As you look out on your beautiful pondscape and recall all the hours you’ve spent selecting your living jewels and creating their utopia, the idea of ever parting with them might seem unthinkable. But sometimes rehoming your koi becomes necessary due to changing life circumstances or interests. If you’ve made the decision to part with your koi, it’s important that you rehome them ethically and responsibly.
A transfer in ownership can be in your koi’s best interest if you can no longer care for some or all of them to the extent they deserve.
Reasons for Rehoming
There are several life events and circumstances that can necessitate rehoming your koi.
Sale or Purchase of a Home
Sometimes, a property sale will require leaving your koi behind. This could occur for many reasons, including moving to a smaller or pondless location or venturing far enough away that transport becomes too difficult.
A residence with an established pond can be a dream come true for people who have always imagined owning one. A backyard aquatic wonderland complete with finned beauties can entice even those who never previously considered a pond. But buyers need to beware–or at least be aware–of the responsibility and commitment this entails.
Koi are hardy creatures and are relatively easy to raise. However, optimizing their health and happiness, as well as one’s enjoyment of them, requires time and money. Owners will need to regularly change, test and treat the water, as well as clean out the filtration system, remove plant overgrowth and debris, and more. Feeding the right amount of a high-quality diet regularly also will become an important routine.
If you are selling, make sure the new owners know what they are getting into. If doubt arises about the continuation of your koi legacy, it is better for you to assume the onus of rehoming them prior to your move.
Most enthusiasts are dedicated to caring for, and showing off, their living jewels. But sometimes circumstances arise–marriage, divorce, children, new jobs, etc.–and things change. Big life transitions have the potential to interfere with your ability to care for your koi.
Many enthusiasts have families and jobs, so this is not to say that a new addition to your life necessitates surrendering your koi. But it is better to be realistic about the impact major life events will have, and whether your koi will be negatively affected or will even pose a risk.
For example, ponds can be serious drowning hazards for young children. Some koi keepers
decide to take a break from koi keeping while their children are small, and pick up the hobby again once their kiddos are older.
Koi grow quickly and can continually reproduce, resulting in a pond’s population increasing substantially over time. The common rule of thumb is that a pond should contain at least 10 gallons of water for each inch of fish. Keep in mind that koi can grow to around 21-24 inches or more.
Increasing the number of koi in your pond does not necessarily result in increasing your level of satisfaction. For instance, koi that have been trained to hand feed will recognize their owners distinctly, and you can experience a certain level of bonding unmatched by most other fish. Limiting your population to a manageable level helps avoid potentially lethal problems such as excessive waste build-up, depletion of dissolved oxygen, and stress from crowded conditions. Plus, it gives you additional time and resources to care and bond with the koi you already have.
A properly designed and built pond should not require you to solicit outside contractors to clean and maintain it. However, there are several ongoing costs that pond owners need to consider. You will incur some energy costs running your pumps and aerators, and will periodically need to replace parts. Also, consider the regular cost of food and occasional medication for your koi. Whether it’s an unexpected financial emergency or just shifting economic priorities over time, the price tag, though generally reasonable, can become burdensome if you didn’t plan for it.
Lifespan of Koi
An average koi lives 25-35 years, but it has the potential to live much longer. In captivity, koi lifespans can nearly triple that of a human, with the oldest known koi in history living 226 years. Of course, most koi won’t make it close to that, but, in short, it is possible that your koi will outlive you. Even if you are far from your golden years, it’s never too early to plan your wishes for your koi in the event that you can no longer care for them.
Many people include their living jewels in their wills. Koi will be considered part of your property, and in the absence of a will, they are passed to the heirs of your estate. In some cases, this may not be a person who is willing or able to care for your koi. So specifying who should receive your koi can ensure that they remain with someone you trust.
A new koi owner who hasn’t done his or her homework might assume these fish can go in a small- or medium-sized tank and will be in for quite a surprise when the koi quickly outgrow it. Koi are different from other breeds of fish, such as goldfish, which will adapt their growth to the size of their tank. A goldfish kept in a small tank will remain a small goldfish. This is NOT true of koi. Given appropriate food and adequate water quality, koi will continue to grow, and their need for a new home will become obvious.
For koi enthusiasts, particular interests and passions can evolve over time as the passion for the hobby grows, and your knowledge and capabilities increase. As you venture into a more advanced stage of koi keeping, you might decide that you want to specialize in certain varieties of koi and, thus, may need to create room in your pond.
It is best to avoid rehoming koi when possible, but it’s always better to be realistic. Owners who are not honestly committed to their koi will better serve their living jewels by ensuring they move on to a good home.
Considerations When Rehoming Koi
Rehoming a koi can be a safe and satisfying experience when done correctly and ethically. This means thinking about the long-term wellbeing of the koi rather than immediate convenience. Here are a few “dos” and “don’ts” of rehoming.
DO Think About What’s Best For The Koi
As much as you may feel guilty about rehoming koi, it is better to make sure they transfer to a knowledgeable and responsible owner who will properly care for them rather than hang on to them while failing to provide adequate care. You will feel more guilty in the long run if you end up neglecting your koi.
DO Have a Say in New Ownership
Before you sell or give your fish to a new owner, make sure you assess that new owner’s knowledge and capabilities when it comes to owning koi. This is not to say that you should never give koi to a first-time or inexperienced owner. All hobbyists had to start somewhere. However, even novices should be prepared and aware of what they are getting into. Make sure to ask questions such as:
- What size pond do you own?
- How many fish will be kept in your pond?
- What is required to maintain a filtration system?
- What is required to maintain water quality?
- How you will recognize signs of illness in a koi?
- Who will provide veterinary care if needed?
- What will you feed your koi, how much and how frequently?
- Why are you interested in owning koi?
- What steps will you take to ensure your koi are safe from predators?
- If you live in a cold climate, how will you protect your koi in the winter?
- How much time do you anticipate spending daily/weekly caring for your koi?
- What do you anticipate being the monthly/annual total costs of caring for your koi?
DO Follow Up With New Owners
You can help prevent further rehoming of your koi if you are available to be a resource if the new owner is a novice. The process of rehoming might be an emotionally difficult one, but staying available to answer questions and offer advice can help you feel confident that your koi will be just fine.
DON’T Expect Your Money Back
Yes, depending on the quality of your koi’s breed, parentage, coloration and shape, an enthusiast might be willing to pay top dollar. But don’t expect that if you are looking to rehome all of your existing koi. An experienced hobbyist is likely not looking for more than one or two koi at a time and probably already has something specific in mind. If you are looking to lump all your fish into one transaction or piece them out in a relatively short time, you should just expect to sell them for minimum price or even give them away.
DON’T Dump Your Koi
This should go without saying. However, it’s not all that uncommon to read in the newspaper about local water systems that are unexpectedly growing a koi population because owners chose to dump their koi rather than responsibly rehome them. Never put your koi in a river, stream, lake, or other body of water. Koi were not meant to survive in those waters, and they will disrupt the ecosystem and endanger aquatic life that is living there naturally.
Proper Catch And Transport
Planning for relocation requires a fine-tuned process. It’s not as simple as just dipping a net into the pond and scooping your koi up.
You should avoid chasing koi around your pond with a net. Stress is one of the major risks in the process of koi transportation. You may need to drain your pond some to get easier access to the fish. Use a high-quality net and use it to guide them into their transportation container. Never trap them inside the net and lift them out of the pond.
Works Best On An Empty Stomach
It’s best to stop feeding the fish for a day or so before transport, especially for longer trips where the water could become oversaturated with waste.
The water in your koi’s transportation container should be as close to their normal pond water as possible. To make this easier, you can simply use water from the pond. If you want to use different water, make sure its pH is the same as the pond. The water temperature also needs to be as similar as possible to that of the pond, while being within parameters ideal for transportation conditions (which usually means somewhere between 50 and 80 degrees).
It’s commonly recommended to use a rigid, sturdy bin to transport your fish. Plastic bags also can be used, but be careful. You will need strong rubber bands to firmly seal the fish in, as well as enough bags to double-bag each fish.
Additional salt in the water will help the fish overcome the stress of transportation. The kind of salt does not matter. Use 3 grams per liter of water for best results.
Koi Rescue Organizations
It’s always best to hand off your koi to someone you know and trust, but that may not always be possible. The next step is to do some research to find a koi owners’ club nearby or reach out on a local online forum. Several rescue organizations also exist around the country that can help ethically rehome koi.
The koi ownership community is comprised of dedicated and friendly enthusiasts who will go to great lengths to ensure that koi are appropriately rehomed. If the person you contact is not able to help, chances are he or she knows of a direction in which to point you.
Here are some organizations across the United States that offer rescue services:
Puget Sound Koi Club: Washington
This organization offers free koi rescue service. Volunteers will come to you with all the necessary equipment required for transportation. Fill out the request form at https://www.pugetsoundkoiclub.org/contact-us.
Sterling Animal Shelter: Massachusetts
Located in Central Massachusetts, this shelter recently implemented “Koi and Gold Fish Rescue Services,” which will hold fish up for adoption in more than 65,000 gallons of water with several hiding areas, varying depths and multiple water features. (978) 422-8585; email@example.com;
Fill out the Fish Adoption/Surrender Form at: https://www.sterlingshelter.org/humane-society/koi-fish-rescue
Lehigh Valley Koi Rescue: Pennsylvania
This rescue, about 90 minutes outside of Philadelphia, offers transportation and adoption services for koi. 484-505-0060
Atlanta Koi Club: Georgia
This club will advertise your adoptable koi to enthusiasts. firstname.lastname@example.org
This organization offers a rescue service to people residing anywhere in the lower part of the state. 909-255-0692; email@example.com
Piedmont Koi and Watergarden Society: North Carolina
This organization supports local koi rescue groups to ensure unwanted koi are rehomed safely.
Lone Star Koi Club: Texas
This club offers a rescue program in the Houston metro area where it matches adoptable koi with new homes. It covers approximately 60 miles around Houston. Contact Scott Sartorius, firstname.lastname@example.org or Paul Moss, email@example.com.
Phoenix Koi Rescue: Arizona
If you are in the Phoenix area and have koi that need to be rescued or extras you want to give away, you can post your available fish to a notification list at firstname.lastname@example.org. People from outside the region/state will have access to the listings.
Craigslist is the go-to for advertising anything and everything, and many koi owners looking to rehome have found success through this site. The more specific you are with your listing, the more likely you are to receive a response from a serious and knowledgeable candidate for rehoming your fish. Be sure to include information such as:
- Descriptions of each fish including variety
- What location (or locations) your koi came from originally
- How long you have had each
- What type of food you use, how much and how often you feed
- Whether any of the koi have had previous health issues including parasites
- How often you perform water changes and how you check for water quality
Keeping koi is a fun and fulfilling hobby, but it comes with the responsibility of ensuring your koi have a safe, healthy existence. Should you be faced with having to rehome your living jewels, it’s imperative that you take the time to find new owners who will care and provide for your beautiful fish.