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Top 7 Tips to Protect Your Koi During a Power Failure

Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.

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Koi Are Vulnerable to Power Interruptions

The reasons electricity fails are numerous. Think of a bad storm, a grid problem or equipment failure. During a power loss, most pet owners only suffer the annoyance of sitting in the dark, or missing their favourite television program. However, koi keepers dread a prolonged absence of power. Koi need electricity to survive. Without it, equipment stop working and water conditions deteriorate. When fish die, the loss is not always purely emotional. The death of valuable koi can cause a sizable financial setback.

It's All About Oxygen and Quality

The prospect of keeping your fish safe during an emergency could feel overwhelming. When the lights go out, remember that your main concerns surround only two things; making sure there's enough oxygen and that water quality doesn't deteriorate.

1. Stock up on Spare Equipment

When a pond goes sour, so to speak, all your eggs are in one basket. Remove your koi and divide them up between several show tanks equipped with battery-powered pumps and heaters. It's important that you store enough tanks, pumps, heaters, batteries and dechlorinating products. The amount of each item depends on how many fish you own.

2. Farm Your Fish out to Friends

The koi community understands that problems like disease, a cracked pond or a power loss can strike anyone. If you are lucky enough to have a network of fishy friends (and they're not affected by the blackout), ask if they could temporarily house your koi can in their show tanks. This is a good option when you have few or no tanks, or something prevents you from directly dealing with the situation, like an illness. Always provide any health concerns. You'll lose friends should they lose fish because one of your koi contaminated their shoal.

Koi Can Soil Water Quickly

When there's no equipment to clean the water, things can go wrong very fast for these fish.

When there's no equipment to clean the water, things can go wrong very fast for these fish.

3. Don't Feed Your Koi

One of the worst mistakes beginners make is to feed their fish during this time. It won't be easy to look away when your koi want food. These wonderful fish quickly associate humans with snacks, and then they gather en masse to beg near the edge of the pool or tank. Koi can go a week without eating. When you feel your resolve weakening, remember that when they feed, koi release large amounts of nitrates and ammonia. This is exactly what you want to avoid.

4. Test for Ammonia and Nitrates

Keep a record book and test kit handy. Check for ammonia and nitrates and write down the levels on a daily basis. It's critical to control these twin devils. The moment you notice either heading for dangerous levels, take the necessary steps rectify the situation. The quickest way is to perform a 30 percent water change. This dilutes both ammonia and nitrates. As a bonus, you'll also provide your fish with fresh oxygen. For this reason, do a 30 percent dechlorinated water change every day as long as the power is out.

5. Salt Your Fish

Another way to dilute nitrites is to add salt. All you need is ordinary kosher salt, around 10 pounds per 1,000 gallons. You must keep your salt levels around 1 percent; use a salt meter or a specially-designed kit. Don't use salt when, for some reason, other medications are added to the water.

Watch for Low Oxygen

When koi gasp near the surface, it's a big sign that oxygen levels are too low.

When koi gasp near the surface, it's a big sign that oxygen levels are too low.

6. How to Add Oxygen to a Pond

  • Use an inverter (the kind that plugs into your vehicle's cigarette lighter). It is strong enough to run an air pump
  • You can also use an inverter to power a 6-volt bilge pump. Place the pump outflow to run the water over a large piece of corrugated plastic before recycling back into the pond
  • Solar-powered aerators are another option, but they don't come cheap
  • A garden hose equipped with a mist nozzle can continuously spray water over the edge; oxygen from the air enters the pond that way (don't worry about dechlorinating the hose water if you're already doing dechlorinated 30 percent water changes)

7. Portable Battery

When it's better to keep your koi in the pond, consider a standby battery system. There are many portable models available, some elaborate enough to run everything from pumps to filters. Look for an easy recharge option and avoid the cheap type that falls apart after an hour. Purchase one with a guarantee and put it through a proper test run to make sure the system can support your pond.

The Good News

The worst case scenario—the death of all your fish—is completely avoidable. The only thing that gets your koi through a dark patch is proper preparation. The good news is that even the novice owner can gather all the “ingredients” and effectively manage this type of emergency. Don't think a prolonged power cut won't happen. Sooner or later it does and when you have a safety plan, your koi will survive.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Jana Louise Smit