Being a koi keeper does not mean that two weeks’ holiday in the sun each year is not allowed.
If it did then people would soon lose interest in their pond. Koi keepers maintain garden ponds and keep fish to relax, not as a means of saving money on holidays abroad. So how do pondkeepers go on holiday each year and manage to get away with it?
Time of the year.
If koi are really at the top of your priorities then it would be best to elect to take a holiday over winter, when pond activity is minimal and the koi require negligible care and attention.
However, most of us are far less logical than that and choose to take our annual break when a pond is most in need of our attention and when fish are at their most active – the summer.
A few simple steps can be taken before, during and after a vacation so that a pond and its inhabitants needn’t know that you’d deserted them for a fortnight in the sun.
Things to do before setting off.
A week or so before going away, give the mechanical side of the filter a good clean, rinsing foams, brushes and settlement chambers ensuring that the pump pre-filter is cleaned. If this is carried out a week or so before setting off then any potential changes in water quality that may result from this maintenance will have time to settle.
Use this time to dump 20-30% of the pond water and replace it with fresh water. This will dilute any build up of nitrates and also freshen up the pond reducing the likelihood of the fish becoming stressed on your vacation. If the pond is not fitted with an auto top-up then fill the pond to the brim. It is best to plan for 2 weeks of flag-cracking weather.
If blanketweed is a problem then remove as much as possible in the days preceding the holiday. If using a blanketweed killer then apply it a few weeks before leaving to manage any extra solid waste entering the filter.
Try not to be tempted to add any new acquisitions during this period up to the holiday to reduce the likelihood of problems occurring through the new additions. It is also wise to study the behaviour of your fish to be satisfied that there are no fish that look likely to develop problems while you are on holiday.
Unless the pond is already protected against heron attack, it would be wise to cover it securely with a net as 2 weeks or so will be tempting for a heron to spend long uninterrupted periods fishing at will.
There are 2 ways of approaching feeding while away.
Do not plan to feed the fish at all while away.
Ask a friend or neighbour to feed the fish (and keep an eye on aeration and turnover etc.)
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.
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.
While on holiday, rest, relax and have a well earned break. Only if you feel you cannot completely relax knowing that your koi are ‘home alone’ should you leave a contact number with your stand-in.
Upon return from holiday.
Carry out a quick visual inspection of the fish and count them to see if they are all present and correct.
Test the water to determine if the pond has maintained a good chemistry while away. If it hasn’t then take the necessary action.
Clean out the filter and pump as you did before leaving as it is probably 3 weeks since it was last done.
If you have used a stand-in, present them with a gift from your vacation for their time and efforts, (if everything went to plan while you were away)