I was told recently while in a conversation with another koi pond keeper that my koi pond is not a real koi pond.
Now before I get to how this comment came about, let me lay out some indisputable FACTS.

• Fact 1 – I have a pond
• Fact 2 – My pond contains many koi
• Fact 3 – Most of my koi have been with me for about 8-9 years
• Fact 4 – My koi successfully spawned many times in my pond
• Fact 5 – My koi all seem very happy and healthy

Now facts are stubborn things and the 5 lines listed above are indeed facts. With that established; let’s go back in recent time.
Recently I was having a conversation about my koi with another koi pond keeper. It was a pretty typical conversation we were talking about different types of koi that we have, how we manage our pond feedings, maintenance, where we got our koi, and the personality quirks of our fish. All in all just typical fish related conversation about all sorts of stuff. This conversation was very similar to numerous conversations that I have had with fish keepers over the years. But then the conversation took a strange turn.
The conversation changed gears from fish to filters. We both had similar systems in that we both have skimmer and biofalls; and we both aerate our ponds year round. The similarities ended there. He has a bottom drain on his pond, I do not. He has an exposed liner pond; my pond has rockwork and gravel. My pond has aquatic plants, his does not.
When these parameters were established, the other pond keeper then said to me “Oh, then you don’t have a real koi pond.”
I was a little confused given that the first 5 minutes of our conversation was pretty specifically about our koi that we keep in our ponds. So I asked “Why is it that you feel my pond is not a real koi pond?” eager to hear his explanation.
He then told me. “Well, first of all you don’t have a bottom drain and all koi ponds have bottom drains. You also keep plants in your pond and you can’t keep koi and plants together, and you have gravel in your pond and gravel bottom ponds kill koi.”
Needless to say, I was shocked to learn that the koi pond I have been personally keeping for about the last decade, and the hundreds of koi ponds that I maintain and manage that are stocked with koi and built with practically identical equipment that I use are not koi ponds at all!! My head reeled, my vision blurred; how I can explain to all the people that I have been building koi ponds for over the last 15 years that their ponds are not REAL koi ponds! What to do?
So I asked this sage koi keeper, “what kind of pond do I have then, if my pond that has been stocked with happy, healthy, reproducing koi for the last 8 years (my third pond by the way), is not a real koi pond?”
He the explained that it is a pond with koi, but not a koi pond and any koi expert would tell me the same.
Now I never like to call myself an expert on anything, but I have to admit that I do have a great deal of experience with all types of fish, not just koi; and a great deal of experience in the design, construction, and maintenance of ponds and filtration systems. In my many years of experience and service in the pond industry I have had others call me an expert and a professional. The thing is I always thought I was building real koi ponds.
So now, what is a koi pond? This must be asked because it would seem according to the definition I was told, a koi pond has nothing to do with koi but really has to do with filters and design, and I just cannot agree with this.
So, I am taking a stand, for myself and on behalf of all koi pond or “ponds with koi” owners, fear not! And don’t buy into the hype! Let’s redefine what a koi pond is so none of you have to go through the panic, doubt, and suffering that I had endured for a good 10 seconds or so, until I came to my senses after the bombshell of what a REAL koi pond is was dropped on me. If you have a pond, and it has koi, YOU have a koi pond, enjoy it, be proud of it, and let your koi know that they are as real as any other koi that have the “privilege” of a bottom drain, an exposed rubber liner, and a home void of natural rocks, gravel, and aquatic plants. YES! Our koi ponds are as real as anyone else’s, and in my humble opinion a MUCH more natural environment.
And remember: “Facts, are stubborn things” – John Adams, 2nd US President (who maybe kept koi, but I doubt it…)


Jerry Mazzola

Mike I sooo agree with you! We have built from scratch a bio filter, plumbed a pond or 3, layed tons and tons of rock built and rebuilt waterfalls, added a skimmer, layed rubber liner and fed , medicated, loved and scratched the chins and heads of our watery babies. I test my water regularly ,keep a journal, and for many years now haven’t lost a fish or had a reading that was not within the normal range for Ammonia or Nitrates or Ph or Salinity. I DO NOT have a bottom drain , and have tons of Black Locust trees surrounding my 5000 gallon pond. I have fought off predators that fly in , swoop down , creep across the rocks, come in with plants or other fish, and even the human kind who tried but failed to kill our pets. I have grown plants along with my Koi, and sat for countless hours enjoying thier antics and feeling the love they give me right back for all the worry and care I give to them. My garden and pond have been on tours and have been written up and appreciated by alot of other people. I am not saying it is a perfect pond . I am not saying it is the most beautiful pond. I am not even saying I am doing half of everything I could the right way. But I will say this ….that man who told you that you do not have a Koi pond is dead wrong. And I would defy him to say that to me. And the Koi who follow me around the edges of the pond who stay close to me even when there are other people sitting right there ,trying to hand feed them ,and they won’t take ant anything from them…would beg to differ .


Thanks for the feedback Jerry. Your pond(s) sound great!! Thanks for painting a picture of how great a pond can be even without a bottom drain! I definitely define a koi pond by what type of fish you have, not what type of filter you have. I am not against or for bottom drains, I’ve installed them, but prefer to leave them out of the installation if given the option. I think there are many ways to circulate a pond. I hope your pond brings you many more years of enjoyment! Thanks again Jerry.


Perhaps the phrase “Real Koi Pond” should be replaced with “Ideal Koi pond”. Our fish will live in just about any container we use as long as the water parameters are healthy.

In the Ideal Koi pond, mechanical filtration takes waste out of the system as quickly as possible, there are no stagnant areas to accumulate anaerobic bacteria, and bio filtration removes harmful Ammonia and nitrites through natural bacterial nitrification. UV may be employed to kill algae so we can see our fish better and heaters may be used to keep the fish comfy through the winter, or chillers to keep them cool in hot climates. Design of the pond should be such that predators can be kept away from our fish.

How to achieve the ideal koi pond can be debated for decades. I have found that Maintenance is the real key. The owner that checks his water parameters often, changes his water or makes adjustments to the system, and keeps his pond healthy has a better chance of growing Koi to their full potential. The problems occur mainly for the owner who does not manage his water quality effectively, regardless of the pond system design.


Hey thanks for checking out the blog and taking time to give some input! I agree “ideal” koi pond could be switched out for “real” koi pond. I just used that phrase how it was presented to me at that time. However, the term “ideal” koi pond can come in many shapes, sizes, styles, and methods of management as you stated. In the ponds I manage there is the entire gamut of approaches to keeping koi. In my opinion they are all ‘koi ponds” as long as they have koi and it is a pond, but it seems many people have very specific ideas of what a koi pond is. So even though “Joe” has been keeping koi in a pond in his backyard for the last 18 years with no fish loss, using a garbage can filled with bioballs as a filter, and every year giving away tons of baby koi to his friends and local garden centers; “Steve” who’s 5 year old pond has a filter house with every bell and whistle, underwater cameras so he can watch his koi while at work, and a $5000.00 heating system (yet his koi won’t spawn, curiously) will tell “Joe” that he does not have the ideal koi pond…ironic. By the way, I deal with both of these types of ponds in my business, and to me they are BOTH koi ponds…”How to achieve the ideal koi pond can be debated for decades.”


I would say you both have “Koi Ponds”. Yours is the type I would think most people visualize when thinking of Koi Ponds, and these are the type we build for clients here in central florida. His sounds more like a fish farm type of pond. Check out our Koi for sale when you get a chance.



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