The koi hobby can quickly become very consuming - I'm sure this is something many of you can relate to.
It all runs away from us and we chase it - like an eager puppy!
The circular pond pictured above marks the humble beginning of this koi keepers journey. This ornamental pond served well as a learning tool, but it soon became inadequate as the hobbyists knowledge grew
- he had a yearning for something bigger...
Designed by the hobbyists gardener and built by Nikki Murrell of Imperial Koi - a second, larger pond was constructed to the rear and connected, via a shallow trill, to the original pond which also underwent a revamp. Tosai were grown in the small pond before being moved to the larger pond to continue their development. This system worked well for quite some time, but eventually the larger pond started to become 'rather well stocked' - needless to say, more space was required...
The trill (seen as somewhat of an annoyance) was dug out and widened, this effectively created one 'large pond.'
At this point the filtration was fed via two bottom drains (one in each pond), an Ultra Sieve III handled larger waste before the water passed through a large Ultra Bead and two Bio Delta UV units. There was also a 4" floating skimmer that fed an Aquadyne bead filter and heat pump. The pond worked well, with regular maintenance, however the koi were growing fast and due to heavy stocking the filters had a lot of waste to process...
...and then Drum Filters came onto the market.
Phase 1 & 2 of the pond were completed before drums had really made a widespread impression on the koi hobby. After a few years they were starting to make waves and with premium brands offering great reliability, the decision was taken to upgrade the Ultra Sieve to a Profi-Drum and overhaul the mechanical capabilities of the filtration.
The structure of the pond was left alone and although the design/dynamics were far from perfect, the change in mechanical filtration meant the pond started to perform a lot more effectively, with reduced maintenance and the koi were now thriving.
During this period I used to visit fairly regularly, as I worked for Imperial Koi and at this point I think there were some 40 pieces in the pond, ranging from between 60-78cm - the drum was certainly earning its keep! The owner has always had a diverse collection of koi, favouring the more unusual varieties, he would normally buy good quality nisai/sansai and grow them steadily. Once again, this is a hobbyist that sees his koi as treasured pets and he treats them as such. I quickly became fond of the ponds characterful inhabitants.
The last time I saw the owner was when he stopped by to consider an 80cm yonsai Ochiba/Soragoi that I selected from Yoshikigoi Koi Farm (Ashley Dart might recall the coffin sized box it was transported in!). This would become his first koi to be purchased at 'ready-made-lump-status.'
It was around this time that I decided to stop being a koi dealer to focus on my other passion but Nikki and I kept in touch and every now and then I would get an update on the pond and koi.
And then I got a call...
The decision was made to go 'all in' and Nikki was given the challenge of redesigning and re-building these two connected ponds into a new system and the result is stunning! He asked if I'd like to come down to see the finished product, needless to say - I jumped straight in the car!
Bottom drain: Three aerated
Skimmer: one 4" floating
Filter: Profi drum 45/50 + Profi drum combi + Aquadyne 4.4 + Bakki Shower with BHM
Uv: 2 x Delta Bio
Pumps: Blue Eco + FlowFriend
Heating: Air Source Heat Pump
Koi: I lost count - 65-95cm
The pond is seriously impressive, Nik's design kept the pond at ground-level, allowing one to view the koi perfectly. I was particularly happy to see the overhanging patio from the previous pond was kept in place, I always liked this unique feature. Visually the clean lines and rounded front end (incorporating the shape of the old 'front pond') are really in-keeping with the style of the property and landscaping of the garden. The addition of the pergola offers shade in the summer and gives this ground level pond some structural height. A lovely touch.
All of the filters and equipment are kept well out of the way in a separate filter house, the high flow rates and purge points ensure that the long drain lines stay clean. The Bakki-Shower returns via discrete 4" underwater returns and uses vents in the filter house and outside to gas off the water and act towards DOC removal when heavy feeding takes place. Something that quite a few hobbyists are deploying now. The filtration system combines multiple media and flow combinations and in that sense has all bases covered!
Despite the size of this pond it blends in and compliments the garden superbly, but importantly it doesn't distract from the most important feature - the koi!
The hobbyist has two loves, unusual koi and BIG koi and he's trying his best to have a pond full of both! I kept loosing count on how many koi were in the pond and no-one else seemed to know! I'm sure the number would be anxiety inducing for most, the pond is heavily stocked, but the koi are thriving and growing very well indeed. All of the koi were supplied by Imperial Koi, some of which hail from the days when Imperial acted as the sole UK importer for Konishi Koi Farm. The pond now has koi from many different breeders, almost a necessity when collecting unusual pieces.
Video (Pond & Koi)
This is the Soragoi/Ochiba that I selected from Yoshikigoi at 80cm when I worked for Imperial koi. It does look to be a soragoi, but the flecks of colour would say otherwise. This koi was measured on the day at a huge 95cm. The koi has a massive body and is pretty much scale perfect. She's got an incredible presence in the pond and glides around like a submarine. I'd love to see her get bigger and bigger! Stunning.
This unusual looking 95cm koi from Konishi Koi Farm was sold under the guise of...
"She might not be pretty, but she should get big!"
- She certainly hasn't disappointed on both counts!
Joji Konishi informed me that she was the outcome of when they were trying to perfect the nanashigoi bloodline. Quite interesting to know, considering the hobbyist has a lovely example of a nanashigoi too!
This Cha Utsuri bred by Marusei Koi Farm has to be the best I've seen. I was in Japan with Nikki when Hirisawa Yoshiyuki lifted this koi from the murky waters, if I recall Nik just said - 'yes please!' Now 86cm the koi has developed incredibly well. The skin quality is very nice, there is almost a metallic golden glow to it. The scalation is beautiful and the pattern is very complimentary. The body is good, with a nice, broad, well proportioned head (the pecs appear much smaller in the shot - blame me!).
This Ochiba, also from Marusei has the body of a battleship and will benefit from a 'wee' diet this winter. Grown from nisai and now at 74cm - she probably isn't going to make jumbo status but she is very pretty. The scalation and consistency of her colour being particularly nice.
This terrible picture of the 82cm Aka Matsuba from Maruhiro does it zero justice. See the second pic or video. This has to be the best I've seen at this size out of Japan. This was purchased as nisai and is growing at a rate of knots with no signs of slowing just yet. Scale perfect with a fantastic matsuba pattern and a unique skin quality that glows - this is a koi that really excites me.
They just keep coming...Maruhiro Gin Rin Ki Utsuri at 81cm, this is one of my favourite koi in the pond. The cost of trying to source a koi like this in Japan now would be frightening. Purchased at nisai and grown on, the body is beautiful and strong, the skin and colour have great quality and the pattern is lovely on such a sizeable koi.
Marmite! Named thus due to the love hate nature of the visuals! Purchased from Marudo at Nisai this koi just eats and grows and repeats. Those scales are huge and she looks like a piece of mahogany - certainly not a koi you will see every day. 88cm
This 75cm Nanashigoi bred by Konishi Koi Farm recently featured in my blog post.
I love this koi!
This pond has undergone quite a few transformations and upgrades over the years, yes, in an ideal world one would build the perfect koi pond straight off the starting line. However, it very rarely works like that. A gradual progression through the hobby is to be expected and as our passion and ambition grows, so does our knowledge for how our systems can be improved. Couple this with the introduction of new 'koi-tech,' and it's almost inevitable that we continue to 'tinker' in order to perfect our systems.
In the case of this hobbyists journey, it goes to show that sometimes no matter how many 'bolt-ons' or 'tweaks' you apply, if you have a particular dream you probably won't avoid the inevitable rebuild! However, like I said, it's all about the journey and he now owns a 'non-compromising' setup that is capable of achieving his koi keeping dreams - growing and developing unusual pieces. It also looks beautiful too!
Something else worth noting is that these koi are not 'pushed' for growth, the pond is held at 16c during the winter months (with periods of zero food) and during the summer a temp of 22c is maintained. There are different schools of thought regarding growing koi but my gut has always told me that there's 'no rush' - if a koi wants to grow, give it the right environment and it will. You don't have to boil the bejesus out of them and feed till they explode. Being more forgiving in your approach allows koi to progress whilst retaining their quality and health - which is no bad thing! These koi are definitely a testament to that theory.
I have to say it was a real treat for me to visit after so many years, I felt like a true 'koi Nerd.' I was very excited to see some of the koi that I was previously so fond of and to see them thriving in their impressive new pond was fantastic...
- hopefully it won't be my last visit!
With thanks to Nikki of Imperial Koi for inviting me down and to David for allowing me to feature your pond and bowl some of your beautiful monsters - respect!
If you would like to see more work by Imperial Koi see their website: