My “Koi” Experience
My husband and I purchased our first home in 2007 (if you’re cringing and thinking “oooooh right before the bubble burst – yikes” you’re right -ugh – this was the time BJF, aka the time before we met Jason Farris). In the backyard of this home was a “koi” pond. In the pond were several large, gold colored fish and a few smaller ones. The seller wanted to include the value of the “rare koi” in the sale price of the home, however, upon talking with a koi expert father of a friend (thank you friend!) we found out that in fact the “rare koi” were actually just “big, common goldfish”. Sadly, before we even closed escrow, herons found their way into the backyard, flying off with every fish in the pond. It was a pretty sad and disheartening thing. At the same time however, my husband and I questioned whether we’d have known how to actually care for rare koi safely and keep them alive and well had they been present when we moved into our home.
Meet Rosimeri Tran, President of the Central California Koi Society
Koi ponds are a popular and attractive feature in a number of Central Valley yards. With temperate, snow-free winters, Fresno makes for a great place to own koi and maintain a healthy koi pond. With it being the peak time of year in which people tend to shop for a home, I wanted to provide you with information that would help you to feel prepared to view and appreciate koi ponds that may be present on properties you view. (Currently, FresYes has an AMAZING listing with fantastic koi ponds, which you can check out here!) In order to provide you with sound knowledge, I reached out to Rosimeri Tran, President of the Central California Koi Society. Seng had always wanted koi, and in 2005 after purchasing their home, he did research and then dug in and made the dream a reality, building a pond in 2005. Rosimeri was not particularly interested in koi herself, however, after their koi began getting continually sick, she found herself sucked into researching best practices for koi care online.
Rosimeri was happy to stumble across the Central California Koi Society, and she reached out to then President, Tony Palazzo who graciously came to help the Trans get their pond in order and koi healthy. The Trans were so grateful for the existence of such a club and kind members like Tony, who was nice enough to take time to personally help the Trans get their bearings with pond maintenance. Following this experience, the Trans joined the club to connect with other pond owners and educate themselves on best practices in koi care.
Rosimeri paid Tony’s kindness forward when she spent her own time answering my questions about koi and ponds – in hopes of helping you, dear reader! Read on to learn from her experiences and get some great tips!
Jump Start Your Koi Education with Expert Advice
FresYes: What do you enjoy most about having a koi pond?
Rosimeri: We enjoy sitting in our gazebo and watching the koi swim around and listening to the waterfall — it’s so soothing, no matter how hard of day we’ve had, the stress just escapes. They are friendly fish and will swim right up to you; all the beautiful colors and patterns are such an enhancement to our backyard. Many of other club members and hobbyists have also shared that the highlight of their day is sitting outside with their koi, watching them eat and swim and just be happy, it’s a great stress reliever.
FresYes: What specific advantages or challenges to koi ownership and pond maintenance does our Fresno climate bring?
Rosimeri: Given the right environment and care all koi have the same needs. They prefer water temperatures of 70F and should not be fed when water temps drop below 50F as their digestive system is sluggish then, and they go into hibernation, otherwise koi thrive in our Central Valley especially since we don’t deal with ice or snow like other parts of the country.
I guess the biggest challenge in our local climate would be water restrictions. Koi in ponds need to have their water changed out periodically because you are feeding them and they are creating waste that needs to be flushed out, otherwise you create a toxic environment for them and they will get sick and die. Changing between 5%-10% of the water weekly is recommended. What we do during those water changes is use the pond water to water our plants and grass, so it does not go to waste — as long as there is no salt content in the water, it is safe for our plants.
Another potential problem is the hot sun, as koi can get sunburned. We built a shade over our pond to protect our koi from the sun as well as predators. We lost a few koi in the beginning from a Heron who hopped right over to our pond for some fresh fish. Creating a barrier is recommended for protection as well as preventing algae growth. A shade also helps to keep water temperatures more stable.
FresYes: What are some of the most common struggles or “rookie mistakes” those with limited knowledge experience when getting into koi ownership?
Rosimeri: Pond design is the most common problem — they just dig a hole and throw a liner in without researching the best way to have the water flow and filter. A lack of proper filtration for the size of pond or number of koi can be a disastrous error. Putting rocks at bottom of pond to have that natural design also is bad, because when koi have issues they will rub against the rocks making themselves vulnerable to sores and parasites. Waste also settles into the rocks, causing a buildup of hydrogen sulfide — deadly to koi and human, so it’s best to never have rocks at bottom of pond. Rocks can however be used around the perimeter of the pond or at the waterfall.
Another mistake we see is adding too many koi, too fast and not quarantining them. Koi can come in 6” size and can grow rapidly, so imagine you purchase a hundred 6” koi, and by summer’s end they have doubled in size in a small pond. Koi can grow to exceed 24”, so in a few years you would have to thin out your pond due to space constraints and the potential for health issues. Quarantining is important because you never know where a koi has come from, and koi, like any living creature can harbor parasites and disease. Setting up a small aquarium or container with a lid, with fresh water and an air stone for a few weeks for new koi will keep your existing koi healthy.
FresYes: If someone is interested in building a koi pond on their existing property, what would you recommend they do as their first steps?
Rosimeri: Before building a pond, do the research. Pond location is key as you don’t want the pond too close to mature trees because the roots will infiltrate pond walls looking for water. Avoid building too close to the house too because of flooding issues. When the Valley receives heavy rain, it would be a disaster to have that pond overflow into the home. If looking into contractors, get several estimates before proceeding and get everything in writing so that there are no surprises. The internet is full of information, but it must be read carefully. I would recommend pond building books over the internet as a sources of reputable information. I strongly recommend talking to other koi hobbyists, such as those in our koi club. We meet monthly at various members’ homes where you can see their ponds, talk to them about the construction and get recommendations. Taking the time to plan the koi pond well will make it a much better pond, with fewer mistakes. You don’t want to find a problem after construction, as tearing the pond down and redoing it is very costly and time consuming.
FresYes: If someone is considering purchasing a property with an existing pond/has just purchased such a property, what are your recommendations?
Rosimeri: Join a koi club to learn about the koi and pond care! We get many calls from new pond owners who did not know what to do and are having problems with koi dying. Our membership fee is only $35.00 for the year and covers the whole family. We have monthly topics and it is a very social environment. In addition to serving as President, I am also the Editor of our newsletter which is included with every membership.
Our organization, the Central California Koi Society has been around for over 38 years and has many knowledgeable koi hobbyists who are more than eager to share their experiences. Our website is cencalkoi.com and we are also on Facebook. We have an annual koi show at Fig Garden Village, this year it will be held September 24th and 25th. At this event, koi hobbyists will bring their koi to be judged, vendors will be selling koi and pond products, (making it a great time to stock up on koi food and pond items you would normally not find here in the Valley!) and, the koi for sale are beautiful and all from Japan. Vendors and hobbyists travel to the area for the event, with some coming in from as far as San Diego to enter their koi in the competition.It is s a great family event, and it is free to watch.
FresYes: Do you have a favorite type of koi?
Rosimeri: My favorite koi is the Showa, because of the colors and pattern. The Showa is a black koi with white and red patterns. We have several in our pond, and when shopping for koi, my eyes always go to the Showa.
Thank you so much to Rosimeri Tran for all of her help in putting this article together. The beautiful pond and koi pictured are her own. I hope you found this article helpful, and will consider learning more about becoming a koi hobbyist, or take part in the Central Valley Koi Society if you are already a hobbyist!
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