Language of Koi | Preventing Koi Theft

Most koi experts and enthusiasts are well versed on how to protect koi from the many furry and feathered bandits that make unwanted visits to ponds.

Unfortunately, these predators aren’t the only thieves to worry about. The fact of the matter is, koi get stolen a lot. Koi can be worth hundreds and even thousands of dollars, and thieves are well aware of this. There is a lot of time, effort and care that goes into raising koi, so having them stolen can be devastating.

Thievery Tactics

Thieves who target koi ponds often use satellite images from Google Earth to pinpoint properties and homes that have accessible ponds. While it is possible for homeowners to blur street-view images of properties on Google Maps, aerial photos on Google Earth cannot be blurred.

So, valuable or prize-winning koi are now at a greater risk of getting stolen. Sometimes, these koi are scouted out during shows or on social media. Thieves are particularly drawn to more expensive koi varieties, like Kohaku, Chagoi and Ogon. Koi that are larger in size with crisp or unique patterns and bold, deep or pure coloring are also more valuable, and thus more susceptible to theft.

While posting about your pond or koi on social media can be tempting for business or personal reasons, this also makes targeting certain koi or ponds a lot easier for thieves. Pictures and videos should be posted online with discretion. Any information that could possibly tip off or attract thieves should be kept private. This includes details on pond-maintenance schedules, security procedures and upcoming construction on your property. What may seem like a harmless detail could give thieves an idea of where, when and how they could snag and score some koi.

In some situations, koi are stolen by neighbors, visitors, colleagues or acquaintances who see an opportunity to make a quick buck. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to help deter koi-nappers and prevent theft.

Build a Theft-Proof Pond

Location is everything when constructing a new koi pond. While aesthetics are important, ponds that are situated closer to inhabited buildings will be less susceptible to theft. It’s also a good idea to pick a site that is, for the most part, out of view of passersby. Building a pergola or canopy over a pond also can help to shield it from satellite images.

A fence around the pond can make access more difficult and help to deter hopeful thieves.

In public spaces, it’s best to situate ponds away from roadways and parking lots that offer quick and easy access. If a thief can pull up close to the pond in a car, it’s easier for them to grab the koi and make a quick and inconspicuous getaway. A central location that is only publicly accessible by foot is ideal.
When a new pond is built or updated, any associated packaging should be disposed of discreetly. This includes boxes displaying pond equipment, product names and company logos.

Strategic Landscaping

Consider creating additional obstacles for potential thieves. Large plants and tall grass will help conceal ponds that are noticeable or in public locations. Thorny plants can be added around or near the perimeter of a pond to make it harder to reach. Firethorn, holly, blackthorn, barberry and rose bushes are all great options.

A fence around the pond or property can make access a bit more challenging and help thwart would-be bandits. Gravel is a great option for walkways that lead to and from the pond; while it may not completely deter thieves, the noisiness of gravel makes it much more difficult for someone to go unnoticed.

Security cameras focused on your pond and its access routes can help to deter prying snoops.

Security cameras should be set up around your property to help keep an eye on things. Studies have found that the presence of security camera systems is one of the best ways to deter thieves. Nowadays, security systems are more affordable than ever, and footage can be easily viewed on a smartphone or computer. Most systems also monitor motion and sounds, sending you an alert if anything suspicious is detected. Signs indicating that an area is under surveillance can be placed around video-monitored properties and spaces to further dissuade a crook.

A well-lit property makes it harder to sneak around unnoticed. Landscape luminary lights should be installed along walkways, around trees and in flower beds. Flood lights are ideal for illuminating large areas like backyards, large ponds and gardens, patios, parking lots and driveways. Motion-activated lights are the best choice because, at the very least, they may startle an intruder or make it clear that they’re being observed.

Facebook Marketplace and other online sales platforms like eBay, Craigslist and Letgo should be monitored to see if the missing koi are listed for sale.

More Security Measures

While pond placement and landscaping can create extra obstacles, they won’t necessarily prevent thieves from accessing a pond. However, there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of robbery. And in the event that a pond does fall victim to theft, there are things you can do to increase the likelihood of finding both the culprit and the missing koi.


Photographing and cataloging your koi will arm you with images should you ever need to prove ownership when attempting to recover stolen fish.

Microchipping has become extremely popular over the past few years as a means of identifying lost or stolen animals — including koi. Microchips are tiny transponders that can be implanted into an animal’s skin. The chip contains information about the owner, which can be read using a microchip scanner. In the event that fish are stolen and resold, microchips can identify fish with 100% accuracy and prove ownership. It may also be a smart idea to place signs indicating that the fish have been microchipped around the pond. If thieves do come lurking, they may think twice about taking the koi if they know they are identifiable.

Stay Cautious

Sometimes, regardless of how vigilant you are, koi can be stolen in plain sight. In one particular case, 400 fish were stolen from a business park’s pond in the middle of a workday. The thieves posed as employees of the aquatic-care maintenance company and claimed that they had been contacted to remove sick fish. Before anyone knew it, the pond had been wiped of all its inhabitants.

Stories like this one are a great reminder of why it’s never a bad idea to be overly cautious. Unscheduled or unconfirmed maintenance, inspections and construction activities can be verified with a quick call to the company’s office or supervisor. Thorough research should be done before hiring pond professionals to ensure they are legitimate and reliable. A search on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website can give a good indication of a company’s track record and credibility.

A pergola or other covering can prevent
your pond from being seen on satellite imagery, which thieves often use to scope out their next targets.

It can also be beneficial to develop good relationships with nearby property, home and business owners. Neighbors can offer an extra set of eyes on your property. Especially if they have a different vantage point of the pond or property, they may observe things that would otherwise go unnoticed and report any suspicious activity.

Finding Stolen Koi

Though it can be difficult to locate stolen fish, there are some helpful steps that can be taken. We recommend taking pictures of koi at the beginning of every season. These photos can be used to spread the word and help others identify the missing koi.

Facebook Marketplace and other online sales platforms like eBay, Craigslist and Letgo should be monitored to see if the missing koi are listed for sale. It can also be helpful to contact local koi clubs and see if they would be willing to spread the word about stolen koi in online hobby groups and forums. Sometimes stolen koi will be resold to pet stores or dealers, so be sure to check those places, too. The more people who are notified and asked to keep an eye out, the more likely it is that the missing koi will be located.

Losing koi can be devastating, but in many cases, it can be avoided altogether. Taking these proper precautions is the key to protecting properties, ponds and your beloved koi.

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