Lisle couple promotes keeping koi as pets
The sound of water gently cascading over a rocky edge, a number of colorful koi circling in crystal clear water, and a batch of water lilies floating on the water's surface are some of the images a pond brings to mind.
Owning a backyard pond is a popular hobby that can bring you years of enjoyment.
Within the past five years, membership to the Midwest Pond and Koi Society has grown by 33 percent, adding approximately 100 families to its 300 member families, according to longtime Lisle resident Charlene Cebulski, the club's recording secretary. This year, the club will host its 25th anniversary Pond Tour.
The organization is a fun way to learn more about pond ownership, construction and maintenance. It also introduces people to raising the attractive koi fish as swimming pets.
The varieties of koi carp are identified by their colors, markings and scale types. They are among the long-lived domestic and friendly fish. The Cebulski family can tap on a rock near their pond and their fish will swim over to greet them. Other owners feed their pets from their hands held under the water.
A common mistake is thinking koi are large goldfish, Cebulski said.
"Koi are actually carp and as different from goldfish as dogs to cats," she said. "At our annual Koi and Trade Show, we have 15 different classes of koi that we judge for the best in variety."
The club also gives major awards such as the Grand Champion, Reserve Grand Champion, Young Champion and Baby Champion, as well as Best in Size and Best in Variety awards at its annual show.
Koi are judged on standards in color, pattern, scales and size, much like a dog show has breed standards for specific physical traits such as coat, colors and structure. Last year, one of the Cebulskis' swimming pets, a Sanke koi, won the Best of Variety at the organization's trade show.
This year's Koi and Trade Show on July 26, 27 and 28 will have roughly 35 show vats for competing koi. The public is invited to attend the free event at the Darien Sportsplex, 451 Plainfield Road, Darien. With vendor booths and seminars, it is an informative show for both the serious hobbyist and curious gardener. All exhibitors need to be members of recognized koi and pond clubs. For details, go to MPKS.org or call (312) 409-2081.
Koi can spend the winter outside in the Midwest as long as the pond has a minimum depth of 24 inches. The number and size of fish is determined by the gallons in the total pond.
The 1,200-gallon pair of ponds Cebulski and her husband, Ray Cebulski, constructed and maintain in their rear yard grew as the couple became more invested in their hobby. Large stones frame the two-tier water feature that is home to roughly 30 colorful koi.
The upper pond has more of the water garden variety of interesting plants such as dahlias and lilies. The lower pond, connected by a gentle waterfall, houses the family's swimming pets. Both ponds are trimmed with a variety of eye-catching flowers and plants such as cannas, coneflowers, goatsbeard and dwarf white cone flowers.
The Pond Tour, the other large event the Midwest Pond and Koi Society hosts each summer, spans two weekends and covers DuPage and Cook counties. This year's 25th Pond Tour will feature 55 ponds with garden oases open to visitors July 18, 19, 25 and 26.
Each day offers different locations divided by regions. Saturday, July 18, is the southwest and west zone; Sunday, July 19, is the south zone; Saturday, July 25, is the north and northwest zone; and Sunday, July 26, is the central zone. The $15 family pass includes all four days and a detailed tour map.
The pond tour is an opportunity to get answers to many of your questions, such as, what natural predators might an owner need to contend with to protect their swimming pets? Raccoons are usually not a problem because they do not like to go into water above their elbows, Cebulski said. She finds more members dealing with the problem of minks, depending on their location.
For herons, some pond owners will stretch fine fishing line across vulnerable areas of their pond. Cebulski said those birds like to walk into the water rather than fly into it and will not step into a pond that drops down two feet.
If your interest is piqued, you could learn a lot more by becoming a member of the society. The organization has its own lending library of periodicals and books for club members. It is a welcoming, friendly place to get help, inspiration and answers to your own questions, even if you do not have a pond.
Membership is $25 per year for a family and includes the $15 family ticket and tour map for the tour. Meetings are the third Friday of each month, rotating between Westmont and Arlington Heights. Many have an optional dinner before the meeting. You do not need to be a member to attend a meeting and listen to the speakers on varied topics on ponds and water gardening.
Details are at Midwest Pond and Koi Society, P.O. Box 3011, Lisle, IL 60532; (312) 409-2081; and mpks.org.
• Joan Broz writes about Lisle. Her column appears regularly in Neighbor.