The keeping of ornamental koi originated in China and East Asia, where they were cultivated as a food source before being bred for ornamental purposes. In China, the Common Carp was cultivated and bred to produce a variety of stunning jewelled colours, as far back as a thousand years ago. During the 1820’s, carp began to be bred for colour in Japan, where the hobby was bought to a vast audience throughout Japan and worldwide during an exposition in Tokyo in 1914.
Koi keeping is a steadily increasing hobby, with people from a whole host of backgrounds beginning to see the fascination with keeping these beautiful creatures. Setting up and maintaining a koi pond is a complex, lengthy process, so it is a good idea to do plenty of research and get as much expert advice as you can. Ponds are available in many different shapes and sizes, so you may be considering building a whole new environment, or perhaps starting by adding a koi or two to an already stocked pond. There are however drawbacks to keeping koi in small ponds, and if you are serious about the hobby, it is probably wise to consider something more purpose built. Small ponds can be subject to major and sudden changes in temperature and water quality, and are also subject to a build up of waste matter which can make the water uninhabitable. Growth is also affected by shallow water and so koi in these conditions often do not reach their full potential in terms of size and shape.
Koi are fairly hardy, cold water fish, preferring environments of around 15-25c°, but react less well to long, cold British winters. Water depth can help with this, so check with your dealer as to the ideal depth to keep your koi at their optimum temperature. Position is important, as Koi will thrive in a sunny, open position, and will be less subject to debris from tress and shrubs polluting the water. Some plants and shrubs are poisonous, such as Yew, and Laburnum, so do avoid placing the pond nearby to these.
Filtration is a very important topic, as with like most fish keeping, water quality is paramount to their health condition. Whether you opt for a gravity fed system, or a pump fed system, you will firstly need to choose something that has ample capacity for the size of pond. Speak to a specialist before you begin to build your pond, so that you can match the size and type of filter properly to your preferred pond size.
The beautiful, jewel bright colours of koi do mean that they are easily visible to predators such as herons or cats, so you will need to take some measures of protection. Some keepers employ netting and wires, and a well designed pond with deep areas for cover and good overhang to ward against cats are helpful.
Koi are omnivorous, meaning they eat both vegetable and animal matter and require a balanced diet. Processed, good quality pellet foods are perfectly designed to provide a healthy diet, and to float to the surface to encourage the fish to come up and be examined for any health issues like ulcers. Better quality food will probably be more expensive, but as with any pet, feeding the best quality you can manage is important. Growth and colour will be optimum, and for long term health, good feed is the best investment in your fish you can make. Their digestion systems tend to slow down in the colder months, which means they will need less feeding – check the manufacturer’s instructions for guidelines.
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