The 6 Myths About Keeping Koi

Build, maintain, or repair ponds the way nature intended.

The 6 Myths About Keeping Koi

There is a whole lot of misinformation out there in reference to keeping koi.  Most of the information comes from businesses that someway or another make money on selling you expensive koi, installations, and products. 

With a naturally skeptical nature, I researched extensively before putting koi in my pond and found out quickly that many of these “facts” are in fact “myths.”

Myth #1: Koi Are Expensive

While it is true that koi CAN be expensive, it does not mean they have to be.

The most expensive koi in the world sold at a Japanese Koi show for $1.8 million. 


But generally koi are not that expensive if you can be patient and look out for beautiful koi at regular pet stores.  Most of the koi available at your run of the mill pet store chains are the lower grade koi that breeders rated lower than the “premium” examples you might find at specialty koi retailers. 

They sell these koi in bulk to the stores who sell them cheaper to you!

When I added koi to my pond, I carefully selected koi that had attributes that I saw as beautiful.  For example, I searched for blue ones, yellow ones, a variety of colors, and some butterfly koi with long fins. 

I was also able to find some koi with gin rin which have scales that have a metallic reflective quality and they can on koi of any color.  I have been able to find all of them at normal pet stores for around $8 each. 

You have to be patient and only buy the FEW that are truly special. 

It took the first year of shopping around and waiting for the right ones, but it was actually part of the fun.  Plus it’s good to add fish slowly so the ecosystem can adapt accordingly.

In fact I have not paid more than around $10 for each fish that I initially purchased.  Now I have amazing examples in my pond through breeding over the last 5 years… take a look at this video:

Unless you were an expert koi breeder, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  And you certainly don’t have to go to Japan!  LOL

Myth #2 – Koi Require Perfect Water Quality

Uh, no.  Koi do not have to have crystal clear water.  Do you know what does?  We do.  We want perfectly clear water and struggle to keep our water crystal clear especially since koi were initially bred from regular carp that love to muck in the mud. 

Then you have to install and maintain very expensive and constantly running pumps and filters that can quickly become overwhelmed with debris, leak, and need to be regularly serviced.  These keep pond businesses afloat, pun intended. 

The main way you can keep your koi healthy and happy is to manage population.  If you have a small pond, only keep a few, larger pond can keep more. 

Remember, mud occurs on the bottom of 100% of natural ponds and koi love rooting in the mud.  Plus there is the added benefits of the nutrients found in clay that comprises the mud.

Most backyard ponds today run with filters and are more similar to rivers than ponds.

In Japan,  prized koi are kept in MUD PONDS for months out of the year… with muddy water.  Lots of turbidity!  Enough said.

Myth #3 – Koi Need the Highest Quality Food

High quality food has a high price tag.  But again if you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for each individual koi then who cares right?  But for you and me, that is not necessary. 

While there is better nutrition in the highest quality koi food, your koi will still benefit from a more varied diet found in a natural environment. 

Imagine, carp do not rely on pellets in the wild!  I consider pellet food to be a supplemental food source that consists primarily of rosies, bug larvae, algae, tadpoles, eggs, and plants.

I primarily feed my koi in order to see them rise to the surface and give me a spectacular show of color!  I purchase a medium grade relatively inexpensive food found online with decent ingredients.

Myth #4  Koi Will Eat Up All Your Plants

This is actually true, koi will nibble on your plants… because they are hungry and need natural food sources!   The koi fish can do some serious damage to your plants because most people have only 1 or 2 water lilies, maybe a clump of irises and that’s it.  The koi are naturally drawn to these select few specimens and go to town on them. 

Then people say you should keep your pond plants in containers to protect them.  Of course this greatly limits the plant growth and this unnatural viscious cycle continues. 

But if your pond is a well established water GARDEN then the koi will not make a noticeable dent in your plant population.  Let’s just say, I’ve never lost a water lily to a koi, and I have some rather large fish. 

Make sure you adequately plant up your pond and plant them directly into your pond soil or gravel.  Exception may be some types of plants in particular lotuses that can quickly overtake a smaller pond if not placed into a container.

Myth #5 Koi Need Constant Care

The thing that is amazing about nature is the ability for nature to care for itself.  We as humans tend to over-complicate things and koi are no exception.  They are amazingly hardy fish. 

The carp family has become one of the world’s most pervasive fish due to their amazing ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats.  Koi are invasive in some parts of the world for this same reason including here in the U.S.

The main concern for koi keeping is having too many or too small of a pond.  That’s it. Other than feeding, they should be just fine… but please add more plants too.

Myth #6 Koi Will Stop Growing in Small Ponds

Koi do not stop growing until they reach fully mature size at around 8-10 years and beyond, that is if they live so long.  The issue at hand is the fact that small ponds can not easily accommodate large koi and they will often die before they reach full maturity. 

So the truth is that koi get large and the pond size should be adequately sized if koi are to be added to the environment.  

However, there is more to this than that.  Koi do tend to grow faster in larger ponds and the reason is that they get more exercise, can often find more food sources outside of pellets, and water quality, temperature fluctuations, etc tend to be more stable, all of which contribute to the rate of growth.  

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