The Beginners Guide in a nutshell 

Knowledge is the key to Success

The Pond Makeup:

  1. Size: Well I can tell you from my own experience and from 90% of the Koi owners I know about how big to make your pond. If you haven’t made it yet and are considering a size, double or triple it. That is because, without exception, once you get into the Koi hobby you will want more and bigger fish. After seeing the varieties available everyone wishes they had more room. 
  2. Filters: Use more filtration than you think you need and then use more yet. A bottom drain is highly recommended.
  3. Other: Lots of aeration, plants, a waterfall or fountains all contribute to the ecosystem. Also net your pond to keep out predators.
  4. Nets: Make sure you have a good long handle net to safely catch the fish if necessary along with a Sock Net which reduces stress on the fish.
  5. Don’t use rocks or pebbles in the bottom. They collect leaves, waste and debris making it harder to keep your pond clean. It also creates an unhealthy environment for the Koi to live in as bad bacteria thrive in them. If they get stirred up when they are full of debris they can make your koi extremely sick or worse.
What you should have on hand:
  1. Quarantine Tank (Critical) (Why they get sick and die): This is by far the most important equipment to have especially if you already have an existing pond with fish. This is to acclimate and adjust the NEW fish. If this is not done you run a risk and can expect these new fish to develop sores, fungus and other problems that can eventually lead to death. At the same time you also run the risk of passing problems onto your existing fish. To further explain, this is not necessarily because you purchased sick or bad fish but because of the stress new fish endure due to transport. Imagine yourself going to Mexico and drinking a big glass of water. You WILL get sick. Until your body adjusts to the bacteria’s specific to that area you are susceptible. This is the same thing that happens to new fish. They will need a couple of weeks to de stress and adjust to their new water. On the same token it gives you time to check out your new fish. Never ever ever introduce new fish into an existing pond without quarantine. You can easily medicate them should the need arise in a quarantine tank. You can also use the quarantine tank to care for sick fish. This way you don’t have to medicate your whole pond. The only exception would be is if you only buy your Koi from one source.
Volume of quarantine tank: This tank should be at least 300 gallons and have a net covering, aeration and some filtration.
  1. Salt: 4% salt added to the water will help your new fish de-stress, help them breathe easier and backs off some parasites and fungus.
  2. General Meds: You should have on hand, SuperVerm and or Prazi for parasites, Malachite Green for fungus and possibly some Formalin or a mixture of malachite and formalin (Quick Cure or Pro Form C) for a variety of common illness. See our medication section here
Selecting Your First Fish
  1. Size: A lot of beginners think that selecting small fish is there best choice. Often they select fish that are 3” – 6”. Fish of this size are known as Tosai or Fingerlings. These are fish under one year of age, have not built up their immunities and are the most difficult to raise. We highly recommend that you select fish that are 6” – 12” in size. These fish are called Nissai and are over one year of age and have gone through at least one winter. This age has a higher survival rate and just all round easier to care for. It’s worth the extra couple of dollars for a larger fish. It costs you just as much to care for an inexpensive fish as it does for a higher priced one. For best results the fish you select should be bought from the same type of climate that you live in. Most small fish are raised in greenhouses when shipped into your local dealers and therefore need to be acclimated to your temperature variations. In New England or seasonal climates this is especially true. 
  2. How Many: The amount of fish that you eventually own depends on your filtration system and the volume of your pond. You can have more fish in a smaller volume provided the filtration is high. By adding fish slowly, a good filtration system will handle one fish per every 100 gallons of water. 
  3. Quality: Most people don’t know what a good quality fish looks like. By doing your homework you can clearly see how different Koi look from place to place and how they SHOULD look. Many people are disappointed after purchasing Koi. They then realize that what they bought wasn’t representative of that particular variety. On our site you will find a Gallery of Varieties and what they should look like. It is well worth your while to check this out. 90% of fish sold locally are totally miss representative of true varieties. Get the best quality that you can afford because you will eventually see the difference and be very disappointed in your initial purchase. 

  4. Japanese vs. Domestic: There is absolutely no comparison between Japanese and Domestic Koi. To do this would be like comparing a scientist to an infant. The Japanese are masters that come down from 100’s of years and many generations and are by far the best producers of Koi in the world hands down. In Japan it takes 15 years of apprenticeship to become a breeder and many years to start producing top Koi. Just to acquire acceptable breeding stock in Japan they must be prepared to pay $50,000 to a half a million dollars. Top breeders start with a quarter of a million fry and cull down to 10,000 fish that may be suitable for sale. Of those suitable for sale, about 10% are taken by the breeders for Top Quality to further there breeding lines and sell to interested individuals. Often you will see advertised at the local garden center or pet store Japanese Koi for sale. Beware of this deception, these aren’t true Japanese Koi. They are Domestic Koi bred from inexpensive Japanese or Chinese Stock often supplied by local dealers for as cheap as $.50 a fish and grown to breeding size. Very few of these fish are true to type or good examples of the varieties. These would be considered culls (fish that should have been destroyed) by anyone knowledgeable in Koi. Some of the top suppliers to dealers in America of domestic fish are Blackwater Koi, Blue Ridge Koi, Seagrest, Z-Fish and Lee Koi. True Japanese Koi are fish that are imported directly from the breeders in Japan not Koi that are born here from Japanese stock. Americans can not reproduce the Koi that come out of Japan. Americans are putting dollar figures on Koi that should be culled (eliminated). When you are looking for quality Koi that are true to variety look for the words Imported Japanese Koi. To import fish from Japan is costly requiring knowledge of and contacts with the breeders. 
Problems with your local garden shop:
We are all in the business to sell Koi but there are some things you need to know. Pet Stores and Garden Centers are particularly notorious for misleading the first time hobbyists. It is imperative to understand that these places SELL Koi, they do not RAISE Koi. The difference being when you raise Koi you better understand their needs. People that raise them can better tell you how to care and nurture them. If the establishment can’t tell you WHAT the names of the varieties are or how to care for or who bred them, then they don’t have a clue and your chances of getting a good Koi is slim to none. Don’t expect to find imported fish at a garden shop or pet store. A little fact: We are not aware of ANY garden center or pet store in New England that imports directly from Japan. Yes, they hold there ancestry from Japan but are long removed from the raising of them. Often you end up spending more for a Domestic Koi from a Pet Store or Garden Center than you would for a true Japanese Koi from a reputable source. You might hear the terms Ghost Koi or Snow Babies, well we know what they are talking about but they do not exist. There was an original Wild Carp called ghost carp that Koi were originally produced from but the existence of them today is not nearly the same thing. What is called Ghost Koi today is your basic mutt in the world of fish. If you are searching for information on how to care for your Koi then you are going to get your best advice from someone who RAISES them.