As someone who may be new to koi keeping, or perhaps are still contemplating taking that leap of faith, it may be wise to take a leaf out of Gordon Brown’s book. When undertaking any project, it is the prudent thing to plan and budget for the long term, something that is only possible when you have a full grasp of the scale of the task.
The multi-disciplinary project of building a koi pond is understandably a major short term consideration, and a sizeable one at that. By planning for the long term, we mean looking beyond the major capital investment, to the finer details that will make our investment fully functional. Returning to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not planning beyond the finished product is like building new hospitals and schools, without planning for the nurses, doctors, teachers and cleaners to fill them. It is not prudent to plan for the construction, without budgeting for those other things that will make the investment all worth while.
Koi keeping is very similar in many respects. When budgeting (and persuading the loved ones in our lives that we can afford it) it can be too easy to think of the big items – the pond materials, filter, pump, pipework and hire of tools or skips. Working on this basis, come the completion of the project we would be left high and dry (even with the obligatory +10% safety margin). Besides the koi, which are rarely budgeted for at the bargaining stage with our loved ones, there are a number of key items that will make our pond fully functional, which should be planned for before the first piece of turf is cut
As soon as koi are introduced to your new pond, it is likely that they may need to be retrieved from the pond to be examined at close hand. Hopefully, this will not be the case, but koi, being koi and in an immature pond environment, the odds of requiring a net are quite high.
Things to look for in a net: A hand net should easily reach the bottom of your pond and to a reasonable distance across to the opposing bank. The art of netting a koi is a mix of instinct and experience and having complete control over the net will make catching koi that bit easier. The skill of netting a koi is not to chase it, catching up with it from behind (trawler style) as you’ll be there all day. Rather a hand net should be used to guide and usher and with a little guile, manoeuvre the koi so that it finds itself swimming into your net. To be able to achieve this, as quickly as possible, without the koi becoming too spooked, wound-up and stressed you need to be in complete command of your net.
Strange things start to happen with nets when they get long, – they start to wobble, become heavy and are slow to respond when guiding one from the pond edge. Many hand nets are adaptations from swimming pool nets where the shaft is crafted from light aluminium. More traditional koi nets have a wooden shaft which is buoyed up a little in the water. These are heavier than the aluminium handled nets and are slower to respond when manoeuvring through the depths of a koi pond, but if dropped, they will not sink to the bottom. Aluminium nets are available with telescopic handles, which makes them more compact and easier to store, but can tend to flex a little more when pushing them through the water.
The mesh of the net itself is very important for 3 reasons:
Visibility. You will notice that nets intended for koi are black. This makes them far less visible to koi underwater making koi easier to catch – they find it difficult to avoid a net if they cannot see it.
Drag. There is a trade off between fineness of a mesh and its tendency to resist being pulled through the water. There is no real need for the mesh of nets to be so fine that their drag impedes the nets man and as most koi are large they will not become snagged or caught in a net with a more open mesh. The more open the mesh, the easier and quicker it will be to corner and catch your koi.
Softness. The mesh of a hand net will come into direct contact with the delicate skin and mucus coating of koi and should be sufficiently soft so as not to cause abrasions. Test the softness of the mesh of nets by running the tips of your fingers over the mesh. Ensure that all meshes are made from knotless nylon.
A floating cage net is an invaluable addition to the koi keepers cupboard as it allows the isolation of a koi without removing it from its preferred environment – your pond. Usually a metre cubed in shape, the perimeter will consist of 4 x 1 metre lengths of pipe joined to form a square, floating collar. The metre cube of softest nylon mesh is hung on to the floating collar which is covered with a safety net which can be fastened tightly around the collar with a draw-string. This will prevent any lively koi from jumping out of the cage.
A floating cage is ideal should one of your koi be suffering from an ulcer that would require repeated regular topical treatment. The koi can be retrieved by simply gathering up the net cube – far better for the koi than chasing it (and the other koi) around the pond. Because it is so much easier retrieving a koi from a floating cage you are more likely to treat the koi regularly, making it more likely to make a speedy recovery.
A floating basket, as seen and used by koi dealers across the UK is an ideal vessel in which to examine or merely ‘get close’ to specific koi in your pond. Used in conjunction with your hand net, it is pushed below the water by the leading edge of the net and the captured koi ushered into the basket, all in one movement. The buoyant basket will rise 1/4 out of the water, keeping the koi safely confined.
Usually made from blue plastic, a floating cage is also useful as a bagging station. It frees up both hands and allows you to bag a koi safely, without the risk of taking it out of water. As it reduces stress, it must be good.
Bowls are available in many depths and diameters and like the basket, available in all colours – as long as its blue! The most abundant size is about 1 metre in diameter holding 150+ litres. A bowl is invaluable when dipping koi or anaesthetising them prior to application of topical treatments. Koi will be lifted from the basket and lowered into the bowl ready for treatment.
When stripping koi artificially of their eggs or sperm, a bowl is invaluable for sedating the broodstock prior to spawning. A bowl should also be used when introducing fish from your quarantine system, or if needs be, direct from the dealer. Filling the bowl 1/3 with pond water, floating the bag and releasing your koi into it. This is also a super opportunity for taking a couple of photographs, measuring the size of the koi, and recording its pattern distribution. Having taken as close a look as you need, the koi, now acclimatised to your pond water can swiftly be lifted (or netted if you are not confident at lifting) into your pond and released.
Other useful pieces of koi keeping equipment that may otherwise have been an oversight during the planning of a new koi pond:
1. Treatment / Medication Kit A range of medications that can be applied to the water or directly onto koi affected koi. This will include disposable latex gloves, measuring cylinders for accurate measurement of treatments, cotton buds, tweezers etc. Towels that are dedicated for fish use ( as malachite will never come out in the wash – try explaining that on to your wife!) are a necessity, if not for merely drying your hands. A cushioned or padded waterproof mat is also ideal for laying out an anaesthetised fish.
2. Books and videos These offer us the benefit of the experience and training of other koi keepers who have gone before us, making (and hopefully owning up to) the mistakes that we can then avoid. There is a real wealth of knowledge available to us in many media, suitable for the novice through to the experienced koi keeper.
3. Food It may sound an obvious question, but have you budgeted for koi food? A sizeable pond can hold a good number of koi, each of which are completely reliant on you for their food (as well as water and shelter). Food should be chosen wisely, and in line with what you want to achieve with your koi. It is through choosing a suitable diet for your koi that you can maximise their health, growth and colour.