Your family is expanding to include a dog and koi fish. You are over the moon with glee over the new addition(s), but you are nervous about how they will get along.
Do dogs like koi fish? Do koi fish like dogs? Will they live in harmony together? What should I add to the pond to keep birds of prey away? What happens if my dog does eat my koi fish?
All of these are common questions, and all will be answered thoroughly. Here is your ultimate guide to having both a dog and koi fish as pets.
What should I know about koi fish?
First things first: Let’s talk about the benefits of having a koi fish.
While they may not always be deemed a classic pet, those who bring them into the family fall for their charm. In an outdoor garden pond or aquarium, koi fish can be an incredibly calming addition.
While many people think they are related to goldfish, koi fish are actually more closely related to the common carp.
Koi fish can grow very large. In fact, with proper care, koi fish can grow up to be somewhere between two and three feet in length. So, if you are thinking of introducing a koi fish into an existing pond, then you need to think carefully about whether or not your pond is large enough to sustain a full-grown koi.
Additionally, on average, a pet koi will survive to be between 20 to 30 years old. However, it has been recorded that some koi live for more than 200 years! Can you imagine that?
In order for your koi fish to live a long time and to have a healthy life, they must exist in a healthy environment that boasts high-grade filtration and water quality, and no sharp edges as they can injure themselves.
How do you make sure your koi fish aren’t stressed? Ensure that the water quality is right, there are no parasites around, and that they have plenty of space to swim around.
You may be surprised to hear, but koi fish are so friendly that they may even break the surface to say hello to you. If they do, pat them on the head and hand feed them.
How do dogs usually act when seeing a koi pond?
Generally, upon first seeing a koi pond, dogs have the urge to shoot around it and examine the sturdiness of the stones around the side. You should absolutely let them do this, in order to get them comfortable with having it in the back garden.
While running around, your puppy or dog may also sniff at the water, and maybe even jump around on the rocks and in the streams. Eventually, dogs will grow confident enough to jump into the pond, except of course, if they hate water, like cats.
Cats notably hate water, and even if they rest along the edge of your pond, they won’t have sufficient support or ability to stretch all the way into the pond and grab a fish. That being said, both cats and dogs will perch and watch fish for hours as if hypnotized.
Will my dog eat my koi fish?
To be clear, yes, most dogs will consume a koi fish if they witness an available opportunity. Let’s say that a koi fish is out of the pond, flopping around on the grass; you better believe that your dog is going to go and investigate (and perhaps get a mid-afternoon snack).
However, most dogs won’t put in the necessary effort required to actually catch koi from a pond. And, even if they do attempt to, the majority of dogs will be incredibly unsuccessful.
Only if a dog has incredible hunting abilities and speedy reaction times will he or she be able to grasp and devour your koi from the pond.
The most likely scenario is that your dog chooses to sit for hours looking into the pond and watching the koi. When you first introduce your dog to the koi pond, take the time to examine how he or she acts to be able to adequately ascertain whether he or she is sincerely pursuing the koi, or merely enthralled by their beautiful color and graceful movement.
How do I hinder my dog from eating my koi fish?
That being said, you want to take as many security measures as possible for preventing your dog from eating your koi fish. The steps you need to exert will depend on your particular dog and how they tend to behave.
Install a special mesh netting placed across the pond. It will not only protect your fish from your dog, but also from a variety of predators. The downside to this is that some dogs may get themselves trapped in the net.
Opt to install motion sensors that emit sound or streams of water when something (your dog) approaches. This tends to startle dogs and stops them from going any further into the pond.
Have sprinklers around the pond that can be set to begin at regular intervals.
If my dog does eat my koi fish, will he be safe?
Just for a worst-case scenario: If your dog does manage to eat a koi fish, what will happen?
Well, koi fish aren’t necessarily harmful to your dog; in fact, they contain protein and oils that will be beneficial for your dog. However, the small bones inside the koi fish will be the issue. These small bones can be very dangerous for dogs as they may become stuck in their throat and damage their stomach and intestinal tract.
If your dog consumes any kind of raw fish, this can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Furthermore, if the koi fish had a parasite, this will also be transferred to your dog.
In other words, you really don’t want your dog to be consuming your koi fish.
Will my dog protect my koi fish?
One of the benefits of having a dog and koi fish is that your dog may actually protect the pond. As long as he or she doesn’t consider hunting and eating the koi fish, then your dog will most likely shoo away other animals who want to.
For example, herons and racoons regularly target koi in small ponds as they are such easy prey. But, if your dog barks or chases these birds and animals away, then they are a lot less likely to come back and attempt to snatch a morning meal.
A dog can actually be a beneficial addition to your koi pond security force!
Should I add a fish cave to the pond?
Every homeowner with a koi fish pond should opt to have at least one fish cave or “koi house” placed inside it. Both of these additions give your koi fish a location to retreat to in order to shelter themselves from predators.
A koi house is usually a sturdy mesh cage that lies on the bottom of your pond, while a fish cave is virtually concealed from sight in some part of the pond. Both of these cages and caves can also be placed underwater and will work as a hideaway spot for your koi fish, just in case your dog or another animal does invade the pond.
If a predator approaches your pond, the koi will swim into their cage or cave, and remain there until the predator leaves.
You should definitely add at least one of these areas for your koi fish, just in case your dog does decide to show off his swimming skills.
What else should I add to the pond to ensure the safety of my koi fish?
Even if you don’t have a dog, you still really need to put in some effort and planning for ways to protect your koi pond from other predators. Luckily, there are a lot of tried and tested manners through which you can do this.
In addition to rock caves, you should look into adding these to your koi pond.
● Mechanical and biological filter
One of the most significant problems that your koi fish may encounter is parasites. These bacteria can be lethal for your koi fish, and it is crucial that you do your best to keep them protected. In order to keep the parasites at bay, install a good mechanical and biological filter in your pond to ensure your fish remain protected from parasites and other diseases such as fin rot and ulcers.
● Natural bacterial sponges
By adding natural bacterial sponges (such as Anacharis plants) to your koi pond, you will encourage healthy bacteria to grow.
● Floating mesh
One of the easiest ways to prevent predators from grabbing your beautiful fish is to purchase some floating mesh. This UV resistant black polypropylene material ties around the edge of your pond and will be almost invisible. So it won’t block your sight of the pond, but it will mean that other animals can’t stretch into it.
● An electric fence
If you are really concerned about the safety of your koi fish, then you may want to add an electric fence around the edges of your pond. If you are considering this, keep in mind that an electric fence can be incredibly dangerous for children and dogs and is still useless when it comes to birds of prey.
● A scarecrow
One of the oldest tricks in the book, if you live in an area with a lot of birds of prey, you may want to put up a scarecrow near the pond. Whether you DIY it at home or you purchase it from a store, a scarecrow is always an effective way to scare off birds. However, other animals may become used to it, and therefore it won’t hinder them too much.
Do koi enjoy residing with other fish?
As a matter of fact, koi are actually very gentle, social fish and they very much enjoy living in pairs or groups. If you want to add other breeds of fish to the pond, you can be assured that the koi will be welcoming and won’t try to eat or fight with the new additions.
However, if you are considering adding other breeds of fish, you need to make sure that they will be just as friendly back to the koi fish.
Also, keep in mind that the new fish require the same habitat as your koi and that their nutritional requirements are the same.
How do I ensure they live in harmony?
If you follow all these above tips, there is a very good chance that your dog and your koi fish will be able to live in absolute harmony together. While it may take a little bit of time (and trust) between the two of them, your dog will eventually begin to accept the pond and the fish that are swimming around in it.
Just like with anything you add to their scenery, over time, the koi pond will become familiar to your dog, and they will lose interest. They may even stop staring at the fish so incessantly when they realize that they aren’t going to play with them. In other words, soon enough they will be back to the ball!
So, there you have it, the ultimate guide to having a dog and koi fish as pets! As you can hopefully tell, it isn’t impossible to have both, and with a few precautions in place, your family can include both a four-legged furry friend and an elegant finned friend.
Do you have a dog and koi fish? What are your experiences regarding getting them to live in harmony? Do you have any tips or tricks? Let us know in the comments below! We would love to hear from you!
Farah Al-Khojai is the Managing Partner of Pet’s Delight. A passionate entrepreneur, Farah holds a Bsc in Government from the London School of Economics. She is always on the lookout for new opportunities to develop and grow the pet and equestrian retail and wholesale market in the UAE and beyond, and is proud to be at the helm of the first and the largest pet care provider in the market representing world-class brands including Orijen, Applaws, Hunter, Savic, Flamingo, Ruffwear and Rogz.