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Buying Koi? What To Look For – And Look Out For

By July 6, 2020March 22nd, 2022Ponds
kids feeding koi

It’s a great time to add new koi to your pond, now that we’re past the spring frost, but before the relentless summer heat sets in. It’s a bit of a Goldilocks time for koi, making their transition into a new home less stressful.

These colorful gems are a pond owner’s treasures, and provide months – and years – of enjoyment. So if you’re planning to add one (or more!) to your pond, you may be itching to get out and choose your favorites. Before you do, take a minute to brush up on what to look for, and what to beware, when it comes to choosing the right koi.

Healthy Behavior

If koi aren’t looking perky and healthy before you get them home, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment and problems. Get off on the right foot – er, fin! – by choosing koi wisely. That starts with healthy behavior, which for koi is energetic and lively.

Unless it’s the dead of winter and they’re dormant at the bottom of the pond, healthy koi should be swimming smoothly and proudly. If they appear listless, are tilting to one side, or swimming erratically in fits and starts rather than like the aquatic darts that they are, then give them a pass.

While koi in tanks shouldn’t be crowded, keep in mind that they’re in a temporary environment and should have a whole lot more room in your pond. So if they aren’t swimming like a speeding bullet, don’t fret. Just be sure they’re swimming! Not floating aimlessly or scraping against the side of the tank.

While you’re there, look at the behavior of the other fish, too. If they seem generally healthy and active, that’s a good sign. The health of one fish can affect the health of all, so avoid choosing fish if their neighbors aren’t looking so hot.

The Best Koi Food For Happy And Healthy Pond CrittersGood Coloring

Choosing the color of your koi is a personal preference. You may prefer more or less black, orange, red or yellow, or a particular pattern. Finding a coloring that speaks to you is part of the fun! But there are some things you should look for to ensure that your koi are at their healthiest.

For starters, whatever color you choose, it should be even and consistent. Look out for light and dark patches and color inconsistencies that could be a sign of a bigger problem. The red on a koi’s head, for example, may be a slightly different shade than the red on its body, but a red patch should be red – not blotchy.

White spots should be bright white, not hazy and dull. You can tell the difference between a koi with a yellow or gold patch and one with an unhealthily yellowing white patch.

Colors and even patterns can change over time, so you should expect that and not panic, but if you’re engaged in the selection process, you want to start out with uniformity within colors and clear pattern edges.

Symmetrical Shape

Koi are bright and shiny swimming machines! And their body shape is designed for elegantly slicing through water, so if you see one that looks like anything but the sleek swimmers they are, stay away.

Females are a bit rounder and males more cylindrical, but they should be symmetrical and smooth from head to tail. Avoid koi with a rounded body, or that have a thin body with a head that appears too large.

As you shop for your favorite koi, look out for lumps or protrusions, and steer clear of any with damaged or frayed fins. It’s more than just aesthetics – anything but bright, lustrous, and streamlined beauty can mean underlying health problems that can lead to headaches and disappointment later.

pond shop with koiA Reputable Dealer

Sometimes a koi is only as good as the shop you buy it from. Because it’s so easy for one sick koi to infect the rest in a tank (or pond!), it’s important that a dealer keep koi quarantined on arriving at the shop to be sure they’re healthy. And if not, to be sure that they don’t infect other koi. It’s a good idea to ask whether koi were quarantined, and for how long, before they end up in your pond.

A dealer’s care for the koi that could soon be yours is evident in other small ways, too. Is the shop well-kept? Are tanks clean and safe? Are your questions answered in a thorough, straightforward and satisfying way? What happens if you take a koi home and it immediately gets sick, or dies?

If you’re not comfortable with something you see or hear, consider finding another shop.

A Safe Homecoming

Choosing koi is a little like choosing your own birthday gift! It can be a lot of fun and certainly very rewarding. These critters have personalities of their own, so don’t be afraid to spend some time watching them and looking for just the colors, patterns, and behavior that bring a little spark to your eyes.

Once you’ve made your selection, it’s time to bring your new family member home, and to do that safely it’s important to keep a few tips in mind.

However excited you are to introduce your koi to its new home, don’t dump it into your pond right away. Koi are adapted to the environment they’re in – the temperature, the bacteria, and the overall ecosystem. An abrupt change can cause stress that can lead to illness.

Instead, leave them in the bag they came home in, and float the entire bag in your pond for about 30 minutes. That will equalize the temperature. Then when you’re ready, scoop the fish out of the bag and place them in the pond. Don’t dump the whole bag because you don’t want to mix the tank water with your pond water.

And you’re set! Now you can start enjoying your new treasures. Give them names, find out what they like to eat, and teach them to eat it right out of your hand.

If you have questions about koi care or are thinking about adding some to your pond – or maybe thinking about adding a pond just so you can enjoy some koi! – then contact us and let us know. We would love to share our love of koi with you.