Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Koi Allowed Back Only If Kept Hidden

The saga of a chinese restauranteur from Maine, and his confiscated koi, is continuing this week after Mr Ly won his fight to get his koi back. The state review board voted on Monday to grant Mr Ly with a permit enabling him to keep his koi.

This may seem like a victory for Mr Ly who has owned these fish, long before the ban on koi was brought in, but he has to comply with strict rules. Mr Ly will no longer be allowed to display his koi in his restaurant, the China Rose, as he has done for the past 15 years, or anywhere public for that matter. This rule is to discourage others from keeping koi and to prevent the thinking that exceptions will be made.

This goes against Mr Ly's Feng Shui beliefs that fish displayed in his restaurant bring his business good fortune. Perhaps the one thing that shows how seriously the authorities are taking this issue, is that all ten of the koi will have to be microchip tagged. This will prevent Mr Ly stocking more koi and possibly to trace any if they did escape.
For more on this story go to MaineToday.com


Monday, October 30, 2006

Water Experiment

My experiment is now into its third week and slightly disappointingly there's still no sign of any algae. Last weeks weather was very dull and grey though, not ideal for growing algae. So far all I've added is a total of 4 koi pellets. They take on average 2 days to sink and so far only the first one has finally broken up. Earlier in the week the water did become a little milky in colour, which could have been a bacterial bloom but things now look much as they did at the start. This weekend I did a few tests to see if anything was going on.

The first pH reading was 7.5 and quite surprisingly it's now 8.4! I was expecting if anything a move the other way towards acid. Thinking my first test was wrong I have re-tested the tapwater and water left to stand, and got the same results as before. To some fish keepers this may seem obvious but something in tapwater probably CO2 or chlorine, effects the pH. I have heard that carbon water purifiers can lower the pH in much the same way. This means that the pH hasn't changed because of anything in the experiment, but due to it being left to stand.

Ammonia & Nitrite
I have successfully created water that would be deadly to most life, let alone koi. This is a boast I don't want to make too often, but it's good to see a result. Ammonia levels are close to 1 mg/l which at a pH of 8.4 would quickly prove fatal. Equally deadly the nitrite readings are off the scale at over 2 mg/l. The fact they are both present confirms that the koi pellets are being broken down and some nitrification is going on, but it may take a few more weeks to achieve an equilibrium. Although the total ammonia concentrations are much higher in industrial waste water treatments, higher levels can even inhibit the bacteria that feed on it. With nitrite approximately double the ammonia, the next step is establishing enough nitrite oxidising bacteria. I would hazard a guess that the ammonia levels, if not coming down are being controlled.

Nitrate is up to 50 mg/l double what the start level was. I'm not totally sure how this has happened, but I suppose some oxidation of nitrite must have occurred. This is not an unreasonable level to have in a koi pond, and with limited ways for nitrate to escape most people rely on water changes to keep it down. With nitrates in my tapwater measuring 25 mg/l, it's fairly obvious that quite large amounts are needed to control the rise.

Nitrate is often blamed for causing algae but like other plants it is just one of several requirements needed. Algae has even been known to survive in distilled water when all the other components are strong. The levels in my tapwater are more than enough so I will give it a bit more time before looking for clues.

Conclusions so far
I've been really surprised how quickly it has taken for the water to become toxic. Admittedly it's only 10 litres and there's a very small surface area, but this is bigger than some goldfish bowls and the filter pump turns the water over quickly. This just goes to show how polluting koi food is and how even if the water looks clear it may not be suitable for koi to live in. One reason for the rapid bacterial activity could be due to the probiotics in Saki-Hikari, but I have no way of telling. Visually there is no discernible difference between the two brands of koi food that I have used. This is something I may test in another experiment.

Having only added 4 pellets of food I was worried that without any koi present, part of the cycle was missing and ammonia would be in short supply. There is a technique that some koi and tropical fish keepers use when starting up a new pond or aquarium called a 'fishless cycle'. This is useful because the fish are spared the extremes of ammonia and nitrite as the filter establishes itself. Without the fish an ammonia source has to be added, in my case with the koi pellets, but for those whom don't wish to waste expensive koi food a cheaper and more controllable option is to add ammonium chloride or ammonium hydroxide. These are often found in household cleaners but don't use any with scents or surfactants, only 100% ammonia.

With plenty of nutrients in the water I think I can cut feeding, and possibly change a small amount of water, if ammonia levels don't come down. There are modifications I can make to the set up and I have plans to do other tests, but for now I will keep things simple and see what happens.

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Friday, October 27, 2006


Piscinarii.com has kindly given this blog Koi Carp a mention, so I thought I would share a little link love and return the favour. This is not difficult though as Piscinarii.com is one of the most entertaining and interesting fish keeping blogs out there. Recent posts have covered everything from movies and celebrities, through to how religion can influence keeping fish. This blog comes from the Philippines, a country with many tropical fish enthusiasts and a growing number of koi fans. It has been reported recently that their fish farmers have been considering diversifying into koi breeding due to new demand and the high costs of importation. While it's easy to get envious of their climate, there are a few unique problems that their koi keepers have to deal with, such as Typhons.

Piscinarii for those like me that didn't study Latin at school, is the name for a fish pond owner. Marcus Cicero used it to describe rich Roman citizens who were more interested in keeping their ornamental ponds than in politics. It became associated as a derisive term implying madness. Perhaps a modern alternative for someone with an obsessive interest would now be called an Otaku in Japanese, or more tongue in cheek for a koi fan, Koi Kichi. These terms though only relate to a persons deep interest in the subject, whereas Cicero's use of Piscinarii was to poke fun at the rich and powerful whose ponds were status symbols for showing off.

The Romans became quite adept at keeping fish in ponds they called Piscinae, but it was found easier and more profitable to grow freshwater fish for food. Sea fish were preferred though so a divide grew between salt water ponds (Piscinae Salsae), which were expensive and mostly for novelty value and freshwater ponds that were a source of food for the average Roman citizen. It was written in 37 BC that a ponds appeal was to the eye rather than the purse, which it emptied rather than being filled. This is something many koi keepers can identify with.
"For in the first place they are built at great cost, in the second place they are stocked at great cost, and in the third place they are kept up at great cost"

With Roman nobility trying to out do each other in the late republic, they would build grand villas by the sea with fishponds in coves and inlets, much like the swimming pools at millionaires pads today. Many were built from an early concrete that set underwater and used a network of channels with brass grates to regulate the level and salinity.

The photo above shows part of a saltwater fishpond that belonged to the Emperor Tiberius. This pond mixes with the sea at high tide, but like many Roman fishponds of the time, it's mainly brackish as it's diluted by natural springs in the cave. There's a narrow channel that connects the sea to the pond and allows fish to enter but not escape. The fish must have thought they were swimming up stream, attracted by the freshwater. It has been suggested that the four tanks in the centre were used to house fish that if put together would eat each other but could just have easily been used to place fish for easy catching. People probably slaves, were employed to catch food for the fish and sometimes they would even buy it from the market.

How long they managed to keep these fish alive I don't know, but it's quite amazing to think that around the time of Jesus, and without all the modern equipment we have today, people were enjoying a similar hobby. Although it's well known that the Chinese have kept ornamental fish for thousands of years, it's most likely that the Romans were the first to spread the use of aquaculture throughout Europe, with it later being continued by medieval monks.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rain Effects Your Koi Pond

It's been raining cats and dogs in the last few days but the koi don't seem to mind. It's rare for a bit of rain to cause any problems but there are a few things to keep an eye on.

Smaller ground level ponds are most at risk from overflowing and pollution washing in from ground water. After a very heavy down pour it's a good idea to give your pond a check just to make sure things are OK. The best precaution is to have an overflow fitted, often easily placed in a gravity filter chamber sharing the same drain and can also allow for a continuous top up system. This is nice to have but not essential if you monitor the level regularly and reduced it if needs be with a submersible pump.

A koi pond that's built in a low lying area where the ground doesn't drain well can have problems with water running off the surface and back pressure. Liner ponds are particularly vulnerable to this and water can actually seep in between the wall and the liner causing it to bulge out. In a block built pond a gap left between the wall and the earth should help prevent this but in areas where there's a high water table a sump chamber that drains to the sewer may be necessary.

If you live in an area prone to flooding then a concrete above ground pond is the safest option. All rain water is soft and can be slightly acidic so it's worth checking your ponds pH to make sure it hasn't changed too much. Small water changes and crushed oyster shells should keep things stable but for some people they prefer to avoid any fluctuations by building a roof over their koi pond. In industrial areas a roof would be useful to avoid the problems of pollution, but for most people's ponds nothing more than the regular water changes are usually needed.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Getting Started

My water quality experiment has been running for a week now but there's very little visible change. This is not surprising considering it was started as a sterile environment with raw tap water and the only things added have been dechlorinator and three Saki Hikari pellets. This is what many koi keepers go through when filling their ponds for the first time and is often referred to as getting the pond to cycle. This means establishing a colony of bacteria in the filter which break down the waste products that build up into safer compounds, ammonia being the most harmful to koi. The cycle part refers to the nitrogen cycle, of which ammonia as a compound of nitrogen is part of.

A koi pond filter can take anywhere between a week to over a month to fully cycle depending on the conditions. Around 20 days is about average to establish a working bio filter but it may take many more months before it's at full strength and mature. This is why new ponds can experience problems often called new pond syndrome when too many koi are added too early. Nearly any body of water will not remain sterile for long and even chlorinated tap water will not kill all organisms, the reason you shouldn't clean contact lenses in it, but there are ways to speed things up.

The quickest way to seed a bio filter is to introduce some media from an already established filter. For most people this isn't an option and it could be a source of introducing disease so the next best thing is to buy a product that contains a ready culture of bacteria. These can be great to get things going or as a boost but they don't contain the true nitrifying bacteria needed for an efficient and stable koi pond filter. The nitrifying bacteria Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter (Nitrospira is in fact more common as the nitrite reducing bacteria in water) are much slower developing and being autotrophic need a steady supply of the chemicals ammonia and nitrite to feed on, so are very difficult to store alive. Until these bacteria gain in numbers it's best to carry out regular water changes and only introduce a few koi with light feeding to start with.

In my experiment I've not added any bacterial products as I wanted to let things develop naturally and not be influenced by an abundance of certain strains. Most of these products contain heterotrophic bacteria which can feed on a variety of things and are responsible for mineralising organic waste into ammonia. They can do some of the work for the nitrifying bacteria but given a choice they prefer organic waste because it releases more energy.

Without any koi the only source of ammonia so far will be from the food pellets but these first have to be mineralised by hetertrophic bacteria. Having tested the water the ammonia levels are registering at around 0.15 mg/l which in a pond of koi would not be healthy but it does suggests that bacteria are present. One of the sources of the bacteria could have been in the koi food itself as Saki Hikari contains a probiotic to aid digestion. I'm going to switch foods to see if this makes any difference but it maybe something worth investigating later on.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Should I Keep the Pump Running Through Winter?

The question of whether or not to keep your koi pond's pump and filter running through the winter is one that many hobbyists ask this time of the year, although it can be difficult to give a straight answer. In general I would say yes, keep things running as they are but this depends greatly on the climate of where you live, the current weather and your pond/filter setup.

Koi are very adaptable and can cope with most climates, although extremes should be avoided. The water shouldn't be allowed to drop to below 4C for long, and rapid changes can be very stressful. This is one of the main reasons why people heat their ponds, not to keep them at summer temperatures, but to keep them stable. Of course people that choose to heat their koi ponds will leave their pumps and filters running, as often they will maintain the temperatures just high enough to continue light feeding. This usually requires that you keep the heat in with a pond cover to cut down on the fuel bills. A cover is also very useful even if you don't heat your pond just to keep out the worst of the winter weather and reduces wind chill.

As the temperatures reduce so does the activity of your koi and filter bacteria. Conversely dissolved oxygen levels increase, so with less demand below 8C aeration from fountains, waterfalls and air pumps can be switched off or diverted. In fact devices like this can actually chill the water further, one of the reasons trickle filters and Bakki showers have failed to take off in the UK. You may wish to keep air pumps running to your filter as moving water takes longer to freeze and it can help with re-establishing the bacteria come spring.

One of the main misconceptions about the design of a koi pond is that it should be very deep for the koi to survive over winter. A lot of this has come from garden pond and water garden advice where fish are kept in a much more natural environment and at lower densities. Most garden ponds are deep enough not to freeze solid, so the main reasons for a koi pond being so deep is its ability to support a greater quantity of fish and also provide more stable conditions. Experts talk about the stratification of water into different temperature layers due to the varying densities that are unique to water. It's because of this that it is suggested that koi move to the bottom of a pond because it is warmer but the truth is that koi sit on the bottom to conserve energy. What is being described is a thermocline where water as it gets colder gets heavier until it reaches it's maximum density at 4C. As it gets colder still it gets strangely less dense until it becomes ice, which we all know floats.

What this means is the bottom of your pond cannot be warmer than 4C before ice starts to form on the surface. On the other hand if you continue to circulate the water from the bottom to the surface the mixing can reduce the overall pond temperatures still further which is not good for your koi. As well as the temperature effect koi need to save energy through the winter months so are better off without having to swim against strong currents.

The answer then is when the water temperatures drop to 8C try to maintain it by reducing the exposure to the colder air by restricting the pump flow or use a smaller pump. You can make the water return to the pond by creating less splashing and it's also a good idea to lag the pipes. Submersible pumps in the pond can be raised if possible to leave the warmer water undisturbed. Years ago before filters were fed by bottom drains it was common to have a mid water intake and are very useful to have if you experience a harsh winter.

If the bottom temperature drops further to 4C then it's probably best to either switch off the pump or use a heater. If you do choose to switch off the pump then try to empty the pipes so there's no chance of them splitting if it does freeze. Don't worry if the pond does ice over as this normally won't cause any problems unless it stays like it for weeks and the pond is heavily stocked.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Autumn pond maintenance

Listening to the news today it's been reported that the UK has had the longest period of warm weather on record. I doubt this is all to do with global warming and sooner or later things will get back to normal. Now then, if you haven't done so already, is the time to get your koi pond ready for when the cold does eventually arrive.

The koi are definitely benefiting from the warmer weather as they continue to feed, but this should be reduced and only once or twice a day. Feeding koi a wheatgerm based food helps their digestion and the lower protein reduces any waste that the filter has to cope with. As the temperatures drop and your koi become less active so do the bacteria we rely on so heavily to keep the pond healthy. Luckily for our koi the growth of bad bacteria is also slowed but to help prevent any problems we should remove the sources of pollution before they can get a chance.

One of the biggest headaches this time of the year are leaves falling in the pond. They seem to be hanging on to some of the trees later this year, as though they like us are not quite ready for this weather to end. The most effective way to keep leaves out is to cover your pond with a weather proof cover or net. These both provide benefits but to some they can prove unsightly and not practical with every shape and design of pond.

The option then is to regularly remove them yourself or with a skimmer. Most leaves floating on the surface won't cause many problems and can even look rather nice, something the Japanese take great delight in, but if left to build up they can block pumps and later decompose effecting water quality. One variety of koi the Ochiba Shigure is even named after its appearance resembling dead leaves on a pond.

If you don't prevent the leaves from entering your pond then make sure the skimmer is regularly emptied or alternatively remove them yourself with a net everyday. This can be a pain but if removed now come spring you will have less problems to deal with. The greatest risks are leaves settling at the bottom or in quiet areas and then turning stagnant. A pond vacuum is very useful for this as well as cleaning out any other areas of the pond that collects dirt. There are a number of bacterial products that claim to remove waste and mulm from a pond before winter, but what needs to be remembered is that they will be less effective the colder it gets and should never be a substitute for good old fashioned cleaning.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Koivista.com the online gallery for people to share photos of their koi and ponds has recently had a bit of a make over. Due to its rising popularity with over 13000 pictures it has now been given its own server which should help speed things along. As well as looking very nice an added feature is a blogging facility. To be honest it works more like a forum but more features have been promised later on. Having tried a couple of other koi only photo sites this one in my opinion rates as the best. It's easy to navigate and manage your galleries, and uploading photos is straight forward, although it helps to rescale them first if you use a large megapixel camera. It's a great place to see peoples new pond projects at different stages and to share ideas. As a favorite with the Yorkshire Koi Society there's always regular activity and the latest uploads are easily found on the home page. With all this being free there's no reason not to join in.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Koi Water Treatment Experiment

Back in August I wrote about a new water treatment for koi ponds called Aqualibrium, which while I believed it could be effective in removing algae I was also sceptical about some of its other claims. Well the nice people from Aqualibrium contacted me and along with some more information sent me a bottle to try. I must say going on the first impressions, the aluminum bottle looks good but what I and many other koi keepers really want to know is does it work?

Now never one to turn down a free gift I was interested to give it a go, but the primary reason someone would buy this product in my opinion would be to get rid of algae and blanket weed, neither of which is a problem for my pond. This time of the year is not really ideal for trying a koi pond treatment as the temperatures are going down and with daylight hours getting shorter most algae will tend to die back by itself anyway. Having tested all the parameters of my pond water I realised that any improvements in quality would be difficult to detect without expensive and very sensitive equipment. The problem then is how do you test an algae treatment when you haven't got any algae? To be fair to Aqualibrium and in the hope of getting some dramatic results I've decided upon setting up an indoor test rig that will be more controllable.

Using a large vase of water I hope to recreate in miniature the conditions found in some koi ponds, starting by growing algae which shouldn't be too hard. With most of the organisms present except for the koi it will be possible to pollute the water beyond a point that would normally be tolerated. Before I start this experiment I have to say that I'm not a scientist and there may be a few flaws in my plans so even if the results are conclusive this shouldn't be taken as definitive proof. Really this is just a bit of fun and although I have a few theories I'm not totally sure what's going to happen.

Starting from scratch with fresh tap water and new filter media I shall go through the process of establishing a bio-filter which often causes problems for many beginners when setting up a koi pond for the first time. As Aqualibrium works by activating the microbes already present in a pond we need to first establish a healthy culture of the right bacteria. One of the main reasons that a pond turns green is because of the build up of nitrate levels produced from the nitrifying bacteria. By including a small filter in the vase that supplies an abundance of nitrates and given plenty of day light, algae should easily grow. I'll try to explain the processes involved in more detail later on.

I'm using a small aquarium filter that I replaced the foam with Fluval Biomax - a highly porous ceramic media, because this media provides a very large surface area for bacteria to grow on while it shouldn't trap the algae as it develops. By regularly feeding the system with koi pellets and testing the water I should be able to monitor any changes. Starting with chalky London tap water with a pH of 7.5 there are as one would suspect few impurities worth testing for but it's worth mentioning that nitrate levels are between 25-50 mg/l. This is perfectly fine for koi but it does show that when doing water changes you may not be reducing the nitrate concentration in your pond as much as you think. In fact in some ponds the addition of more nutrients in fresh tap water can be the cause of algal blooms.

To avoid this possibly becoming like watching paint dry I will update when anything significant happens. As well as a test of Aqualibrium this will also be a good opportunity to explain and try out certain theories of how a koi pond filter works and how you can improve yours.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Infiltration Live from Japan

Infiltration are now in Japan as are many other koi dealers visiting the different farms and showing guests around, in the hope of finding some special koi from this years Ikeage or harvest. If like me you're unlucky enough not to get out to Japan this year, then Infiltration are sharing the experience through their website in a section called Live from Japan.

So far photos have been posted everyday of their discoveries and Tim Waddington has kept us up to date with the activities in Niigata. It's well worth checking out and if you register on the site you can pass your comments directly on to them. The quality of the koi this year look especially good so I expect that some people will want to get in early and reserve a koi from the photos alone.

Another koi site that covers the daily life on a koi farm is a new blog called Big Trouble in Little Japan! This is by Devin who is part owner of Koi Acres in Minnesota and describes himself as a koi breeder apprentice. He should do well as Devin's currently working in Japan for Marudo Koi Farm and has been invited to stay for three years. It will be interesting to follow his progress and he couldn't get a better education than with Hisashi Hirasawa who himself had worked at Dainichi for 18 years before starting Marudo Koi Farm.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Kusuri Announce New Look

Kusuri popular in the UK for their koi food and medications have announced that they are having a product image make over for next year starting with their foods. The new look was unveiled at the recent GLEE pet trade exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. Kusuri has become one of the most trusted names for koi enthusiasts for over 7 years, supplying a wide range of products, but with many new koi foods now joining the market it makes sense to change.

The new gold pouches definitely look eye catching but there are practical benefits as well, because the packaging protects the food from sunlight and keeps out the air so the food stays fresher for longer. With the speed most peoples koi gulp it down this is not normally a problem but it does mean that when you buy the food you can rest assured that it's the freshest it can be.

Something I've noticed is that the koi on the new label is the same one that Richdon Koi use for their adverts. Richdon who also produce a food range called Nutrikoi, mention it as a sansai tategoi from Dainichi. I'm guessing this must be a famous koi for both companies to use it, but I always assumed it belonged to Richdon Koi.
Does anyone know anymore about it?


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nishikigoi Niigata Direct

Nishikigoi Niigata Direct have just completed building their new koi house and as can be seen above are now filling the ponds with water for the first time. This exciting new venture is the joining together of three well known Japanese koi farms from the Niigata Prefecture, Oomo, Kaneko and Marusho. The three breeders have all been friends for years and with the help of Tamikazu Kobayashi, this fish house will be their retail facility for their koi.

As Niigata is the birth place of koi there are naturally many great koi farms in close vicinity, but due to the earthquake in 2004 and recent KHV scares some have struggled to get back to full strength. Indeed the three breeders have produced slightly less koi this year but judging by the pictures they are still of the great quality that they are famous for. They hope that by pooling their resources together and trading on their reputations as producing some of the best koi in the business, they can produce a strong international brand that can compete with the bigger farms.
Currently the three farms are busy harvesting the koi from their mud ponds, but when ready they will go into the fish house ponds which will be the formal start of Nishikigoi Niigata Direct. The fish house and ponds are all built above ground from solid concrete, of which the design proved effective in resisting the forces of the 2004 earthquake on other farms. You can see some of their beautiful koi as they are being harvested on their site Koi-breeders.jp and photos of the fish house construction.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Yumekoi Euthanize Koi in the Fight Against KHV

To follow the recent Yumekoi update these shocking before and after photos have been posted on the Yumekoi site. It's very sad and such a waste considering the care and effort that they had been given but necessary. These koi had to be euthanized, even though they may be healthy, to remove any doubt that KHV is still present. Since the Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) outbreak in June, Yumekoi have done everything to prevent the virus from spreading and to reassure their customers. Mike Snaden especially has acted admirably by being open about all the facts, and I am sure that when this dreadful business is all over peoples support for them and confidence in their koi will remain undiminished. It's still a difficult time for them emotionally and financially, so if you would like to help them out Isle of Ely Koi are collecting donations by email at yumekoi@isleofelykoi.co.ukmail.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

KHV Vaccine Starts Trials

A British pharmaceutical company, Henderson Morley plc have announced that they have been working on producing a vaccine against KHV (Koi Herpes Virus) over the past 10 months and from these initial studies are now ready to start field trials. They believe that within 6 months with the help of the Internationally renowned Hagerman Aquaculture Research Institute, they can produce a working vaccine that they can then perfect and licence for use.

The company has a lot of expertise in developing products for the pharmaceutical industry, some of them for human virus diseases so are confident of reaching their goals with KHV. They see KHV as an opportunity to develop a product that will benefit a growing number of koi keepers, breeders and fisheries around the world, as well as a fairly quick return for them because animal medicines don't have to undergo such a lengthy trial period as for humans.

This is very encouraging news but a vaccine may still be along time coming before it's available to all of us. It's very probable that as well as the high costs and methods of administering the vaccine that only koi breeders, dealers and vets will require it anyway. One of the greatest challenges to producing a vaccine against KHV is to immunize the koi without exposing them directly to the virus. The Israeli's have developed a type of vaccination that creates immunity in their koi by introducing them to a weakened strain of KHV, and then destroy it by raising the temperature for a while. This does seem to work but nobody really knows 100% if any of the koi could still be carriers or develop symptoms if reinfected years later. With this in mind we shouldn't take any chances and always quarantine new koi and ensure bio-security measures at all times.

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Yumekoi KHV Update

The latest news from Yumekoi is that they should have received the test results from CEFAS by now and are euthanizing all infected koi. Since Mike Snaden took blood samples from all their koi, and their customers koi that may have come into contact with the KHV outbreak which occurred after the BKKS National, they have had to wait for the results due to CEFAS being overloaded with work. Because of the backlog of samples waiting to be tested CEFAS (Centre for Fisheries, Environment and Aquaculture Science) have had to allocate extra staff to the duty of testing. With CEFAS being the only test centre in the UK that uses the reliable Elisa test that identifies KHV anti-bodies, it's been a long and anxious wait for everybody involved. Yumekoi expect to get all the results back by today, which could decide the fate of some very high quality koi.

This has been probably the worst year on record of reported cases of KHV in the UK, mostly in fisheries but what was once an almost unheard of disease is probably the most talked about topic in koi circles. The scale of the problem in the UK is unknown as some of the cases my go unreported due to the fact that there is no known cure and that there aren't any regulations yet in place to do so. A case recently when men were caught by customs trying to smuggle carp into the country from France in a van, shows how difficult controlling the spread of this disease can be. It's expected that KHV will become a notifiable disease some time early next year and rules governing the movement and sale of live animals within the UK are set to tighten.

All around the world there are conflicting opinions about what to do about KHV and while a reliable vaccine is being worked on some countries see it as less of a problem. Recently scientists in Australia revealed that they have considered releasing KHV into the wild populations of carp as a way to control their numbers, as they are seen as a pest. As KHV only kills carp this would be effective but I don't like the idea of fixing one problem with another. Not all carp are killed by the virus with some acquiring immunity but at the same time being possible carriers to infect others. This would rely on man's intervention not to spread the disease any further which has already been shown to be fallible.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Koi Fu-Do Wheatgerm Plus

Koi Fu-Do Wheatgerm Plus is the latest winter koi food from Koi Fu-Do, a new brand that's burst onto the market. Wheatgerm Plus is of particular interest at this time of the year because they formulated it for feeding your koi in low water temperatures. For a number of years now people have been feeding their koi wheatgerm based foods when the pond cools down as it helps aid their koi's digestion and reduces pollution of the water, but Koi Fu-Do have added a few extras as well.

A new and exclusive semi soft pellet means they don't have to be pre-soaked and are quickly digested even when the koi's metabolism has slowed down. Koi Fu-Do produce an impressive six different types of koi food in their range with three of them in the 6mm semi soft pellet formula. This smaller size pellet is easily gobbled up and digested in winter and some people claim that for large koi during the summer a smaller pellet gives better growth. Whether this is true or not I cannot say but it seems a more natural size to me. It also contains some health boosting ingredients such as garlic, seaweed and lactoferrin an immune supporting protein that I wrote about in a post about koi health foods.

Koi Fu-Do claim that their foods produce minimum waste, as do most koi foods available so without having tried it yet I cannot confirm if this is true but it makes sense being that they are a softer pellet. With summer staple feeds seeming more important I tend to give less thought to winter feeds and just stick with the same brand but I may give this a go and maybe report my findings here.

At the time of writing Koi Fu-Do is so new that their website www.koifudo.com is not finished but this hasn't stopped them from getting their food onto the shelves of at least 13 of some of the best UK koi dealers and on trial with over 30 more.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Pond Pump Failures

This weekend I decided to tidy up the shed and throw out any old koi stuff that I really should have gotten rid of years ago. For some reason I just seem to gather clutter and I know it's my own fault but I hate throwing things away if I think one day they may come in useful or I can fix them. The shelves were full of old pH test kits that may still work but it's best not to trust them. I find the pH test strips go off very quickly and give very unreliable results, so always renew them or double check the results if yours are getting on a bit.

I like to keep a few medications in case of emergencies but the shed was turning into a potential chemical disaster area and in some peoples eyes was resembling a bomb making factory, not that I know what one looks like of course. It's a good idea to have a small medical kit of treatments readily available for such times as a koi jumping out but they really should be replaced once the sell by dates have expired. Chemicals like Malachite Green and Formalin can be seriously damaging to your health if they leak and should always kept out of reach from children and pets. Knowing how to dispose of this stuff isn't easy but it's best not to throw them down the sink.

Amongst the tangle of pipes, tubes and plumbing supplies I have kept a collection of defunct pond pumps much like one keeps hunting trophies. To be honest all of these pumps had run beyond their expected lives but when you spend your money on a pond pump and it eventually dies my initial reaction isn't to bin it but hope that one day it can be repaired. I did manage to get the Pet Mate pump to work again but when it started eating impellers once a month it had to stop.

I always have a backup pump ready just in case of break downs but if you run an external pond pump then most of us aren't willing to buy a spare. External pond pumps are usually repairable anyway so I always keep a powerful submersible pump ready for such occasions. The photo on the right is of a pond pump I recently bought from my local Aldi supermarket for £25 which when rated at 3500 gallons per hour is unbelievably good value. From past experience these big sump pump type submersible pond pumps aren't cheap to run and I wouldn't trust this ones long term reliability, but it's great as a backup and very useful for emptying tanks fast.

Out of all the submersible pond pumps that I have owned the Oase pump has proved to be the best in terms of reliability, build quality and performance but in the end it died the same as the others. The newer ones maybe better but the biggest cause of pump failure that I have experienced has been due to the motor bearings wearing out. The manufacturers build these pumps with long lasting ceramic shafts which are fine but often the bearings wear out before the impeller does causing the seals to fail and eventually the motor burns out. I guess they will never build an everlasting pond pump as they make money on supplying replacements and the costs would be too great, so I suppose an average of five years is not worth complaining about.

My tip for buying a pond pump would be to check for the availability of spares as many dealers stock them, often in complete kits. It's probably best to buy them now than hope they are still available years later as new models are coming out all the time. Some pumps come complete with spare impellers o-rings and even shafts which can be handy but does tend to suggest that you will have to use them sometime in the future. An expensive pump should come with a longer warranty. If it doesn't then it's not worth the extra money. Even if the manufacturer is willing to fix the pump your pond will still be out of action in the mean time so it still makes sense to get a backup or two. Sometimes two smaller pumps can work out more effectively than one big one.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Koi Shows this October

Here are the dates for all the best koi shows this October. If any are missing and you know of a koi show you would like me to add or feature, please let me know.

6-8 Las Vegas Koi Club - Inaugural Koi Show
The Palace Station Casino,
1 mile west of the famous Las Vegas Strip,
2411 West Sahara Avenue,
Las Vegas, NV, USA.

7-8 Natures Coast Koi & Watergarden Club - 6th Annual Koi Show - "Koi along the Suwanne"
On the banks of the Suwanne River at the Suwanne Gables Motel and Marina in Old Town, FL, USA.
Contact Jonny Foster

7-8 Laguna Festival of Fishkeeping - Four Section Koi Show
Mill Rythe Holiday Village, Hayling Island, UK.
Contact Terry Hill

14-15 Central California Koi Society - Annual Koi Show
The Fig Garden Village, Fresno, CA, USA.
Contact Janet Vukovich

20-22 Bakersfield Koi & Watergarden Society - 7th Golden Empire Annual Koi Show
Kern County Fairground, Bakersfield, CA, USA.
Contact Dave Cope

24-26 Japan Nishikigoi Expo in Hawai
Hyatt Regency Waikiki, Leahi Room 2424, Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu, HI.


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