Are Koi Ponds Japanese? Not the Answer You Were Looking For.


The popular decorative koi fish are a variety of the Amur carp.

Starting The Koi Hobby: A Step By Step Guide…

They are the colored first cousin of Cyprinus rubrofuscus (the Latin name for carp) and are kept for beauty purposes in outdoor koi ponds, water gardens and aquariums. This type of fish is quite large with a dominant bright orange color. Carp are originally found in Central Europe and Asia.

In Chinese and Japanese cultures they hold a symbolic meaning. The fish is mentioned in various ancient Chinese poetry and literature accounts. In Japan, koi are associated with the country’s national identity, as a symbol of luck, prosperity and good fortune. Through the ages people started adopting them for inhabiting decorative ponds and gardens. Are koi ponds Japanese, you might wander? No, they are not. Koi ponds originate from ancient China. The first decorative water formations come from the concept of designed private and public parks in ancient Persia and ancient China. Eventually, the idea was exported to Japan. It gained vast popularity there and started being associated with Japanese beliefs for nature, harmony and balance. That is why it is widely but falsely believed that koi ponds are originally Japanese.

ARE KOI PONDS JAPANESE?

The first decorative water formations originate from ancient Persia and ancient China. Japanese gardens are famous for their serenity, harmony and balance but they draw inspiration from the Chinese gardens. For 2500 years classic Chinese parks and water gardens have contained one and more ponds together with bridges, pavilions and flowers.

The Chinese believed that a garden is a living organism that brings balance, sooths the spirit and uplifts a person’s emotional well-being. The rocks symbolize the bones of an organism; the water is blood and the plants are the lungs. Eventually, the practice was exported to Japan. The fish was introduced by Chinese invaders.  It gained a lot of popularity there with a vast and better advertising. That is why it is widely believed that koi ponds are originally Japanese.

Koi fish also originate from China. They are a cold water fish and easily adapt to different climates. That is why their domestication was easy and people prefer koi for their ponds until nowadays. Koi were also bred for color mutations in China more than a thousand years ago. The first recorded cases of koi domestication originate from the 4th century China.

Even though koi ponds are not originally Japanese, the word ‘koi’ comes from the Japanese reading of classical Chinese words. In Japanese ‘koi’ is a variation of another word that means affection and love. Once koi ponds became popular in Japan, the fish quickly turned into a national symbol that carries the meaning of love and friendship.

ARE ANY KOI JAPANESE?

No koi fish are originally Japanese. In fact, the fish itself entered the country quite late in history and was developed from Amur carp in the 1820s. Modern Japanese koi are believed to date back to early 19th century Japan where wild, colorful carp were caught, kept and bred by rice farmers.

ARE KOI GOOD FOR PONDS?

Not only are koi good for ponds but they are the preferred fish for ponds. This breed is very adaptable, usually prefers cooler waters and can live in a variety of temperatures. It is no coincidence that most koi ponds in gardens and back yards are full of koi.

All you need to do is to provide them with adequate care and environment that is as close to their natural habitat as possible. You need a spacious pond (koi reach big sizes); proper aeration; all necessary air pumps and bubblers; water plants; best quality food. A pond is an artificial water basin that does not move naturally and cannot produce the same level of oxygen like a stream or a river for example. Koi themselves are not difficult to keep alive but without the proper living conditions any aquatic organism would die.

ARE KOI PONDS HARD TO MAINTAIN?

Yes, a koi pond is not difficult to take care of. As long as you invest in all necessary equipment and feed the fish properly, you will not have any issues with your koi pond. Let’s take a look at some basic factors to have in mind, before proceeding to an actual construction:

  • Space
  • Air pump(s)
  • Bubbler(s)
  • Waterfall
  • Water plants
  • Food
  • Depth

Koi fish reach big sizes. Make sure you provide them with enough space to swim once they grow. Free movement is a must for the koi fish and vital factor for their health and survival.

There is no natural penetration of oxygen into a pond due to its ever still surface. Air pumps are a must. Their role is to literary import oxygen from the air into the pond.

Bubblers ensure moving water layers and prevent algae from overgrowth.

A waterfall ensures a moving surface that ‘inhales’ oxygen particles from the air and ‘exhales’ back into the water.

Water plants produce oxygen and provide a healthy bacteria balance of the pond water.

Always buy the best quality food for your fish. Make informed choices and never give them fish junk food.

A koi pond should be 3 feet deep at least and not areas should be shallower than 2 feet. Depending on where you live, any shallower ponds can be an invitation for different animals – herons, raccoons and any other predators around.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF KOI PONDS?

In one word the purpose of a koi pond is purely decorative. It is meant to provide beauty, harmony and tranquility in your garden and your life. These ponds are a part of the overall landscape. They symbolize health, prosperity, love and friendship.

Many people believe koi bring good luck and strength. A curious fact is that koi are known for swimming upstream no matter the conditions. This is a sign of resilience and strength of will.

Also, they are beautiful, brightly colored and sociable. They enjoy swimming around and playing into the water. They act as stress relievers and bring balance and emotional tranquility.

Compared to dogs and cats they are much easier to take care of and do not require so much time and attention.

Finally, they raise the value of your property. If you decide to sell, koi ponds are a very attractive amenity and can play a key role in how quickly your home will be sold and for what price.

IN CONCLUSION

Originally koi ponds are not Japanese. The practice of decorative ponds and gardens first began in 4th century China. The koi fish is a derivative of carp and first appeared in China. People noticed its adaptability and resilience to different conditions and started domesticating it. Eventually, the Chinese achieved a breeding of bright orange color. In the 19th century the fish was introduced to Japan by Chinese invaders. The culture of koi ponds and decorative gardens spread quickly and today the koi fish is a national symbol of Japan and bearer of health, harmony and happiness.

In China, it was believed that a garden with a pond is a living organism – the rocks are the bones, the water – blood and the plants – the lungs. That is why such gardens are designed with a lot of care and attention to details. It is believed that having one sooths the human spirit and elevates it.

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