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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a water garden and a true Koi pond?

A rock-bottomed water garden can make a beautiful addition to virtually any backyard. But despite what you may have read elsewhere, a planted water garden and a true Koi pond are two very different things. Trying to successfully raise large Koi fish in a shallow water garden is a recipe for disaster. Having rocks on the bottom of your pond floor, which helps to create a natural look for most water gardens, is also a major risk factor to Koi health. The area underneath these rocks creates a perfect breeding ground for anaerobic bacteria and other assorted “nasties” to fester, which often results in poor water quality. Given proper filtration, goldfish and small Koi fish can be safely kept in most water gardens but we would not recommend a water garden to anyone interested in raising Koi.

A true Koi pond should be at least 4’ deep, with many respected experts believing that 6’ depth is the ideal. This water depth is important, as Koi fish will commonly rest near the pond bottom during the cold winter months where the temperature is usually a bit warmer. In areas with milder climates – including Southern California, a maximum pond depth of 2.5’ can be acceptable assuming your pond filtration setup is up to snuff. Given proper conditions, a Japanese Koi fish can easily reach 24” in length at only 2 years of age. For this reason, it is wise to allocate at least 250 gallons of swim area for every Koi while they are small to avoid overwhelming your filter system as they grow. Re-homing larger fish through a Koi rescue is another option should your pond or become overstocked in the future.

Below is a summary of major differences between a planted water garden and a true Koi pond:

  • Bottom Drains: A true Koi pond has a bottom drain, while water gardens do not. We often tell our customers the very best pond vacuum they can purchase is a pond bottom drain. If you build a proper Koi pond, it is entirely possible you will never need to purchase a pond vacuum. In fact, we often tell our customers that a functioning aerated bottom drain is the best pond vacuum you will ever find.​
  • Rocks on Pond Floor: A true Koi pond does not have rocks on the pond floor, while many water gardens do. While these rocks can create a natural looking appearance for a planted water garden, they also present a possibly unsafe ecosystem for Koi – especially as they grow larger and the amount of waste produced begins to increase.
  • Pond Depth: Water gardens are generally shallow, making them easy to build for even the most novice pond builders. A true Koi pond; however, should have a minimum depth of 4’ to help ensure optimal Koi health. While there are exceptions to every rule, most experienced Koi keepers would agree that deeper is better when it comes to ponds built with Koi in mind.
  • Filtration Requirements: Koi fish create a lot of waste; therefore the filtration requirements for a true Koi pond are very different from those in a planted water garden. Many so-called “pond filters” on the market are fine for use in water gardens but are significantly undersized for use in Koi ponds.

Which Pond Filter is the Best Choice for Your Pond?

With so many choices on the market today, we understand how it can be confusing to choose the best pond filter for your specific needs. So for this reason we have created this section to hlep Koi hobbyists and pond builders make an informed purchasing decision. We are big proponents of pressurized bead filter systems for use in Koi ponds. These systems offer a small footprint, are easy to install and simple to maintain.

Pressurized Bead Filters

We generally classify pond bead filter systems into one of two classes: Economy class and Professional class. Economy class bead filters do not include an air blower. An air blower essentially serves as a media agitator during backwash, significantly lessening the maintenance burden on the pond owner while delivering better water quality. This performance difference is especially evident after 1 – 2 years of use. Professional class bead filters come standard with media agitator included and for this reason we highly recommend professional grade filters to our customers. In fact, pond owners who initially choose to purchase an economy bead filter to minimize upfront costs actually end up purchasing a retrofit media agitator kit to upgrade their filters later on. Below are some items to consider when choosing a bead filter for your pond.

  • Recommended Pump: External pumps are highly recommended. To maximize performance, we would highly recommend not using any pump designed for “low head” applications with any bead filter. We also advise against using a submersible pump with any bead filter system.
  • Routine Maintenance: While they are relatively simple to maintain, a regular maintenance schedule should be followed. On average 15 minutes every week is all that is required.

Bead Filters - Professional Class (includes air blower / media agitator):

Bead Filters - Economy Class (no air blower / media agitator):

Waterfall Filters

Many hobbyists enjoy coming home after a hard day at work to hear the relaxing sounds of a flowing waterfall in the privacy of their own backyard. For this reason, waterfall filters are a popular choice among many pond owners. Besides adding aesthetic beauty to any pond or water garden, water garden filters also help to ensure a healthy ecosystem for Koi and other pond fish. Below are some considerations when choosing a waterfall filter.

  • Recommended Pump: Because waterfall filters are not pressurized, these systems can be run by either an external or submersible pump. Many hobbyists opt for a submersible pond pump due to easier installation. External pumps generally offer better energy efficiency.
  • Bio Media Sold Separately: Many waterfall filters do not include bio media. This media must be purchased separately. We highly recommend Matala biological filter media for use in any waterfall filter, as this media is durable and extremely easy to clean.
  • Routine Maintenance: Waterfall filters should generally be serviced at least once per season. Depending on the biological filter media used, this can be a dirty process. If going with Matala bio media, this process basically involves gently rinsing away excess debris.

Skimmer Filters

Skimmer filters are one the most popular filtration systems used by hobbyists nationwide. Basically, water is brought into your skimmer via a weir and filters through bio media before being returned to your pond, usually through a waterfall. Below are some items to consider when choosing a skimmer filter for your pond.

  • Recommended Pump: Because skimmer filters are not pressurized, these systems can be run by either an external or submersible pump. Many hobbyists opt for a submersible pond pump due to easier installation. External pumps generally offer better energy efficiency.
  • Bio Media Sold Separately: Many skimmer filters do not include bio media. This media must be purchased separately. We highly recommend Matala biological filter media for use in any skimmer filter, as this media is durable and extremely easy to clean.
  • Routine Maintenance: Skimmer filters should generally be serviced at least once per season. Depending on the biological filter media used, this can be a dirty process. If going with Matala bio media, this process basically involves gently rinsing away excess debris.

Which pump is the right choice for my pond?

Submersible pumps are ideal for use with waterfall filters, skimmer filters, and do-it-yourself bog filters. Submersible pumps are not generally recommended for use with pressurized bead filters. Average warranty period for most submersible pumps is 2-4 years.

Submersible Pumps - Professional Class:

Submersible Pumps - Economy Class:

We generally classify external pond pumps into two categories: Not Self-Priming and Self-Priming. Pumps which are not self-priming require the use of a priming pot / algae trap to help protect the pump motor from damage caused by rocks, leaves and other debris. The use of a priming pot also helps to create necessary suction to ensure optimal performance. Self-priming pumps are generally bigger pumps and feature larger wet ends with priming pots already built-in, eliminating the need to purchase an additional algae trap. We strongly recommend using a professional grade self-priming pump for use with any pressurized bead filter. Typical warranty period for these pumps is generally 3-4 years.

Non-Self Priming External Pumps - Professional Class

Non-Self Priming External Pumps - Economy Class

Self-Priming External Pumps - Professional Class

Self-Priming External Pumps - Economy Class

We take pride in helping our customers build the pond of their dreams at an affordable price while avoiding many common pond building mistakes. Our experienced team of experts is standing by and we would love to hear from you. If you would like free, expert assistance choosing the best pond supplies for your backyard pond or commercial water feature, please contact us.

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