What are the essentials of koi ponds?

Koi pond design is becoming more and more popular among the variety of artificial water reservoirs. This is one of the most attractive garden ponds with great decorative value. As the name suggests, the pond differs from other artificial ponds as it is populated with carp fish. The grace, solid size and beautiful colours of these fish are truly amazing.


What many homeowners do not realize is that a koi pond is a mini-ecosystem. If you consider the construction of such a water basin in your garden or backyard, you need to follow certain rules and provide a suitable environment for your fish to thrive. We shall look at the basic rules and the fundamentals of the design and the most important elements of your garden pond and will give you some tips on how to arrange a most spectacular and safe koi pond.


Koi ponds are probably the most distinct and integral features of Asian-inspired landscapes. The same can be said for those trying to create a tropical getaway in their backyard. Beautiful, relaxing and magical, there is a certain sense of serenity that comes about with the inclusion of a colourful koi pond. Yet, koi ponds are not limited to those two landscaping styles alone. With design variations and a bit of creativity, they are perfectly at home in the Mediterranean or even a woodland-styled setting as well.


Spacious modern homes and contemporary interiors are also discovering the advantages of a lovely raised koi pond. Maintenance and design are key aspects of any thriving fish pond, and with the right care, you can craft a stunning retreat in your backyard. Allowing you to escape the mundane busy lives and offering a moment of solitude and reflection, here are some amazing koi pond design inspirations –


Why Add a Koi Pond To Your Landscape Design Plan

The main reason to have a garden koi pond is the fish—collecting them, caring for them, and watching them swim beneath reflections of sky and foliage on the pond surface. Koi aren't just garden decoration. For some, they are collector's specimens; for others, they are pets. For many people, keeping koi ponds is a source of stress relief.


Waterfalls and ponds continue to be one of the most popular water features in landscape designs. There is a reason for that: sound and movement. The sound of moving water in a garden contributes an added layer of vitality to the garden environment. Introducing living creatures to a pond (specially designed for that purpose) brings that pleasurable experience one step further.


A Source of Joy

"Peaceful." "Relaxing." "A private retreat." This is how some of our clients describe their koi pond experiences. The murmur of a waterfall, the stillness of the pond and the liquid movement of fish make a particular kind of magic for them. Keeping a garden koi pond can be a great source of joy. At the same time, it is important to understand that a koi pond is different from a standard garden pond. A koi pond is specially designed and equipped to provide a sustainable habitat for the fish. It is a big responsibility. It also provides respite from the daily grind. For those who've made the investment, peace and relaxation that comes with keeping a koi pond can provide a treasured respite from the daily grind.


Koi Pond Art and Artifice

Ponds and waterfalls go together. That's why, when we design a pond, we usually combine it with a waterfall. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is aesthetics. The waterfall makes a beautiful focal point and contributes pleasing sound to the pond environment. The music made by falling and moving water is integral to all garden water features such as fountains, waterfalls, and ponds.


Another reason is that a waterfall naturally provides circulation and some of the aeration that pond fish need. But this alone can't keep the water clean enough. For a koi pond, water clarity is essential to the health of the fish. An appropriately sized filtration system is required to clean debris from the pond water and control algae growth. Regular maintenance is needed to ensure proper Ph levels and water temperature.


A refuge from the daily grind

There has long been anecdotal evidence that watching aquarium fish relieves stress—which would explain why some doctor or dentist offices keep fish tanks in the waiting rooms. Science across a variety of disciplines has begun to back up that notion with fact.


Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols takes evidence from neuroscience, psychology and ocean science "showing us how the sight, sound, feel, and even smell and taste of water affect us on an incredibly deep and raw level." See Washington Post book review 'Blue Mind: On the benefits of being near water.'


Without some refuge, everyday life can build up a backlog of fatigue, stress and overstimulation. Watching the liquid movement of koi rippling the surface of a beautifully designed garden pond, it's easy to settle into a blissful meditative trance.


Pet Fish

Koi respond to people. They will rise to the surface in response to the sound of footsteps on the patio as you approach. A certain species, the Chagoi, is known for being especially friendly, and will usually be the first fish to become tame enough to eat out of your hand. The Chagoi is not a colourful fish. It comes in shades of basic brown. But it's got a great personality, as they say. Add one to the pond, and it tends to change the dynamics of the entire group. The Chagoi comes up to greet you because he's friendly (or the most aggressive feeder). The others soon lose their fear and follow. In this way, the Chagoi serves as the "team leader" for the pond. Once one fish starts eating from your hand, the rest soon follow.


A well-bred fish

Imported koi come from Japan, Israel and China. The most sought after are thoroughbreds from Sakai, one of the top Japanese breeders. They are meticulous about how the fish are raised and highly selective about those they release for sale. Again, there is that similarity to dog breeding in that the breeder is trying to achieve an ideal body shape and distinctive markings. The patterns on the fish should be distinct with clear breaks between colours. Speckling or fading is considered inferior.


In the eye of the beholder

It is not necessary for you to stock your pond with pedigreed koi. The most important thing is to purchase from a reputable seller. Otherwise, paying more won't guarantee you are getting a better fish. As long as you know what you are getting for your money, get what appeals to you. Your definition of beauty doesn't have to be imported or from an ancient lineage.


Koi pond minimum design requirements

A koi pond has specific design requirements. The smallest pond (with proper filtration) should be no less than three feet deep and approximately 8×8 around. It must hold at least 3500-4000 litres of water. That size will support no more than six small fish. The deeper, the better because, the larger water volume can support larger fish. Also, water pressure from the depth helps the fish grow bigger. Another reason for having a deep pond is the weather. The fish are less active in colder weather and will often seek the safety and comfort of the deepest part of the pond.


Keeping koi is a commitment.

koi fish feeding like an indoor aquarium, a koi pond requires filtration equipment to keep the water clean and aerated. And regular maintenance is required to keep the water quality pristine. Koi are a hardy species and, if well cared for, can live 60 years.


Koi pond design ideas – basic knowledge of the fish species

Koi – the colourful Japanese carps – are the most popular inhabitants of small artificial reservoirs all over the world, whether it is Asia, Europe or America. Contrary to popular belief, the fish first appeared in China and was cooked like ordinary fish. Still, Japanese people thought that koi are too beautiful to consume as food, so they started the tradition of contemplating a pond in which bright fish float.


Unique in colour variations Japanese carp, or koi, are known to humankind for more than two centuries. Large, half-meter (individual specimens reach a length of more than a meter), fish are unpretentious, they quickly get used to the person, to the conditions of the habitat and the feeding regime. In Japan, the attitude towards carp is exceptionally respectful. The carp is a symbol of well-being, masculinity, persistence and perseverance.


The koi fish is a part of the carp family, and today one of the most popular fish species in the garden. Since they are offered in a variety of strong colours, they are often victims of birds, but if you ensure adequate protection, they can become your new favourite pets – they are ready to eat from your hands. Koi are mobile and "sociable", like to eat, they are curious and affectionate and enjoy the company. They will swim to the surface of the water if a person approaches it and will even follow a man along the shore. Carps reach maturity after two to four years and can be considered long-livers among animals – half a century old for them is not uncommon and not considered as old age.


Each animal is individually coloured (the colour of fish depends on the breed), and as a rule, white and red colours prevail, but blue, black, yellow, orange or gold and green spots are a major feature of the breed. Some breeds cost thousands of dollars, but the more ordinary ones are quite affordable. They are insatiable and often eat aquatic plants like water lilies growing in the pond. Koi will feel good and live in open artificial reservoirs all year round. They can exist at low temperatures, but they are very demanding on the purity of water. Besides, space is important for them, and if your pond is crowded, individuals will develop slowly, and their colour will not be as bright as you expect. Wintering should be in a place not subject to freezing. You can feed carps with fruits, vegetables, barley, worms, insects, etc.


Common misconceptions about your Koi Pond

Over the years we have heard just about every misconception there is about koi ponds, and how these common lies about your koi pond have made people turn down the idea of installing one. We are here to set the record straight and hopefully change peoples' perception about koi ponds that these lies have created.


A koi pond should be located in the lowest part of your yard!

Koi PondThis is probably the worst location for your investment because of the run-off that can creep its way into your pond. When your pond is positioned near your house, you can take in the beauty and tranquillity of your pond when entertaining friends or lounging on your patio. Besides, nothing compares to being able to wake up and see a gorgeous koi pond right outside your window while you are enjoying your morning coffee.


You can't be a koi hobbyist and a water gardener.

We hear this often and want everyone to know it is not true! You can raise healthy koi fish and have a beautiful water garden. The koi fish will grow to be as vibrant and healthy as koi in a traditional koi pond, and your water garden will still flourish.


You have to bring your koi fish inside over winter.

Just as we stated above, your pond water will only freeze a few inches down, so as long as you have around 2 feet of water, your fish will not become a fish circle. Koi fish can survive the coldest of winters as long as they have sufficient depth, oxygenated water and a hole in the ice to allow the natural exchange of gasses.


More filtration means a better pond.

Believe it or not, you can over-filter a pond. Tight filter pads in your skimmer pick up the smallest particles of debris, causing you to be cleaning the filtering mechanism out constantly. Fish in the wild certainly don't swim around in bottled water. If you can see a coin on the bottom of the pond, then the water clarity is just right for your fish and filtering past that create headaches, not eliminate them.


UV lights are the only way to keep your water clear.

UV clarifiers are one of the ways to keep your pond water clear, but certainly not the only way, and arguably not the natural way. The fact of the matter is that if you have a pond that's naturally balanced, in which the aquatic circle of life is rotating the way that Mother Nature intended, you don't need UVC at all. A naturally balanced pond is a low maintenance pond because Mother Nature is doing the maintenance work for you.


Rock and gravel make cleaning your koi pond very difficult.

Rocks and gravel offer a natural place for aerobic bacteria to colonize and set up housekeeping. This bacteria breaks down the fish waste and debris that would otherwise accumulate in the pond and turn into sludge. Regardless of your pond's location (i.e. close to trees and loads of leaves), or how many fish you have in it, you'll find that having rocks and gravel in your pond not only makes it look better, but it makes it healthier as well. So contrary to the myth, having rocks and gravel on the bottom of your pond allows Mother Nature to clean up after herself.


Predators will eat all of your expensive fish!

Koi PondRaccoons don't enjoy swimming. That's not to say they never swim, or couldn't stand on the edge of your pond and take a paw swipe or two at your fish. Fortunately, most fish will swim to a deeper, more protected part of the pond when a predator is threatening them. The one predator with legitimate credentials is the blue heron. Planting water lilies will give your fish some extra protection and will work to minimize attracting a heron in the first place. Other protection measures include a cave-like structure that we refer to as a fish cave. These can be built-in during the pond's excavation, or if you already have a pond, they can be added with a little pond remodelling. Besides, if you notice a heron that won't leave your koi pond alone, we offer another solution called a scarecrow. The scarecrow is a sprinkler equipped with a motion sensor that will detect movement around your koi pond and shoot a jet of water across it successfully scaring away but not hurting the protected blue heron.


Koi can't be kept in a pond that also contains plants.

This is another common misconception, but trust us when we tell you fish and aquatic plants love each other! In a naturally balanced ecosystem, koi and plants complement and need one another. In nature, fish feed on plants. As a result, the fish produce waste, which is broken down by aerobic bacteria on the bottom of your pond, which, in turn, is used as fertilizer by the plants to grow and produce more natural fish food.


Correctly and aesthetically designed pond, inhabited by aquatic flora and fauna, creates a special atmosphere and adds tons of style to your landscape. We have to be honest; however, the construction of a pond is a rather expensive and time-consuming project suitable for people who are ready to the task, and then care for the fish. As we mentioned earlier, there are several fundamental features of a koi pond design – Filtration, Aeration, Water quality, Rocks and Gravel, Fish, Aquatic plants – all of these have to create a balanced ecosystem.


Pond filtration (pond filter) is a must as it will keep the pond clear. Due to the great appetite of carp fish, they produce a large amount of waste. Accordingly, the quality of water decreases: algae appear, and high-quality filtration will destroy bacteria, algae and biological waste. There are two main types of filters – mechanical and biological. Mechanical filters – skimmers, pump baskets, etc. – are responsible for the debris and waste while biological filters convert toxins into harmless substances. Aeration and water quality are essential for your koi pond. Make sure that oxygen levels are sufficient for the number of fish, the number of plants, etc. Many homeowners choose a waterfall or a fountain as an additional water feature which aerates the pond. This is a very natural way of oxygen circulation in the water. However, if the size of the pond does not allow such a feature, you can take advantage of special aeration pumps.


As much as aeration and filtration are important for the well-being of your pond, water quality is another major factor which can have an impact on the fish. Water temperature, pH levels, chlorine levels – these are the most important parameters that you need to monitor. Remember that chlorine is harmful to koi, so buying a de-chlorinator is a good investment. As far as temperature is concerned – the ideal one is 39° to 68° F and the best pH level for a koi pond is between 7.0 and 7.8.


Depth – any open water body with a minimum depth of 1.3 m and a surface area of 5 square meters is sufficient to accommodate half a dozen fish. However, koi love space and any increase in the size of the pond will have a beneficial effect on the size and weight of the inhabitants. The general rule for calculating the volume of the future pond is one carp – 1000 litres of water. Another option is to make a pond 7-8 m long, 4 m wide and 2 m deep. According to breeders' estimates, these sizes are enough for 15-20 adults. At the same time, the pond does not look crowded. Of course, the figures are approximate, because the reservoir may not be an ideal rectangle. The deeper and more spacious the pond, the better the koi fish will feel. They will grow faster, and its colour will be brighter.


One of the most important considerations that you need to keep in mind with regard to the depth of a Koi pond is to provide favourable conditions during the winter period. The fact is that carp need to winter somewhere. You could transfer the fish in an aquarium inside your house but imagine how large an aquarium should be! Make sure that you provide a pit where the fish will not freeze.


The bottom level is also important since koi fish love to dig in the bottom sediments in search of food. Therefore, a decorative koi pond should be covered with pebbles or gravel. Aquatic plants must be chosen, taking into account that koi is omnivorous – either fast-growing species or species that carp cannot eat.


When feeding koi it will be good to follow a simple rule – often and little by little. It is best to use floating food, and in this case, koi fish rising to the surface and taking food directly from the hands turns into a spectacular beauty. Besides, it allows the timely removal of surplus food, preventing decomposition.


If you want to discuss how we can help you incorporate a beautiful koi pond into your landscape design, don't hesitate to contact us for a free consultation

Happy Landscaping,
Seyffer Designs Crew

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Director James Seyffer's love and passion for gardens began at Melbourne University's Burnley campus in 2006. Inspired by this platform, James realised his dream of creating live canvasses that captivate and delights his audiences. His drive and passion were soon rewarded after receiving an award at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in 2011. His designs showcase his love for plants, variations in natural textures and hard surfaces.

In addition, James has over a decade of experience as a qualified tradesman in landscape construction and horticulture. This experience cultivated a sound understanding of how to construct aesthetically pleasing landscapes which are now baked into his design philosophy.