Healthy koi keeping
As a beginner it is easy to get the impression that the skill of koi
keeping is knowing how to treat health and disease problems. Not true!
While this is often seen as proper hands-on fish keeping, the real skill
in any kind of fish-keeping lays in preventing
health problems. The skilled koi-keeper is not the one with
fingers ever stained from applying disease treatments but the person who
rarely has fish health problems. If we accept that most problems are
related to pond water conditions then we see our
main task is to maintain a good and healthy environment for our fish
rather than continually applying disease treatments. Regular
water testing will help to show when something is amiss but it is
important to understand that water test-kits check only a few parameters
- albeit very important - and there are other considerations.
We can avoid many potential health problems by regular pond and
filter maintenance. Though they may vary in design, the correct general
aim for all ponds is to maintain good filtration and to keep the
system clear of solid muck. This will provide conditions that are
suitable for beneficial micro-organisms while discouraging undesirable,
New pond syndrome?
The most important part of a pond is the filtration system. This
keeps water clean, clear and free of toxins such as ammonia and nitrite
that are produced directly or indirectly by the fish and from decaying
organic matter in the pond. Efficient filtration relies on the presence
of beneficial micro-organisms such as bacteria, algae and protozoa.
However, it takes a while for some of these organisms to become
established in sufficient numbers to be fully effective. During this
time water quality may be less than perfect, creating a situation
commonly described as 'new pond syndrome'.
While the filter is maturing it is most
important to make regular checks on water conditions and, if
needed, carry out water changes, reduce or stop feeding and limit
stocking levels. It is also advisable not to use a UV lamp for the first
six weeks as UV radiation will kill bacteria. including nitrifiers. It
can be useful to have some zeolite available if ammonia levels increase
but only use it as an emergency measure, not permanently. While simple
nitrification can be established in 4 to 8 weeks during summer, full
maturity of the filter can take a year or two.
A major consideration is stocking. Most problems experienced by beginners are related to overstocking. It
is natural and understandable to want to fill the pond with your beloved
fish - after all, that's why you spent so much time and money on
building the pond. But as stocking levels increase so must the skill and
experience of the koi-keeper. By increasing stocking levels we
progressively reduce the margin between good and poor conditions. In
doing so we move away from the ‘balanced’ garden pond towards an
intensive fish culture system that relies heavily on good ‘management’
to keep problems at bay.
The stocking potential, measured by the mass or weight of fish rather
than number, of a pond is determined by pond volume, filtration
capabilities and - one of the most important criteria - the knowledge
and experience of the pond keeper. It is all too easy for beginners to
stock beyond their capability, reaching a point where the system
collapses and disease starts to spread. This is the proverbial straw
that breaks the camel's back. Be patient and increase stocking levels
slowly so your system and your knowledge can keep pace with one another.
This way, it becomes a pleasant, relaxing hobby rather than a constant