Koi aren’t just super-sized goldfish. They are an ancient species of Japanese carp. Their lineage dates back to the time when emperors ruled, and peasants bred the sparkling fish high in the mountains, as a food source.
Today koi fish are popular in the United States with people who have outdoor ponds.
South Florida’s guru of koi recently opened a shop in Gulfport. Jeff Mendoza, who formerly ran the business in Largo, has moved to 3660 22nd Ave. South, at the border of St. Pete and Gulfport, just off of I-275.
Jeff’s Koi House provides just about any service having to do with koi fish and backyard ponds. Mendoza builds ponds and waterfalls. He sells the fish and supplies. He also breeds and imports fish, as well as advises backyard hobbyists. He offers clinics and workshops.
Mendoza recently talked with Patch about his unusual business and the opening of his shop in Gulfport.
Q. How is your fish store different from a pet store?
A. I cater to the ordinary person, the novice, who has a backyard pond and also to the serious hobbyists, who show their fish and win awards. I sell koi at my shop and online. I ship them, all sizes. I have shipped as far away as Aruba.
Q. Tell me something about the koi fish.
A. Kois come in many different colors and shades, from orange and golden to black and white, or silver or yellow. The most popular is the multi-color koi, which are red, white and black. The koi get as big as three feet long. The longest ever recorded is six feet. It’s a special breed of koi. The longest koi lifespan ever recorded is 200 years. The average lifespan for a koi in well-maintained pond is 40 years.
Q. Is it hard to maintain a healthy backyard pond?
A. No. I have a saying I tell customers, “Your pond is as good as your filter.” The filter is the key. It siphons debris from the pond and keeps it clear. A good filter handles the volume of water and the fish. It stabilizes the water, the nitrate, nitrite, ammonia and pH level.
Q. Why do people keep koi?
A. They’re beautiful. Some sparkle like jewels, which is where they get the name, “the living jewels.” There are two types of fins, one regular and the other the long fin, which Americans favor more than the Japanese.
Q. Are koi expensive?
A. They can be very expensive. For a backyard hobbyist, there are sold in two different types, domestic and imported. Domestics are bred here, so they should be a lot cheaper. Imported are bred in Japan, and are culled for specific characteristics, and they cost more. A small, domestic three-four-inch koi may run $3-$4. An imported koi of the same size could run to $35.
Q. You also build ponds.
A. I design and build ponds, based on what the customer has in mind. Or, I can offer my own design. Everybody’s pond is different. It can be a liner pond, a concrete pond, above or below ground pond. I can do formal to something more casual and free form. The price also can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. We also can build ponds with waterfalls, without fish. We custom build.
Q. Why do you sell koi?
A. I’ve been doing this since I was 16. I fell in love with this when I first built a luau pond for my girlfriend. I began to learn about the fish. I got addicted – from one to two ponds to a business.
For more information on Jeff's Koi House, go to www.jeffskoihouse.com