By Léo Azambuja

A koi pond is not for the faint of heart. It can give you a lot of joy, but if you don’t do it right, there will be plenty of headaches. If you have no patience for landscaping or gardening, chances are you’ll spend time and money building and supplying your fishpond, but not taking proper care of it, only to kill the poor fish.

I know, koi are fish, not plants. But it’s not like you’re getting a pet to play with. Keeping a fishpond involves a lot of gardening-like type of work, and sometimes even some masonry work. The bottom of my cement-lined pond once cracked, and I had to mix cement and redo the whole thing — without ever having worked with cement before.

If all this fits your lifestyle or if it’s a hobby you are one hundred percent sure will last as one of your priorities, go for it. Or, if you bought a home that came with a fishpond, which is my case, you’ll have no choice but to convince yourself it’s meditation. Unless you hire someone to break apart the fishpond, likely costing a small fortune.

I opted for fooling myself in believing I love it. For the most part, it has worked, though sadly, I did lose a few pretty big fish in the last 15 years.

There are many different types of fishpond. If you are unsure you want to commit to taking care of it, you can start small. Smaller ponds can be built without too much damage to the property, and can be removed easily. But a bigger pond, though a more permanent structure and more expensive to build, may be easier to maintain. You can install an outside pump and filter, and all you have to do is unscrew the top of the filter to clean it.

My pond is small, perhaps 10 feet by 4 feet. I have two underwater filters, and during the summer, I have to clean them at least twice a week. My pond is on the side of my house, right before the entrance door. One of my goals is to add a roof over it, mainly because the direct sunlight, especially in the hot summer months, creates more algae, and therefore increases debris. It’s really not that fun to get inside the pond to remove the dirty filters from the pumps and the water fountain — twice a week. The summer heat also increases evaporation, and I have to add water on a daily basis.

If by now I didn’t totally convince you to give up on the idea of having a fishpond, you’re in for a treat. Once your pond is up and running, it can be really fun and relaxing. One of my favorite things to do when I come home after work is to sit down on my chair next to the pond, and hang out with one of my dogs while sipping a well-deserved beer.

I don’t really understand much of koi breeding; all I know is that it’s not that easy. I also know if you put floating plants with long roots, the fish will lay eggs there. But they’ll also eat the eggs, and sometimes the roots of the plants. I’ve caught my adult fish feasting on their own caviar, so I put a bunch of lava rocks separating the area where the eggs were. I have about a dozen long-finned koi, and most of them were born in my pond. They are beautiful, with their unique, different colors, and graceful with their long, flowing fins. It’s like meditation just to look at them swim around.

It really is gratifying to hang out by the fishpond. I love it regardless of how much work it takes. I didn’t know anything about fishponds before I bought my house. Though I’m no professional, I learned a lot through trial and error over the years. Today I can say I enjoy all of it, even the not-so-fun part of getting wet and dirty. Otherwise I wouldn’t know how rewarding it is to have a clean and good-looking fishpond. Besides, my fish are somewhat tame, and actually let me pet them to a certain degree when I clean the pond. They’re kinda slimy, but I still love them.

I’m really no expert; I just give advice based on my mistakes and when I occasionally get it right. If you’re really set on building a fishpond, there are a few good, resourceful businesses on island that can help you do everything right from the start. You can easily find them through an online search. That’s the best advice I wish I had heard years ago. Trust me.