Add brilliant touches of color and tranquility to your garden with ornamental fish.
Wonderful Koi
Credit: Joseph De Sciose

An orange flash breaks the pond's smooth, black water. The movement of a koi sends ripples of color across the pond. Ferns, cascading over the edge and reaching toward the water, receive the orange-streaked ripples and melt them back into the ubiquitous green of this Houston backyard. It's a dance that goes on continually throughout the day.

Beth and Bruce Grunden created a series of small pools, streams, and waterfalls as a stage to watch this dance, this play between the bright colors of their koi and the lush foliage that thrives in their backyard. "One thing that attracts us to koi is that they're so relaxing and soothing," says Bruce. "We both worked long hours before retirement. After work, I'd get into my grubbies and lose myself in the koi ponds. It's totally medicinal," Bruce continues.

You Just Gotta Love 'Em
While the intriguing blend of oranges, reds, yellows, blacks, and whites is certainly what makes most people want to raise them, these fish are also great pets. They require some maintenance but can fend for themselves for a few days in a properly balanced pond. "They grow on you, with their bright patterns, elegant movements, and individual personalities," says Beth.

Magic Pond Formula

To create a well-balanced pond that will allow koi to flourish, simply follow these guidelines from Rex Wilroy of Pond Works in Houston.

  • Take care of the water; then the fish will take care of themselves.
  • The pond should be at least 4 feet deep to raise full-size koi. Try goldfish if you don't want to spend the money for a deep pond.
  • Provide at least 300 gallons of water for each small fish and more for larger ones.
  • Moving water is critical to keeping the fish healthy. Ideally, all the water should circulate through filtration every hour.
  • Create a filtration system that removes all fish waste and debris as quickly as possible.
  • Build a safe environment for your fish by removing sharp pond edges. Avoid adding plants to a koi pond because of the fish's tendency to disrupt vegetation.
  • Protect your koi from raccoons, cats, and birds such as great blue herons by designing your pond without sloping sides. Use fine netting, such as strawberry netting, over the pond if predators become a problem.

"Wonderful Koi" is from the August 2006 issue of Southern Living