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Guide For Keeping Koi Carp

keeping Koi Carp

If you are thinking of keeping Koi carp, our beginner’s guide should give you a general overview and understanding of things to consider before buying your first fish. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to Koi, provide you with the basic information you need to give them a good home and keep them healthy, and most of all, help you enjoy being a Koi owner.

Beginners Guide to Keeping Koi Carp

Koi Carp may not be at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to buying a pet. In fact, some people wouldn’t even consider a fish a pet. Whilst this may be true, ask any koi owner and they’ll tell you that keeping Koi is a rewarding experience, not least because in the right conditions a healthy fish can live for up to 50 years; which is more than enough time to build a relationship, which is what owning a pet is all about.

What are Koi Carp?

To the uninitiated, Koi look like overgrown goldfish, it’s an easy mistake to make because young fish with certain colorings do look like large goldfish. In reality, Koi descend from the common carp family. Their many color configurations are the stuff of legend, some say it was bred into them, others believe it was a natural mutation, whatever the truth, it all adds to the mystery and majesty of Koi carp.

Today, however, the majority of fish are of Japanese design as they have mastered the art of breeding and keeping Koi carp. Top Japanese-bred fish can cost thousands of pounds and are fondly referred to as “Living Jewels” as owning them is a sign of wealth and prosperity.

When you consider a healthy fish can grow up to 36 inches in length, sometimes even bigger, it’s not difficult to see how they’ve earned their reputation as “Living Jewels” and become prized possessions.

Choosing Your First Fish

There are many things to consider when choosing your first fish, budget usually tops the list. We would urge caution, don’t dash out and invest in Koi until you’ve researched and established a good home for them.

Keeping Koi carp is an investment, like all investments you need to investigate and protect it. Many would-be owners make the mistake of letting their budget determine the fish they buy.

Spend time researching how to keep Koi carp, talk to breeders, read books, join a club and check out forums dedicated to Koi. Think about your reasons for wanting to become an owner, is it a hobby, do you want to breed them, are they for garden decoration and pleasure?

If you do your homework first and educate yourself by talking to keepers and breeders, it will pay dividends in the long term.

Where to Buy Koi Carp

If you’ve done your homework, you’ll already have a list of local breeders who can sell you your first Koi. The advantage of buying from a recognized breeder is it comes with their years of experience and often their support. Like you, a reputable breeder will want the best for their fish and they’ll be happy to help you.

When you want to buy a pedigree pet, it is always good advice to buy from the person who knows them best and cares for them the most. Buying fish without provenience is bad for the breed, encourages unscrupulous fish farming, and results in unhealthy fish.

Ultimately, if your fish lose their natural longevity because of poor breeding, you’ll lose your investment and beloved pets.

Do Koi Carp Make Good Pets

As we’ve mentioned, koi have the potential to live for many years. Fifty years are often cited although on average, a healthy fish should live for at least 20 to 30 years, which in itself is much longer than most pets.

Keeping Koi is different from owning a cat or a dog, they’re not openly affectionate and you can’t take them for a walk. But, that doesn’t mean they don’t make good pets. If anything because they last so long, you can start to recognize them as individuals and with plenty of patience you can build up a relationship with them, some will even learn to trust you and let you hand feed them.

Your Koi’s New Home

Now that you have a basic understanding of Koi carp, it’s time to start thinking about giving your fish home. Many novice owners underestimate the importance of a suitable home, above all else, your pond will be the difference between successfully keeping Koi or not!

Although Koi can be housed in indoor tanks, it’s widely accepted they have more chance of success in an outdoor pond. They are cold-water fish, they are hardy and thrive when they have space to swim, good water quality, quality food, and security.


The bigger the pond, the better! If you can only provide a small pond, Koi may not be the species for you. It’s harsh, but because of their potential size, a small pond will hinder their growth.

There is no definitive optimum size or shape for a pond, and it all depends on the space you have available. Ponds that hold 1000’s gallons of water, a depth of at least 1.5 meters, and have simple shapes to allow for water flow are widely accepted as conducive to healthy fish.

Your Koi need space to swim and grow, you may also want plants and ornaments in your pond which all take up space, although it is not advisable to overstock the pond with plants as Koi will eat them which can affect their health.

Fish use a pond’s depth to regulate their temperature; the ability to get out of the sun is an important thing to consider when building a pond. If you can, locate the pond in an area with a medium amount of natural shade.

If you are short on space, you can reduce the amount of fish you keep to suit the size of pond you have. To help you with pond design, there are many pond calculators online, suppliers and breeders will also be happy to advise you about creating the ideal pond for the amount of fish you plan on keeping.

Water Quality

Regardless of the size of the pond you have, the single most important ingredient to successfully raising Koi carp is your water quality. And, the secret or, at least, the best thing to aid water quality is an efficient water filtration system.

Because of their size, koi produce large amounts of waste, and the ability to control and remove unwanted toxins and maintain well-oxygenated water is paramount.

Ongoing, good water quality is maintained using a water pump and filtration system. There are many pumps available and the one you need is dictated by the size of your pond. Typically, one of two filtration systems is used, a pump-based system or a gravity-fed system.

The pump-based system normally sits on the base of your pond; it circulates water around the pond and then through the filtration system. The gravity-fed system transfers the water via a pipe into your filtration system; the gravity-fed system is favored by many keepers as it’s considered to be more efficient.


Regular maintenance of your pond is important to the health of your fish. Test the water with a testing kit at least once a week, remove debris or hazards, and check your pump and filter system. Every month, you will need to replace 10% of the water, this helps reduce toxins and maintains water quality.


Large brightly colored fish look like a very appetizing snack to predators, especially Heron and Kingfishers. Even domestic pets have been known to take Koi, so installing adequate security such as a pond net should be considered.

Another aspect of security is theft. When you consider there could be thousands of pounds worth of fish swimming around in your back garden, it’s worth thinking about security lighting and possibly CCTV, only you know the potential risk to your fish based on where you keep them.

Keeping Your Koi Healthy

Koi carp have a strong immune system which is more than capable of protecting them under normal circumstances. Aided by your water quality, temperature control, and security measures there is no reason they should not go on to live healthy lives.

One more consideration in keeping healthy fish is feeding. Koi eat both meat and vegetable-based products, they are also partial to some live food such as Earthworms. Over time, your fish will let you know what they like and what they don’t. For your part, you need to supply them with the best quality of food available and under no circumstances overfeed them.

You may need to vary their quantity and diet during the seasons, taking into consideration how many fish are in your pond. And remember, the more food you feed them, the more waste they’ll produce and the harder your filtration system and cleaning processes will have to work.

Hopefully, by now, you have a good understanding of what’s involved in keeping Koi carp. Owning these wonderful pets should be a pleasure, it requires commitment, patience, and a willingness to learn.

Regardless of whether you want to keep Koi for a hobby or even if you’d like to breed them, you are joining a very exclusive club.

The more time you spend around Koi, their owners, and the people who breed them, you’ll realize that you can never know everything about them, which in itself is one of their unique charms.

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