By Ray Kong
It is a heartfelt question I frequently hear from Koi hobbyist; “How can I enhance the overall quality and health of my fish?” A more sobering question sometimes follows, “I’ve spared no expense in building the best Koi pond environment, yet I recently lost several fish. What am I doing wrong?”
While I don’t profess to know all the answers when it comes to Koi health I have spent a number of years investigating natural clays. And in a slightly round about way. I believe I may have discovered something important that just may apply to your Koi’s environment that I would like to share with you.
We all agree that the environment (water) our Koi live in is very important. However there is a tendency for all of us to look at our ponds primarily from an aesthetic prospective. While appearances are justifiably important to us, the pond water is the actual world in which our Koi live. They have a different perspective. To get in touch with our fish’s view of their world, we need to go back to their homeland.
In Japan, Koi are raised in controlled ponds and natural lakes for the first year of their development. The breeders hold back the premium Tossai (1-year-old Koi) for a second and third year of growth in the ponds, in order to give the Koi the very best possible environment to reach its ultimate potential. Many of the top award-winning Koi in Japan have been grown for a number of years in the breeders’ mud ponds, where all the elements are there for them. When these Koi are removed from the ponds, they exhibit excellent body conformation, a strong luster with deep color, and sharp pattern separation. These prize-winning fish have also developed a strong immune system, producing a Koi who should live a strong, healthy life for many years to come. The number of prize-winning Koi that come from those ponds over the years of competition is compelling. I began asking, “Is there something special in the pond or lake water that helps these fish to be champions?”
The Secret of Asian Ponds Revealed
The natural “mud” in many of these ponds is, in reality, a form of clay containing Montmorillonite. When Calcium-based Montmorillonite clay is present, it provides nutrients and detoxifies the water. These ideal conditions, combined with the lush natural micro-organisms that flourish in the mud, I believe, result in beautiful, healthy Koi. The nutrients from the clay in the water transfer into the internal systems of the fish, subsequently improving their overall health and appearance.
Today, newer Koi hobbyists and some with more than a little experience may not be aware of the importance of Calcium Montmorillonite in the pond environment. We create beautiful ponds and install the best, modern filtration systems, yet our Koi sometimes go through some pretty awful times. We are upset to see sick fish, less vibrant colors, and poor overall health. Unhealthy fish can be frustrating for anyone who truly loves this hobby.
Please don’t assume that I am not supportive of today’s filtration systems. These systems do a marvelous job in achieving clear water. But they alone cannot remove all the toxins and water-borne pathogens that can harm your fish. Toxins and pathogens are invisible, yet their presence in our clear-water ponds can harm our fish. Fish that live in toxic water can overstress their immune systems in an effort to stay healthy. Eventually, if conditions don’t improve, they are likely to get sick, even though the filter is doing its job and the pond water seems clear.
A healthy immune system in our fish is vital to their ability to resist water-borne diseases. Beyond the ability of our filtration systems or chemicals, how do we ensure that our fish can thrive in the best possible environment?
Learn about “Living Clay”
Montmorillonite clays are among the highest and richest natural form of essential mineral elements on earth. Additionally, it is in a form that is highly absorbable by plants, animals and humans. It is this very fine (scientists call it “highly fragmented”) form that is key. For hundreds of years, domestic and wild animals have been observed eating it wherever these deposits were found on the surface in various parts of the world.
Two Types of Montmorillonite Clay
There are two types of Montmorillonite Clay, Sodium and Calcium. Montmorillonite Clays are also called Bentonite Clays and visa versa. The name comes from the location of a commercial deposit near Fort Benton, Wyoming in the northwestern part of the U.S. Both clays are in the Smectite family of clays and are known as aluminum/silica colloidal mineral.
Sodium Montmorillonite is used in industry in things like plaster board, oil well drilling mud, cat litter, shoe polish, grease, concrete, dynamite, matches, crayons, and cleaning agents to mention a few.
Calcium Montmorillonite, also known as “living clay”, is edible and principally consists of minerals that enhance the production of enzymes in all living organisms. It is found in various parts of the world and each area has its own unique fingerprint of purity and mineral content.
Some Montmorillonite clays are very high in the nutritional mineral elements while others have very little. They all have over 60 micro, macro, and trace mineral elements in various percentages. Usually the better deposits have a higher content of calcium, sometimes by as much as several hundred percent. Some deposits contain only a small amount of Montmorillonite while others are naturally pure mineral-rich, depending on its source origin and formation.
When it comes to Koi and other animal foods, the premium grades often include Calcium Montmorillonite Clay as a nutritional supplement. There are numerous university studies explaining the benefits and synthesis of Montmorillonite Clay to our fish’s diet by sprinkling it on moistened food pellets or directly adding mineral clay in rock form to the water. Some premium Koi foods already contain this nutrient.
Connecting the Value of Clay to Our World & Our Koi
Soils are a living organism and all nutrients in the world emanate from the earth’s soil. Plant live by a process called “plant root nutrient up take” and sunlight. The food that we grow and eat also is fed to the animals we consume to live. All these nutrients transfer to man or animals when ingested. Additionally Montmorillonite Clays are negatively charged by nature. This charge not only detoxifies water through flocculation it detoxifies all living things that ingest it.
Even in clear water conditions, toxins and other bacteria are present, as they are too small in size to see. When introduced in water, the ionic negatively charged clay platelets attach to the positively charged toxins, decomposed organic carbons, pathogens and so forth. When these micro-particulates meet, they agglomerate/micro-encapsulate, gain mass and weight there-by becoming filterable. (Please pardon my scientific lingo).
Extensive studies with various farm animals, poultry, as well as fish, have shown that the volume of foods they eat is reduced when clay material supplements are added to their diet, all the while, the animals are gaining weight. These minerals in Montmorillonite clay act as a catalyst and aid in the digestive process.
A noted German scientist, Julius Stumpf, wrote in 1916, “The curative properties of clay are founded in its special physical characteristics, above all in the distribution of its minute particles. Individual clay particles are smaller than many bacteria. If infected mucus membranes are more or less flooded with clay, the bacteria are completely surrounded by clay particles and are thus separated from their source of nourishment and become imbedded in the organic material. Growth and the survivability of the bacteria are thus halted almost instantaneously and from this is explained the strikingly speed abatement of the symptoms of infections and or symptoms of poisoning and acute infectious diseases of the alimentary canal.”
Nature is the best teacher and the closer we are to a natural pond the better off our fish will be. We can also learn a lot from those prize winning natural Koi environments and apply the same principles to our own Koi ponds.
The bottoms of most champion breeders’ ponds are lined with a natural clay. We can learn from their insight. Natural, edible calcium Montmorillonite clay can play a vital role in your fish’s diet. It can be done through fish food that already contains Montmorillonite clay as an additive, or by adding it directly into your pond water. Being a natural product, it cannot be overdosed. Your Koi will benefit from the increased nutrient sources and improved water conditions.