Koi more pets than hobby

Family Living Editor

Register/Jenelle Johnson
One of Gary Hoffmeier’s koi comes to the surface of the pond for a hearty helping of fish meal. During the summer months the fish are fed three times a day. Hoffmeier’s home will be one of the stops on the Molly Trolley’s Sunday koi tour.

Gary and Susan Hoffmeier have built a relaxing sanctuary in their backyard. Lush foliage surrounds a waterfall and an eight-foot-deep pond which houses his extensive collection of multicolored koi.
“I can’t think of anything more relaxing than Sue and I sitting around the pond, sipping coffee and feeding our koi,” he said.
Koi were developed in Japan from common carp and are distinguished by color, pattern and scales. Colors include white, black, red, yellow, blue and cream. Koi can average in price from a few dollars to a half million dollars.
Hoffmeier bought his first koi from a bait shop 15 years ago and said, “I still have that fish.”
Before a new fish is introduced to the pond it is keep in an isolation pond in the couple’s greenhouse for anywhere from six months to a year.
“We want to make sure a new koi is healthy before exposing it to our other fish,” he said. He has dozens.
Hoffmeier built his pond in 1997. A well was drilled on the property to supply fresh water. Every two hours a pump refreshes the pond’s water.
“I am lucky in that we have the well water and I don’t have to worry about chemicals in the water that might harm my fish,” he said.
Hoffmeier said he prefers to buy smaller fish, which average about $35 each, and watch them grow.
A koi can reach up to three feet long, depending on its genetic background. Old Brutus, which Hoffmeier has had about 10 years, is around two feet long.
During cold months a koi’s metabolism slows and the fish remain close to the bottom of the pond.
“My fish survive the cold weather just fine. I just have to make sure there is at least one hole in the ice to release ammonia from the pond,” he said.
Koi don’t eat in temperatures below 55 or above 85 degrees. During the summer Hoffmeier feeds his koi pellets three times a day. They also eat vegetables and are particularly fond of peas. However, just like fish in the wild, his koi could go several days without food.
“If we are gone I don’t worry about feeding them; just that someone comes by to check that the pumps are running,” he said.
Hoffmeier is president of the Kansas Koi Club which meets each month in Wichita.
Koi are like any hobby, he said: you have to be willing to invest money and time.
Keeping koi takes work and knowledge. The average life expectancy of a koi bought by a novice handler is two weeks. It is not unusual for an experienced koi enthusiast in the United States to have a fish for 20 to 40 years.
“I have heard of koi living as long as 200 years in Japan. I guess they are handed down from generation to generation as part of a person’s estate,” he said.
Hoffmeier said anyone who would like to learn more about the handling of koi may contact him.