Water plants and koi - the proper way to utilize plants in your pond

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Once you have decided whether you would like an Informal or a Formal pond, decide on a locality. Try and visualize what you would like to see, and how you would like to display this. If you have a patio you may want to site the pond close by so that you can view the koi and pond as you sit on the patio. Alternatively a natural pond could be part of the garden that you have to walk to in order to be able to see it. A garden bench in a convenient spot is a good idea so one could spend some relaxing time just watching or feeding your Koi. It is also best to place the pond where there is at least 4 to 5 hours of sun per day but adequate shade at other times. We strongly suggest that prior to starting on this project you go and look at some ponds in Koi / fish outlets or even at the homes of people that have established ponds. Come on some pond safaris with SAKKS members and get all the knowledge and ideas that you need prior to starting. There is many a pond keeper that has a sad story to tell simply because they did not properly research what was essential in any koi pond. We know of many Koi keepers that have built more then one pond and still are not happy with what has been done. Join SAKKS before you build. SAKKS will give you ideas and get you off to a good start.

First you should consider some basic pond requirements.

a) it is best to try and have as large a surface area as possible, as this is where the essential oxygen and gas exchange takes place, and it looks great to have a large surface area.

b) The minimum average recommended depth is at least 1000mm but if you can go deeper it is worthwhile to do so as the deeper your pond the greater the water volume will be and the smaller the variations in water temperatures. In a shallow pond the water temperature can change rapidly in a short time and for healthy koi there should be no more then a 20 to 30C temperature variance in a 24 hours period. Fish enjoy to swim up and down, which also promotes good body shape.

c) It is recommended that a bottom drain system be provided at low points so that floor debris can be removed from the pond itself into a settlement and discharge chamber,
and to promote bottom water circulation. The idea is to be able to remove debris and faeces regularly before they decay and render the water toxic. The number of bottom drains will depend up the volume of the water in the pond and the flow rate through the bottom drains. Always use 110mm high pressure piping for the bottom drains. Instead of bottom drains you may decide to install a submersible pump, in the lowest point on the floor. But remember this will require maintenance as it will clog up with debris and is not as efficient. In summer the maintenance is high and in winter maintenance could be difficult without a bottom drain as it could be painful to remove the pump and clean it. (thus a submersible pump in the pond itself and instead of bottom drains is not recommended).

d) A skimmer is required to draw off all the floating debris and avoid it sinking to the bottom. It will also ensure that the water surface dust is removed thus improving the visibility of the koi in the pond.

e) Remember Koi can grow to 70cm and more if well looked after, and you would want to give them some space to maneuver in. It is suggested that you consider building the pond as large and as deep as your budget and available space allows.

f) All corners should have a minimum radius of 50cm, to ensure that there is water  movement throughout the pond, There should be no areas of stagnant water in a pond. as there could then be a buildup of debris and could encourage the growth of anaerobic bacteria and the proliferation of disease producing organisms. The flow of the water and the rate of the turnover of the entire pond volume of water are critical to a successful pond. The entire body of water in the pond should be kept flowing and circulated through your filters at least once every 2 hours. So you need to determine the pond volume, the flow rate through the bottom drains and return pipes and select a suitable pump or pumps for the pond. We recommend you seek professional advice or talk to
experienced koi keepers in your area.

g) You would also require a settlement and discharge chamber where the bottom drain pipes come together. This is also sometimes called a stand pipe chamber. The purpose of this chamber is to provide an area where debris and solids can settle out to the chamber floor and then be flushed to waste on a regular basis. It is also a means of flushing debris that may have settled in the bottom drains. Standpipes are used to stop water flowing through the bottom drains whilst the water level in the chamber drops. The standpipes are then lifted and the pond water flushes the drians until the levels are again equal and the chamber is then isolated with standpipes again and the dirty water flushed to waste.

h) From the settlement chamber you connect to your filtering system - both mechanical and biological filtration is essential. The following pond types are currently available.

1) Concrete. Concrete ponds are best constructed by professionals.The most common construction method is the same as used in swimming pools i.e -re-inforced guniting. But be sure to use someone who has experience in koi ponds as well as the proper piping and sealing therof is vital.It is also necessary to seal the pond with a water proofing material or additive which is safe and non-toxic for koi.There are a numbr of options ranging from Marblite, bitumen based products and concrete additives or fibre-glassing the pond.Ask a number of experienced koi keepers for their recommendations and preferences. An alternative to guniting is re-inforced hand packed concrete- again use only a professional who knows the necessary concrete strengths and re-inforcing for your pond design. Concrete must be properly cured and washed to remove all surface chemicals that could leach into the water and play havoc with the Ph. It is recommended to apply a coating of sorts to prevent the concrete from leaching chemicals into the water.

2) Plastic liners. This option is generally less durable than concrete ponds, but is a more affordable option. The selection of a proper strength and quality liner for your needs is essential. Careful attention to any joins and seams is vital to ensure no water leaks develop. A liner lends itself to a shape of your choice and bottom drains and a skimmer can be easily fitted. Liners can be made up to order, and there are also off the shelf liners available. Discuss this with your dealer and ask experienced hobbyists with similar ponds for advice.

3) Pre made Koi / fish ponds constructed from fibreglass or plastic.This is a more expensive option to plastic lined ponds but if properly constructed using good materials and technical specifications will provide a durable pond. And is also relatively easy to install.

4) Small fiberglass swimming pool ponds are very nice, but normally do not blend in with the surroundings, but could be an alternative.

5) Remember that you need to consider the placing of the filtration system which you intend to instal.There are both gravity fed filtration systems and pumped water systems It is essential for a gravity fed system to have all the water on the same level, with the pump situated at the end of the filtration system.This has the advantage of not liquidizing solid waste products in the pump and allowing the solids to settle anfd be flushed out of the system. If a gravity fed system is not possible, then pumping water into the filtration system will be the only alternative. Now that you have some concept of the pond design requirements you need to take a look at some of the water requirements that are needed for the koi not only to live in but importantly to thrive and grow.