“There are things we did that we thought sounded good but then discovered they were absolutely the wrong things to do,” says Desmond. Like adding that gravel to the bottom of the pond.
“It’s a big no-no because it provides a place for ‘bad’ bacteria to hide and it can make the fish sick,” Desmond adds. “Koi ponds also don’t use regular filters like a pool filter. They’re not cleaned by stripping; they’re cleaned by beneficial bacteria, so they use a
beneficial bacteria filter system. Our first one was too small.”
The two learned their lessons quickly after discovering the Shasta Koi & Water Garden Club, which they credit with their growing koi expertise. Part of the national Associated Koi Clubs of America, the Shasta club has been around for about 15 years, and counts among its 50 members koi hobbyists at all levels of experience. (Koi is a Japanese word meaning carp.)
Mejorado and Desmond were aided by the club with loaner tanks to store their fish while they tore out their old pond and rebuilt. “The club has about $10,000 worth of equipment (like temporary tanks) that members can borrow for leaking ponds,” says Desmond. “This is a membership benefit and was nice because it didn’t cost us anything extra to house our fish while we were rebuilding.” Members also have access to a library of books and magazines on koi and pond habitat.
Although they made several mistakes with the first pond, they were lucky with their depth estimate. “We hit between three and three-and-a-half feet in the first pond,” says Mejorado, “but if you go shallower it allows predatory birds and animals to swoop in and take the fish. That can be heartbreaking because they really are like your pets.”
After hearing talk that the club might disband, Mejorado stepped into the role of club president and Desmond assumed the vice president role to keep it going. “There are a lot of people like us who can use the information and the community,” says Mejorado. “Part of the compromise to keep the club running was moving from monthly to bi-monthly meetings, which are held at members’ homes so we get a chance to see everyone’s ponds.”
Shared interest and companionship aside, Desmond cautions that having a koi pond is not for everyone. “It’s a lot more responsibility, I think, than having a dog or a bird,” he says. “Koi are high maintenance. You have to check the water at least a couple times a week for ammonia, nitrates and nitrite.”
The two koi aficionados count 22 fish in their family pond, including fish they had shipped from Hawaii and Japan. “We have koi fever and are on the hunt for unique koi that no one else has,” says Mejorado. adding that fish can range from a few dollars to
thousands of dollars and jokingly referring to their pond as “the money pit.”
The club hosts an annual koi auction, usually in the fall, so members can “thin out their herds.” “We auction the babies produced in local ponds, and also sometimes members are moving away from stocking a certain breed,” says Mejorado. The club has also been fortunate in securing nationally recognized experts to judge shows and speak to the club about koi medical concerns.
Before jumping in, Desmond encourages new hobbyists to talk with someone who has a koi pond and to visit local koi dealers. Those interested in koi have the opportunity to see different types of fish and talk with owners during the club’s bi-annual pond tour on June 22.
“Our new koi pond is in the courtyard in the front of the house,” says Desmond. “It’s like having a piece of moving art. It doesn’t matter if you like koi or not. I’ve never seen anyone walk by it on the way to our front door that hasn’t stopped and looked.” •
Pond Tour • 8 am – 4 pm June 22 • Tickets $10
www.shastakoiclub.com or firstname.lastname@example.org