Today we will show that aquatic plants and koi can coexist.
Koi also known as “living jewels” in the ponding world have been known to eat countless aquatic plants in ponds across the globe. By being proactive it is indeed possible to enjoy both in your ponds and water gardens. Remember that koi are curious and intelligent so you’ll need to get ahead of them!
Get your plants setup
We will begin by speaking generally about pot sizes. You will want to correlate the size of your koi with the size of your plant container. If your pots are small, they can nudge and move them around and potentially knock them over. Furthermore, it is quite possible for them to “root” or “dig” into the substrate of your pots. How can you prevent this? Ensure the following
- Use a large pot / container that is more wide than tall aka squat pots.
- Cover the substrate of your plants with rock. We highly recommend large river rock or pieces of flagstone. Pea gravel is far too small. The koi will move the pea gravel and create a mess with minimal effort. Be sure not to allow the rock to suffocate the crown of the plant–leave a small space between!
- Grow young plants outside of pond and transfer after they are full-sized.
For marginal & bog plants, you can place them pond side in the dirt or put them in the pond. If your pond is deep, you can use concrete blocks, milk crates or something similar to raise to the appropriate water level. Typically bog & marginal plants will do best will just a few inches of water over the pot.
Lily-like aquatics may or may not work out due to the fact that new foliage is very soft and thus easy for the koi to eat. There are plant cages that you can purchase that will protect most of the plant.
Submerged plants and floating plants are likely to be the first attacked. They can be regarded as delicacies. Anacharis may be gobbled up but Hornwort may not because it has a bitter taste. For floating plants, such as water hyacinth and water lettuce it is the roots that are consumed. For tiny floater plants, such as Duckweed or Azolla, everything is eaten. You can save these plants by moving them to a stream or another protected part of your pond.
Water lilies can also grow in a koi pond. You will want to be sure you plant a mature plant in a large pot. Small starts will be eaten and should be grown to full size in another pool of water before transferring into pond. Remember to place flagstone or large river rock over the substrate and to use concrete blocks or milk crates to raise closer to the surface as many koi ponds are several feet deep.
Summary of plants and koi
Just because a koi eats plants in one pond does not mean that your plants will be eaten by your koi. To restate that, not all koi eat plants. Surely, you have visited your local water garden store and seen plants in a koi pond!
If your koi are young, introducing plants early will reduce the chances that they will find your new favorite pond plant a delicacy.
When in doubt, experiment. You know you’ll enjoy your koi pond more when there are plants around!
Looking for more proof? Visit CJ’s adventures in ponding.