Plants and Koi

Plants and Koi

Plants and koi ponds seem to go well together.  Lilies and hyacinths and some many others give the pond a more natural, lush and tropical feeling.  In fact many people put in water features just so they can have water plants.  And if that is your goal, more power to you.  Water gardens can be a beautiful accent to any backyard.  But keep in mind, a water garden is not a koi pond.  Most water gardens won't provide koi with the ideal environment.  If you want a koi pond, then in most cases water plants and koi don't mix. 

The biggest problem in a koi pond is potted plants.  Koi like to root through soil as that is how they look for food in the wild.  So koi can quickly turn a beautiful potted plant into a great big mess.  Plus koi like to eat plants and roots, so many times your beautiful tropical lily is nothing more then a snack to a hungry koi. 

But the main concern with potted plants in koi ponds is the build up of toxic sludge.  Inside the pot gets practically no circulation or oxygen.  Waste makes its way into the soil and becomes anaerobic.  You know this is happening when you see black sludge that smells like rotten eggs.  This is HIGHLY toxic to the koi and should not be allowed to get mixed up into the water.  So if you must have the potted plants you will need to remove them, dispose of the soil, rinse the roots and re-pot with fresh soil at least once a year, if not twice.  Another option is to use an aquatic planting basket rather then a pot.  Then use soil free aquatic planting material.  Basically it looks like small crushed pebbles.  This will allow for circulation within the pot preventing the build up of toxic muck.  This will provide better nutrients to the roots of the plant and it will also prevent any major messes if the koi decide to go digging in the soil.

A better choice for plants in a koi pond are floating plants.  These have no pots or soil for the koi to mess with and the roots hang below into the pond.  Water Hyacinths are my personal favorite because of their big green leaves and bright blue flowers, but water lettuce is also a nice choice.  The koi will nibble on the roots and you will find bits and pieces of the plants in the skimmer.  But luckily these plants grow very quickly and usually by mid summer they take over the surface of the pond and you are throwing away trash bags full of them every week.  These types of plants provide the koi pond with shade, protection and filtration without too many problems.

A third option for adding plants to a koi pond is to create a type of veggie filter.  Many times this can take the form of a smaller pond connected to the main koi pond.  Water can pass through this on its way to the filter, or on its way back to the pond after the filter.  The waste from the koi becomes fertilizer for the plants.  But because they are in a separate section, the koi cannot get at them.  A veggie filter can be the best of both worlds.  You get to have your plants but still keep the koi pond free from the potential problems. 

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