The outdoor ponds

The outdoor ponds have been set up, and the koi, pond fish and turtles moved out. We’re expecting a small order of new koi – kohaku and sanke – this afternoon. Plants will be coming in a week or so – water lettuce and water hyacinth, and probably lilies as well.

Plants serve many functions in a pond. Some, like hornwort, are active oxygenators. Surface plants such as water lilies and water lettuce cast shade and provide shelter and hiding places for fish. Fish who have somewhere to hide are more likely to come out. They feel secure knowing they can hide when they’re threatened.

Plants also cut algae growth two ways. They reduce light, and they take up nutrition. Algicides are illegal in Canada, so any help you can get to keep algae down in your pond is good.

The showpiece of the outdoor section is the big pool, 1400 gallons. Currently the large koi from inside the store, as well as a large ID shark and our own Dr Wellfish, the tiger shovelnose catfish, have been moved outside. Fish do better in sunshine, and koi with hi (pronounced “hee” – the red colour) become very much brighter with exposure to sunlight. Algae helps their colour, too.

The pond department

The pond department is going up at Animalia.

Pond plants and pond fish look better and do better when they’re outdoors, so for the next few months Animalia will have an extension on the back to let the Koi, goldfisha nd plants catch some rays.

On Tuesday the koi we’ve overwintered in Wharncliffe will be coming back into the store and going straight out to a custom-built outdoor above-ground pond. About two weeks from now, on June 3rd, we’ll have new small koi which will also be in an outdoor pond. These new fish will be hand-picked from our supplier’s tanks, and we’ll be bringing in the prettiest ones we can find.

We know from past years that the small koi go quickly, especially the sanke (white with red and black spots) and the kohaku (red and white). Be sure to get in early for the best choice! In the meantime, if you haven’t got your pond filter going yet, this weekend is a good time to start it up.

Koi coming

At the end of May I’ll be driving down to Southern Ontario to choose the koi for the year. It’s one of my favourite things to do for the pet store. While I like to get some of the popular patterns like kohaku (red and white) and sanke (white with red and black spots), I also look for some unusual patterns, like karasu (black) or chagoi (brown or bronze or greenish, tea-coloured fish).

Recently we got some large koi from someone who was no longer keeping a backyard pond. These fish are beautiful and in excellent condition, with smooth, healthy skin and good body conformation. One sanke (bottom left) has lots of shiro (white) with a branching pattern of sumi (black) along the spine and several large spots of hi (red). The other (top right)  has a rather cloudy sumi overlying the hi. The large koi is doitsu (scaleless) with large mirror scales along the spine. Finally, there’s a lovely darker fish, possibly a goromo (robed), with black markings over what appears to be hi (red).

Bear in mind that all the koi you find in the pet trade are lower-grade koi, not the high standard show koi. The prices reflect this. While a large koi in the pet trade might cost you as much as $200-$300, that wouldn’t begin to cover the cost of a top-grade show fish.

All the same, the only reason to buy a koi is that you like the way the fish looks. Try to see it from the top, as that is how you’ll be seeing it in the pond. Koi are bred to be viewed from above, so the side view of the fish doesn’t matter that much.

Most of these new koi are about 12″ in length, as you can see by the ruler included in the picture. (We put that in for scale – snicker!) The white doitsu is about 14″ long. We have some 5-8″ koi which will be coming into the store in a couple of weeks.

The fish I’ll be choosing at the end of May will be considerably smaller and less expensive. We buy some small koi every year, in spite of the saying that “Only a fool would buy a three-inch koi, and only a fool would sell one.” This is because the colour changes a lot as the fish grows and matures. A promising three-inch fish can turn muddy or lose most of its red colour. Alternately, an uninspiring-looking three-incher might turn into a lovely adult. You never can tell.