“Panic at the Pond”

How to Handle Crisis with Your Koi

By Rosimeri Tran, KHA

We all started this hobby, energetic, excited with anticipation of our new hobby, koi keeping.

Some of us built our ponds, some were built for us, and some purchased property with the ponds already there. Excitement was in the air, just the thought of sitting pondside with our morning coffee, or evening cocktail was thrilling, to say the least.

So now, we have this pond, with koi, and some instruction on what to do with the equipment, and some without. As pond keepers we go about our life, enjoying the koi, feeding them, taking pictures of them, until one day, something goes wrong.

A fish swims the wrong way, or not like the others, a koi develops a red mark, raised scale, or even worse we find a deceased koi – every pond keeper’s nightmare!

What to do? What to do? The “panic at the pond” begins.

How to Handle Crisis with Your Koi Pond

The most important thing to remember during any pond crisis is not to panic, keep your cool, and try to think logically. You are the kois best help in evading disaster, don’t overreact and do like most new hobbyists do and turn to Google and start dumping every chemical recommended into the pond and creating a bigger disaster then you already have. Everything is fixable, a raised scale, a sore, are all treatable, it will just take a little effort and the proper medication to heal the koi.

Know Your Pond System

First, educate yourself on your pond gallons, your pond equipment, maintenance schedule and any new koi you have added recently.

All NEW koi must be quarantined separate from the general koi population as they may bring with them parasites or even diseases. By putting these new koi in a separate tank for 4-6 weeks, and include a koi from the main pond as a “canary” koi to see if that koi develops any symptoms. If that koi does not get sick during the 4–6-week quarantine, then you should be ok.

I say OK because without running proper lab tests, no one can truly say that their koi are safe. But in our practice of quarantining new koi, we have had good results.

Pond Overcrowding is a Common Issue for Koi

Secondly, try not to overcrowd your koi pond. Stress in koi can weaken their immune system, therefore making them more susceptible to disease and parasites will use them as hosts.

When koi are overcrowded and the wrong filtration system in place, the water quality can go south quickly, especially in warm weather, when here in the Valley the water temperature can rise very quickly. 

When the water temperature rises, the warmer water will hold less dissolved oxygen, and any ammonia in the water will become more toxic. Most koi can handle water temperatures between up to 85°F, but they prefer stable ranges between 65°F to 75°F.

Keep an eye for koi gasping at the waterfall or near the air stones, this is a sign they need more oxygen, just adding a few more air stones can make a big difference when the outside temperatures hit triple digits. Your pond temperatures can rise quickly and if your pond is shallow, and in full sun, it will be very warm for your koi.

Educate Yourself About Koi Keeping

Thirdly, educate yourself, just like anything in life, the more knowledge we have, the better it will be for the koi and the koi keepers.

Write everything down, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet, there is a lot of misleading information out there, some by manufacturers of those chemicals that you could be adding in your pond, be very careful when adding anything into your pond.

Know your water gallonage before any treatment, under dosing won’t fix the problem, overdosing can kill your koi. Our club has many experienced koi keepers who have not only built their own ponds and filtration systems but have also experienced fish illness and may have some tips and results to help you in your koi dilemma.

Don’t Panic, the Central California Koi Society Can Help!

Lastly, DON’T PANIC and start dumping every known medicine for koi into the pond! Too many chemicals will stress the koi out, some of these treatments if you don’t follow directions will kill your biological filtration system. READ, READ, READ the directions, ask questions of Central California Koi Society members if unsure of how to use these medicines.

I hope you have a healthy koi pond and that you never have to deal with any koi health problems. But most of us deal with koi issues at some time or another. Just remember to breathe, don’t overreact, and stay calm, everything’s going to be okay.