The Differences Between a Koi Pond and a Water Garden
Water gardening was made famous by the artist Claude Monet, in France. One of his most famous paintings was named "Le Bassin Aux Nympheas", the beautiful, impressionistic painting of waterlilies. The idea for water gardening crossed the Atlantic in the early 1920's and became popular. Sparks of interest occurred again in the 1990's, and evolved into our water gardening industry today.
There are a number of plants that can be grown alongside the waterlily in a water garden. Lotus species, papyrus, sedge grasses as well as pickerel rush and lizards tail, iris, golden club, water lettuce, water hyacinths , water canna, and many, many other aquatic plants are right at home in a water garden setting. Goldfish may be added to a water garden to help add the needed nutrients the plants need to grow. There is no need to feed the goldfish as they consume the naturally occurring algae. Floating plants that shade the water, shelf plants and oxygenators that add oxygen to the water and goldfish that add nutrients to the water make an excellent ecosystem. All of the above peacefully and symbiotically exist in an ecosystem together in harmony.
Koi Ponds were developed in Eastern Asia as early as the 400's and koi were domesticated and cultivated as an edible fish staple. Minimalism was practiced with Koi ponds and plants were not placed in the water. Over the years, Koi began to be cultivated for their beautiful colors and patterns, and were grown for their ornamental beauty. The word "Koi" translates to carp. Koi thrive in freshwater and are often confused for goldfish.
Questions and answers you may have regarding A Koi Pond or A Water Garden--and Goldfish or Koi?
The differences between Koi and goldfish are many. Both are descendants from carp, but koi are usually larger and have feeler barbels. Goldfish have a more compressed body shape and bigger fins. Koi are more aggressive and tend to eat plants and destroy them, especially the larger koi. Koi become destructive when they grow to 8-11 inches, they tend to tear up or eat any new plant that is placed in the pond and even some existing, established plants. Goldfish can grow quite large, depending on the size of the pond. Goldfish are a gentler fish and do not destroy plants. Both fish are bred for their beauty and ornamental appeal in ponds. Both fish add waste to your pond water, it is best not to feed them or if you choose to, feed them sparingly. You can add goldfish to your water garden but keep the koi in a pond of their own!
If you feel that you cannot live without a water garden AND a koi pond or cannot choose between the two, simply build two ponds, one with water garden plants to filter the water and the other a koi pond which cycles its water into the water garden pond where plants can use the nutrients to grow and bloom and filter the nutrients out of the water before the water enters the koi pond. The koi will not be able to destroy the plants as they will not have access to them and the plants will have the benefit of all the nutrients that the koi provide (fish waste). Your koi pond will be crystal-clear for you to you see the beautiful colors and patterns of your koi fish and your plants will be healthy and thriving as they will be benefiting from the nutrients the koi pond provides!
Water gardens require lots of sun for your plants whereas koi will need some shade. Most plants, especially waterlilies (which do shade the water) need calm water and will actually rot if water continually splashes on its leaves. Fish can thrive in either calm or fast moving water.
Koi ponds can be high maintenance as the cost of the fish is high, the filtration system can be expensive, proper fish nutrition and water changes can be costly as well!
Water gardens with a few goldfish in the pond will develop its own ecosystem in time. Plants in your water garden will help to control algae with the uptake of nutrition from the fish waste. Pollinators (honey bees and butterflies) will be attracted to your pond as well as amphibians (frogs), as well as birds who will stop by for a drink and dragonflies who will lay their eggs on plants in the pond, whose larvae will eat any mosquito larvae! Perhaps you can begin to see how one thing leads to another and another and so on.
A lined pond is easier to maintain with plants in containers as the plant roots won't become too aggressive and take over areas of the pond and become overgrown.
Take some time to consider what you have read and make a wise choice regarding what type of pond you will enjoy and be able to maintain. A Water Garden or a Koi Pond. The choice is your to make!