Valley of the Sun Koi Club, Inc.
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frequently asked questions

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What instruction did Burt Ballou give at the 2010 VSKC Koi Show Banquet
about color selection on new Koi purchases?

The following is from the 2010 VSKC Awards Banquet and follow up e-mail contact with Burt Ballou:

"When purcahsing a koi you must remember that red is strongest in front and black is strongest in back so you look for good red in back and good black in front, also if you look at the center of a red scale it should be darker and have a vertical line of deeper red , this tells you that the red is not finished and is still coming up, if the red is same color on entire scale or even lighter in the center it means the red is finished and will be going down soon." Burt Ballou granted permission to copy his e-mail.

What is the basic rationale for producing "Good Koi?"
This is a simplified rational:

Good Koi in a Good Pond = Good Koi
Poor Quality Koi in a Good Pond = Poor Quality Koi
Good Koi in a Poor Quality Pond = Poor Quality Koi

What are the basic Koi colors and patterns?
There are koi that have basic colors in different patterns. One is a white fish with red markings (kohaku). The number and patterns of the red have their own Japanese names. The next two are fish with black and white combinations. The black is in either black stepping stone (bekko) or black bands (utsuri) patterns. When the red and white spawn with either the black stepping stone or black band, the results are two of the most favored koi (red, black and white combinations - sanke and showa). The black on the sanke is in stepping stone pattern, while on the showa the black is in bands with some black on the head. So this faq has covered five of the color combinations. If you want to know more about the other color combinations and the Japanese names click on "Koi" in the navigation area.

I want to buy a temporary, quarantine, or transfer tank. Are there any vendors online?

What is a koi?

Are goldfish and koi related?

Can goldfish and koi be together?
Goldfish and koi can be in the same pond. Some people segregate them into an upper or lower pond that are on the same filter system. Goldfish produce less ammonia than koi and do not grow as large.

How much do koi cost?
Cost of koi vary, ranging from a few dollars to several thousand. Confirmation (shape), color, size (age), and linage are factors that influence the cost.

What do koi eat?
There are many different types of specially prepared koi food. After the winter metabolism slow down period, you may start them with Cheerios as their system must reactivate.

What are those little red worms?
Little red worms (blood worms), larvae of the midge fly, may be found in the filter material of your bio-filter. They are perfectly natural and a sign that your system is clean. You don't need to get rid of them. You can purchase a freeze dried version at pet stores.

Where do you keep koi?
Koi are kept in various types, sizes, shapes and configurations of ponds.

Must I learn Japanese to keep koi?
No! But you may want to learn about koi. Their colors and patterns have numerous Japanese names.

How deep should I make my Pond?
Healthy fish like to swim up and down as well as side to side. We recommend at least 4 feet deep. That depth allows them to escape predators. Some feel the depth influences their size.

Can Koi live in the hot Phoenix weather?
That depends on how well you care for their environment. The depth mentioned above helps -- deeper water is cooler. Fish in water temperatures in the 90o F and higher range needs little to no food as their metabolism shuts down like in the winter with water temp at or below 55o.

If the oxygen levels are kept as high as possible, they go better. A recent statement about dying fish -- large fish over the night time is probably oxygen starvation. Plants during the night utilize oxygen during respiration.

What is the Japanese word for Koi?
"Nishikigoi" (pron. Nee-shee-kee-goy) means "Embroidered Carp" and koi is the derivative.

How big will koi get?
Koi can attain a length of twenty-four to thirty-six inches if enough room is provided and they have ample food. They will increase in girth as they grow.

Will a koi's color or markings change?
Koi can change with the advent of time and environment. Arizona water brings out the black (sumi). They can get sun burnt. One member has one fish that changes with the seasons, summer and winter. Certain colors become richer and more defined (finish is the koi keeper word) with age. Or they can finish early changing some amounts of color.

Are goldfish and koi related?
Goldfish are cousins to koi. Goldfish are a different species of the carp family. Goldfish are Chinese crucian carp (Carassius Carassius).

How many koi will fit in my pond?
It is best to have under one pound of fish per 100-200 gallons of water. One thousand gallons can hold three - eighteen inch fish which approximates five pounds total. A twenty-four to thirty-six inch koi are about twenty and thirty pounds respectively. One thirty pound fish should have 3000-6000 gallons! How many gallons are in your pond? There are seven and a half gallons in a cubic foot of water.

Should I be concerned about mosquitoes?
Fish eat mosquito larvae.

How Do I Get Rid of Green Water?
Algae bloom, green pea soup, occurs whenever the water heats, there is enough fertilizer in the water, and sunlight. One way to combat algae bloom is to achieve a natural balance where the fertilizer is taken up by plants. Another is to reduce the amount of sunlight striking the pond. An additional way is to put in an ultraviolet clarifier, or "UV filter."

What is barley straw used for?
Barley straw helps combat algae blooms and string algae. It increases the upflow biological filtration normally in waterfall systems of ponds.

Do you eat koi?
NO! They are pets and some can become very expensive. Also some fish medications makes them not edible.

Are koi aggressive?
Normally known for their calm fluid swimming movements. However males can get rough with females during spawing season. Koi do not bite people and can be trained to eat out of your hand. They come to you for food and can "look like they are begging for food.

Do koi have teeth?
They have molar type flat teeth in the back of their mouth for grinding food.

What are butterfly koi?
Also known as Dragon fish or most popular name is Long Fin Koi. Long Fin Koi originated in Thailand and were not readily accepted by the old Japanese Koi breeders. Earlier Koi show judges would not look at them. Standard Koi (not long fin) standards are being modified and applied to these fish. Long fins are very popular in the United States. The length of finage is becoming important in the judging standards -- balance and porportion.

There are bubbles on the top of my pond, I had a large drop in ph, and a favorite large koi was dead that morning. Why?
The bubbles at the top of your pond can be caused by the dissolved organic compounds (DOCs) in your water. The dissolved organics bind with oxygen, usually while the water is being agitated from an air stone or a waterfall. When DOCs bind with oxygen, they float at the surface of the water as the "bubbles". This binding with oxygen may stess your koi - especially your larger ones. Water changes will remove the dissolved organics from the water and return some DO (dissolved oxygen). Couple these bubbles with plants (to include algae bloom) respiration of oxygen during the evening, thereby further lowering the DO, may cause the death of larger fish.

A pH swing could or could NOT be a cause. We need to know what is the pH in the morning and then again in the evening across several days. A daily pond log of chemistry readings helps.

Another possiblity is spawning. Spawnings usually happen with a sudden movement of water temps up or down by 4 degrees F. Water changes do help after an unplanned spawn as does the installation of a foam fractionator or clarity unit which immediately kicks in with the condition. (a plan for the future if you wish to keep both sexes)

What creates dissolved organic compounds (DOC)?
Short answer is organisms. DOC's come from many sources including: fish slime produced if the fish have parasites, infections, viruses, or injuries; sperm (and semen and eggs) [from spawning fish, toads, and frogs]; excessive feeding; rotting vegetation; fish waste; and over population of fish for the size of the pond.

Cleaning the bottom of your pond may agitate the rotting wastes. Which may increase the density of DOCs in the water. Bottom vacuums should not recyle back to the pond.

How do you determine the sex (male or female gender) of my koi?
There are ways to do this, but the easy way is to wait until they are older, about two years old. Females get plump with eggs, rather blimpish. Male stay cigar shaped.

Female and Male Koi have different looking fins. Female fins tend to be larger, will have less color, have a rounded edge, and will be opaque. Male fins will have a pointy edge and will have a solid color look.

What is AKCA?
It is an acronym for Associated Koi Clubs of America. AKCA is a non-profit organization created to support koi keeping. Their web site is AKCA.

What is ZNA?
It is ZEN NIPPON AIRINKAI. Koi keepers in Japan formed a Nishikigoi keepers society. It is a world wide organization. Their web site is ZNA.

What is the AGA?
It is an acronym for the American Goldfish Association. Their web site is AGA.

What is GFSA?
Goldfish Society of America is dedicated primarily to goldfish. It is focused on information exchange and expanding knowledge. Breeders, collectors, and goldfish enthusiasts benefit from the Society’s publications and local clubs. Water gardeners and Koi enthusiasts are also served by GFSA. Their web site is GFSA.

Does the color of a koi change with time?
Better or worse?

The answer to the first question is yes - the colors do change over a span of years. Pattern edges may become definite and not ghostly or hazy.

The answer to the follow-on question (Better or worse?) is yes to both options. Some colors and minor pattern changes can occur as the fish matures and becomes "finished" where all of the colors and patterns are viberant and solid. Some patterns must be straight and balanced from side to side. However, once finished, the colors may start to lighten and additional color spots appear in different locations (red or black specks in a white area are typical).

What is a Koi Show?
It is like a dog show -- only wet. There are no leahes, but to take them to a show you must bag them. Since the size of a koi may be large you need a large bag with water to cover the fish and the rest of the volumn filled with pure oxygen. The ratio of 1/3 water with 2/3 pure oxygen is acceptable. Or, you may have a lot of fish to show so you purchase a transportation tank and have an air pump with air stones in the water.

What is an "Open" Koi Show?
Basically, anyone who wishes to show off their Koi and they are not a Koi vendor/dealer are welcome to join the show. In other words, you do not have to be a member of the club conducting the show or any Koi Club. The Koi must be healthy, if the show leadership feels your fish may be sick, it cannot be judged. Large show tanks (400 gallons capacity filled with 250 gallons) are set up with water that has been treated to ideal conditions for koi and air is pumped to all tanks.

How many fish can be in one tank for a show?
First determination is the "Tank Load" limit calculated in points. The size of the fish to be shown is next. Each show will have "Tank Load" limits calculated as points. Typical limit is 100 points. Regadless of the type of koi it is the length of the fish that determines how may points. Example: Under 9 inches is two (2) points per fish and over 24 iinches is 22 points per fish. The larger the fish the fewer the number per tank.

What do the Koi Judges look for in a Koi?
AKCA certified judges have some criteria that they look for in the Koi. VSKC has a judge as a member and he, Tom Ayers has a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the criteria. His actual presentation included additional comments, questions and answers that are not in the presentation


How do I prepare my fish for a show?
Here is a link to an article by Ray Jordan, AKCA certified Judge. Authorization to link granted by Ray Jordan. It includes pictures and written instructions. VSKC members also use a product called Bag Buddies - which is reported to add oxygen to the water and a mild anesthetic.

What goes into a Koi Show?
Southern Arizona Koi Association has a pdf file on Planning and running a Koi Show.

What happens at Koi Show?
A lot of prepatory work and set up of a site. The show tanks (about 350 gallons) are arranged and air is piped from a central location. They are, of course filled with water and that water must be de-chorinated and treated. The water is tested throughout the show to ensure the water quality. Show water quality is differnt that keeping water in your pond. Before the judging starts the fish are registered or "benched."

What is benching?
The ownership, classification, size, and picture are recorded. With the advent of laptops, it has become a much easier process than in days of old.

Why is size important?
It is unfair for little koi to compete with their big brothers and sisters. A koi's coloration may change as they grow. They may "finish" -- be at their peak -- at different times.

How do you judge koi?
Koi are judged on:
  •  Body structure/conformation.
  •  Placement, depth, and balance of color
  •  scales (lack or presence, possible shine, shape, & regularity).
  •  fins (shape, color, length).

What are "Champion" Koi?
Koi shows are ment to build interest in koi keeping. Koi do not need wins at "Major" shows, they are chamions of the moment. A fish may be champion one month and not be champion at a different show or later in life. Koi do not collect "points" like dogs with the American Kennel Club's "Champion" status.

Is it right or fair for a Judge to show fish?
They can not judge their own fish. Judges are required to show fish. Grant they know what to look for in fish. But, beauty is in the eye of the judge. While ownership is recorded at the time of registration, judges do not know who owns which fish. Here is a point to consider -- if your fish beats a judge's fish of the same classification and size -- your koi must be one great fish on that day.

Why do koi jump?
"Here are the top 10 reasons that koi jump.
  1. The koi jumped the first night it was put in the pond.
  2. The koi was placed in an un-netted quarantine tank.
  3. The koi jumped during a thunderstorm.
  4. The owner placed a gasoline operated generator close to the pond causing vibrations.
  5. A racoon or other animal visited the pond.
  6. The koi was irritated by change in water quality factors, even something as a water change may cause the koi to jump.
  7. The koi has parasites.
  8. The koi jumped during spawning activity.
  9. The koi was attempting to clear something from the gills.
  10. Koi jump because they can."
This question and answer is reprinted from Koi USA magazine, May/June 2010, by Joe White.

How do you keep koi?
There are many who feel that you don't keep koi.
You keep their water.

Why do you keep their water?
Koi's metabolism produce a large amount of ammonia and waste products. Ammonia is poisonous to fish. Seventy to eighty percent of food is waste.

How do you keep the water?
There are two simple ways. Don't over populate with too many koi. Don't over feed them. The more complex methods deal with filters, waste removal, and water changes.

What kind of filter do I need?
There are sedimentary, mechanical, biological, and ultraviolet types of filters. These types come in many variations and sizes. Depending on the size of your pond and fish load, you may need some of each. They should handle a complete cycle of the water in one to two hours, preferably one.

What is a biological filter?
A biological filter is a filter or a living environment where beneficial bacteria live. This can be a filter, lava rocks or other fish safe media. Even the pond walls and bottom can contain beneficial bacteria. Bacteria are responsible for breaking down and converting toxic ammonia from fish metabolism into nitrites and then into harmless nitrates.

Why winterize my UV?
When water freezes inside the UV unit it expands and cracks the delicate quartz sleeve that protects the lamps from water. Once water seeps into in the sleeve it will blow the lamp or corrode the terminals. Consider pipe unions on either side with bypass valves remove entire filter. Why not just keep pumping the water through it? What about power outage? Even Phoenix had a heavy freeze early in 2007 four days of below 32 albeit only four hours each day.

How can I prevent algae growth?
Algae spores will grow if you have water, warmth, and nutrients. The trick is to starve out the algae. To accomplish this is simple -- starve them of light and/or nutrients.

Can Koi get sick?
Koi have many kinds of potential problems. Koi can get parasites and bacterial infections that cause skin sores or fin and gill infections. Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) is a current koi problem of international concern.

How do you treat sick fish?
Quarantine can be a method to treat sick fish. Treatment can be medicated food, medicated baths, or medication in the pond. In serious cases by injecting antibiotics. You may seek non-professional assistance with a AKCA certified "Koi Health Advisor (KHA)," or a licensed professional Veterinarian. The best way to have healthy fish is to maintain good water quality.

What is quarantine?
It is adviseable to quarantine new fish to check for illness in a separate holding pond or tank. The stress of transport may induce some health problems. Quarantine can be a method to treat sick fish.

How do you acclimate Koi and why?
Acclimating your Koi is the first thing that you should do when you bring your Koi home. Acclimation is the process that gets a Koi used to new or different water.

To acclimate, you:
  • equalize the water temperature between the bag and the quarantine pond
  • equalize the pH level
  • equalize many other water parameters
What to do to acclimate:
  • Float the bag in the quarantine pond for 15 minutes to equalize the temperature
  • Open the bag and add 30% of your pond water
  • Float the bag for 15 more minutes
  • Open the bag and add 30% more waterequalize the pH level
  • Float the bag for 15 more minutes
  • Scoop your new Koi out of the bag with your hand or a net and add it to the quarantine pond
  • Discard any water in your bag in your yard or a drain pipe. Do not put the water in the quarantine pond, it can have parasites or bacteria
Repeat the acclimation when moving from quarantine to your pond after the time limit you use in quarantine.

Is floating water hyacinth a noxious weed in Arizona? What about Parrot's feather?
The short answer is YES to water hyacinth (WH)! WH is listed on the Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA) web site page "Prohibited, Regulated and Restricted Noxious Weeds." Floating water hyacinth appears under all three headings: Prohibited, Regulated, and Restricted. "Prohibited" plant are prohibited from entry into the state. "Regulated" and "Restricted" plants if found within the state shall be quarantined to prevent further infestation or contamination. What does that mean, if found on your property - you will be required to destroy them.

Note: VSKC Webmaster -- If a business sells plants, they are inspected by the AZDA for compliance with the noxious weed restrictions. So plants sold at nursureys and do-it-yourself centers should be safe to purchase. However, do NOT trust online vendors -- they may not know the particulars of Arizona.

Source: Arizona Department of Agriculture

University of Arizona, Cooperative Extension: "The term noxious weed is not the same as invasive plant. An important distinction is that noxious weed is a regulatory term and is any plant designated by a federal, state or county government to be injurious to public health, agriculture, recreation, wildlife, or property. Noxious weeds are regulated with respect to their transport, sale, and eradication efforts. Not all invasive plants that occur in Arizona are noxious weeds." Note: VSKC Webmaster -- Parrot's feather is "invasive" but not noxious.

Source: University of Arizona, Cooperative Extension: "Invasive Plants on Small Acreage Properties in Arizona" (pdf)

This answer has been reviewed by AZDA, Plant Services Department.

What are the advantages of joining a Koi club or water garden society?

What factors contribute to bug eyes?
  1. Nitrate
  2. Over feeding
  3. Internal problems
4 out of 6 bug eyed adult koi have their eyes returned to normal.

How do you maintain water quality?
First you must know your water quality. Large filter systems and water changes help in the maintenance of water quality. It has been said that koi ponds are small scale waste water treatment plants.

Where can I find koi anatomy?
AKCA link to Anatomy.

Do koi have predators?
Any creature that will eat fish: herons, owls, eagles, cats, racoons, etc.

What is fukurin?
Some breeders may represent that as ginrin. Fukurin is actually skin and it has two types. The name was taken from the term Fuku, meaning to 'cover' or 'wrap'. When the skin wraps around a small scale it makes it look metallic or crystaline.

What is VSKC's red symbol on the Logo?
It is called "Torii Gate" and is found at entrances to Shinto Shrines. It designates holy ground.

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