continue to grow for a long time, which necessitates this depth.
  • Size. Because they are big fish, it is natural that the water feature needs to be big enough to support their free movement. It also means that the more fish you have, the bigger you need to plan your pond. For 10-15 fish, you need at least a 3200-gallon pond to provide them ideal conditions.
  • Conditions. Water in the pond needs to be well aerated and very clean for Koi to thrive. For places where ice tends to form on the surface, there has to be air-water contact for them to survive. Constant circulation of water is also essential. Consider de-icer and water fountains for this purpose.
  • Filtration. Keeping pond water clean can be done with mechanical or biological filters. Incorporate a bottom drain to help in the filtration process with ease.
  • Protection. Koi needs protection from cranes and other predators. Netting needs to be installed to ensure protection. Electric fencing can also be considered, although it is not without its drawbacks in the water garden setting.

Recommendations for propagating Koi in water garden

Special enhanced food is recommended for Koi in your water garden. These help in good growth. Read on to find out some popular options:

  • TetraPond Koi Growth Food – This amino acid rich food is good for healthy growth of pond Koi and goldfish. It is premium quality and easily digestible for the fish, thus leaving minimum residue behind to pollute the water body. Help boost fish immunity by feeding them this food. It comes in sealable packing and stays longer. Available through Amazon here.

  • Dainichi Premium Koi Large Pellets – This is a premium product for your expensive Koi population. Give them the best foods in easy to use form. These pellets float so that Koi come up for feeding, giving viewers a wonderful sight. Assured balanced growth of Koi with this. Amazon has it here.

  • Hikari USA Wheat Germ – This is a super nutritious and easily digestible food for pond fish, especially Koi. For spectacular looking and healthy fish, this is a highly recommended product. It comes in a self-sealing bag for longer life. Amazon has it available here.

  • Shinju White Pearl Enhancer Wheat Germ Koi Food – Koi hobbyists love this product because of the way it enhances Koi health and looks. After making all efforts to procure the best Koi, their nutrition and food source needs to be the best too. Amazon has it here.

  • Farm Innovators Cast Aluminium De-Icer – Use this product to cut hole through ice layer in winters. It is a floating device that is fish and aquatic life friendly. It comes with a 10-foot supply cord. Buy it here from Amazon.

  • AlpineReach Koi Pond Netting – Keep your prized Koi safe from predatory herons and cats using this netting. It comes in three sizes to choose according to pond size. Heavy duty fine mesh is quality assured. It keeps leaves and debris at bay, helping keep water garden clean. Buy it from Amazon here .

  • API Pond-Zyme Sludge Destroyer Natural Bacteria – Keeping your water garden clean is vital to good Koi health. This product cleans pond sludge at bay using natural bacteria. This makes it non-toxic to aquatic life, especially Koi. Buy it from Amazon here .

Related questions

How does water quality affect Koi health?

Koi are prone to some diseases if the water quality of your pond is not up to the mark. Fungus in the water garden can cause dropsy in Koi as well as mouth rot. While mouth sores can be treated with iodine, it is important to fix the water quality immediately to prevent further diseases in Koi.

Which other fish thrive in ponds?

Along with Koi, there is a bewildering array of pond fish to choose from. Goldfish, sturgeons and Gobi are some popular types that are found in ponds. All of them add variety to the aquatic ecosystem while adding to the

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