Hi Dr Bob,
My boyfriend and I bought a house here in Columbus, Ohio and as a result we inherited an unkept pond. We're doing our best to educate ourselves on pond and koi care but despite surfing the internet and reading days worth of material from a dozen different sites, still I don't feel like I have complete answers to our questions. I'm hoping you may have a moment to lend some advice. I would be very appreciative of any assistance.
I have two questions, one regarding over-wintering and one regarding filtration.
- Oval pond with dimensions 10ft by 15ft. It is a little over 2.5ft deep at the deepest point, however this is not a uniform depth through out the pond.
- Pond was built approximately 20 years ago with an impressive waterfall that is not in use currently due to shifting of the rock shelf and subsequent leaking
- Instead we use 3 water features powered by submersible pumps to make do until we can get a plan together to fix the original waterfall.
- 1 central fountain unit (Lifeguard All in one system) 679GPH, UV filter, mechanical filter, bio filter
- 1 side fountain pump, 1000GPH, standard square mechanical filter
- 1 pump running up to the bottom shelf of the original waterfall using an external drum type filter with mechanical and bio filter material. Memory fails but I believe this pump is either 582GPH or 899GPH
- We have 12 koi and most are under a foot in length. The majority are approximately 5 " and 2 of the koi are about 12"
Question 1 Re: Over wintering
Most sources seem to prefer a pond depth of 4-5 ft for koi. If we took your suggestion of using the hoop house and heaters, would our depth of approx. 2.5' still be completely hopeless for wintering koi outdoors? If it is as I suspect, and we need to over winter indoors, what is a recommended gallons per koi ratio for wintering? Also, I assume we could use our central fountain unit in a stock tank and this would be helpful because it has the bio filter material which has been in the pond all summer?
Question 2 Re: Proper Pump and filtration
As you can imagine, our current system of aeration and filtration is a giant pain in the ass. There's 3 separate filters which I change daily and they are not easy to get to ( hence the classy wood planks). Plus I still feel like we need greater filtration. The fish seem content and healthy enough but the water is periodically cloudy and I have had to physically get into the pond twice this summer to net leaves and fish waste. Goodtimes!
Can you offer some advice on what to buy when we try to reinstate the original waterfall. I have no idea where to start. From what I've read, external pumps and filtration are the way to go. The water fall ( which originates from an approximately 2" diameter tube at the top) isn't particularly steep or high but I imagine that it still has to be somewhere near 5-6 ft above the pond water level. How do I know how to choose a strong enough pump and adequate filtration? Is this something that can be easily explained? I plan on reading the AKCA book on filters and prefilters regardless, but I would still really value your perspective if would care to give it.
I've always felt that the folks who inherit ponds with no prior pond experience are often the ones that have the most difficulty getting themselves comfortable with the hobby. Those of us that became ponders the more natural way, that is by digging a series of ponds ourselves and re-creating history by making all the same mistakes that ponders before us had made, have an easier way to go, simply because we eventually arrive at a point where our ponds set what we feel is an acceptable level of inconvenience and effort. Folks who inherit ponds are just thrown directly into the.hobby and have to deal with the mistakes that the prior owner made, generally without any help from an operating manual or any help at all from the prior owners.
In answer to your questions, a weather cover over your current pond will go a long way towards protecting your fish, regardless of your depth. A small hoop house with some sort of heat source inside will keep things warm enough to keep your water from freezing. You need not move your fish anywhere. If it is still warm enough, some effort devoted to cleaning as much junk off the bottom as you possibly can would be a big help. I will be sending you an article that I wrote for our club's newsletter. Feel free to raid our website (www.mpks.org) for more information. There's a lot of good stuff there, especially in the help section.
Your second question is a little more difficult. I am a strong proponent of the bottom drain/external filter system, mostly because submersible pumps are trouble prone, inefficient and difficult to keep free of fouling. Just about any good high-capacity external filtration system works well if you have the space for it. Most of the "pet store variety" filters available are very limited in their capacity, largely because they do not allow for adequate flows. They are generally also made of very fragile and, by ponding standards, inadequate materials. Something as simple as a large box or tub filled with mat, brushes, or PVC tape will work as well or better than anything you can buy from your local Petco. Once again, our website has a lot of information about filtration, not only how you start, but also how you select pumps and filters that match well.
Your waterfall looks like it might be wonderful, once you get it repaired. You will, I'm afraid, have to completely dismantle it and replace the liner underneath it in order to fix the leak. Remember that your liners edges need to the high enough and wide enough around the expected waterflow to prevent water loss by splash.
I'm reasonably sure that there are water gardening and Koi clubs in the Columbus area. Joining one of them and availing yourself of the help available will solve a lot of your problems.
Welcome to the hobby, even though you've been flung into it headlong. Happy ponding.