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Do You Plan on Building a New Koi Pond

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Do You Plan on Building a New Koi Pond??


The following are some things you should know before starting:


  • Koi ponds are normally constructed of concrete, plastic liner, or preformed plastic containers. Larger ponds, 1000 gallons or more, are normally made with concrete or liner construction. The type of construction is up to the home owner. The liner pond is the least expensive and easiest to build. Modern rubber liners are 0.040” to 0.045” thick and will last about 20 years.

  • Koi ponds should be constructed at least 36” deep in some area of the pond. This depth will protect koi from freezing winters and blazing summer sun. Koi will sunburn in summer in shallow water with no shade. Some plants will provide needed shade. To protect your fish from predators, make the sides of the pond straight down all way around the pond and at least 3 feet deep.

  • Make sure there is a ridge all around your pond that is at least 6” high to prevent run off water from the yard from entering the pond. This prevents fertilizers, yard chemicals, etc. from running into your pond and poisoning your fish.

  • Do not allow water from your roof or overhang to run into the pond. To do so will invite all kinds of toxins that have accumulated on the roof to enter the pond.

  • Construct one or more bottom drains running to a filter to remove mulm accumulations and hydrogen sulfide that accumulates in the pond bottom water. Slope your pond bottom towards the drains in order to make them more effective. In a koi pond, bottom drains are essential. Filter the water from the pond’s bottom.

  • There are several good filtering systems available. My choice would be a bead filter of sufficient capacity to filter both the bottom water and the skimmer water prior to it flowing into the bio converter. It is very important to keep the bio-converter as clean as possible. Bead filters are very easy to clean and require minimum maintenance.

  • The skimmer should be placed as far away from the water fall as possible. Pond water should flow from the water fall on one end of the pond to the skimmer at the other end of the pond. The skimmer will collect leaves and other debris that float on the pond’s surface.

  • Make sure the bio-converter is as large as possible. Fill it with several mesh laundry bags (partially full) of small (about 1/2” size) black lava rock. This rock is very porous and will provide excellent surface area for bacteria. Red lava rock contains too much iron, do not use red. Black lava rock is readily available at stone dealers. There are many other bio-converter media used in the industry; however lava rock is very good and quite inexpensive.

  • Don’t forget to add an Ultraviolet light to the system. A properly installed U.V. light of adequate size will prevent “green water” and help keep your pond clear at all times.

  • Ponds require aeration. One good way to provide oxygen is with a water fall. A long cascading water fall will provide more oxygen to the water than will a simple water fall that merely spills over into the pond. The longer the water surface is exposed to the air, the more oxygen the water will pick up from the air. Shallow streams running into the pond is a good source of oxygen.

  • Do not allow nooks and crannies to be built in the pond where the water will become stagnant. If such occurs, provide a means of water circulation, such as a venturi, in those areas.

  • The filter system should be sufficient to filter the complete pond volume every hour. Ideally, both the mechanical filter and the bio-converter should have at least this flow rate. More is better.

  • Wattage-Wattage: When building your pond, do some homework in order to select the best pump for your application. Select a pump designed for constant running duty, and one that will furnish your required flow (gallons / hour) with the least Amperage or Wattage ratings. Koi pond filters and waterfalls should be run continually in order to supply needed filtration and oxygen. When considering water flow rates, don’t forget that most filters will allow only so much water to pass through them. A filter can become a water flow restriction even though the pump is rated with much higher flow rate. Determine the filter flow rate from the manufacturer specifications for the device. If the pump delivers much more gallons per hour than the filter will accommodate, you can add a filter by-pass line that will allow additional flow to the waterfall.

  • Don’t guess at the water volume. After the pond is built, check it with the salt method. Gallons = pounds of salt added times 12, all divided by the change in percentage of salinity. This volume will include the filtering system as well as the pond system. Many koi are killed or are seriously stressed because owners add too much medication or pond additives, thinking their water volume is much larger than it actually is.

  • Do not put fish into the new pond for a few days. Keep an eye on the pH value of the pond water. If you have fish and are keeping them in an isolation tank (make sure and cover the tank with a net) until the pond gets ready, make sure the pH of the pond and the pH of the holding tank are very close before moving any fish to the pond. It is not the pH value (within pH limits 6 to 9) that kills fish; it is the rapid change in pH that kills them. PH values are logarithmic, so a pH of 8 is ten times more alkaline than pH of 7. Koi can do well in pH values from 6 to 9. The pH of local El Paso water is generally about 8.5. An electronic pH meter is mighty handy when working with pH values. Place three or four fish into the pond initially. Watch the ammonia and particularly the nitrite level until the bio-converter gets established (sometimes several weeks, this depends largely on temperature). If pond water shows high in ammonia or nitrites, make sufficient water change to get it down to acceptable level until the bio-converter is established. This may take weeks and several water changes. Do not forget to add sufficient dechlorinator to the added water. Add remaining fish to your pond when water tests warrant.

  • Water Test Kit – It is important that the pond owner has a water test kit capable of testing for Ammonia, Nitrites and pH. These can all be killers to your koi. Please note that with our city water of high pH value, ammonia at any level other then zero becomes very toxic to koi. More acetic water than ours will be more forgiving with ammonia levels.

  • When adding chemicals to your pond, make sure you know your pond water volume. Not knowing this can cause the owner to add too much or too little medication or treatment. In addition, be doubly sure of your calculations when adding water treatments to your pond. Decimal points can kill.


These are some guide lines for the new pond owner to consider while building their pond. If you follow the above guide lines, you should be successful in establishing a suitable koi pond. Should you have any questions regarding the above, or any other pond or fish related items, please call me at 833-9339, or send email.




Don Harrawood


Koi Health Advisor

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