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how easy is it to maintain a koi pond yourself?

October 22, 2018
last modified: October 22, 2018

Hi everyone,

we just purchased a house and found, under the overgrowth there was once a pond. I would really like to re-install a new pond have have koi carp. I have done research into making the pond and the costs involved but my husband is concerned about the actual work to maintain the pond once done. Are there any koi keepers here who can shed some light on this? Can it be done ourselves including the water changes or is it something we will have to pay someone to do? We live in Florida - so it is hot year round. Thank you for your advice!


Comments (10)
  • Nevermore44 - 6a

    The best thing you could do is find your local Koi Club.. and see if you can visit a few members ponds to talk shop. If you have never been a "ponder" before, it can seem like quite the world to dive in to.

    You will 100% want to do a lot of research on their requirements and
    setting up a pond. This includes filters, bottom drains, pumps, temps, fish per gallon, etc. AND this equates to $$$. Also with you living in Florida... dealing with/protecting predators.

  • jrb451

    I've had aquariums and ponds and my ponds have required lower maintenance overall. Of course there is the annual bio-filter cleaning.

  • Nevermore44 - 6a

    Koi or goldfish or garden ponds?

  • 2ManyDiversions

    A koi pond can be either high maintenance or easy care depending on variables. I strongly recommend you do some research on various forums (like this one! But there are others). You very much want to get references from the company who installs your pond (or upgrades/renews it). I’ve kept koi in the past, and frankly my first pond was not set up correctly – it was a weekly hassle and the pond never really looked great except the first year. I dreaded cleaning it.

    As an older couple now, DH and I have almost finished our latest pond. We’re far better informed. The following was on my wish list:

    • Heavy Duty Liner – a given. EPDM, 45 mil. You want to make sure the company also uses padding under the liner. We used geo cloth, some use carpet, some use carpet padding. Prevents rocks and roots from poking holes in the liner.
    • Bottom drain – this makes draining your pond so much easier. Of course, you can always just buy a cheap pump.
    • Bio Filter with backflush – these are not inside the pond, but rather in a small pond/pump house or buried up to a certain point. To clean the pond, you simply turn it to backflush, run it, then turn it to drain, and allow the sediment cleaned in the backflush to run out. This will need to be done every week to every month, depending on your pond (and at first, every other day as new ponds have a lot of dirt in them). Many bio filters also have settings that recirculate rather than clean (handy when adding fish medication to pond). In the winter the bio filters are cleaned, lids removed, water sucked out. I wouldn’t have a pond without a bio filter. It’s just much easier to clean.
    • Skimmer – well placed, with water circulating around your pond, the skimmer will pick up sediment/leaves/etc. floating on top of your water. These can be cleaned weekly to monthly, depending on your pond. Easy to clean. You will need to remove the net and empty it more often if you’ve got trees/leaves in the fall.
    • UV light – some like them, others don’t. I do. Ours is a smaller one, and takes a full day to filter the entire pond (1/4 of the water goes though it each pass). These help keep your pond clearer.
    • Falls/aeration – this is a given. You need oxygen in your pond, either via falls or fountain or aeration stones.
    • Pump – another given. This pulls the water out of the pond, into the bio filter, then into the uv light filter, then back into the pond. We have a large pump, installed next to the bio filter and uv light (not in the pond or skimmer).

    All this means you need electricity and a place for all this stuff (the skimmer goes at the pond). Now, others use a far more natural method, and they can explain that to you : )

    • Plants – always beneficial. They’ll feed your fish, provide a healthy balance to your pond. Water Lily’s and submerged plants are good to have. If your plants will survive with bare root planting, this is a good way to go (plant the roots in pea gravel filled pots, no clay or dirt. If you need clay, get the right kind, and top with pea gravel. Then don’t mess with them until you must! Make sure if you use pond clay your pots can be overturned by rambunctious koi – they can make a huge mess and dirty up your pond in no time.
    • Fish – ha! I said I had koi… they poo a lot. I mean, a lot. So we are going with shubunkin this time around. Heartier, less expensive. Goldfish with long flowing fins/tails. And you can have more. Buy from a pond dealer in your area and look for healthy fish. Another reason to go with goldfish – comets, shubunkins are not only heartier, but cheaper, and if you’ve got cats or wildlife, expect to lose a few or all beloved fish. Happens.
    • Feeding – don’t over feed. Nothing will make your pond dirtier than overfeeding. Dirty pond = high maintenance = dead or sick fish. Some never feed their fish. I wouldn’t feed more than 3 times a week if you’ve got plants and algae, and you will have algae – it’s part of the healthy balance.
    • Don’t sweat the small stuff – every spring most ponds have algae blooms and we ponders often call it pea soup. Looks nasty but with a well balanced pond it will clear up in time. If you see too much algae, stop feeding your fish and let them eat it.
    • You’ll want a water testing kit. I recommend establishing plants this next spring well before you introduce fish. Slow is good : ) And do not overload your pond with koi or goldfish – best way to have an unhealthy pond.

    So, how hard is it to maintain a well-balance, properly built, well planted pond? Not hard at all. You might never have to empty your pond or you might have to each summer. Depends on weather, surrounding trees, shade/sun, feeding habits. A bio filter with backflush makes cleaning the pond so much easier – I don’t even get my hands wet! I never put any additives in the pond… except if I have to drain and replace quite a lot of water and dechlorinate. Good Luck!

    I'm going to add this: We wanted someone else to install our latest pond. It was a disaster. He did everything wrong, concentrating on looks rather then getting it technically right. Then he walked off the job as it was beyond his company's abilities (just a 750 gallon pond!). DH and I have worked tirelessly on it every weekend to get it up and operating correctly - not to mention all the leaks. Get references, then get some more, and go look at the ponds!

  • HU-688228091

    Thank you so much for this detailed response and guidance! It is certainly helpful and I am now leaning towards a smaller pond with alternate fish than Koi!

  • 2ManyDiversions

    I was worried perhaps I'd scared you away from the idea and glad to know I didn't!

    I should warn you... you will spend an enormous amount of time at and around your pond, gazing at the fish, the water, your plantings. You will find yourself fully relaxed listening to the water falls (even if they are small), and watching your fish swim. You will find yourself drawn to it at odd times, and often : ) You will talk to your fish... and others who don't have ponds will not understand your fascination, your love, and the mesmerizing, soothing feelings that occur when one has a pond : )

    I'm not kidding or exaggerating : )

  • ademink

    Great advice above. I wanted to add that I personally would advise against rocks in the bottom of the pond. It creates a cleaning nightmare and they are a big poop trap. lol Black liner covered in algae looks very natural and makes it super easy to clean. We have a few shubunkin in w/ our koi and I would highly advise them as a koi alternative. They are beautiful, colorful, flowing and friendly - super tough little buggers! You'll be very pleased!

    If you are reinstalling/reinventing the pond, ensure that there are no shelves and the sides are straight up and down. This will prevent a heron/bird of prey buffet. Even then...it isn't 100% foolproof. I have a 9000 gallon pond w/ no shelves and have to net my pond year-round. Once they find you, they are relentless. They will even stand on the edge and barf food into the water to draw the fish up and then snack on them. lol Nature is amazing...

  • 2ManyDiversions

    ademink, thanks for that save! I dropped the ball on those two : )

    You'll see a lot of ponds with rock sides and bottoms (the rock sides are typically mortared over the liner). Very attractive, but as ademink says, poop catchers. The fellow who started ours did rock sides and poured lots of pea gravel on the bottom (w/o my approval). No fish, no plants, and already the bottom of the pond is beyond nasty. I will remove all the pea gravel next spring and clean out the pond - a tedious job with so much between those gravels. I do love the rock sides and intend to keep them (beside, it'd be quite the chore to remove them).

    Our first pond had straight sides and we had no issues with wildlife. This one now has sloped due to the rocks piled up the sides (again, not my approval, but I do love the look). Eh, guess I'll have to harden my heart as I am sure to lose some fish. Ha, won't happen. Heart will always hurt when (not if) the fish get eaten. However, the smaller birds have enjoyed rock-hopping and taking sips and baths : ) Last week a couple doe stopped by for a skittish sip as well.

    Ademink, I now live very close to herons (and bald eagles), so I'm sure to see some heron puking - which I find pretty clever... and gross ; )

    HU: A few other thoughts:

    If you want koi, the pond should be a minimum 3 ft. deep. Goldfish, being hardier, can handle 2 ft to 2.5 ft depending on location. Some have them in 1 - 1.5 ft. but that's a year-round warm climate. Depth is for warmth. Also, if you live where the winters get cold, aeration stones and/or a pond heater rock will help (was given that advice here, which I'll take!). You don't feed the fish in the winter.

  • ademink

    I don't think mortared rocks on the sides are inherently evil. Gravel on the bottom...yes. LOL I also had to pull tons of gravel out of the bottom of mine several years ago and I added retrofit bottom drains. What a HUGE difference in water quality - wow. No more annual cleanings!

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