If you are wondering whether having a koi pond will interfere with your vacation plans, the answer is no. However, it is natural to have some anxiety and concern about things going wrong. The good news is that with some preparation, you should be able to depart feeling confident that your koi will be just fine.
The size of your pond and number of fish has some impact on how much preparation needs to occur. A larger pond with a relatively small number of fish can sustain its ecosystem for longer without intervention. The more populated the pond, the more support it will need to remain in balance. You will need to consider the issues of feeding, water quality control, protection from predators, equipment maintenance, emergencies, and other special considerations. Planning for these will alleviate stress for you, as well as ensure the safety and wellbeing of your koi while you are away.
How to feed koi while away is one of the biggest concerns pond owners typically have before leaving town. You have three general options for feeding your fish while you are on vacation: ask or hire someone to feed them, use an automatic feeder, or do nothing.
Most people opt to hire a pond sitter to feed the fish while they are away. However, just about every expert says that you need to exercise caution when going that route, as pond sitters are notorious for overfeeding. People unfamiliar with koi ponds typically overestimate how much food the fish need. For koi and goldfish it is better to temporarily feed too little than too much. Overfeeding can be dangerous, as the buildup of uneaten food and excess waste from overconsumption can cause significant chemical imbalances in the water.
If you decide to have someone watch over your fish while you are away, it is best to choose someone who is familiar with koi ponds. If that is not a possibility, then package the food in individual servings ahead of time for the sitter, and label each bag with the days and feeding times. Then put an amount that is a bit smaller than what you would typically give, and hide the rest of the food until you return.
Automatic feeding blocks are met with mixed reviews from experts, with some koi owners swearing by them and others cautioning against them. The blocks need highly efficient filtration and excellent water movement to dissolve without clogging. Before using one while you are away, buy it well in advance and test it out for a few weeks. Commercial grade feeders work best, but they are very expensive.
The last option is to cease feedings altogether. This might make some koi keepers nervous, but experienced koi owners know that koi can easily survive for several days without food added to the pond. They will snack on algae, larvae, and aquatic plants. If your vacation is less than one week, not feeding is a perfectly fine option that many experts actually prefer. (If you’ll be gone more than a week, then you will need to find a feeder).
Water Quality Control
You want to leave your pond as balanced and clear as possible. Before leaving, perform a partial water change of between 10 percent and 20 percent. You can also suck up debris with a pond vacuum. Adding netting keeps leaves and branches from entering the pond. You can find a net pond cover at most pond and garden supply stores.
Test water levels for pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite before you leave. Even if your water is clear, it can have contaminants or imbalances. Adding beneficial bacteria to your pond can help ensure peace of mind regarding your water quality. Beneficial bacteria help break down waste in the pond efficiently and maintain a healthy nitrogen cycle.
A pond’s water levels drop most quickly in the summer as the heat accelerates evaporation. Installing auto-fill valves inside a skimmer box can help maintain proper levels by automatically filling the pond if it drops to an unsafe level.
Protection from Predators
It is likely that you have some method in place to ward off predators, but it’s never a bad idea to beef up security measures before an extended vacation. A prolonged absence of activity in and around the house can attract a higher-than-usual number of pond predators hungry for an easy snack.
Several options exist for deterring predators, and the best strategies depend on the types of animals that surround your neighborhood. Motion-activated scarecrows and netting are some universal options that help keep critters away.
An equipment failure that occurs unbeknownst to you during a vacation can have catastrophic consequences. It is important to give your pond a thorough maintenance service shortly before you leave to make sure it’s in good shape and working well.
Check your pump, making sure it’s running as well as it should be. Check the filtration system to make sure there are no leaks, then clean and replace the filter pads if needed. If you have a skimmer, empty the box and make sure it is working properly (and scoop away any large debris using a fishnet).
Emergencies and Other Considerations
If you do not have a local pond specialist that you’ve worked with in the past, it is a good idea to find one before you leave town. If you’ve prepared appropriately it’s less likely that something will go wrong, but there are certain circumstances that are difficult to anticipate.
For example, the weather can be unpredictable. Sudden storms can cause power outages or cause ponds to overflow. Keep an eye on the weather so you know if there are severe conditions that might impact your pond. In the event of a storm, you should have someone check that the pond’s filtration system is still running, that the pond is free of large debris, and that the water levels are safe. In the event of extreme heat, someone should check to make sure water levels are not too low.
If your koi are being treated for a type of disease or illness, do not modify the treatment on your own to work around your trip. Call your veterinarian and ask for advice. If it is not safe for your fish to alter the treatment plan, then you will need to secure a fish sitter who can carry it out in your absence. Make sure you go over the plan carefully and leave written instructions, as well as pictures or videos if necessary to help them understand how to apply medications.
Hoping to add a few new additions to your backyard pond? Browse our full selection of koi and goldfish today.