This article, written by Chip Kawalsingh, was first published in ‘Nishikigoi Yearbook – Volume 2, and is republished with the permission of both author and publisher.

Chip Kawalsingh

Chip Kawalsingh

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison

This quote reminds me so much of my journey as a hobbyist in keeping Koi, and more specifically my pursuit of jumbo Koi. I’ve had so many failures, but I seem to have finally got on the right path. There’s an old saying ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs’. Well, I’ve broken so many eggs that it felt at times I’d almost killed the chicken in the process! Now, let me clarify. I’m not just after big Koi, but Koi with lustre, longevity, body and all the qualities that truly make them a thing of beauty. This is my journey so far.

Frustrations and Failure

A few years ago, I was well into the hobby and I began to get really frustrated. I was doing so much, but for little return. I had filters that were supposedly for ponds 8 times the size of mine, pipes everywhere like a spilt bowl of spaghetti and air blasting into the pond (that lot was expensive to run!), and the Koi? Many so called ‘quality Koi’ and ‘future show winners’ all kept turning out the same; lots of secondary hi, poor body shape, twisted heads – the list went on and on. I kept hearing the same thing: ‘That’s Koi!’ or ‘It’s livestock!’ What? I thought to myself, surely there must be
proven methods for getting quality Koi that don’t fail? In my own pond, things were not good. I could only feed a few hundred grams of food a day. The water was looking tired. The Koi looked bored and disinterested and, come to think about it, so was I!

Changes and a Rock Star

It came to a point where I needed a change or to fill the pond in. (My wife would have preferred a hot tub!) That search led to a few articles written by Mike Snaden of Yume Koi. When I read what he had written I was hooked, intrigued, mesmerized, unsure – call it what you want. I printed off all his articles, from ‘Magic Water’ and ‘Testing Time in Japan’ to ‘Jumbo Potential’ and loads more, all of which are free on his website. I read them, re-read them, and read them again and again. I got hold of videos of Mike talking about select jumbo Tosai produced by Mark Gardner and watched them over and over again. I even knew his words verbatum! Sad, I know.

Anyhow, what I read and what I saw in my own pond begin to cause conflict. It’s as though the problem was at the heart of the system: the water. So, I built up enough courage to call Mike and made an appointment to see him. Finally, the day came when I made the 2-hour journey down to Yume Koi for the first time. Little did I know, this would be the first of many, many journeys to the land of jumbo Koi: Bristol.


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I remember meeting Mike with nervous trepidation perhaps showing. He showed me around his place. His property has ponds everywhere, and the monsters in them were something to behold! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, massive Koi in ‘normal’ sized ponds. They looked amazing! I felt like a crazy fan being allowed backstage access to his idol. What an experience! It took a few trips before I eventually purchased a Koi. It was a very nice Tancho Kohaku.

Matsue Tancho Kohaku, Chip's first 'Yume Koi' Koi

Matsue Tancho Kohaku, Chip’s first ‘Yume Koi’ Koi

Filtration

One thing I noticed was the stainless steel showers on each pond, with water pelting through like Niagara. I asked about the showers and it turned out they were Mike’s main choice of filters (specifically, Bakki Showers with Bakki House Media). Now, I knew about them from reading Mike’s articles, but I had thought ‘nah, not for me’. However, when Mike began to explain, things got clearer and started to make sense. Yet again, the results were right in front of me.

Within a short time, out came my old filtration system with its miles and miles of pipework, and in went a stainless steel Profi-Drum with a 4-tier, double-width Bakki Shower and the all-important Bacteria House Media (more commonly know as BHM.) See pics below.

Chip's Bakki Shower

Chip’s Bakki Shower

Chip next to his pond

Chip next to his pond

One thing that became evident straight away was that I was only using a couple of metres of pipe. When I fitted this system (coming up to 4 years this May [2015]), drums were fairly new to the Koi world and many folks had not seen much of them. I was one of the first to get one. It’s funny now, but I got an absolute pounding on the forums, with comments like ‘it will make for a sterile environment’, ‘your Koi will suffer as they need muck to clean out their gills’ and ‘when it breaks down what will happen?’ The onslaught kept on coming. At one point it all began to discourage me, but eventually I just learnt to ignore it and adopted Mike’s laid-back manner. His advice was ‘take no notice, you’ll be fine’ and that greatly helped. Now it seems like drums are everywhere!

The Install

Within a week of the installation, it was evident that things had begun to change within the matrix of the pond. My water went from being flat and tired looking to a holiday brochure blue-ish, glacier look – yes, really! Even my wife noticed, and she normally only notices the bills!

The water had a softer look to it, almost as if it had conditioner in it. The Koi’s appetite increased rapidly. They began to enjoy the pond, gliding around and stuffing their faces.


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After a few weeks to a month the GH had dropped. My total dissolved solids (TDS) had fallen too, from 280 to 180-200. That BHM stuff matured rapidly! It will be 4 years in May, and as you can see (photo) the media is fresh, crisp, clean and not clogged. I can feed almost a kilo of food a day without any issues or fear of the water going flat. An eco system was created.

Testing the TDS with a simple dip meter

Testing the TDS with a simple dip meter

Cross section of BHM from Chip's Bakki Shower

Cross section of BHM from Chip’s Bakki Shower

The system was rocking: I had heat coils in the drum itself (which meant no friction loss due to pipes), a dedicated boiler for heating and a Flow Friend pump that meant I could adjust the flow at the push of a button. And the greatest bit: no more blocking up pre-filters or having to clean them as the drum is automated and requires very little maintenance.

It’s All About the Koi!

Of course the main thing in all of this is the Koi! The next step was to sell the Koi that didn’t make the grade and get some new ones like those I had seen in Koi heaven (Yume Koi). But let’s face it – jumbo Koi might be awesome, but man, they can be expensive!

I chatted with Mike and I got the best I could afford; my first of many Yume Koi was purchased. Incidentally, it went on to take prizes at Koi shows all over the country, starting with the Winter Show 2012 (my first ever show) and 2013, also the Cambridge Show 2012, the East of England Koi Show 2013, and the National (BKKS) 2013 and 2014.

 

 


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To be continued….

 

Part 2 of this article will be published on 23rd December 2015.

 

Nishikigoi Yearbook Volume 2

The complete article was published in Nishikigoi Yearbook Volume 2 which is available to purchase in many leading Koi outlets or directly from the publishers – http://www.nishikigoiyearbook.com/.

 

 


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