This time I pay a visit to a hobbyist, that I believe, has a smaller system with all the makings of a great koi pond. It's a lovely looking setup with an excellent filtration system, not only offering its inhabitants conditions to thrive but also acting as a great attribute to the house and garden.
The owner, Martin, I met a few years ago when he had recently finished the construction of the pond. It's been tweaked and tampered with since, whilst on his quest to find the right balance of filtration, but I think now he's finally happy with the way it performs.
In an ideal world our pond would be 'spot on' from the get go, but that's easier said than done. Sometimes the addition of a shower, a protein skimmer or a larger biological chamber further down the line, is just what is needed to elevate our ponds to the next level. Remember, every pond performs differently and so a willingness to remain open minded, not to give up or 'make do,' are important approaches when looking to create an environment our koi can thrive in.
I've also witnessed the development of Martin's 'eye' over the last few years. He's a keen fisherman and initially I think he just looked to see if new purchases had all fins present and correct! I jest...sort of! Like all of us, our tastes change as our eye for koi appreciation develops and before long it's a case of:
"That's got to go"
"What was I thinking?"
"It definitely wasn't bent when I purchased it...?"
It's worth remembering that with a smaller setup space is at a premium, so it's important to avoid buying merely for the sake of it. After a few years, Martin now has a lovely collection of koi in the making. He has also purchased a few koi in particular that I was very fond of, so this was a great opportunity to catch up with their development.
Bottom drain: one aerated.
Skimmer: one wide mouth skimmer
Mechanical Filter: AEM Drum
Biological Filter: BBF5 (bead filter), 500ltrs fluidised k1, Shower filter
Uv: Built into the Drum
Pumps: Aqua forte 30,000 + Aqua forte 20,000
Heating: Hydro Pro 7kw air source heat pump
Koi: 14 pieces from 30-65cm
Food: Saki Hikari and JPD Shogun
The pond is geared towards the growing and development of its residents and Martin has definitely tried to reduce the running costs of owning such a system. The 'koi house' that sits over the pond does a great job of keeping the water nice and warm. On the day I visited the air temp inside was 31c and the pond sat comfortably at 23c...not bad at all! This way of keeping koi, sort of 'semi-indoors,' is becoming very popular here in the UK. Building the pond inside a koi house with removable side/sides allows you to enjoy the pond as part of the garden in the summer months, but also keep it nice and toasty come winter and spring, without heating the atmosphere and all the associated costs! Martin is very happy he made such a choice and the pond seems to reap the rewards.
It's all about creating stable environments and having an enclosed/partially enclosed pond certainly helps a great deal.
Martin is not shy when it comes to feeding his koi and this shows in the growth rates he is achieving. To support this and to keep good water, Martin has pieced together a filtration system that can cope more than adequately. This didn't happen over night however, it has been the result of much tweaking and testing and furthermore financial investment, but I think the time and effort has paid off. Whilst chatting we talked about the importance of 'balance' and not relying on one type of filter or media to do the job. Variety is the spice of life and I for one believe that a balance and blend of biological filtration and media is required for optimal results, as long as it is executed with simplicity. Martin, like many nowadays, uses a shower, a fluidised chamber and a bead filter and produces fantastic water. He states that he wouldn't be without any of them...
Martin currently has collection of 14 koi purchased from a selection of different dealers from around the uk, including Absolute Koi, The Koi Collection, Queni Koi and Byer Koi Farm. We took the opportunity to bowl some of the koi and take measurements for development records. He's definitely a go-sanke man, so buckle up, here are just a few of the favourites.
I had a soft spot for this koi some time before Martin purchased it from The Koi Collection. I took the original stock photo when it was a tiny 17cm tosai and I loved it. Now nisai and I love it even more. The pattern, the skin quality and the body shape are superb, the sashi and kiwa are developing well. The beni was a little stretched but that was simply due to the tremendous growth it's seen this summer, Martin has done a fantastic job with this Sakuma Kohaku now 45cm.
Another lovely koi is this gin rin showa Martin purchased from Queni Koi. Bred by Marushin it displays some stunning qualities. The quality of the gin rin is very good, the sumi is consolidating and showing great promise and I love the intricate pattern. The body is imposing and it was an absolute bargain at what he paid. A great koi to keep an eye on, now 55cm!
This sanke has done incredibly well in Martins care. This was imported as a very high quality 10cm tosai by The Koi Collection. Now 45cm, it's showing some really promising signs for future potential. The quality of this koi in the bowl really shines, it's all about the emergence of sumi...but I reckon it's coming in just the right places. Superb!
This 59cm Okawa Shiro was a koi that Martin swapped for a Bonsai...yep you heard that right! There's a lot to like about this koi, the stunning white skin, ink like sumi and strong body (not an easy find on shiro) - There's sumi emerging on that right flank, the head pattern is forming and I'm very interested to see what becomes of her.
Martin's latest purchase is this 38cm Sekiguchi Showa. Lots to play for with this tosai, the skin is superb, the pattern is pleasing and I think it will look more stunning as the koi grows. The most impressive attribute is the body - wonderful for a showa, fingers crossed!
Some questions for Martin...
What got you into the koi hobby?
I visited The Koi Collection over twenty years ago, I think it planted the seed, for better or worse!
What would you do differently?
Ideally I would have built the pond to around 4000gallons. The pond runs really well but the current gallonage coupled with the growth rates I achieve, mean I'm always worried about the koi getting too big. But they seem to be happy and thriving...
Best bit of advice?
Always oversize your filter. Make sure the mechanical is top notch and the bio can go above and beyond your real world needs. We keep water, not koi.
Martin's pond is an excellent example of what can be achieved in a smaller body of water. It proves the point that putting emphasis on superior filtration and a lovely design can create not only an attractive feature but a highly effective system. The real proof however, is most definitely in the pudding. In this case, the koi are not only thriving but also retaining their qualities and developing rather well indeed.
For those of you looking for inspiration in a similar gallonage, you might want to pinch a few of Martin's ideas, after all...
- good artists borrow, great artists steal!
*With thanks to Martin for allowing me to feature his pond and koi.