My wife and I are planning a two week holiday abroad but we are worried about leaving our Koi and pond. How can we ensure that the Koi are fed in our absence? Do we have to do anything to our filters and equipment to guarantee they run smoothly while we’re away? Is there any equipment we can buy to help us out? Are there any security measures we can take to safeguard our Koi while our house lies empty?
How can we ensure that the Koi are fed in our absence
There are 2 ways of approaching feeding while away.
1. Do not plan to feed the fish at all while away.
2. Ask a friend or neighbour to feed the fish (and keep an eye on aeration and turnover etc.)
1. Koi can manage two weeks in the summer months quite satisfactorily without food. They will graze on algae and will adapt to a reduced feeding rate.
2. The main hazard for the fish and pond while on holiday is a well-meaning but inexperienced friend who is likely to overfeed the fish. This can be overcome by providing a number of pre-measured portions for each day. Do not allow your friend or neighbour access to any other ‘treat’ or tit-bit foods.
Having decided on the size of portions to leave, use them for 3 to 4 days yourself before leaving to be satisfied that they are not too large. As it is difficult to predict the weather while you are away, leave instructions for any uneaten food to be removed should temperatures drop drastically.
Do we have to do anything to our filters and equipment to guarantee they run smoothly while we’re away?
There are a number of ways in which you can prepare your pond before setting off that will make life easier for both your stand-in and your fish. Only you know the specific areas of your pond and filter system that require most regular maintenance, so if possible, work extra hard on these areas, creating a period of grace before things have to be maintained again; ideally, only after you’ve returned from holiday. Basically, you need to get everything freshened up before you go.
- Water changes. Rather than the usual the fortnightly water change, consider doing two in the preceding fortnight. This is better than doing a big one too close to your departure date, as this may affect your pond’s stability, having a knock-on effect for your koi which may manifest itself as a health problem while you’re away.
- Media maintenance. Likewise, combine your water changes with extra rigorous mechanical media maintenance. You know how frequently this needs changing or cleaning before flow rates are affected, so plan accordingly. If possible, why not have some pre-cleaned media standing by to be dropped into your filter by your neighbour in place of one-week-old mechanical media. The bio-chambers should look after themselves over this period.
- Pump Prefilter. If your pump has a pre-filter (or a habit of blocking up) then clean it just before leaving. If blanketweed is the culprit, then remove as much by hand before leaving and ensure your favoured blanket weed control treatment has been added recently.
Is there any equipment we can buy to help us out?
Your best option is not to resort to a mechanical solution to any chores while abroad, but put your faith in human beings (your neighbour).
Leave your system untouched for the weeks preceding your holiday so that you’re familiar and confident with your system’s operation. New pumps or filter systems will tend to operate in slightly different ways to your redundant hardware, requiring your experienced eye to ensure that they are run-in well and with no detrimental effects to your pond or koi.
The logic in asking a close neighbour to look after your koi is that you should expect them to carry out a daily check on your pond. Give them a daily checklist together with guidance on what to do in certain circumstances.
Rather than burden your neighbour with the responsibility of feeding (although this is a useful reward and motivation for them to check and your pond regularly) you might be tempted to invest in an auto feeder (We koi keepers can be suckers for a new gadget). However, if you’re not used to using one, it may be difficult to set it accurately so that it provides your fish with the quantity of food they are used to. As before, if you are in any doubt and if it involves using new hardware, it is better to stick to tried and trusted methods while you are away.
Are there any security measures we can take to safeguard our Koi while our house lies empty?
My first choice for security would be a nearby friend or close neighbour who was also a pond keeper. They will naturally have a keen eye for spotting any potential issues while you’re away and because they are likely to be enjoying their own pond on a daily basis, they are less likely to forget about yours.
By involving your neighbour, you can also more easily address issues of security. They will keep your front lawn trimmed, keep an eye out for any strange behaviour and perhaps if they have a second car, even park it on your driveway. Security of koi ponds has become a hot topic over recent years, so tell as few people as possible about your impending vacation.
BOXOUT: 10 things to do before going on holiday.
1. Carry out two partial water changes one week before departing.
2. Ensure your pond is filled to capacity.
3. Confirm that your water quality is as near-perfect as possible.
4. Carry out any filter maintenance one week before departing (eg mechanical media)
5. Remove excess blanketweed or pond sediment manually and by pond vacuum during a final partial water change.
6. Erect a permanent protection against herons as these shy predators will have two weeks of virtually uninterrupted fishing time.
7. If you have opted to feed, then prepare pre-packed portions of food marked for each day or if you prefer, for alternate days.
8. Invite your neighbour over for a run-through of your instructions.
9. Leave written instructions and contact details in case of emergencies.
10. Don’t be tempted to buy any untried or untested labour-saving devices or gadgets while away.