This article takes a look at a beautifully landscaped pond that suits the garden it resides in perfectly. I was really keen to feature this koi pond as a case study for hobbyists who wish to create a visually impactful pond from a water gardening perspective.
I've known Mark, the owner, for quite a few years now and have seen the progression of his hobby and the upgrades to his system. He's a talented landscape gardener by trade, which explains the beautiful and unique look he has been able to achieve.
Gallonage: Big Pond: 1650 - Small Pond: 440
Bottom drain: None - Pump-fed
Waterproofing: Butyl Liner
Skimmer: one Oase SwimSkim
Filter: Both ponds are filtered by ERIC units
Uv: One 30w TMC Pro Clear & One Yamitsu 25w for the small pond.
Pumps: Big Pond: 16,000ltr (Filter) 12,000ltr (waterfall) Small Pond: 8000Ltr (Filter) 3600ltr (waterfall)
Heating: None - the pond is covered during the winter.
Air: EA120 - supplies both ponds and ERIC filters
Koi: Around 35 pieces across both ponds, from 15cm-60cm
Food: Saki Hikari Balance and Colour.
The two systems run entirely independently (despite sharing an air pump) the larger pond is such a lovely feature that you catch yourself looking again and again, finding new things to discover. This isn't normally the case with most koi ponds, often one takes a quick look at the pond itself before focussing on the inhabitants. Marks blend of plants and rock (both real and fake) is seamless, everything has its place and the result is something that despite being absolutely 'landscaped' - blurs the lines between natural pond, artistic installation and functional koi pond.
It is most definitely unique and may not appeal to koi hobbyists that like more formal and 'official' bodies of water to house their collection, but I think there will be many koi keepers and gardeners out there that would love to own such a system.
The pond was installed in the spot where a sunken trampoline previously lived, Mark's children outgrew the use of the bouncing contraption and so he seized the moment to build a pond. The construction was undertaken entirely by himself. The hole was lined with Butyl Rubber and the edges hidden under a mixture of small slabs, rocks, plants, drift-wood and railway sleepers. The pond is designed to be viewed from a platform guarded by a wooden rail, the up-ended sleepers providing cover from predators and creating a secretive element to the feature. Mark also took his time building the waterfall to the rear of the pond from natural stone and concrete, also waterproofed with Butyl, the result is very pleasing. He admits it has been the sort of project you add to slowly, another plant needed there, another stone or piece of drift-wood here. You can tell it has taken time and care, hats off to the man!
It's not all been plain sailing however, initially Mark had built a huge gravel filter (8x2x3ft) that was constructed from railway sleepers and fed into the waterfall. This 'old school' method of filtration is still offered about as an appropriate form of filtration by some and unfortunately Mark became one of the misinformed. The reality of installing such a filter is that for a lovely 'honeymoon period,' you can get water so clean, it looks like the koi are suspended in mid air. Biologically the water seems great as well. However, as the waste builds and the water starts to sour you must embark on the first filter clean, usually recommended some six months after install!? In Mark's case this meant the tiring job of literally shovelling the gravel out of the filter and attempting to wash it and the chamber that housed it. As one can imagine, it's quite a tricky task to clean gravel, perseverance is key. On starting up the filter you realise the gravel isn't actually very clean at all and you get clouds of nasty stuff and the equivalent in nasty bacteria flooding into your pond. And so the process starts again, but this time the water sours sooner, things fester and you sit on your hands until disaster strikes, which it most certainly will...
Eventually, Mark's water and koi, began to suffer. It's not pleasant to be told that the reason your pond and koi are failing is because the advice you acted on, in good faith, was completely incorrect. Not only that, but if you want to see some positive change you will have to shell out some hard earned cash to put things right.
This is a story that is seen time and time again...
- hobbyists who unfortunately go round in circles because of being misinformed.
Marks pond setup isn't ideal, it's lacking a bottom drain for one, but sometimes starting from scratch isn't possible and so we must make the most of what we have. I recommended Mark install an ERIC unit designed by the late Peter Waddington, I have always been a fan of this simple little filter, having run them, pretty much, since they came onto the market. I've pushed them very extensively and so I have a good grasp on their strengths and weaknesses.
Why did I suggest one for Mark?
Well, for Mark this was a simple plug and play solution to his problem of poor water and unhappy koi. The ERICs biological capacity, in particular, is very impressive, couple this with the fact that maintenance can be carried out swiftly and relatively effectively - in comparison to nearly every other pump-fed filter (that isn't a drum) and I had every faith that it would make good water for Mark's koi.
Which it did!
It's a simple pump-fed system that works. The filter is dumped every other day and Mark also vacuums the pond floor on a regular basis to avoid the build up of organic waste. I actually made an impromptu visit to Mark's pond and he was a little annoyed, saying he would have 'tidied up' - including a quick pond vac. However, I have to say the base of the pond looked pretty clean to me, meaning the flow rates/dynamics and pump placement must be working fairly well! I thought the whole garden looked spot on considering I literally stopped by - but when it's your own, you're bound to find fault!
The smaller system was enlarged earlier this year and creates a beautiful, tranquil oasis that wraps around Mark's seating area. I find it very enchanting as it looks like a perfectly scaled down lagoon, very pretty indeed! This smaller system is Mark's 'play pond' where he places small koi for a bit of development fun. Due to the success of the ERIC on the larger pond, Mark went for the same again, albeit a smaller model. The water was very clear and the koi looked to be thriving.
Mark has a mixture of koi swimming in his pond, including a ghost and grass carp that have been going for many years. He's been pretty sensible on the whole after the initial problems with the gravel filter and has built his collection slowly. Unfortunately we didn't get chance to net the koi for photographs due to timing, but some of my favourites include a lovely female kujaku from Kaneko that has developed really nicely and continues to show promise. There's a male tancho showa, also from Kaneko, that is starting to develop well and a very clean Hi Utsuri from Shinoda. The small pond also houses a beautifully clean kage utsuri, which will be a nice koi to follow up on, at some point.
Some questions for Mark...
What got you into the koi hobby?
I was and still am a keen fisherman, I've always been fascinated by fish, then koi just took that to the next level. I was waiting for the right opportunity to build a pond and when the sunken 13ft trampoline went to 'trampoline heaven,' it seemed like the perfect place to start.
What would you do differently?
Overall I'm very happy with what I have achieved, the pond sits in the right place for me and my hobby and I think that's what it's all about. However, (there's always a 'but' isn't there!) I wish I had got the right advice to start with and purchased the correct equipment, I would have saved money and a serious, ongoing headache!
Best bit of advice?
Find someone you trust, who knows the game and grill them for every bit of knowledge you can!
Mark's koi pond shows us that water gardening and functionality can be a match, that koi ponds don't need to be large formal expanses of 'black water,' that they can be intricate and intriguing, quirky and unusual. What I really like about this setup is that the pond itself is as much of a feature as the koi that reside within.
It is important for such ponds to be showcased because for many new comers to the hobby or keen gardeners this could be just the type of pond that gets them hooked.
- And any such pond is a great pond in my books!
*With thanks to Mark for allowing me to feature his pond and koi.