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How Many Koi Can I Have In My Pond?

How Many Koi Can I Have In My Pond?

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This has to be the number one question we get from new pond owners. Using a “Rule of Thumb” is great to put you in the ballpark but they really shouldn’t be taken as the end all final decision. We hear this DANGEROUS old RULE OF THUMB that some aquarium hobbyists have brought over to the pond world on from time to time. “I’ve been told I can have 1” of fish for every gallon of water.”
And that’s all fine and good if you have a ten-gallon aquarium with ten adorable little Pineapple Swordtails. That’s great if you have a ten-gallon pond with ten mosquito fish. Where it’s no longer a good rule of thumb is if you have a sixty-gallon aquarium with two 30” Koi! Or in the pond world that translates to thirty-three 30” Koi in a 1000-gallon pond. Doesn’t that sound silly? Even a new pond enthusiast knows that’s ridiculously over-crowded and a disaster waiting to happen.
Let’s get down to a RULE OF THUMB you truly can use to help you stock your pond and then we’ll review a few things to help keep you grounded when using it.
If you are consulting with a high-end Koi keeper you will hear rules like one female Koi for every 1000 gallons of water or one male Koi for every 500 gallons of water. For those of you new to the hobby the female Koi get much larger than the males and have much more mass.
This may seem extremely conservative to the person that just spent a lot of money installing a 3000-gallon pond to beautify their back yard. That translates to only three female Koi or six male Koi, or some combination of the two, for that 3000-gallon pond.
For most people, limiting yourself to one Koi per 250 gallons of pond water is still conservative, but assuming you have a good life support system on the pond and you aren’t opposed to some routine maintenance, it can be done. Such routine maintenance would be cleaning skimmers, pre-filters and doing water changes. That translates to twelve Koi in a 3000-gallon pond. However, since I don’t recommend even numbers in a Koi pond then your target would be eleven Koi in 3000 gallons of pond water.
Buying Koi, especially if you are new to the hobby, is really a lot of fun and can be incredibly addicting! [If anyone knows of a twelve step program for buying Koi please let my wife know, she will get me signed up!] Taking into consideration the average family has a Mom, Dad, and a three pack of kiddos, and everyone always wants to pick out a few of his or her favorites, before you know it you have 25 or 30 small Koi in your 2000-gallon pond.
That should be fine for a couple of years when the Koi are young. But then all of a sudden you are grossly overstocked with too many Koi. Algae is growing like crazy, the pre-filters need to be cleaned every day (or they stop working) and the filters are not keeping up with the amount of fish poo! Let’s do the math. 2000-gallon pond translates to 8 full-grown Koi and you have 30! The Obvious Solution – Get rid of 22 Koi or build a bigger pond. Good Luck telling the kids (or your wife!) that you need to get rid of a few of their favorite Koi. They will revolt!
If you are starting with small Koi remember they will get big and it really doesn’t take that long. In just two or three years you’ll have a hefty sized herd of Koi mobbing around your pond. I’ve come across a great deal of over crowded ponds with unhappy Koi. One of the worst I’ve seen was a 350-gallon pond with 13 large adult Koi. It was not pretty! It turned from a maintenance request to simply a rescue mission. Don’t put yourself, or your Koi, in that position.
Here’s a FUN FACT to help you wrap your arms around the demands of large Koi. A 13” Koi weights approximately 1 lb. Guess what a 26” Koi tips the scales at… Approximately 13 lbs! When Koi double in size you are looking at more than a tenfold increase in mass! That’s an incredible burden on the pond’s life support system!
I can give you a “Rule of Thumb” to get you in the ballpark but I can’t express to you enough, the importance of a solid life support system for your pond. Now go do the math on your pond and tell me how your Koi herd stacks up to this rule of thumb: One Koi per 250 gallons of Pond Water.
Helping the world go with the flow…
Brad Cazee
Cazee Ponds