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Koi Pond – A Basic Guide How To Set Up

Koi ponds are more popular than ever outside of their homeland. High-quality koi fish can be found for very low prices almost anywhere in the world, and setting up isn't nearly as difficult as you might think.
Koi Fish Pond
Koi Fish Pond

If you've ever dreamed of sitting by a tender pool hand-feeding eager koi, get ready to learn all you need to know about designing and setting up a koi pond!

History of Koi . Aquarium

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What we call koi in the West is better known as nishikigoi (錦鯉) in their native Japan. Amur Carp ( Cyprinus rubrofuscus ) is native to mainland East Asia (Russia, China, Southeast Asia) and has been raised for millennia in stocked ponds for food.

However, the Japanese have elevated koi breeding to an art form by choosing colors in nishikigoi their . Koi farming became popular in the 1820s but was isolated in a small part of the main island of Honshu until the 1910s.

Through their efforts in disseminating Japan's newly industrialized culture to the rest of the world, koi became a source of national pride and the hobby became serious.

Ornamental carp is an East Asian specialty, just as it is to breed dogs and horses in Europe. Goldfish ( Carassius auratus ) is a close relative of the Amur carp and has been bred in China for almost a thousand years. However, koi fish is a specialty of Japan and koi ponds are indispensable for Kanso outdoor , Nipponese's version of Feng Shui .

Build your own koi pond

This section covers everything you need to know about planning and building the perfect Koi aquarium.

Pond planning and design

Before making any purchases, you should have a clear idea of how your pond will perform. While you can make some design tweaks along the way, having a solid layout ensures there are fewer surprises once the ground is broken.
Choosing a location is the first step to building a pond. Here are some considerations for the planning phase:

Can I see the pond from both indoors and outdoors?

Are fish covered in the summer sun (in hot climates)? Is it deep enough for wintering (in cold climates)?

Are plant roots capable of penetrating the lining over time?

How does my pond fit into my future outdoor construction plans?

How does my pond align with the rest of my landscape?

Outlining the layout with a can of spray paint or a series of orange flags will give you an idea of the ideal location, size, and shape of your pond.

Preformed vs. Liner Ponds

While I will talk mainly about lined ponds, I would like to take a moment to discuss another popular option: using a rigid plastic prefabricated pond.

Made of virgin plastic or rubber composite, preformed ponds are a quick, inexpensive way to have an aesthetically pleasing backyard water feature without spending a lot of time measuring lined ponds. .

Pre-made ponds can be placed in any hole and then filled around the base. The resin is also extremely hard and almost impervious to rocks and tree roots. However, their shape is established when molded and cannot be customized or adjusted. Just finding the right design can be a challenge.

Also because they are so stiff they cannot be made nearly as wide as a lined pond. Shaped ponds can even be left above ground year-round if you live in a warmer climate, such as Florida or Southern California!

Indoor and outdoor ponds

Pond players have quite a few options compared to aquatic players, including placing an indoor or outdoor pond. There are several benefits to both choices and you should carefully consider which option best suits your goals as a koi pond keeper!

The benefits of an indoor pond

Can be enjoyed from the yard or other enclosed space

Smaller and usually less expensive

Koi can be kept warm all year round

Lack of direct sunlight prevents algae growth

Easier water evaporation management

Benefits of an outdoor pond

Abundant natural sun for pond plants

Fix the backyard

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The pond attracts wildlife like frogs and dragonflies

Worry less about water splashing due to improper fertilization or leaks

Lay the foundation for the pond liner

Once you've decided on the size and location, it's time to start digging! Assuming you don't work with a landscaping company, some shovels are essential, along with hoes, and other specialized tools if needed for the soil in your area.

Typically, the first shallow shelf area is 15-30 cm deep, with the main body in any position 60 cm or more, depending on your design.

Pond depth is one of the most important aspects of design because koi have special needs depending on the season. In most temperate countries, we have four distinct seasons, including cold winters.

Summers in warmer parts of the country can also be harsh, and koi may avoid shallow areas, where direct sunlight and dark backgrounds can cause temperatures to soar. You should plan for shade from nearby trees, buildings or trees for at least part of the day, as well as some source of moving water to keep oxygen levels high.

Once you've finished the bottom section, you'll need a drain to collect fish debris and waste. When digging, give it a light bowl shape to allow gravity and water flow to naturally transfer debris here.

Other additional features to create a foundation when digging include skimmers, PVC piping and other burial pond equipment.

I always recommend saving accumulated soil. The extra land will come in handy for planting trees, building waterfalls or embankments, and other landscaping projects!

Koi pond liners

Before you start laying the rubber liner, you will first need the pond liner. This fabric provides protection for the most important lining, cushioning it against sharp rocks, tree roots and other leak hazards. Since the pond liner creates a space between the ground and the lining gases from decomposition and other processes can be released. 

Without a liner, trapped gas can bubble under the liner, creating a bulging substrate in your pond. The pond liner itself is quite heavy and you will need more than you think. As long as you're not using a particularly oddly shaped pond, the following calculations should give you enough liner to work with. 

Remember that you need a little overlap on the edges for the liner to continue past the lip of the pond. I recommend overlapping about 6-12 inches on each size.

Maximum pond length + (2x max depth) + (2x overlap size) = Pond liner length

Maximum pond width + (max 2 times depth) + (2 times overlap size) = Pond pad width

The liner goes directly onto the coating in a single piece. The required amount of primer follows the same recipe.
Note that you can substitute the liner for some alternatives. Any durable fabric will do, even old rugs. Sand is another popular alternative that provides a solid barrier to the lining but does not provide airflow.

Once your lining is ready, you'll want to place rocks, decorations, and potted plants in strategic areas to secure it. Place both at the bottom, on the ground stand, and along the overlap at the edges. If you want a bottom layer, coarse gravel and gravel are ideal because they allow debris to easily reach the drainage system.
You will also need an additional liner if you decide you want to set up a waterfall. This strip runs from the top to the bottom of the pond.

Pond technology

Although the pond is almost complete with the hole dug and pre-lined, there is still a lot of work to be done before we can even think about adding fish and plants!

Pond filter

Aquarium filters come in the same variety as indoor aquarium filters. From tanks to fully biological arrangements, there are many ways to filter a pond. Submersible filters are some of the most common types. While they are not as convenient as they work best in the deeper parts of the pond, they are inexpensive and easy to customize with the right medium! 

However, if you are working with a bottom drain or submersible pump, you can also use a pond periphery filter. You don't have to get wet while working, and since they're located outside the pond, they can get bigger without affecting the space inside. Usually, they also provide separate areas for each stage of filtration: mechanical, chemical and biological. Submersible filters are much more limited and often rely solely on mechanical and chemical means, eliminating nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria .

The only downside is that they are less aesthetically pleasing – they can however be hidden in a side compartment dug deep into the ground, blocked by plants or by other creative means of landscaping.

Strain Filter

A major maintenance issue for outdoor ponds is dealing with all the debris that can build up inside and out. Falling leaves, grass clippings, and more can quickly give a pond a messy, unpolished appearance. Without a skimmer, you will need to use the mesh daily to remove debris or risk clogging the pump's suction line with plants. Clogged pumps can overheat for hours, leading to costly replacement problems.


Pond heaters may sound surprising to some – after all, isn't the idea that fish can live outdoors year-round? Yes, yes, but we must remember that the pond is a man-made ecosystem. The number of fish relative to the volume of water is much greater than in any natural pond. While fish metabolism is slowest in winter, they still consume oxygen. If you have too many fish and/or a long winter, they can suffocate before spring arrives.

UV Sterilizer

Algae is a problem for all aquatic ecosystems and ponds are no exception. The more nutrient-rich your water and the more light it is exposed to, the more algae thrive. And since sunlight is by far the best to grow it… You have the idea.

UV sterilizers don't do much for hairs and slime algae growing on rocks other than killing algae spores. In fact, many pond owners appreciate the faint green growth on flooded surfaces. However, they are perfect for removing free-floating single-celled algae that cause green blooms in water.

UV sterilizers also kill most bacteria, eggs and spores that cause parasitic diseases like ich and fungi. They require a pump to push water through them but you usually install a pump along the line that runs from the main pump to your filter.

If green water is a frequent problem, reducing food intake, providing additional shade and encouraging the growth of competing plant species will eliminate nearly all algae problems.

Pump and power head

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Flow is a major part of the pond technology landscape. We need flow to get the water into the filter, sterilizer, waterfall and other areas of the setup. The number and capacity of your pumps will depend on the height at which they must operate, the volume of the pond, and their intended use. A dedicated pump just to run a fountain or waterfall will have a much lower capacity than a main filter pump that also has to force water through a UV sterilizer.

Fish's food

Koi food is pretty important because you don't want to feed the same food all year round.
During the summer months when growth is fastest, you should use a higher protein formula. Fish meal, shrimp, or some other quality protein source should be the first ingredient. In the fall and spring, you can switch to plant-based recipes. Too much protein will not be partially digested and cause water quality problems when excreted or left behind.

Plants for koi ponds

Planting in a pond is one of the most exciting aspects of owning a koi pond. They complement the beauty of the natural landscape, provide food and shelter for your fish, and often flower and breed with no effort on your part! I go into more detail here about 13 Most popular pond plants but I will also include some of the most popular plants here!

Floating plants

Here are some types of floating plants in the pond that you should consider:


bee ( Pistia stratiotes ) is a common plant in ponds. It looks like a floating head of butter lettuce and is incredibly easy to grow. With abundant sunshine and nutrient-rich waters typical of ponds, duckweed reproduces easily.
As a tropical plant, water hyacinth is a bit fragile and cannot survive frost. It grows best in warm areas.

Water hyacinth

Hyacinth ( Eichhornia crassipes ) blooms like terrestrial hyacinths and blooms all summer. The floating bulbs give the plant a unique appearance, and they are too hardy for most herbivorous fish to eat. Because it grows so quickly, it also acts as a nutritional sponge, locking in phosphorus and other elements that can feed nuisance algae.
Be responsible with water hyacinth and always throw away or compost anything left over in your pond. It is extremely invasive and can upset the balance of natural water currents.

Submerged plants

Here are some submerged pond plants that you should consider:

Dog's tail

Dog tail seaweed ( Ceratophyllum demersum ) is a great choice for a koi pond because you can literally throw it in and watch it grow. While that's not particularly aesthetically pleasing, it can be rooted or free-growing, where it branches off to cover the surface of the water.
It grows quickly even in indirect light and is great for replenishing oxygen. Goldfish and koi fish easily disperse eggs among dense crowds and it is very hardy in winter. Dog tail seaweed is also quite tough and not tasty for koi.


Pond mates for Koi

Are you looking for some additional fish to live with your koi? Sorry to say, there are very few fish that are suitable for koi.
Native fish such as sunfish and sea bass are tempted as they thrive in the same conditions, however I do not recommend keeping them together. They tend to be much more aggressive, will easily catch baby koi and goldfish, and can carry parasites that the koi are not resistant to.

Goldfish – Carassius auratus

Goldfish are by far the best choice as a mate in a koi aquarium. They eat the same food, have the same care requirements and temperament. Goldfish are usually much smaller than koi but still quite large.
Keep in mind that they will hybridize if left to their own devices, which renders the resulting fry worthless to particular koi breeders and breeders.

Chinese Hi Fin Shark – Myxocyprinus asiaticus

These unlucky fish are often sold as tropical fish as they are not only temperate but are too large for an indoor aquarium. Usually sold as striped, hunchback juveniles with sail-like dorsal fins, they eventually grow to over 4 feet long and lose their bold stripes and colorful fins.

China's Hi Fin Banded Shark Not to be shark – they are poisonous fish and are therefore related to koi, barbs and goldfish. However, they are mainly benthic, feeding on algae and detritus similar to plecostomus. They are ideal companions for koi in larger ponds and even from the same part of the world.

Apple snails – Ampullariidae sp.

Apple snails or squash snails are a large family of snails, common to both aquariums and ponds. They feed on dead and rotting plant matter as well as hairs, membranes, and other nuisance algae. Snails are also perfect predators, cleaning up leftovers that your koi missed.

Adult apple snails are too large for koi to eat, but young snails will be swallowed whole. The best way to keep them is to add snails at the same time as your baby koi. Snail growth will catch up with your koi and the koi will control the number of snails as they spawn.

Concerns about wildlife

Unfortunately, a shallow lake full of fatty, defenseless fish can be a prime target for local wildlife. Small koi and goldfish are most at risk and as they get larger, they become too large for all but the most determined predators to eat.
Common Koi fish predators include:

Neighborhood cats and feral cats

Opossums, raccoons, foxes and other opportunistic mammals

Water snakes, large turtles, bullfrogs

Herons, herons, and other estuary birds

Hawks, eagles, owls and other birds of prey

Adult koi fish are too large for even herons and eagles to be determined to eat. However, the birds can still cause deep wounds that can become infected or even die. Also be careful if you live in rural areas of the world. River otters will delight in a dip and hunt for the largest fish for an easy meal.

Containment measures include fences, outdoor pets like dogs, and even bait to keep out herons and ferrets, by far the worst threat. Once they find a pond with small koi, they will appear like the clock at dawn to hunt, leaving you confused by your koi's disappearance.

While firmly attached, floating crocodile heads and fake owls also work, but they need to be moved sometimes to keep birds from clinging. Floating plants and lily pads also provide hiding places for fish. Varieties with darker colors such as Asagi Magoi are also less visible and therefore harder to catch Kohaku brilliant red and white.

Ideal Water Parameters & Pond Cycle

To cycle the pond properly, you will need a water test kit. The best test kits include pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. I also recommend using a phosphorus test kit if algae problems are a constant concern but when first setting up your pond it shouldn't be an issue. There are many ways to get started and acceleration The process of cycling both ponds and aquariums and these methods overlap. I recommend adding a few small fish to create waste for the nitrifying bacteria to consume.

In a few weeks you can add more fish. Most pond owners start with a few inexpensive goldfish to cycle. And once your test kit shows 0ppm ammonia, low nitrite and low to medium nitrate, you know your bacteria are doing their job and have paved the way for your show koi.
While the tried-and-true method of adding hard fish to get started works effectively, today bacteria to start the process can be purchased in bulk. By adding nitrifying bacteria directly to the water, you can instantly create a pond to feed your koi.

Koi also prefer a neutral to alkaline pH (pH 7.0-8.0) and moderate outdoor temperatures of 65-75F in the summer. When temperatures cool in the fall, koi stop feeding completely when the water temperature reaches 50 degrees Celsius. In late fall and winter, they live off stored fat, becoming virtually immobile as the process progresses. metabolism slows down until spring.


Koi ponds are a centuries-old hobby and a fascinating world to explore. From design to storage, every aspect of the hobby is a delight. And sheer customizability ensures that even if your neighbor decides to copy you, no two ponds are alike!
If you decide to use this information to start your own backyard or indoor pond, let me know and let me know how it goes!

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