Chip Kawalsingh

Chip Kawalsingh

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.

The first part of the serialisation can be read here – http://nishikigoi.life/2015/12/16/chasing-elephants-the-pursuit-of-jumbo-koi-a-hobbyist-perspective/


 

Looking back, one of the keys of my success was to get the pond to the optimum environment with a healthy eco system to deal with fish waste and the other water issues specifically related to keeping Koi (more accurately keeping healthy water).

However, there’s no point in having the pond all-singing and all-dancing if your Koi are not predisposed to growing into Jumbo.

 


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You Don’t Need a Lake!

There’s a myth that you need a lake to grow big Koi – you don’t! Pursuing jumbo Koi can be done, as I’m beginning to see even in my modest 3200 gallon pond. However you need to have everything in place, including selecting the right Koi, changing enough water daily by a trickle in/out system, keeping the correct stocking level and running a low TDS. In a pond my size it’s easy to keep good water, but stocking levels are critical. Ideally I would have 8 Koi, 10 at most. Currently there are 6.

Isa Showa

Isa Showa

Okawa 75cm

Okawa 75cm

Okawa Kohaku, 65cm, awarded Young Champion

Okawa Kohaku, 65cm, awarded Young Champion

Matsue Kohaku 70cm

Matsue Kohaku 70cm

Omosako Shiro Uturi, 75cm

Omosako Shiro Uturi, 75cm

Tancho Showa. Grown from 35cm to 75cm, now yonsai

Tancho Showa. Grown from 35cm to 75cm, now yonsai

In an article by Mike Snaden titled ‘Dissolve This: Total Dissolved Solids Testing’, Mike makes this critical point:

‘The reason breeders sell me Koi that they don’t want to, is because they know that one way or another, I will get the results. It’s a track record thing. I often tell people this, to help them understand how useful TDS meters are.

If you have a pond of 5,000UK/6,000US gallons, with fifty Nisai in it of perhaps 50cm/19.6inc each, and good filtration, and then picked up all the Koi, and put them into 1,000 UK/1,200 US gallons, it would be overstocked! But, if you move the filtration over to the 1,000UK/1,200US gallon pond as well, and do the same water changes that you did in the 5,000 UK gallon pond, then the Koi will grow in the same manner as they did in 5,000 UK gallons. The TDS meter gives you the information needed manage this.’

Although my TDS is not bad, it’s not ideal and I’m hoping to run it much lower. Meanwhile, a great way of seeing how well your pond is being maintained and looked after is by testing your house-to-pond TDS and seeing what the difference is. This reveals how much junk is in your pond. Generally, I have an equal house-to-pond TDS.

The other thing Koi need is the right amount of oxygen, delivered the right way. I used to have a 150-litre air pump blasting through the air domes like a Jacuzzi! Now, the shower alone provides more than enough oxygen. I sold off the large air pump (that was expensive to run!) and now a cheaper 50-litre pump sits in place for when I treat the Koi. That’s the only time the air is switched on in the pond.


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Heating is Essential

Another critical aspect is heat. As mentioned before, I heat the pond with a standalone, dedicated boiler.

My heating regime is as follows:

  • January to March 10ºC-12ºC
  • April to May 18ºC-20ºC
  • June to July 20ºC-22ºC
  • August to October 24ºC
  • November to December 15ºC

During the height of feeding season I maintain 24ºC while feeding up to a kilo a day. Again, water changes during this time are critical.

You Are What You Eat!

My choice of food is Saki Hikari – after all, it’s made in Japan! It’s fairly expensive, but the food works well in so many ways. I’ve seen pictures of bags upon bags at various breeders, so the Koi, at their core, are already used to eating it as they are raised on it. Saki Hikari never fattens the Koi; instead they bulk up with shoulders and good body conformation. I’ve seen very good results feeding Saki Hikari in my own setup.

In my own regime, once my pond has been dropped to 15ºC I won’t feed. I see little point, as the Koi won’t grow. This enables any excess fat to be burnt up. Incidentally, once my pond is at 18ºC (both times of year) I will feed some Saki Hikari Color up five times a day, mixed with Saki Balance or Hikari Wheat Germ at a rate of 40% Color to 60% other. Even good Koi require some color food, but this must be done carefully, with thought and observation of the Koi.

Back to Water

My own parameters aren’t that bad for keeping Koi. My pH is 7.8- 8.0, depending on the time of year (sunlight and feeding will affect the pH); my KH runs on 5, and my GH is at 10. As I said earlier, my TDS is around 180-200, but it’s not what I would class as perfect. I recently had a lab water test done which showed these results. Don’t get me wrong; a lot of people reading this would love to have this type of water, but I’m now working towards fine-tuning the system to produce an environment in which the Koi thrive, not just survive. As they get older, my aim is to maintain skin quality with good growth. In my understanding, the only way I can achieve this is by running reverse osmosis (more commonly known as RO).


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Here’s another quote from Mike’s research called ‘Magic Water’:

‘It is generally accepted in Japan by the Koi industry/breeders, that Koi growth is enhanced in soft, and pure water. Hi will become thicker, the shine of the skin (Tsuya) will improve, and last but not least, the health of the Koi will be stimulated and greatly enhanced, hence less problems.

One point worth noting is that the Japanese feel that hard water will cause pigment cells on the Koi’s skin to lie flat to protect itself from hard water, hence, Koi in hard water will often look a very vivid, and hard red.

But, in soft water, the pigment cells will stand up rather like velvet, giving a softer colour, but much better lustre and colour quality.

Generally, people in the UK tend to believe that Koi are put into Japanese mud ponds because the high mineral content and low stocking levels will make the Koi potentially grow larger and at a faster rate than would otherwise be the case. Whilst there is an element of truth in this statement, it does not show the full picture, and can be easily misinterpreted. The fact is that many of Niigata’s mud ponds have soil that is so dead from lack of minerals, that only rice (or Koi) can be grown there. However, mud ponds do offer benefits such as live insects, and plankton, which cannot easily be recreated within a closed pond system.’

RO is being installed!

As I write this article, the system has been ordered and by the time you read it, will be up and running with the aim of reducing said parameters. I know there are many who agree with RO and those who disagree – it seems like those who don’t run RO haven’t fully researched it themselves – but I’ve got to find out for myself! I see the pond (with a healthy eco system) and the Koi in a symbiotic relationship, in which RO helps the union. When they are both tuned correctly – like an instrument – you get beautiful music!


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Talking more with Mike Snaden about jumbo Koi, it was evident RO is a massive piece missing from my Koi keeping bag. My job requires me to conduct a lot of research, and I’ve read many articles and books by authors whose message changes as they get new ideas or research more. Mike has been preaching the same message for a long time and it hasn’t changed a bit!

Too many people rely on others’ experiences rather than trying things for themselves. With Mike’s guidance, I will run this alongside a PH controller coupled with a dosing pump, which will help keep the system automated which is especially important as I travel a lot for work.

The dosing pump will be connected to a tank with a bicarbonate mixture that will automatically top up the pond if the PH meter drops below 7. Having read Mike’s own research on water in Japan, RO makes a lot of sense to me and it’s time to get on board.

Like I said, you can perhaps grow Koi without RO, but I’m after Koi that blossom, last and continue to grow later on in life. In my experience, it’s easier to grow Tosai to Sansai than to grow from Sansai onwards.

What’s in the Future?

It’s my dream to go to Japan. I’m blessed to be travelling around the world fairly often for work, but I haven’t been to the Land of the Rising Sun. Funnily enough, when I lived in the US, I studied in Portland, Oregon and many of my close friends were Japanese. They had invited me to visit them, but I never had the desire to until now – don’t tell them!

I want to visit Japan and perhaps will do shortly. I want to experience for myself what I read about, the pictures of jumbo Koi I see on Facebook that tug at my heart. It would be great to see the mountains and smell the fresh spring air, to visit the mud ponds and gaze on the Koi going in or being harvested, like I have seen on so many homemade videos.


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I want to chat with the breeders and learn more about the Koi that have become a passion – no, an obsession – in my life. Why? Because I’m pursuing giants, and everything I’ve talked about are pieces in the puzzle to help me achieve my dream of growing my very own giant, jumbo Koi!

I’m now enjoying my hobby. I love meeting new people and I’ve made many new friends, all because of a fish, loved by emperors and peasants alike. It was raised in a rice pond, over where the sun rises, and the colours of the Koi seem to light up the dawn! It’s Nishikigoi, and Japan calls…


 

Look out for a further part of this story soon…

 

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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