Text Box: The Wonderful World of Koi
   Koi ponds are a different creation in the world of water gardens.  The design, filtration, and maintenance of a pond for these special fish is unique in comparison to the typical water garden with water lilies and goldfish.  The reason is that Koi and aquatic plants are not always compatible.  
   Koi are magnificent.  Their coloration, style, and friendliness are mesmerizing.  They are outgoing fish and will eat food right out of your hands.  Their colorful patterns and variety are unmatched  in the choices of fish for your water feature.  
 Yet Koi will present a special challenge.  They are Pigs Under Water and can eat any or all of the aquatic plants in your pond.  Your aquatic plants are most vulnerable right after transplantation as they are not rooted firmly in the soil.  (Large stones on top of the soil can help).  Often Koi will not present a problem to plants until they get bigger.
   Is it possible to have Koi and plants, too?  Yes!  Although there are special considerations in trying to have both.
   First, you must decide if you are going to have a Koi pond, or a water garden with plants and goldfish, or are you going to attempt to have a pond with plants and Koi as well? 
   A typical water garden is 2 feet deep (in the Albuquerque area).  It is ecologically balanced with a combination of plants, scavengers, and goldfish to create a system that will prevent algae and have clear water.  Every water garden needs at least a basic filtration system such as a submersible biological filter.
   In contrast, a Koi pond needs to be at least 3 to 4 feet deep.  It must be large in scope as these are fish that will grow to be up to 3 feet in length and need a good deal of room to move around.  It also will require an excellent external filtration system.  Since Koi can eat the water lilies, filtration plants, and scavengers that usually keep ponds clear, water quality is a definite challenge.  (Some Koi owners refer to tadpoles as “Koi Candy”).  They are Big Eaters and therefore create a good deal of fish waste, which in turn feeds algae.  Therefore, Koi ponds must have excellent external filter systems.  I have seen some beautiful Koi ponds where the filter had a little house of its own near the water.   
 The most successful Koi ponds I have seen segregate the fish from the plants.  The Koi are displayed in all their glory in a large, deep lower Text Box: Koi Ponds
Text Box: pool.  Aquatic plants for aesthetics and filtration are in a separate yet connected upper pool that feeds the Koi pond.  The Koi cannot disturb the plants, yet the plants provide phytological filtration and enhance the water feature with their beauty.

The Best of 
Both Worlds?
   It is possible to have both Koi and aquatic plants.  At Shady Lakes, we offer the following suggestions:  Buy Koi small and raise them with plants.  Don’t crowd them with plants.  Provide them with large, deep ponds so these incredible, big fish have ample room to move around.  Stock with tropical water lilies and bog plants which are placed closer to the surface as fish by instinct will usually avoid going into shallow water to feed.  Provide filtration with an excellent external filter, a separate planted, connected pond, or preferably both.
 And above all… Feed Your Koi.  Regularly.  Religiously.  Heavily.  Also, have a good external bio filter so water quality remains good. 
   This is not at all trying to run down Koi.  We sell Koi at Shady Lakes.  Yet is important that potential Koi owners be informed about the pros and cons so they can make their decisions.  Keep in mind that Koi will live 50 to 100 years.

Koi Footnotes 
   I once saw a Koi in Los Angeles with a price tag of $40,000.  It looked like a pretty red and white fish to me.  Apparently, it was a PERFECT red and white fish….  (And this was at 1989 prices!)
   Also in Los Angeles, there was a beautiful Japanese water garden with huge, colorful Koi and water lilies.  How could this be?  The water lilies were protected in large planting containers with heavy metal manhole covers with holes drilled in them for the plants to grow out of.
   Koi eating plants seems to be a regional issue.  It is claimed in Denver that this just isn’t a problem.  In the Washington D.C. area, they design ponds with a big deep area for Koi in the same pond with large, very wide 15 to 18 inch deep shelves for displays of tropical lilies and bog plants.