We’ve all had a gold fish or even an aquarium full of tropical fish, but have you ever considered a fishpond for your garden? All over Asia, you’ll find courtyards with koi fishponds. Koi fish look a bit like giant-sized goldfish (they can grow to a length of three feet, or even longer!), but they’re also bespeckled with shades of orange, gold, black, white, silver – even dark purple and green! They’re not only treasured for their elaborately colored scales. In many Asian cultures, koi fish are also believed to hold special meaning for their owner. So, the addition of a koi pond to your own backyard will add both beauty and good fortune to your home.
The word “koi” itself comes from the Japanese word for “carp,” the species from which the koi fish was originally bred. But that’s not the only meaning of “koi.” In Japanese, koi sounds like another phrase pronounced the exact same way that means “love that is affectionate.” When you consider the beauty of the fish’s colors and the connotations of its name, it’s no wonder that in Japan, koi fish have come to symbolize loyalty, friendship, and even love. Koi fish are the official symbol for Children’s Day in Japan (May 5th). On Children’s Day, Japanese households will hang a Koi fish windsock outside of their home – one for each member of their family.
In China, koi fish are equally important. An ancient legend says that those carp that could climb all the way up the waterfall to the “dragon gate” would transform into dragons. It was by perseverance and endurance that some carp were able to transform themselves into mythical beings. Therefore, in Chinese culture, koi fish symbolize strength, and the ability to overcome life’s difficulties.
So koi fish are just as culturally significant as they are beautiful, but are they easy to care for? Actually, constructing your own koi pond and caring for these special fish is easier than you might think. Koi fish require about 250 gallons of water per adult and a minimum depth of four feet, so the size of your water feature will determine how many fish you can fit. A koi fishpond also requires circulation – a pump or waterfall will add oxygen to the water, and a filter will keep the water clean. For food, koi fish sustain themselves mostly on fish food pellets, but they also enjoy fresh fruit like oranges or watermelon.
There is a surprising amount of instructions available on the internet, and with a few friends, a shovel and the right supplies, you can construct your own koi pond in an afternoon.
For further reading on how to build a koi fish pond:
“Build Your Own Koi Fish Pond: Keep Your Koi Fish Healthy And Long Living” by James Forman