Maintaining a safe pH level is essential for koi health. Koi can survive within a reasonable range, but extreme pH variations will cause stress and possibly death. The pH is a measurement system for acidity in water; the levels are effected by chemicals in the water supply. Testing and adjusting pH is easy, but regular testing and monitoring is necessary.
The maximum pH range for koi and all freshwater fish survival is between 5.5 and 8.5. This level also applies to goldfish and many other freshwater species. Although this represents the maximum range, any drastic change on either end of the scale can result in mortality. If your pond drops from a pH of 8 to 5.5 in less than a day, the fish will suffer greatly, and few are likely to survive. Any pH drops below a 6.5 are dangerous and may result in death.
The ideal pH level for koi is slightly alkaline. Maintaining a pH of 7.5 is ideal for the species. A pH of 7 is neutral and does not harm the fish, but a 7.5 to 8 is the ideal range. Anything below a pH 7 is acidic and will result in high stress levels. An acidic presence requires immediate treatment to restore a neutral or alkaline environment.
The pH level in all ponds fluctuates throughout the day. Daily fluctuations are normal and should not trigger a drastic response. The main cause for adding chemicals or baking soda to a pond is a drastic and dangerous change. Test your pond in the morning and again in the afternoon for several days and record the findings. Shifts of less than 1 are within a normal fluctuation range and do not require a response. The primary goal is maintaining the shift between 7 and 8. Rapid changes of more than 1 that result in high acidity or high alkalinity indicate an issue, and a response is necessary.
Adjusting the pH
Creating an ideal pH level in the pond is a simple process. The key is making minor adjustments until the water stabilizes at the ideal level. Do not make dramatic changes to the pH because it stresses the fish. Small, incremental changes over the course of several weeks provides a relaxed state of acclimation. The only exception is an environment experiencing a pH crash, which will kill the fish. Ponds with high alkalinity are often treated with acidic chemicals, but a simple water replacement will solve the issue. Tap water has an ideal pH and will resolve high alkalinity. High acidity requires a simple base treatment. Baking soda is the standard treatment process. Add 1/2 ounce for every 100 gallons of water and test daily for one week. The results will fluctuate slightly each day. Repeat if the pond remains in an acidic state.
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Zach Lazzari is a Montana based freelance outdoor writer and photographer. You can follow his work at bustedoarlock.com.