Our staff had an in-depth interview with pond enthusiast Christian Shostle who has taught us a lot about the benefits of understanding water chemistry and the difference in Japanese Koi Culture vs. American pond owners. We wanted to relay what we learned in our conversations with our blog audience, enjoy and please leave a comment for Christian.
Career: Owner of Cali Koi
Location: North Hollywood, Los Angeles CA
Mantra: “I was taught lessons of organics, stay away from poison in your body and your water. Keep a good lifestyle for yourself and never use chemicals unless you absolutely have to.”
Aquaculture Background: Fascination in the chemistry of water since 12, always with a pond or fish tank nearby. Traveled through the majestic hills of Japanese Koi farms in the Niigata region and learned the zen teachings not so common in US Koi keepers.
During our interview with Christian we learned a lot about his history in Japan, the importance of diatoms in the natural food chain and how to use your pond for zen peace. Let’s review our conversations and lessons learned from this expert in organic water chemistry.
Lesson 1: It’s Possible to Maintain a Healthy Pond Without All the Fancy Equipment!
Christian was mentored by some of the bigger Koi families in Japan which taught the value of pure water quality. Their champion resident fish would be 3 feet and over 40 pounds with perfect markings. It takes water high in natural minerals to reach that level of honor in Japanese families in the business of Nishikigoi. (it takes around 200,000 fish to find one champion grade Koi). They use only organic processes that have been passed down from generations and Christian learned how to maintain a Koi pond with natural methods.
Lesson 2: Use Water Chemistry to Balance the Natural Pond Food Chain
Christian is constantly helping people move from chemical treatments to organic when suggesting pond maintenance supplements. He uses natural methods to treat common pond issues like barley straw, peet moss, and herbal extracts. So you could see how he might have reservations about Nualgi Ponds, which comes in a small plastic bottle.
He admitted his largest reservation was that 1 ml to 1000 G of water did not seem like it would work in a “closed” recirculating system. But Christian then thought back to his principles to test new solutions and gave it a try. The water was already green and he didn’t notice a change the first time. In fact, there were no changes whatsoever until he added a bacteria.
“Nualgi creates a dynamic new food chain that is more balanced from nano-scale all the way up to the visible level of crustaceans.”
After he learned the symbiotic relationship between diatoms and bacteria that aids in improving water quality he realized a filter full of debris was missing. Now he has fallen in love with an estimated 70% reduction in maintenance and has less filter backwash duties to perform. Christian stated it was strange that he didn’t even have to vacuum out any more Koi poo.
Christian also observed that Nualgi helped the organic compounds by removing the single cell algae that is unbalanced in the pond. This allows the habitat more strength to combat anaerobic pathogenic bacteria more effectively. Nualgi creates a dynamic new food chain that is more balanced from nano-scale all the way up to the visible level crustaceans such as increased/sustained scud and daphnia colonies. Very effective in the prevention of new pond syndrome but not so much with string algae since you have to remove it yourself either way!
Lesson 3: A Deep Mud Pond with Clay Bottom is the Best Environment
We learned that when trying to keep good water quality, a mud pond will help to keep parasite levels low in the water column and and other diseases at bay. In the United States, most ponds are made with a liner or concrete. In Japan he was taught to use clay or mineral as well as herbal extracts to line the pond.
Christian uses vinyl liners currently despite wishing otherwise and plenty of natural organic digesters inside the water to aid in the balance and now doesn’t have to add in a quarter of the organic digesters due to Nualgi Ponds.
The Founding of Cali Koi in North Hollywood
Christian has been involved in online forums and blogs since the 90’s. He assists with local classes and would often give free plants to friends and customers to help their pond water quality. Now he can import most any kind of Koi fish from widely recognized breeds to the rare and exotic.
Using his hands-on experience and background in water chemistry he has turned his long term community assistance into a small business earlier this year. Cali Koi provides high quality Japanese Koi Fish, pond supplies, and advice for beginner to advanced pond owners. Offering a comfortable down home Koi shopping experience, Christian has a wide variety of fish in stock regularly that fits any budget. All beautiful.
Typical Stock sizes are 4″, 12″, and Koi fish which are 13″ + can be viewed electronically and special ordered to arrive within days. He also helps with your water feature and pond installation needs, but he might just suggest you line your pond with clay instead of plastic.
Japanese Koi Farm Families and a Wealth of Knowledge
Christian went to Japan in 1991-1993 and traveled around assisting in Secondary English education from Osaka to Niigata. During his time in Japan he was mentored by some of the bigger Koi farm families and received plenty of hands-on experiences donating time on the Koi ponds. In exchange for the labor, cleaning, and maintenance time, Christian was given a wealth of knowledge about humanity, himself, and the art Koi fish.
While in the outer Niigata region Christian met with a Koi family and farm where there were majestic hillsides and cascading ponds into a larger body of water (growing pond). Converted to a working koi farm from rice growing areas they select their quality fish from spawning and release them in golden brown mud ponds. The Koi fish enjoy the pure water off the mountains and with the occasional filter down the side of the ponds for good measure.
“They choose 1 of out of hundreds of thousands to grow for their family and hopeful champion for future shows.”
The lower mountainside ponds are shallow and they will start grading fish every month and a half moving them down until they hit the growing on pond. They would grade and whittle over 300,000 fish down to 100,000 to 100, and all the way down to 6 or 7 fish which are kept in the prize pond.
Christian explains how water quality not only creates beautiful Koi fish but helps with the health of people in Japan. They use the mineral water off the rocks that is so mineralized and alkaline that it looks milky.
Koi Fish Culture in Japan vs. U.S.A.
Koi fish are very honorable, like many things in Japan. Christian has seen how in America there are a lot of egotistical / opinionated people talking about how to raise fish. There is great competition in Japan, but it is on a much more spiritual and family honored level. It is as if they are blessed by having this Koi in their family.
Other than Yin Yang and Feng Shui, some of the characteristics associated with Koi include:
- Good Fortune
In Japan there is a body, mind, and soul connection to growing Koi fish. It’s viewed as a very therapeutic and delicate balance of earth, mind, and spirit. Koi fish are looked upon as living jewels and long lived creatures to be passed down from generation to generation which lends some idea of how much the Japanese culture cares about Koi fish.
Read Christian’s Case Study
“That very dark green thick water in my 3000 gallon holding pond I mentioned cleared by 60% in less than 14 hours.”
Christian has generously offered to help with pond related troubleshooting, so don’t hesitate to leave your question in the comments section. With these lessons we hope our readers will enjoy the benefits of a clean and balanced pond while experiencing the inner peace with nature that accompanies.
Thanks for sharing your story Christian!