Basics of Keeping Your Koi Healthy
Without addressing individual diseases there are many things you can do to help keep your fish healthy. The first thing we are going to recommend to you is to use an adequate style ultraviolet light in your system year-round. You don’t need it in the winter for algae control, but it is still very useful for disease control, especially in this area where we may have two or three seventy-degree days in a row in the middle of winter. It needs to be sized to your pump at the lower end of the light’s recommended flow rate, so as to act as a sterilizer and not just a clarifier. This is going to help disease transmission by killing off most disease organisms in their free-swimming state.
Next, we want you to keep a trace amount of salt in your water. Using aquarium or pond salt at low levels helps your fish three ways. It helps their gills function better and easier by raising the osmotic pressure in the water. It stimulates the fish to produce a heavier slime coat, which helps to protect against cuts and scrapes. Thirdly, it kills off the free-swimming state of ich, or white spot disease, costia and chilonadela among others. At a level of .014 % it will not hurt your plants or any other fish. This equates to approximately one and a quarter cups of salt per hundred gallons.
Even if you never introduce new fish or plants to your pond, birds are constantly using your pond as a giant birdbath, along with every other pond in the wild, and they bring you disease organisms on their feet and in their feces. To help with this we recommend doing a twice yearly prophylactic treatment, early spring and late fall, with Broad Spectrum Disease Treatment (a malachite green / formalin combination medicine) to eliminate any parasites that have found their way in.
What type of food, how much and when is also an important aspect of your koi health. Early spring and fall you want to feed a high carb food to help with the fish’s fat reserves. Summer is for feeding a high protein food to help them grow. No food in the winter. Keep in mind that your fish need at least two weeks for their metabolism to speed back up to the point where they can safely eat. Two or three days of warm weather in the winter does NOT mean that you can feed your fish, even if they beg for food and “well, the book says I can feed them if the temperature is over 55”. Remember, your kids want to eat the whole bag of candy at Halloween, but if you let them, they will get sick. The lower the temperature, the less food you feed. As with all pets, the better quality food, the healthier the fish.
Spring is the most dangerous time for your fish. As the water warms, it takes your fish several weeks to adjust to the higher temperatures and their immune system is at its lowest effectiveness. Bacteria and parasites on the other hand need only a day of warm weather to get themselves up to speed. They are the biggest cause of spring fish deaths. All you can do is watch carefully this time of year, keep your salt up, do your spring parasite treatment and change your uv bulb early, before it gets too warm, so it is working at it’s peak efficiency just when you need it the most.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, be careful where you get your fish and plants! New fish and plants are the most common way disease gets into your pond. Plants from the wild should be soaked in an anti-parasite solution before being introduced into your pond. Fish from private individuals or questionable sources should be quarantined for a minimum of 21 days before being introduced into your pond. We hear a dozen or more horror stories every season from people who added fish from a friend’s pond or a big box pet store and are now losing fish left and right to some ailment. If you aren’t sure, ask the place you get your fish or plants from about their quarantine protocol. We get our fish from one breeder only, and direct from the breeder, not through a distributor. We do not take fish from a private individual except in the most rare situation, and if we do, we quarantine them for at least 30 days. The breeder we use quarantines their fish for three weeks before they ship them and we keep them in tanks with uv lights and high salt (.025-.030) while they are here.