The relaxing sights and sounds of a water garden are hard to match. Adding a pond to your yard brings an aesthetic impact with an impressive bonus – ponds are conservation powerhouses. Wildlife will flock to your water garden to dine, bathe and set up homesteads. Stock your pond with colorful and graceful koi! These fish are hardy and worth that little extra effort.
Koi can be kept outdoors in larger ponds year round. They require minimal care, but their home needs to be clean, adequately filtered and maintained. Water quality is a must for keeping these very large and very messy carp. Let Chubby Mealworms swim you through the process. You won’t regret adding these regal creatures to your family.
In Japan, koi are known as nishikigoi, the "brocaded carp." It’s hard to argue with the accuracy of that name. Japan has been home to fish farming since the early 1800s, but koi have been domesticated in China for centuries. Originally raised as food fish, the carps came in muted earthy tones. Occasionally, some fish sported patches of vibrant red, yellow, white and blue (blue is actually a black pigment influenced by where it sits under the fish’s skin). These fish were prized for their novelty and beauty and individuals were bred to enhance those desirable traits.
Note: Brightly colored carp did not proliferate in a natural setting as their hues made them easy targets for predators. Anyone breeding goldfish today will notice that many of the offspring will still retain the natural earthy tones of their ancestors.
One tale relates the origin of the elegant koi paintings to fish owned by Confucius’ son! Other than their worldwide journeys as artistic subjects, koi were introduced to Japan during the Chinese colonial period. The Japanese enjoyed the rare beauty of the colorful carp and began to consider these fish as ornamental instead of culinary. This was the beginning of the companion fish era.
Fun Fact: The Victorians’ passion for exotic animals expressed an interest in acquiring fish for inside the home – in aquariums. Early Victorian tanks were built of glass panes with ornate accents. Heating for tropical fish was a considerable conundrum, but goldfish and other cooler species were entering homes.
Goldfish had been raised for over one thousand years, having been selected for unique color sports that emerged from pond reared Prussian Carp.The Chinese bred the goldfish for their beauty and delightful characteristics – oddly, they did not do the same with koi (goldfish and koi are related but are different species)!
By the 1900’s, koi began to capture the attentions of those outside their home range in Japan... where they had become revered.
Koi are renowned for their friendly and calm nature. These fish are easily trained and their natural senses alert them to your arrival long before they see you. Those happy faces will be ready and waiting for their treats. Since they are carp, koi use their whiskers, sensitive mouth barbels, to test the substrate for tasty morsels. They dig up potted pond plants and will even eat tender ones. Goldfish share a neat foraging trick with their bigger buddies – they slurp up mouthfuls of sand, sediment and pebbles and nibble off nutritious arthropods and algae.
Each fish has a unique personality and some may require a bit more coaxing to be social.Training fish isn’t any different than teaching other animals – food is the strongest motivator. Try tempting your big guys to the surface (koi use their barbles to sift food from pond bottoms, and are often in the depths foraging) by tossing in some Chubby Mealworm's dried silkworm pupae.
Dried pupae have been fed to koi for decades. The food is high in protein, nutrients and critical fatty acids - and they taste fantastic! Your koi will be slurping for more. Silkworm pupae help to maintain the fish’s health and growth. Koi know “good eats” when they see them and they will start to look forward to these pupae treats. You can use the dried silkworm snacks to train your fish - they will even learn to do tricks! Just like goldfish, koi readily learn to recognize their family and they enjoy being with people and other family pets.
House cats should be fine near these large fish. Few cats will actually fish in a pond, as they are cautious around deep bodies of water. Have your cell phone handy to record the delightful scene of koi asking the cat for their treats! One wet slurp from those barbled mouths will send kitty going elsewhere for a drink.
Goldfish keepers won’t find their koi much of a bother. Both carp species are big and messy! They have healthy appetites, grow quickly and reach some hefty sizes. Be ready for those cute, big-headed fingerlings to begin growing and growing. Always plan your pond size to accommodate adult fish. The minimum water garden for housing 2 koi needs to be 1,000 gallons and at least 6x8 (roughly 50 square feet of surface area). Use powerful filtration (mechanical to remove particulates, and biological to maintain water quality) that will circulate the pond volume every hour and provide proper oxygenation (fountain, waterfall or oxygen pump).
If you live in winter zones be sure to set out a floating heater before the deep freeze. Gas exchange must be maintained throughout the freezing season allowing a hole in the thick ice to remain open. Gas exchange is critical to the survival of dormant frogs, turtles, dragonflies and the pond fish. Plus, the open water provides a drink for birds and wildlife.
Expect your koi to live far beyond the decade or so lifespan of goldfish. Some koi have reached their 200 th birthday!
Purchase a good quality koi and goldfish prepared food. Many manufacturers offer nutritious and tasty feed for these fish. Feed a variety and think about selecting specific seasonal blends – for summer, breeding/color development, fall and winter. In warm weather, fresh food is usually dropping in for the fish to munch. Supply additional items like fruit, human grade cooked shrimp, peas, corn and frozen fish treats (mysis, bloodworms and krill). Never collect wild foods or plants – these may harbor disease, parasites and toxins. And...don't forget the Chubby Silkworm Pupae!
Koi and goldfish have a sweet tooth! It is OK to offer a cookie or cake pieces now and again. Sweets should be saved for special treat days.
Fun Fact: some color enhancing foods with beta-carotene can cause white-pigmented fish to get a tinge of yellow. This also occurs in white feathered chickens!
Health Note: Most water garden and fish farms have health care products and advice should infestation, injury or illness strike. Exotic vets will treat fish (for injury, surgeries and even tumors). Many farm and pet vets will be able to treat your fish as well.
Koi are really Kool. Send us your tips and pictures. We want to hear from you – come on in a make a splash!