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How to move your pond fish safely when moving house.
by Ben Helm*
Moving house (along with bereavement and getting married) is widely regarded as one of life’s most stressful experiences. There can be so many unpredictable variables that appear to conspire collaboratively to complicate the process, testing our patience to the limit.
Any typical house move will require meticulous planning to make sure that if nothing else, all of our earthly belongings can be moved safely between properties. The more fortunate ones can leave the packing and moving to professionals who have vast experience at easing wardrobes down flights of stairs and packing the most fragile of items so that they arrive intact at their destination.
Those of us with children can be faced with additional challenges (depending on the distances involved) while pets can add even further difficulties along the way. And if those pets are koi, we can be faced with making a host of complicated arrangements – Something that cannot and should not be left to the moving professionals.
Each house move will be unique with respect to its specific details, but when koi (or any pond fish) are involved, a number of steps need to be planned to make the move as hazard and stress-free as possible for our koi and ourselves.
Moving and Stress
Preparation – Before the move
Professional breeders prefer to move koi in cooler temperatures. The Environment Agency (the government body that is responsible for the quality of our waters and the life that they support) prefer to move and survey fish either side of the warmer months rather than handle fish in the summer time. At cooler temperatures, fish metabolism is reduced and because they are less active, they are easier to catch. Furthermore, where the transportation of koi is involved, they are better off transported in cooler temperatures as their demand for oxygen is reduced yet the water’s ability to hold oxygen is increased. Consequently, you can transport more fish, for longer periods in greater safety.
Unfortunately, during a house move we cannot choose to move our koi ‘out of season’ as our timing is dictated by estate agents and solicitors. But we can learn a few principles from the professionals and apply them where possible to our own move for the benefit of our koi.
Planning transport. Professionals that work in the fishery industry transport their stock in fibreglass tanks (approx 1 cubic metre) that are sited on the back of a pick-up truck. These tanks allow fish to enjoy a greater volume of water during transportation as well as the benefits of vigorous diffused aeration. Unfortunately, unless you have a willing contact in the fishery industry, this preferred method of transportation is not an option for house movers and you will have to rely on the way in which your koi entered the country – in polythene bags. Available from koi dealers, large clear bags and elastic bands are essential for moving koi.
A helping hand. Netting and bagging a collection of koi can be a lengthy and risky procedure and should be carried out as quickly and as cautiously as possible. Chasing koi around a pond will only stress all fish involved and lengthy periods of time spent in a bag while other koi are caught should be avoided. If koi are bagged soon after a prolonged ‘chase’ their rapid respiration rates while they recover will soon deplete the bagged water of oxygen. Ask a friend who you can work with in a team to shepherd and net fish calmly and efficiently one at a time. They can also help with the bagging up and carrying of bags to and from vehicles.
Transportation – The Move
A useful piece of equipment that can make life easier for you and your koi is a large floating cage net. Your koi can be netted at leisure and deposited into the floating cage, and then, when your bags and assistance is ready, the koi can be lifted swiftly into the bags, ready to be transported.
If possible, oxygen should be used to inflate the bags with the majority of the bag’s volume taken up with oxygen and the remaining 20% with koi and water. Bags should be double bagged to give extra protection against leaks and placed in either a box or a bin liner to cut out the light and hence reduce koi stress.
Risks involved in transporting koi
By identifying the potential hazards when
transporting koi, we can ensure that the risk of the hazards occurring can
be kept to a minimum.
To be realistic, moving house is likely to involve two moves for koi. As most moves involve leaving your old house and moving into your new house in a day, there is no scope at all for preparing a suitable pond at the new house, especially as one will probably take 4 weeks or so to start perform biologically. You may, as part of the sale agreement, be able to negotiate that your koi stay where they are for a month or so, giving you at least an opportunity to set up a temporary pond for your koi. This is only practical if you are not moving far and are allowed frequent, unhindered access to your fish and filter system.
Having secured your koi a new home, (whether an obliging koi keeping friend, or a mature, temporary system), the koi should be floated on the pond’s surface for 5 minutes for the temperatures to become equalised. The bags are then opened, necks rolled down and system water added to mix water the qualities and temperatures further, ready for their koi to be released. If koi are being added to a new system from a half-way-house, then only a handful of fish should be added at a time, following the same acclimatisation procedure.
Additional fish from your collection should only be added to your maturing temporary set-up once the water tests show that the filter is coping with the current levels of waste. The single most informative test is nitrite as this tends to be more persistent and more difficult for bacteria to breakdown than ammonia and once your filter can consistently produce a zero nitrite reading, then you can safely add more koi to your collection.
Helm: Author of The Water Gardener’s Bible
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