Raising the spawn.
I don't claim to be an expert (on anything) and the following information is just what I've used over the years that has worked for me. Take it for what it is and modify to your liking. Don't even think about this if you don't have some extra time. The fry will need a lot of attention every day for the first month. There is also a considerable amount of money needed to raise a large koi spawn, food, housing and beer, oh yea, some money for the fry expenses, also. Breeding goldfish or for that matter even koi is not done for the money at a small scale operation like I have. It would be much cheaper to just buy market size fry by the lot and resell them, so don't think about getting rich from this, it will take me years just to brake even. It's not just the tanks, pumps, filters, electric and water, but they eat a considerable amount of food on their way to sale size. I now stock spawning supplies and new fry food at the online store, Click Here.
Koi and goldfish will naturally spawn on their own, if just left alone. To induce a spawn you have to meet the right conditions. First of all you'll need a separate tank, which can be any holding tank of some sort. I know there are a lot of fancy tanks on the market, but save a lot (about $400 - $600) and make your own, I used an old inexpensive above ground pool, not a high dollar one, just a stiff wall one from K-Mart, these are hard to find new, look at bulk trash for these. Mine was originally 13 feet across, but since I only wanted to use inexpensive construction 6 mill plastic for a liner I cut the retaining wall so it would only be 4 feet across. That would leave me 3 feet of height to work with the 10 foot wide plastic. Even as thin as this 6 mill plastic is you can get a couple of years use out of it and it's cheap and easy to replace. You can get an idea of how this ended up in the picture below. With small fish you could even use a large Rubber Maid container or stock tank. You will have to cover a spawning tank with koi in it or they will end up jumping out. Use the plastic chicken wire found at Home Depot, fence department. It's a good idea to net cover them anyway to keep birds and other critters out. It's the pits to have something eat all your fish.
You'll need a pump and filter for this tank, I just use a home made drop in filter, see my DIY for how this is made for about $20 plus pump http://www.tadege.com/diyfilter.htm or just use a cheap filter from Home Depot, remember the tank will be under 400 gallons so you don't need to get crazy. Some people recommend adding an air supply, I don't add air since I have the filter return raised about 6 to 8 inches above the water surface, but if you have an old air pump it can't hurt. After you have your tank and filter set up you'll need to condition this tank for use. I like to put in some water hyacinth plants and some plant leaf matter to get the infurosia process going, a few small ponds snails will help with this. I use clear sodium thiosifate to remove the chlorine during water changes also. Your tank should be well conditioned and ready for your parent fish in a month or 6 weeks. By then you should have a good established growth of bio in the filter and some bugs and if you're lucky some tadpoles. The surest way to get your fish into a spawning mode is with live food, at the very least feed them on very high protein feed, 38% plus. Make sure they have daily food and keep the filter clean, clean it every 3 days or so, they are going to make a mess when the circus starts.
I'm spawning wakins at this time, you can see that they are still very young, less than a year old. Koi will begin to spawn when they are 3 years old and usually only once a year in the spring, here in S. Florida we also get a fall spawn. You can spawn koi early in the spring by raising the temperature in the spawning tank, you can do this very easily here by doing a partial water change, just run your garden hose all over the yard in the sun, it will get very warm (I do this after a storm and have no electric, for warm shower water for me). Always, always, use a fine mist sprinkler head raised above the water to let the chlorine gas out of the water when using city water and keep the amount within reason, no more than 25% at one time, if you put the hose end under the water, every one of your fish will die from the chlorine. It's also a good idea to add a chlorine remover when adding city water. I stock this, very inexpensive at the online store. http://www.tadege.com/koifoodpondneeds.htm .
These are koi eggs on a hyacinth plant at the top and on a spawn mop on the bottom, yes there are thousands and thousands of eggs in a spawn, this 1 female has filled up 5 hatch tanks with eggs and she is only a 3 year old fish, makes you wonder why koi are so expensive. Goldfish eggs are about half this size but still very easy to see. I had a number of different spawning medias in the pond for this spawn (3/14/08), this spawn lasted 3 days, from about 3 am till 9 am each day, thousands of eggs were collected. The koi seem to like the mops or whatever media in a group rather than spread out, you don't need to fasten them together or anything, they will all end up in one place anyway, but there is no need to spread them out. My koi spawn runs were for about 15 minutes each and about 30 minutes apart for 6 hours, for 3 days this time. I used over 50 water hyacinth plants and 25 spawning mops. At this point I want to let you know that most failures in raising fry is just to many, keep the amount of eggs you collect realistic, later when you get more experience you can get crazy. When you have as many as you can handle just leave the rest and the fish will eat them.
She (the koi) preferred the hyacinth and home made yarn mops over the stiff Black Night spawning brushes, but one thing I did notice is that with the Black Night spawning brushes the koi had more trouble getting to the eggs to eat them. This may be something to think about if you are not going to be able to stay with your fish while they spawn, they will eat every egg they can get to after the spawn ends. Another consideration is cost, the plants are free if you are already growing them, the yarn mops are very cheap (3 for $10 here) and the Black Night brushes are about $30 each.
I realize that this thread is jumping back and forth with wakin and koi, but this koi spawn just came up and I didn't have the time to start a new thread, I may separate the 2 threads some day, or not. Might as well get the subunkins in here, too . I raised subunkins before the Wilma storm and with just 4, 40 gallon trash cans and 3 breeding pairs I was supplying 100, 2"- 3" fish to pet shops every week, not a bad turn over for less than 200 gallons of water split into 4 containers. I have 7 wakin in this tank and I am getting eggs every month or so, not a lot of eggs with fish this young, but a constant supply. You may want to give goldfish a try before doing a large koi spawn. In theory they are both the same, but the koi spawn is magnified 100 time in work load, care and cost.
With koi you will want 1 female (you'll know the female, she's the big fat one) and 2 males (there the ones following the big fat female) in your spawn tank, koi will spawn for a couple days at a time, so keep an eye on them when the spawn starts, also remove the male koi after the spawn, the female will be exhausted and need some time to recover. Koi can become very violent at spawning time and she can be thrown out of the tank, so check on them often. A blow up rubber pool with soft sides may be better for koi for this reason. If you are going to let the koi spawn in your pond and collect eggs, keep in mind that the first spawn may get other females spawning and this can run into some real time and space to keep up. You might choose to just collect a few hundred eggs from each female as she spawns for a mix of all the fish you have. A pond spawn will give you a diversity of fry you won't believe, high end breeders separate know types of koi before the spawn to get what they want.
They sell a lot of fancy spawning brushes, but I've found that the fish prefer water hyacinth plant roots and mops to anything else and they are very easy to work with. Just have a bucket of pond water and dip them a couple of times to wash off the slime from the spawn, the eggs are very sticky and won't come off and then just set them right into your hatch tank. The plants will supply cover, help keep the water in check and the fine roots will be eaten by the fry as they grow. Put fresh hyacinth plants in your spawning tank if you want more eggs.
I just use plastic 32 gallon trash cans for either koi or goldfish hatch tanks, the high sides help to keep critters out, leave the water down about a foot or so from the top. You can use a glass fish tank if you don't crowd it to much. I bought the trash cans at Home Depot for under $15 each brand new, I scrounge around for most things for free, but sometimes things are just cheap enough that it doesn't pay. New and clean, will last for a very long time & at the worst, you'll have another trash can.
*Recently I switched to the 20 gallon tubs, they don't hold as many fry, but are a lot easier to deal with and keep clean. I have completely done away with the sponge filters, although I do run an air stone in each. I just siphon out about 25% of the water daily and pump in new right from the top of the gravel filters on the display tanks. You could get away with this water change 2 - 3 times a week, but I have a lot of other things to do as these are going through the water change any way. This has worked out great. Way less work than cleaning all those little filters twice a week. These are raised 3 concrete blocks high and save on the back also. Although you can only start with about 100 little fry, they can be rotated to a larger grow out tank as time passes, about 4 weeks. I keep them in here for the first 2 culls and end up with about 30 quality small fish from the 100 I started with. These don't take up much width and a couple feet between rows will be plenty.
Your trash can egg tanks will also have to be conditioned, same method except you may want to put the lid on them to keep frogs out, make sure you leave it off when the fish eggs go in. The fish eggs will hatch in 3 or 4 days. New fry are very, very small and the tadpoles will gobble them right up. I wash out the egg tanks after every hatch and start with new fresh water before getting them ready again. By the way, if you tip over trash cans full of water they may develop small holes at the seams, pump the water out. I found out the hard way.
If you're caught by surprise with eggs on plants in your pond, just pump water right from your pond into a hatch tank and add a sponge filter and transfer the plants, eggs and all into the hatch tank. The pond water will not have any food in it to talk about at this time so 3 or 4 days after the hatch you'll have to supplement it every day, more info on this later on this page. For the first couple days they will live off their yoke sack.
You are also going to need a pump and filter for the hatch tank, right from the start. They make all kinds of fry filters that sound like the best thing since sliced bread. I use a small fountain pump, $15 or less brand new, 100 gallon flow will be plenty. Just wrap a sponge over the pump & fasten it with a rubber band. I use the sponges they sell in the paint department, no dyed color, 6" x 8" x 2" and cost under a dollar. When they need to be cleaned, just lift the whole pump unit out and wring out the sponge, don't over complicate this, keep it easy so you'll keep it clean. If you buy a number of these sponges you can just put a clean one on every day and toss the dirty ones into the washer (no soap). You'll need to clean this every day. Plus for the first week you'll need to do a 25% water change every day to wash out the residue from the spawn, then a 25% water change every other day, if the water goes bad, you lose everything. Getting to be a lot of work, isn't it. You can sometimes find small pumps at the dollar store for very little cost, pick up a couple extra when they are on sale.
I have found that if you go to the plumbing department in Home Depot and buy stiff risers for lawn sprinkler systems, the 1/2", many different lengths, that the inside is 3/8" and will slide right over the small pump end to raise the water to the surface with a stiff tube, about $1.50. Stay out of the pond department and you can save a lot. Take a look at my cheapo fry filter below, I just split the sponge and over lapped it and rubber band it. Doesn't look like much but works great, doesn't suck up the fry, and cleans the water very well. Actually you can cut the sponges in half, you just need to cover the pump intake. For this small of pump, there will be plenty of bio in the pump and tubing itself to keep up with new fry. This unit sits on the bottom and I just lean it against one of the plants, that's all there is to it. Take it out every day and wring out the sponge or just change with a clean one. A couple small pond snail are also good to help remove uneaten food that may sink to the bottom. But you'll end up with hundreds of them also, so keep them thinned out or they'll eat the plants in just a couple days.
Of coarse this type of filter is just for the very smallest fry, as they grow, and they grow fast, you'll need a filter like the one in the spawning tank (http://www.tadege.com/diyfilter.htm), the sponge filter will start to clog up very fast as the fry grow and won't have enough bio action for the larger fry. As soon as they are large enough not to be pulled into a larger filter change over, you won't have to clean it so often and it will add a lot more filtering and water flow. If you're putting the parent fish back into your pond, you can just use the spawn tank filter, it will already be conditioned and cycled. I'm hatching in 4 different containers and I find that at about 1 month old they're ready for the grow out tank and large enough that they won't be eaten or sucked into the filter. Of coarse you can just grow them out in the hatch tank if all you are looking for is a single spawn, or even remove the parent fish from the spawn tank and just grow out the fry right in that tank, just remove the large filter till later and start them with a sponge filter for the first month or 6 weeks. Or even stick to the spawn filter and cover the large intake holes with a polyester pillow case, if you use pillow batting in your filters, just use the bag from the pillow it was in.
Here you can see the 5 gallon filter for the fry grow out tank, I started with a new 5 gallon pail. The fry grow out tank is a 350 gallon tank made like the spawn tank above, I'll be moving small fish from the trash cans into here to grow them out, just make sure that they are big enough that they don't get eaten by the older fry you put in earlier. From here they will go into my display tanks for sale.
I run the electric cord and water outlet through the same hole, a lot easier than trying to force the plug through a slit in the lid, the pump will always stay with the lid when cleaning. Also notice I cut slots into this filter for the water pickup instead of holes, I used a die grinder with a cut off blade, but you could do the same with a dremel tool or even a drill with an arbor and cut off wheel, you can get this at Home Depot tool department for a couple dollars and it will last a long time cutting plastic for this and other projects. You could also just drill very small holes for this filter, but you would have to drill a lot of them. Although these will clog sooner than the larger 3/8" holes that I use in the spawning tank filter, it will prevent the small fish from being sucked into the filter and since I'll constantly be adding new small fry into this tank I'll just have to deal with the slits clogging and clean them often. I'll also slide a 1" piece of scrap PVC pipe over the 1/2" return pipe so that it won't be so violent of a stream returning back to the tank, this will be sticking up out of the water 6" or so and the larger pipe will allow a slower flow with the same volume. The pump is 350 gallons per hour, for a 350 gallon tank a 600 or 700 would of been better, but this is what I already have, just make sure the water turn over is at least once an hour.
This filter was filled with new bio balls and new batting, so while it cycles I'll be running the sponge filter also till it gets seasoned, which won't take long with the seasoned water already in this tank. While I'm thinking of it, if you have a good 5 gallon pail but don't have a lid that will snap off and on easily you can just buy the white lids at Home Depot, the size seems to be standard and easier to remove and put on than the original lids.
In about 3 days after they hatch they will be on the hunt for food, if you conditioned your fry tank good, there will be a lot of small infurosia on the bottom and a lot of little bugs. If you need to add some food for the first week to get them going, you can just use hard boiled egg yoke 2 or 3 times a day, mashed up very fine, but this will foul the water in 1 day, so wring out the sponge filter every time you go and look at them, you won't see them, but you'll look, at least 2 time a day. I have started using the decapsulated brine shrimp eggs with very good results, I alternate this with Spirulina algae powder every other day. *I have switch and now mix the two together and put it in a pepper shaker, a lot easier to deal with. They are both easy to deal with, they don't foul the water as bad as egg yoke and the fry go for them. I you are going to use egg yoke forget the hard boiled egg crap and just get powdered egg yoke for human infant food. I have 10 grams packages in the food section for $3, enough to get your fry off to a good start. Remove any tadpole eggs as they appear, when they hatch in a day or two they are hard to catch, they grow much faster than the fry and will end up eating every single fry. After the fry are about a month old just leave the frog eggs in the tank, the young fry will take care of the tadpoles as they hatch.
After the fry are 2 weeks or so old they'll be ready for real fish food, I told you they grow fast. If you have high protein food (38%+) you feed your pond fish, you can put this into a blender and grind it into fines, real fine, a cheap coffee grinder or pepper grinder works well for this. If not you can get a little high end flake goldfish food and it's real easy to grind between your fingers, wash your hands very good before doing this. Keep cleaning that sponge filter every day, they won't live 1 day in bad water, most losses of fry at this size is due to bad water.
If you want you can stop by and pick up fry food from me, $3, which will be more than you need for a hundred fry, don't store it away for a long time, just buy new each spawn, cha ching, lol. The fry food I use is 59% protein and they really go for it. I get crazy at this point and set water out for the skeeters (keep this container up high so you won't be constantly bent over), you have probably never looked for skeeter eggs, they are called rafts and are very small, my eyes are not what they were but if the light is just right and I have on the 250x glasses I can spot them. They look like a million very small frog eggs in a group, floating on the surface, very small, less than 1/64" for the entire raft. You can lift them off the water with a spoon and transfer them into a container, then just float them on the fry tank surface, they'll hatch on their own in a couple hours, very small and will be eaten almost instantly, you will need lots of them.
Of coarse you can also buy brine shrimp eggs and hatch them for the fry after they are about 2 weeks old, lots of brine shrimp hatcheries available or google diy and make your own. Live food isn't a must, but they thrive on it and grow much faster. It will be about 4 days after the hatch before you'll see any fry. For the first few days they live off their yoke sack and hang onto the side or a plant. If you put a few eggs into a glass jar with pond water you can watch the whole thing, they hatch in 3 or 4 days. Don't try to pick up the new fry with a net, they are very fragile at this stage. You are going to be amazed at how small they are and how fast they grow.
Now to the part most don't like to hear. You're not going to have room for all the fry. I never intended this information to be used as a way to make your fortune. This is just to raise a few hundred fry for your use and sell or give away to friends. A 3-4 year koi will have 10,000+ eggs. A large mature koi can have 250,000+ eggs. Even a large goldfish will have thousands. Not only can't you even attempt to grow out this many fry, you would go broke.
This is where the cull comes in, this will be a monthly thing. The first cull is fairly easy, get rid of the duds, 2 tails, bent up, bad form, etc. This will take care of a number of fish that were hatched. There are a couple of things you can do with these fry. They can be used as food for larger fish or you can dispose of them by putting them into a small container and freezing them. They actually go into hibernation and further till they no longer live. If this is too much for you (I don't like it), it might be best to let your fish spawn in your pond and let nature select who gets eaten and who makes it, in this way you will end up with the strongest fish anyway and won't have hundreds to find homes for. There will always be a few that make it, they are called lefties. More will survive than nature intended. Fry that survive in the pond grow much faster, incredibly fast, I don't know if this is just to survive or if that added room has an effect, maybe both. It's not unusual to see a (lefty) fry 6" long in 4 months in a pond with big fish.
The end of the second month, a 50% cull, remember you have limited water, you'll only want to end up with 1 small fish per gallon of water that you'll be working with to keep them healthy and for max growth. If you try to keep to many, none will make it. Keep the ones with colors you like and any fin conformation that you like, as you gain more experience it will get a lot easier to choose the ones you want to grow out. At this time your fry will be 1" or so and starting to show color, now you can peddle these cull to pet stores, (try the independent shops, the deal is easier if you trade for something like fish food or supplies). Or if you really want a bunch of crap, you can sell these cull on ebay, package, drive'em to the airport, listen to complaints and collect your dollar each, pay postage, pay ebay, pay paypal and pay taxes on your profit... Just run an ad and sell them for a couple bucks for pick up only, as the remaining grow so does the price, that's how you found me. You are just trying to thin the herd, you'll need the room, so even sell these for a buck each, you are out nothing, I've reached the point I just give them away. High end breeders often cull out over 90% of the fry to raise only the very best, sometimes they will save only 1%. Unless you have started with very high quality show stock this is not needed. I raise pond quality koi and save less than 25% of the spawn (2000), so I am picky as to the ones I intend to grow out to larger size. I seldom get them over the $40 price range before someone snaps them up, 6"- 8". Even with pond quality koi you can still end up with quit a few very exceptional fish from the spawn, these you hide away for larger grow out.
As you are growing out these fry never put any other fish in with them that you have gotten somewhere else, you don't want to get this far and end up with some sickness coming into your grow tank. Right from the start pick out the special ones you want to grow out or keep for yourself. Put them in a separate tank if you can, they will grow much faster with more room and as they grow if you change your mind, sell'em and add new favorites. Actually it's a good thing to have a couple grow out tanks for your fry, if something goes wrong, you won't lose them all. Also watch for the tobi (some times called sports in goldfish), these are fish that grow extremely fast and will eat the smaller ones. Tobies are usually disposed of, but you may want to grow them out if the color is good and you have room for them somewhere else.. Here is a some very good information on the tobi http://www.raingarden.us/tobi.pdf, Steve Hopkins is an avid goldfish breeder and has some very good info at his web site, also some very unique fish he can ship for a reasonable amount from Hawaii.
If you're lucky you'll end up with some fish that are special to you. It all sounds easy, but sometimes stuff goes wrong, so don't let set backs get to you, you'll be learning as you go along. It's been said that you are not a real fish breeder until you've killed a million. I've reached a point where I have very few problems with fry, but this comes with time and experience.
The third month you can start feeding with the very small #3 pellets, but they are very expensive. I grind high protein pellets up, but this will cloud your water fast. No matter what food you use you will want very high protein with a mixture of floating and sinking. Not all of them will rush to the surface to eat and the bottom dwellers will starve in only a couple days at this time if they don't get food. They will of eaten up the bugs you started with at spawn time, so you'll need to find some live food for them, you can buy micro worms or brine shrimp at pet shops or just set a bucket in the yard and feed skeeters to them, at this point let the skeeter eggs hatch and feed the wigglers to the fry, they go crazy for these. Live food is probably not a must, but your fry will grow much faster and be healthier.
After 4 months, your fish will be in the 2" - 4" size or larger depending on what you have fed them and how much room they had, use the 2mm pellets at this time, around $5 a pound. I sell and use 45% protein at this time. Also start with some fresh veggies, duckweed is small enough for them and very good, less chance of fouling the water with live plants. Fry are well developed at this time and a lot stronger. You can really see the color developing at this stage. Don't count on the color staying this way, they will continue to change until they are some 3 years old, usually for the better, but you can pick out the ones that are never going to be what you're looking for. At this size they are very easy to sell, I go through between 100 - 200 every month. Again, just place an ad somewhere selling them for $5 - $15, whatever the market will bear and people will find you. http://www.aquabid.com/ is a good free site to list them at, just list as pick up only, shipping is outrages for a small number of fish and a real pain to package and ship. You'll see my ads listed there as tadege. If you have a web site list it in your ad also. Ebay gets a little huffy if you list 1 fish and show a picture of hundreds and won't let you list your web site, unless it's an ebay web site, they want to get paid for every sale you make, after all that is their business. Not only that, most payments go through paypal. Not much left on a $5 sale, although I'm seeing sellers beating up ebay on shipping and selling the fish very cheap, you only pay commission on the sale price, not shipping.
Hopefully you'll end up with a few really great fish, no matter what, they'll be your spawn and will find their way into your pond. Never just drop these 4" or 5" right from the fry tank into your pond. Bag them up, zip lock bags are fine for a short time and float the bag to give the water a chance to reach the same temp, there can be a big difference in a small tank and a large pond at the same location. Even very large koi don't seem to have much interest in fry once they reach about 4 inches and won't usually make them a dinner, but try 1 or 2 first to make sure you don't have a Donner large fish member in your pond. Don't forget to include some small food when feeding your pond fish so these little guys will get their share. If you have a big pond you probably won't see them for a week or so, they seem to go exploring with all the new found room and have very little interest in anything else. That's about all there is. Give it a try, uses up a lot of your time, but if you enjoy this sort of thing it can be very rewarding. Actually it's only a lot of trouble the first time setting up everything, then you're on easy street. Best of luck and if you have any questions along the way, just email me and I'll get back to you with any help I can give, firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care, Tom at Tadege
All our information is free for anyone to use. You are welcome to copy and print this information for future reference but not for resale. If you enjoyed the pond and filter builds here at our site you may want to help keep the information on new project coming with a small donation. All information is always free at Tadege.com but it does take considerable time and expense to list it. You are always welcome to watch for new DIY projects for free. Thanks and enjoy your new pond, Tom at Tadege Koi.
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