Contractor’s Corner | Operation Desert Koi

By Levy Estrada

Published on June 18, 2022

koi pond in the dessert
Stamped walkway to pond.

Levy Estrada Landscapes is located in Imperial Valley in the farthermost southeast corner of California. This is my favorite pond we’ve ever done.

We started by installing a ¾-inch schedule 40 PVC line for autofill. We installed a dedicated 30-amp breaker with an 8-gauge wire line. We wanted to have the capacity to add more equipment if we ever needed to. It has two Helix skimmers, a Helix filter, a suction grid, UV lighting, an air line around the bottom of the pond and double active aquatic planters for filtration. There is no such thing as too much filtration!

One of the main challenges of building this pond was that we did it in July 2017. The temperatures hit 122 degrees with 60% humidity. All the work had to be installed in the early hours of the day. Three big koi were given to the client by another client due to overpopulation. We had to be precise with the transfer. Everything went according to plan. Since then, other fish have been added and reproduced. 

pumps for koi pond
The main area of the pond is four-ft. deep and has three caves on the bottom.

Maintenance is very minimal. We clean the basket weekly and pads biweekly, and we do small water changes. We’ve never drained the pond. The water is clear and healthy. Aquatic plants are always thriving year-round. 

Another challenge we have here during monsoon season besides humidity and scorching heat are the blackouts. Having a generator on hand is a good idea. 

People often ask me how fish do here in our valley — isn’t it too hot for them to survive? My answer is always firm. “That’s when they are the happiest!” The keys are 4 feet of minimum depth, plenty of oxygen and waterfalls running constantly (except 20 minutes for feeding time in the evenings). We always install underwater LED lighting so that clients can enjoy feeding sessions.

The main area of the pond is four-ft. deep and has three caves on the bottom. We also made a very shallow area and poured a stamped concrete walkway so that the client could interact closer to fish. It turned out to be the fish’s favorite spot, the spawning zone, and the client’s sitting area at night. 

Active planter.

The shallow area has been a huge success. One of the reasons it has worked so well is that it is full of tall taro, which provides coverage to shield fish from potential predators. Earlier this year, we added a second skimmer near that area. The first few weeks became ghost town. The fish didn’t like the new flow. It took them 3 to 4 weeks to fully come back and understand the new pond’s currents. 

It’s challenging to do what we do in many climates around the country. We don’t do ponds every day, but in the ponds that we get to do, we aim for excellence. We are trying to create a pond culture in our small valley, one pond at a time!

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Designer: Levy Estrada 
Installers: Raul Rivas
Contact: 760/234-9767;; IG | levy_estrada_landscapes_
Project Location: Imperial Valley, CA
Size: 3,000 gal.

Pond Construction & Components: 

  • Helix filtration and filter
  • Aqua U.V lights
  • Alpine submersible pumps.

Time to complete: 1 month
Buyer’s Cost: Not Specified



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