Getting Back to Basics

Posted by Joe Pawlak on 5th Jan 2022

Getting Back to Basics

What is the biggest hurdle to selling and keeping ornamental pond fish? Knowledge, space, time and cost. Honest answers to common questions will help increase enjoyment and sales.

Many of the questions we are asked may seem simple even trivial, but remember, you were new to this wonderful hobby at one point yourself. Empowering people with the knowledge they need will create relationships which can increase sales. Here are some of the most common questions I have answered over the years.How big do Koi get? On average koi can grow to 24” although in large ponds with adequate food and time they can grow to 36” or more.How fast do they grow? Warmer water temperatures increase growth rates. Water temperatures consistently above 70 degrees can encourage growth of one inch per month. Quality feed will provide the nutrition they need to thrive and grow.

How big of pond do I need? Remember the simple days of a goldfish in a glass bowl? The pond size you should start with is completely up to you. Smaller koi and goldfish can do well in larger aquariums, a rain barrel sized container or a small preformed pond. You can get started fairly simply. As you advance your love of fish keeping, you may wish to upgrade to larger more elaborate pond set up. Larger fish require larger ponds but as I like to say koi are pigs with fins they do not need ultra-clear water. They can be very happy and thrive in a dirt bottom farm pond and learn to greet you at the pond bank for food. The big question is what do you want as an outcome of ornamental fish keeping?

Are they expensive? No, some very nice fish of almost every color can be bought for less than ten dollars. Your budget and tastes will dictate what is best for you. I typically recommend you start with fish over 6” and of lower costs to start out. As you fall in love with the fish, and figures out how simple keeping them can be, you may come back for some higher priced fish and gear.

What kind of equipment do I need? You really don’t need much, a preformed pond in partial shade will happily hold some fish. With that said you may wish to have a larger more elaborate set up right away with a pump, filtration, and more. Typically, the bigger the pond, the easier it is to manage. There are many, many options based on your comfort level.

What about winter? Koi and goldfish are very resilient fish and can live under the ice. Fall preparation and cleaning of the pond helps. Ponds with large groups of fish may require more preparation and aeration for gas exchange. When you get to that point in the hobby, we can help you out.

How often do I feed them? Depending on the situation, you may only need to feed the fish for enjoyment (such as a lightly stocked farm pond) or once to twice a day in a higher stocked pond with little natural food availability. When your fish greet you at the pond edge and you get to feed them and enjoy them up close. This can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of fish keeping.

How do you tell boys from girls? When fish reach 12 inches or longer, it’s easier to tell the boys from the girls, especially is late spring and early summer. Girls will be more rounded in their mid-section as they will be carrying tens of thousands of eggs. A more scientific approach is to flip a fish over and look underneath. The vent areas look slightly different. If you are buying fish over 12 inches most fish sellers can give you a fairly accurate prediction of girl or boy.

Will they have babies? When late spring light levels increase, and pond temperature approach a consistent 70 degrees, the fish will be looking to lay eggs. Koi lays thousands and thousands of eggs, all in hopes of just a few surviving. With so many eggs hatching, these baby fish require a lot of food and thus only a few typically survive in a hobby pond. You can breed Koi, but it requires a special set up and preparation.

What about the fish with long fins? Are they koi? Yes, they are. Just as koi are carp, long fin or butterfly koi have been selectively bred for these traits with their origins going back to Japanese koi breeders.

What fish should I buy? It all depends on your needs, budget and comfort level. Start with a few fish, and let’s talk in a couple weeks and get you some more.

How do I keep them healthy? Koi and goldfish are naturally very strong fish. Keeping them healthy is as easy as providing a good environment, and adequate food. A single goldfish can thrive in a gallon bowl of water IF the water is kept clean and the fish fed each day. The same is true for any sized pond. And to add to that a pond filled with green water can be very, very healthy.

What is the difference between imported fish and those raised in America? There is no difference. If a Japanese woman has a child in America, is it different? No, it is not. Fish of all qualities and varieties are commonly grown and sold all over the world.

Why should I have a pond and keep fish? Sitting next to a pond and watching the fish swim around and look for food can be one of the most calming experiences. Water falling over a waterfall, sun glistening off the surface allows you to slow down a bit …and enjoy. Think of it as living art that continues to surprise and enlighten every day.

Being new to the ornamental fish hobby should be an exciting and rewarding experience. Providing honest answers to simple questions will help introduce a lifestyle that many of us already enjoy, love, and make a great living involved in.

Take the time, share your knowledge and be rewarded in so many ways.

Till next time,
Joe Pawlak
Blackwater Creek Koi Farms Inc.