Multi-hued fish are prized by collectors.

The beauty and serenity of richly coloured koi gliding gracefully through the water have enchanted people for centuries.

These prized fish – exhibited regularly in competitions similar to dog shows – were originally raised by rice farmers in Japan in the 1800s.

They are bred for distinct colours and patterns, and in 2018, the grand champion of all Japanese koi sold for US$1.8 million.

The popularity of these fish, which are a type of carp, has spread far beyond Japan, as more and more people choose to incorporate a koi pond into their landscape design. Residents of Cayman are no exception.

Christine Smith co-owns Paradise Landscaping with her husband Giles Smith and the couple specialises in installing these ponds.

Thriving koi ponds require, first and foremost, a good filtration system, including a pump, she advises.

Also, water depth is very important; ponds 6 feet deep, or deeper, are best to allow more space for koi to swim and grow, as well as helping fish to avoid predatory birds.

At minimum, a pond should be 2 feet deep, according to Christine, and covered with netting to keep birds from swooping down on the fish.

Some people add vegetation for visual effect, including lily pads, which are not only beautiful but also provide a place for koi to swim under and avoid being snatched from above.

Neither Cayman’s tropical climate, nor the makeup of its soil, really matter when it comes to the installation of a pond, as long as it is properly maintained, Christine adds.

Once a good filtration system is in place, and an optimal depth ensured (in a round pond, no 90-degree angles), koi should grow to about 12 to 15 inches long. The only attention they require is being fed once a day. Christine says that the fish can adapt to any climate.

There are also financial considerations before building and installing a pond as this can cost anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars to $50,000, depending on the size and features.

It’s also important to note the commitment of having a koi pond, as well-cared-for koi have a lifespan of 20 to 50 years. Amazingly, the oldest koi on record is reported to have lived about 228 years.

Colour is key

It’s the colour of these fish that is most attractive to breeders, particularly in Japan, where the bloodlines that have been cultivated do not exist anywhere else.

Koi are also attractive to those who want to make their pond come “alive”.

The major hues of koi are red, yellow, blue, black, white and metallic. The colours – and patterns – may change over time.

The Smiths have bright yellow, orange and blue koi, the latter being less common and more expensive. The imported koi are small and not sold until they are larger. Typically, individual fish cost between $25 and $125, depending on their size and colour.

Although the Smiths have had their landscape business for seven years, Giles’s interest in koi ponds dates back to when he was 12-years-old, living in Snug Harbour, where he built a koi pond with the help of one of his brother’s friends.

His interest was piqued further after visiting koi ponds at the old Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman hotel, among other places.

Koi ponds remain popular, says Giles, because aesthetically they are pleasing, the fish are bright and colourful, and they enhance a yard significantly.