You’re free to design a koi pond based around the available space in your backyard and then calculate how many fish will fit in that space. The rule of thumb is about 1 inch of fish length per square foot of surface area, or 30 gallons of volume, as long as you’re providing at least three feet of depth. However, most people desiring a pond have more than enough space and need a different limitation to start with. Try picking a specific number of fish you can afford and sizing your pond to their needs.
Maximum Fish Size and Growth Speed
Even under the best conditions and the fastest growth rates, koi will take between three and eight years to mature from four inches to between twelve and sixteen inches long. This means you can generally size your pond around the needs of 16-inch long fish and not worry about overcrowding for quite a while. If you want to avoid the issue of either rehoming large fish or building another or bigger pond, size your pond around a maximum size of three feet per fish. If you build a pond that’s stocked to their maximum possible size, you can keep the koi for decades without accidentally overcrowding it as time passes.
Stocking Rates for Good Water Quality
Planning your pond more water than the minimum required for specific koi stocking rates for will result in better water quality, fewer filter issues, and less sludge accumulation. Thus, requiring far less maintenance. More water is also recommended if you want to add sensitive water plants that can’t handle being constantly eaten from the roots up. The minimum stocking rate is generally measured as 1 inch of fish per square foot of surface area or 30 gallons of volume, but a more generous rate of 3 square feet or 100 gallons per inch results in better water quality.
The Issue of Eggs and Fry
Healthy and mature koi have a high chance of reproducing, especially in a well-designed pond with plenty of plants, hiding spots, and good water quality. Even if you don’t want eggs and fry, you’re likely to deal with them eventually since it’s hard to spot and remove every last egg cluster. Fish that suddenly turn from docile pond mates, that never squabble, to thrashing and darting splashes of color are likely spawning. This results in young fish known as fry, around the beginning of summer. Koi become sexually mature around four to five years of age and just a single breeding pair can produce dozens of new fish to crowd the pond. Make a plan for catching and selling these baby fish or commit to removing as many eggs as possible during spawning season.
Calculating Pond Space and Volume
To calculate pond volume for a simple rectangle-shaped pond, use the following formula: Length x Width x Depth = Cubic Feet x 7.5 Gallons per Cubic Foot. To better visualize this, consider that a 6 by 8 ft pond, that is 3 feet deep, will hold 1077 gallons. Curved ponds are trickier to calculate, so try a pond calculator that takes into account the lost volume created by a curve. Using rough calculations for a perfect rectangle and then adding smoothed sides and edges will result in a lower water volume than you planned. Use accurate measuring tools and add an extra 10% or so to your volume, to ensure you’re providing enough water for your fish.
Over-sizing the Pond for Stability
Speaking of adding some extra gallons, oversizing your pond is generally a smart move. Pushing your stocking rates to the limit of your pond’s volume will only result in extensive maintenance routines and rising filtration costs. An extra 1000 gallons may only add a small amount to the total cost of the pond but will make a major difference in the performance of even the largest water features.
Make sure you design your pond with room to grow in the future. You may only want a handful of koi now but building a big pond will give you the space for adding more or allowing their offspring to grow to an old age and mature size.