Part of keeping your koi safe and healthy means knowing how to handle breeding season. Breeding season will inevitably impact your pond if you have adult female and male koi in your pond. Though the season can last from February to June, fish usually start spawning in the warmer months.
Want to know how your koi fish breed, what the right temperature is for breeding, how to breed koi yourself, and if it’s right for you? Well, we’re here to guide you on the ins and outs of koi breeding season so that you can ensure you’re well-equipped.
How Do Koi Mate?
Koi are oviparous fish and reproduce through a process called spawning, where the female will lay eggs that the male koi will then fertilize. Koi are usually sexually mature by two or three years. Mature female koi will produce eggs if they share a pond with sexually mature male koi.
At the start of the breeding season, male koi will develop small, white growths called tubercles on their head and pectoral fins. Tubercles are sometimes mistaken for Ich, but they are a perfectly normal occurrence. As female koi begin to produce eggs, their ovaries expand, which causes them to appear bloated. When the eggs are ready to be fertilized, the female koi will prompt breeding by releasing pheromones. The male koi will then begin following the female koi around the pond. The male koi will become more aggressive as they get closer to the actual spawning event. It’s common for them to chase, bump, and head-butt the female to encourage her to release her eggs.
Once the environmental conditions are optimal for spawning, the female koi will begin to release her eggs in different areas of the pond, typically around vegetation or the base and sides of the pond. Koi can lay hundreds of thousands of eggs at one time. As the female koi releases her eggs, the male will begin fertilizing them. This usually causes the pond water to appear cloudy or foamy, and it may have an unpleasant or fishy odor.
Koi offspring, or koi fry, typically hatch 3-7 days after fertilization. The koi fry will attach themselves to the sides of the pond for 2-3 days before swimming to the surface for air.
It’s common for adult koi to eat many of the eggs in the pond. Many eggs are also not successfully fertilized, which usually leaves about 10% of the original number of eggs. Many breeders choose to block off areas of the pond or care for eggs and koi fry in a separate tank to keep them safe.
When Do Koi Breed?
Koi usually spawn once a year when water temperatures reach 65° to 70°F, which can happen anytime between February and June, depending on your pond’s climate and the koi’s lifecycle. For the most part, though, spawning occurs between May and June when temperatures rise and the days are a bit longer. The spawning event typically occurs in the early morning hours, around dawn. Sometimes koi will spawn twice a season, but the second spawning is often less productive and results in few eggs.
How Can Spawning Be Controlled Or Prevented?
Spawning is unavoidable if your pond homes both female and male koi. However, if you know for sure you are not interested in breeding your koi, there are steps you can take to prevent or control the process. Some hobbyists prevent spawning by keeping a single-sex pond. You can also separate male and female koi during the breeding season.
Since environmental changes prompt spawning, you can try tricking your koi to prevent spawning. Keep the water temperature cooler, and the pond shaded. The lower water temperatures should help discourage breeding since warmer water triggers spawning. This method isn’t always successful, but you can still prevent breeding by separating male and female koi temporarily if and when you notice any spawning behavior.
How Does Breeding Impact Your Koi Pond?
Breeding koi can be incredibly rewarding and profitable if you’re committed to the care and conditions necessary to breed successfully. Koi history goes back centuries, and there are endless varieties, colors, and patterns to discover as you breed new koi.
There are a few downsides to koi breeding to keep in mind. Koi breeding can be time-consuming, even though the actual spawning-to-laying-eggs timeline is typically only 2-3 days per season. You have to carefully select which koi you want to breed and begin preparing your pond weeks in advance, and it could involve moving the koi you want to breed to a tank. Whether you breed your koi right in your pond or in a tank depends on the temperature, location, and amount of space you have. Even after the actual spawning process, raising koi fry is a months-long process.
Breeding koi will obviously increase the population of your pond. So, before choosing to breed, it’s crucial to ensure you have the capacity and tools necessary. The process of both breeding and raising koi fry also involves a lot of additional work and pond maintenance to keep your pond environment and koi healthy. It’s a lot to take on, so it’s a good idea to carefully consider whether you have the time and energy.
So, is breeding worth it?
That is up to you! There are many benefits to koi breeding. It’s an excellent way to diversify your pond with new and exciting koi breeds and colors, you might be able to make a little extra money by selling your new koi, and koi breeding can be a gratifying hobby. Keep in mind, though, that successful koi breeding is expensive and time-consuming and requires some pretty extensive research and maintenance. It’s neither an easy nor an inexpensive endeavor, so if you think breeding koi is something you want to do, make sure you do your research beforehand to give you the best chances of a successful breeding season.