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Hanover Koi Farms Newsletter Issue #5 June 2009
Hi EveryoneJohn Fornaro

Well so far the 2009 season has been very good. Business has literally doubled again (as in every previous year). This year however, this increase has put a strain on me and I was getting behind in the everyday farm work around here. This is a good problem to have though, so I am not complaining about this increase in business at all. However I was also lagging behind in answering email and phone messages due to the increased work load. This part is unacceptable, and I promise it will be corrected to the best of my ability.
I am very pleased that we keep getting more and more new customers, and that our existing ones keep coming back time and time again. No business could ask for more.
As most of you are already aware, this increase in business and farm work has prompted a change in my business hours for walk-in sales at the farm. We are now open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10 AM until 5 PM. The farm will now be closed on Mondays thru Thursdays so I can keep up with this increased work load, and still be able to supply the highest quality service and fish to all of you.
Again let me thank everyone for their continued support and friendship. Yes that's right I said friendship. I have made many new friends over the years and it makes the whole experience much better and more comfortable then a "normal" business.
Thanks again for your continued patronage and support.


This & That
Below are my opinions on various products based on my own experiences and knowledge. As you will see, I am tired of seeing people being sucked in by the "hype" and wasting their money. If you believe they are working. then learn the science and in my opinion you will quickly discover they are a waste of time and money and you are being fooled into thinking they are working

  • Find out the true gallons of your pond now. Not when it is too late and you need to treat the fish in it and don't know the gallons for sure. If you used the measuring formula of Length x width x average depth x 7.48, and your pond is an irregular shape with multiple depths, you will be 25% to 50% off. Most likely you will over estimate substantially! You can find out how to do it accurately here: Koi Treatments

  • NEVER use products like Algae Fix, or Accu Clear,  (or similar chemicals/flocculates) to kill algae in your pond or to clear the water. They have been responsible for killing more fish than anything on the market. It's not always the direct fault of the products, as it can be the users error in dosing at times.  Let me say at minimum however....beware! As a matter of fact, learn the science behind "why" you have algae to begin with, then learn to prevent it before it starts. Stop using "Band-Aid" to attempt to correct things.

  • For those that have chlorinated water, ALWAYS put the dechlorinator in PRIOR to adding the new water in the pond when doing water changes.

  • When needed, NEVER add salt  to the pond directly in with the fish. Always dissolve it first or add it to places like streams, filters, skimmers, etc. It is ok to add as the crystal form in these types of places that it is not in direct contact with the fish while dissolving.

  • The only reason to have salt in the pond is for sick fish or in cases where nitrite is present. Otherwise no salt should be added.

  • Check the parameters of your source water, be it tap, well, or spring. All of these can contain ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, heavy metals, and other toxins to fish,  and can also have poor pH and kH. As well, note that these parameters can change seasonally, so check multiple times of the year. Just prior to water changes or additions is best, as this is when it is most important to compare these parameters to that of the pond water. The greater the difference in these parameters, the more possible risk in hurting the fish if the water addition or replacement is done improperly or too quickly. Also note that many folks have poor quality source water with regards to fish, so water changes are NOT always a good thing if done too frequently. You will read and hear in some places that water changes are a good thing and should be done weekly/monthly etc., but this is not always true. It depends on the quality of the source water. There are also many other toxins we do not regularly test for in water. This is why it is a good idea to get your water tested by a qualified lab. Tell them you are interested in its properties as they relate to fish and fish toxicity.
  • Do not use rain water collected from your house gutters. Many shingles contain toxins that can be harmful to fish. As well, if you use rainwater collected by a safe method, it will still need to be treated for kH and pH prior to its use for fish. Rain usually is very acidic and has a pH of 6 or less. Not good for fish.
  • Stop wasting your money on products like MicrobeLift. In my opinion it is just another "Band-Aid" and there is lots of "hype" in the marketing of these and similar products.. In some cases the various formulas can even be "snake oils" and not worth the price or the risk associated with them. Again let me say "learn the science and you will see for yourself".
  • Don't use those testing "strips" for testing your water. They are inaccurate and inconsistent. Use the liquid dropper type as those by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals/Pond Care. See the article on water testing in this same issue of the newsletter.

Monthly Contest Question

Each monthly newsletter will have a question or questions that if answered correctly (according to me) will make you eligible to win valuable prizes.

The specific answers to every question for this contest should be found somewhere on my website or in current and past newsletters. These are the only answers I will accept as correct and each question will have only one correct answer.

Last issues winner:

The winner for the March Newsletter contest question was  Rod Piper of Saint Thomas PA. The answer was the ratio of salt to nitrite to protect fish is 20 to 1 or 20 parts salt for every one part nitrite in the water. This also equates to .02% (point zero two percent) salt for every 1 ppm nitrite. Congratulations Rod! Look for for prize in the mail soon!

This issue's question is:

Where is the best place to purchase Koi in the USA?

The names of everyone that answers this question correctly will be put into a hat and one winner will be chosen. This month's winner will win a 5 Lb bag of our own high quality,  high protein (42%) Koi and Goldfish food. All answers must be submitted prior to the next issue of the newsletter being sent out in order to be eligible for the drawing.

Please e-mail all answers to: [email protected]


Water Testing 101

Well hopefully by now most of you understand how important testing you water is in keeping fish alive and healthy. As well I hope that not too many of you learned this the hard way. I can't tell you how many times folks come to the farm that have had ponds for years, and they tell me they have never tested their water. I then proceed to tell them how lucky they have been, and that it is simply a matter of time before they lose all their fish to water quality issues. Some take my advice and learn about and begin testing. Some don't and they always come back to restock their ponds at some point after they do kill them all. These are my favorite customers, as I can sell them lots of new fish. Not really. I hate to see people kill their entire population of pets. I have a sign posted at the farm that reads like this; "Don't test your water? That's ok...... I have plenty more fish to sell you when you kill those". Hopefully this helps get the message across before they kill their fish.

As for the type of test kits to use, I recommend the liquid dropper type kits. Specifically I use and recommend the type made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals (AP for short) under the name Pond Care. We will discuss their use in detail in a minute.

I DO NOT recommend using the "strip" type kits as these are inaccurate and inconsistent. These are the type that utilize specially treated strips of special paper that react with  various color changes when dipped into the sample water. They are then compared to color charts of some sort.Things like humidity, temperature, and light all contribute to the inaccuracies of these tests. If they are not stored properly, you will get bad readings. Even when they are stored properly they are very inaccurate. So don't waste your time or money on these types of tests.

As previously mentioned above, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals (AP) are the kind I recommend, as they are reasonably priced and accurate enough as well. These utilize liquid reagents put into a measured vile of water and then compared to a color chart. Each test for various parameters usually have a different set of colors and color chart that are associated with them.

Before going further, I would like to stop here and say one thing however, regarding certain recommendations that are given for certain tests/test results. Based on various results, AP and other manufacturers give recommendations as to what are safe levels of certain toxins, as well as what to do to remedy certain things when the parameters are not favorable. IGNORE THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS from their instruction sheets as they are quite often incorrect and can even be harmful to fish at times. AP's directions are fairly good, but I will say that they market certain other products like Stress coat and Stresszyme based on the test results you may get.  I do not recommend either of these products AT ALL. Also certain other test kit manufacturers  (not AP)suggest that low levels of ammonia and/or nitrite are may be OK.  There is no such thing as safe levels of ammonia or nitrite I am here to tell you that you need ZERO ammonia and zero nitrite and zero is the only safe level of either of these toxins. If you have any amount of either of these in the pond, you should add an ammonia binder for the ammonia, and/or salt at .02% (point zero two percent) for every one ppm of nitrite.
Now with that said, you have to understand however that adding ammonia binder for ammonia, and salt for nitrite, does not make these toxins go away. They will however protect the fish until they do go away through the nitrification process. As for ammonia binders, they to will not make ammonia go away as stated, but they simply bind it and/or turn it into a non toxic form. There are however some ammonia removers on the market, so know which you may be using. You will still read ammonia  with the ammonia binders on certain types of ammonia test kits., and this is what you desire. Whether bound or not, you need to know when the ammonia is still there, and when it goes away. For example, AP make a Nesslers type of ammonia test kit. This utilizes only one reagent for testing and if you add certain ammonia binders or inhibitors you can get false readings. This is why I recommend the salicylate type of ammonia test. AP offers both types so make sure you get the one that incorporates two reagents for each test. This is the salicylate type that has two liquid reagents you need to add for each testing of ammonia.

Now talking specifically about the AP test kits, let go over some hints and suggestions I have for you. Firstly let's discuss how to properly look at and  compare the test color to the chart colors. Any of the AP kits that have a color chart can and should be read this same way. One of the most important things is to hold the test vile just at the top of the colors on each chart as shown in the photo below. Actually I usually  position it so that the bottom of the vile is even with the top of the color we are comparing the sample to. In the photo it is shown  positioned slightly above the color on the chart and this can make it tough to compare at times. So  try holding it the way I describe and make  the bottom of the vile even with the top of the color on the chart.
Another hint when you are having trouble discerning the colors, is to close your least dominant eye, and use only the dominant eye to look at the colors.

Now the biggest thing to remember with these AP tests is to NOT hold the vile directly against the color chart. instead hold it about 1/4" to 1/2" off of the white background of the card as shown in the photo below.


Another important aspect of testing with the AP kits is to follow the directions exactly when it comes to the times you must wait for certain tests to complete. For example, the ammonia and nitrite tests require that you wait five minutes after mixing the reagents with the test water. It is very important to time this accurately because if you do it too soon or too late you will get incorrect readings possibly.  You need to wait the five minutes to read the colors not 4 minutes and not 6 minutes or longer.
Another important test is kH. AP also makes a good kit for this. However, sometimes there is confusion with their direction sheet. It seems they use the same direction sheet to discuss both kH (carbonate hardness) and GH (general hardness). These are not the same so make sure you follow the correct directions for kH. With this test there is no color chart. Instead you add one drop of reagent to the test vile and count the number of drops it takes for the water to turn from blue to yellow. It is therefore critical to do this test one drop at a time because the exact drop it takes that turns the water from blue to yellow is the number your kH is. As an example, the first drop should turn the sample water blue. If it does not turn blue on the first drop then your kH is too low to measure with this test kits, and you surely need to increase it with baking soda. You can read about this in the article on my website entitled "The Science of Water" So for the sake of this example let's say the first drop you put in the sample turns the water blue. Now take the cap off the vile and add the second drop, recap and invert the vile. If the water is still blue you continue these same steps (one drop at a time) and be sure to count the number of drops. Whatever number drops it takes to turn the water from blue to yellow is your kH reading in degrees of German hardness. So for the sake of this example if on the third drop the water turns from blue to yellow, then your kH would be 3 degrees of German hardness. You can refer to the article above to read more about kH and its importance in your pond. It is one of the most important parameters to monitor and it needs to be maintained at certain levels with the addition of baking soda.
Culling Starting Soon !

As most of you are aware, every year at some point after spawning we start the culling process of the fry. Culling is where we look through each and every baby and pick only the best to grown on further. This is done for a multitude of reasons.

On average Koi lay from 10,000 to 30,000 eggs for every kilogram of body weight.  The largest fish can lay upwards from one half million! As you can imagine that is a lot of eggs. In nature most of those eggs would not survive past their first day as just about every living critter in the water eat them. This includes the parents! As a matter of fact, I would say that the parents are responsible for eating most of them. Then, even when some make it to hatching there are still lots of critters that gobble up on the fry. This includes even certain insects. This is the reason that mother nature allows the females to lay so many, as this leaves better odds of some surviving.

Well in a controlled spawn as we do here at the farm, the largest percentage of the eggs hatch because we control predation and also supply optimal spawning and hatching conditions. This leaves us with way too many fish to deal with because of the larger percentage of hatching success we achieve as compared to what would occur in nature. It is for this reason we must play the role of mother nature and sort through the weak and inferior fish and cull them out of the population so that the strong and higher quality fish may thrive. In nature these inferior fry or eggs would not have survived anyway as nature always weeds out the weak.

Here at the farm all of our culls are fed to the game fish we keep in our largest mud pond. So as you can see nothing is wasted. Some farms even process the culls back into Koi feed and other pet industry feeds.

Depending on the variety of Koi in a given mud pond, we do anywhere from three to six separate culls throughout the summer growing season. Each variety develops differently and and varied time frames so this means that we can cull certain varieties at a younger age/size than other varieties. Culling usually begins when the fry are at one month old and one inch in size, but again this all depends on their growth as well as the type/variety of Koi we are culling. Because each variety develops at different time intervals, it is important that we put the spawn of like varieties in a given mud pond. In other words we try to put varieties that will develop at the same phase in a given pond as this makes the culling process much easier and more efficient.

The culling process is very tedious and amazingly physically demanding. As shown in the photo above, we put a small number of fish in a specially set up tub to sort through them and pick the good from the bad. There are many deformities as well that we need to look for. After looking through thousands of fish, while humped over this tub it is amazing the wear and tear your back goes through. As well, it can be vary difficult on your eyes as you are straining and concentrating on looking closely at these small fish.

Every season we invite a small number of customers to participate in the culling process. So if you think you would be interested in trying it, simply watch my website in the "News and Events" pages for dates and times we plan to cull. It lots of fun and we always have a good time. I will say however, that it can be a long day, as we have to finish once we start. At times we are looking through hundreds of thousands of fish in one day!
I Am Seeing Red!

Is the fish in this photo red or not?

Over the years I can say that the two favorite colors in Koi to the average American hobbyist are yellow and red. Let's talk about red and all that goes with it.
I wish I had a nickle for every time a customer came to the farm and said they wanted a "truly" red Koi or one with "red:" in it. Firstly there are many interpretations of what "true" red really is, and I have found that there are as many shades of it as there are opinions on the subject of what is red and what is not.
 We need to start at the beginning. Most hobbyist do not realize how Koi start in life as compared to how they finish with respects to colors and patterns. Depending on the variety the changes can be quite extreme and even unbelievable. When speaking of red in particular, no variety that can be red starts as red at a young age. As well, there are many, many factors that play a role in if a fish is red and what shade of red verses orange it may end up. Diet, genetics and many water parameters also play a role in color. The amount and type of minerals in the water are a big factor as well. Even the color of the water the fish lives in is critical.
Kohaku for example are the red and white Koi that most people recognize. See the photo below.

Well, even though they end up as beautifully patterned red or orange and white fish, they all start off in life as what appears to be a solid pale orangy color. At a given point the orange begins to break up and a pattern begins to appear as the white beneath comes to the surface. Here are some Kohaku fry at one moth old and around one inch long.

As you can see the transformation from fry to mature fish is quite extreme.

Take Showa as another example. The are probably one variety with the most extreme changes of all the Koi varieties. Here are some Doitsu Showa, and they are the parents of some of the fry in the photos below as well.

Now look at some of the offspring of these same fish at one month old.

Sanke is another variety that can be red. As you will see, these as well start off in life far different then how they can end up with maturity and proper conditions and diet. Here they are when they are mature.

 Below are some Sanke fry at one month old.  as you can see there is again a huge difference.

Now below are some Sanke Tosai. These fish are less than but close to one year old. As you can see one is red and one is orange but the color difference can be subtle at times. Both of these Sanke will be cherry red when they mature as long as the conditions permit it. The genetics are there for red for sure.

Now here is a metallic variety called a Kujaku. These fish have an iridescent color that can be orange or reddish.

Now look at these Kujaku fry at one month old.

Here you can really see how much they change from fry to adult fish. This is yet another extreme example.

Red is also a very delicate and sometimes unstable color. This is especially true when talking about color enhancing feeds. It is my opinion that if you use color enhancing food for fish that are too young that you can actually destroy their color over the long run. While it is very possible to hurry the orange to red transition along using color feeds on young fish, you are also causing even more instability in the red color. Many times on fish that have been fed color enhanced food while young they will often lose the red color completely as they mature. This happens quite commonly in imported fish. The main reason is that the Japanese and other foreign producers of Koi know that Americans like red, and that they are also very impatient. For this reason many foreign breeders feed the young fish very high test color enhanced feeds prior to shipping them to the USA. Some of these feeds contain as much as 14% spirolina, which is a color enhancing algae used in feeds. A normal color enhanced feed may normally contain only about 2% spirolina. So as you can see they higher percentage is much higher than the norm. In many cases it will absolutely turn orange to red in a short time, but it will also make the red very unstable and weak. As stated, many times it will disappear as the fish grows and matures. So do you want the red now, only to disappear later? ....or do you want the red to come over time and more naturally and  remain for a greater portion of the fishes life?
 While I am and have been developing better genetics and creating more naturally red fish at younger ages, I am at the same time not sacrificing stability in that color. There is still only a small percentage of stable red fish when they are still young. So beware young fish that are too red for their age. If most of the population of a given breeder or retailers young fish are too red at too young and age, they may have been fed these high test color enhanced feeds. It's a gamble to say the least, Be patient and the red will come in time as long as you supply the proper diet and water conditions, and as long as the genetics allow it.

Hanover Koi Farms LLC
1332 Moulstown Rd. N
Hanover, Pennsylvania 17331
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Written by John Fornaro, Hanover Koi Farms. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY HANOVER KOI FARMS, COPYRIGHT © 2017

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