Pet column: Koi ponds, aquariums can add color to homes

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On a recent, beautiful spring day, I visited a commercial Koi pond. As I approached, hundreds of colored fish quickly gathered at the shoreline. With whiskered mouths open and heads sticking above the water, they clamored over each other, trying to get near me. Some even beached themselves, flopping about on the rocks for a bit, before flopping back into the water.

“They seem to really like that,” my husband said as I gently stroked their heads and sides.

Descendants of the common gray carp, Koi have been selectively bred for more than 100 years for various colors and patterns.

They now appear in colors and color combinations of orange, red, yellow, white, black, gray and blue-gray.

Graceful swimming Butterfly Koi have long, flowing fins and KinGinRin Koi have highly reflective scales, often appearing gold or silver. A red and white Koi, the winner of the 2006 all-Japan Koi Show, was purchased by a Koi enthusiast for a record $165,000.

It might not be a grand champion, but you can purchase an ornamental and gregarious Koi for your aquarium or pond for just $10.

A Koi pond with filtration system can be installed for the price of a small hot tub, said Curtis Brown of Scenic Specialties in St. Joseph.

“There is more work in a birdbath than in this type of a pond,” Brown said. Ponds take only minutes a month to maintain and Koi are easy to keep, even for beginners.

Koi can winter outdoors in ponds more than 2 feet deep with the use of a floating pond heater. The heater keeps a small hole in the ice, allowing noxious gases to escape.

Koi don’t need to be fed in winter, as they stop eating when the water temperature drops below 50 degrees F.

During winter months, Koi go dormant, remaining almost motionless or swimming slowly beneath the ice.

A Koi in Japan was reported to be 226 years old, although a 25-35 year life span is more often reported as typical.

This column is the opinion of Suzanne Davies. Email Davies questions or suggestions to Suzanne Davies at

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