Buying Koi For My Aquaponics From Bruce At Ushijima Nishikigoi

Side view of an orange and white koi.

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My 300-gallon aquaponic systems in my front yard have been cycling for several months now and I’ve decided to raise some koi in there since the system has been designed with aesthetics in mind. When you sit down right outside our front door, you’re sitting right in front of the fish ponds so I thought some colorful koi would be an excellent addition!

Aloha with love,
Amy

About Ushijima Nishikigoi and Bruce

After scrolling through the internet for a long time, I noticed a local breeder had been posting periodically on Craigslist and pointing visitors to their Ushijima Nishikigoi website. It’s a simple blogspot blog, but it’s relatively active and updated at least a few times each year. But it wasn’t until I asked the staff at The Aquaponics Place in Waimanalo for a recommendation (they recommended Bruce by the way) when I decided to give him a call and see what was available.

According to Bruce’s Craigslist posts and website (which are managed by his son), I gave him a call during his operating hours between 9 AM and 9 PM. Since this is his residence, you don’t want to be calling him or leaving him messages like a regular business. We set up a date and I drove up to his house in Kaneohe with a bucket and air pump.

Amy and Bruce in front of the fish tanks.
Me and Bruce. Thanks so much, Bruce! Loved the visit!

Finding his place was easy with Google Maps. Entrance to his garage is gated so you’ll have to give him a call when you’re outside. His entire backyard is devoted to his koi and he told me had been working with koi for over 60 years! I could tell how passionate he was about them because he asked questions about my systems to make sure the koi were going to someone who knew what they were doing. By now, I’ve been growing both tilapia and catfish for more than a year and had done plenty of research on raising koi in aquaponics so I felt ready.

Tanks and pipes holding fish.
Just a couple of the many, many cement tanks in Bruce’s backyard.

You’ll have a chance to view all of Bruce’s ponds and some of the cement ponds are gigantic! There’s a constant flow of water and pipes of different lengths and widths running all over the place. The koi ponds keep Bruce busy and he told me he cleans one pond a day! That is dedication.

Choosing koi

During our visit, Bruce introduced me to the smaller koi that I wanted to purchase. Both of my fish tanks aren’t very big so in order to enjoy them longer I knew I needed to get them when they were young. These particular koi were the ones that Bruce decided not to keep so they were cheaper and cost anywhere from $5 to $20 or so depending on their coloring. The pricing is done all in Bruce’s head and the total came out to $130 for 10 fish (8 koi and 2 ryukin goldfish).

Several small koi in a large blue bucket.
Bruce scooped up several koi and I got to pick out my favorites.

I tried to go for a variety of koi so I could tell them apart. Bruce also gave me a few tips on their coloring. On these young ones, you’ll see some faded colors under the skin that haven’t completely shown on the skin’s surface. These are markers for potential color changes so I ended up picking several with these faded marks so I could watch their colors emerge as they grew in my tanks. This orange and white one with the faded black marks below is one of my favorites. It’s a beautiful creamy orange and if the black marks fully emerge I think it will be an eyecatcher!

Koi fish in a net.
One of my favorites and the largest koi I have at 5 inches. It reminds me of an Orange Julius for some reason!

Choosing ryukin goldfish

While I was there, Bruce showed me his collection of ryukin goldfish – gorgeous goldfish with 3-finned tails. However, because he knew I had an aquaponics system, he introduced me to the single-fin tailed ryukin goldfish because they are better swimmers. With big aquaponics system, you tend to have a strong current due to the siphon. 3-finned ryukin goldfish tails will collapse and become dead weight because the fish is constantly struggling to swim. So if you want to add these guys to your aquaponics system, I definitely suggest the single fin ryukin goldfish.

Ryukin goldfish in a net.
One of the ryukin goldfish.

Giant koi in the back

Don’t forget to take a look at Bruce’s gigantic koi towards the back. They are the biggest, fattest and healthiest koi I’ve ever seen! His tanks are deep and he has a constant flow of water pouring into the pond at high speed. They look so different from the koi at malls, hotels, and restaurants where the ponds are only a couple of feet deep. These koi were twirling and swimming in strong and powerful strokes beneath the water. I was surprised at how active they were!

Large gold and orange koi swimming.
We got a small tour of Bruce’s tanks and his giant koi are HUGE!

Transferring koi to my aquaponics system

According to Bruce, acclimating koi to my pond water wouldn’t take too much time. I poured out half of their water, then added in my pond water and waited for about 5 minutes. I did this 3 or 4 more times with 5 minute intervals in between and then added them into the system. They all did fine and huddled in the pond for the rest of the day, but they were eating by the next day.

Fish in a bucket.
My new koi babies! Altogether 8 koi and 2 ryukin goldfish.

Koi and ryukin goldfish update

I’ll be writing a more in-depth review of my experience raising koi and ryukin goldfish in my aquaponics system later, but here’s some helpful info that I think will help future aquaponic hobbyists in Hawaii who are thinking about using koi or ryukin goldfish for their systems.

At first, I separated the 2 ryukin goldfish and put one in each fish tank (I have 2 tanks). I noticed that my orange ryukin goldfish stopped eating and when I took a closer look it looked like some of its scales were missing. It was swimming perfectly fine and didn’t look blind or diseased so I suspected that it was being bullied. I moved it over to the other tank with the other ryukin goldfish and within 3 days it began to eat again. After more than 2 months, it’s still the most shy eater and eats minimally, but I think having a partner ryukin has been a positive change for it.

I did have one koi die in the other tank. After about a week, I noticed that it had stopped eating, was swimming funny and seemed to have a white film around it. I immediately quarantined it in it’s own separate tank with an air pump, constant water changes and medicine. Unfortunately, it didn’t get any better and passed away a week later. I kept tabs on the other fish in that tank, but all showed no signs of change so I suspect the problem was just with that one fish.

Also, I learned that day that koi LOVE to jump (a lot more than tilapia and catfish). These guys were jumping like crazy the first 3 to 4 days and continue to jump every so often. Make sure you have a net or some kind of covering so you don’t lose them!

Me and a single harvest of bok choy.

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