Selecting Good Koi
There are many things to love about being a koi keeper, but the appreciation of the koi itself is really at the heart of the hobby. It’s the uniqueness and beauty of koi that draws newbies and maintains the engagement level of experienced keepers. These are the koi basics.
Some Beginner Mistakes
Too often, a beginner koi enthusiast sees a beautiful, show-winning koi at its peak and thinks they can find that level of development in a six-inch, inexpensive fish. What they don’t understand is that a koi’s color develops (and hopefully improves) over time. It takes time and effort to raise a beautiful fish. If cost is an issue, it might be smarter to invest in one higher quality koi than two or three less-desirable options.
Koi Head Structure
In terms of balance, the width of the head at the back end of the gill plate should be equal to the length of the head from the nose to the rear of the gill plate. Question to ask, is the body confirmation streamlined, will the water flow smoothly over the koi as it graceful moves about.
How to Purchase a Koi
Knowing how koi develop will help you to choose the right young fish for their future appearance. Remember to focus on quality more so than on quantity.
1. Which Fish Appeals to You?
The first thing you need to think about is whether or not you like the fish. Don’t project forward to if it will be a show winner; focus on the now. You should be excited to buy the fish and add it to your collection.
2. Body Shape
The fish you choose should look powerful and be in balance along its head, body, tail tube, and fins. Question to ask: is the body confirmation streamlined, will the water flow smoothly over the koi as it graceful moves about. Females will have a fuller body shape and are more expensive.
3. Balance of Color
A koi at 1 year of age and 8 inches may look very different from the same koi at 6 years of age and 18 inches. Even if you love the look now, remember that it will change over time, perhaps becoming unbalanced. Counter what you like at the moment of purchase by how you believe it will appear later.
4. Base White (Shiroji)
The base white color may not improve with age as the other colours will. Some exceptions that clean up nicely with dramatically improved whites include shiro, utsuri, and showa. On a small kohaku, for instance, look for an even and clean white. Note the head shiroji as compared to that on the body.
5. Black (Sumi)
Rich sumi on a younger fish is not always desirable because it can sometimes overpower the fish and fade with age. On a smaller fish, look for some underlying sumi as well as evidence of inky black. Include black as one of the colors, among the others, when reviewing your koi. Remember that it will expand as the fish expands.
6. Red (Beni or Hi)
Many people look for expansive beni on small koi, but it’s better to look for consistent, soft orange with no windows. Look for a dark red diamond in the middle of the scales, which will be more likely to grow into a deeper, long-lasting red. Note that a fish that is smaller than 10 inches and red is male and may stop growing earlier and not retain that peak coloring for as long. In addition, beni tends to shrink, so balanced color on a smaller fish may not remain balanced as it grows.
Full tancho spots have even been know to disappear completely as the koi matures.
10% / 100%
It’s important to remember that even the best koi have their faults, and when they show, they are at their peak. They could be lacking before and/or after they win and appear perfect. Sometimes, when looking at two fish, it’s hard to discern the differences, but they can ultimately be substantial. One koi may only differ from another by about 10%, but that could be the percentage that makes it a standout. The cost of one over the other can also be substantial, sometimes even double.
When looking for the “perfect” koi with a soft, thick beni, strong sheen, and textbook conformation, you’re going to pay for the privilege. The cost is not only for what you’re getting at this moment in time; you’re also paying for the potential of this Koi to become Grand Champion.
Don’t Trust Photographs Alone
Photographs of koi are great to give you a general idea of how the fish might look, but it’s important to actually see the fish in person. Deportment and sheen are impossible to gauge via images, and it’s possible they’ve been enhanced as well. You’ll want to see the fish from all angles, and side views are often not available in pictures.
If you are new to the hobby of koi keeping, you may not know the proper order in which to appraise fish. First, you’ll want to look at the body shape, or conformation. The fish should look like an athlete: well muscled and proportioned. From there, look for fullness through the shoulders and tail tube; this area should be streamlined with no indentations. If there is a pinch or indentation at the back end of the abdomen, that’s going to be there through adulthood, so be aware.
Quality of Pattern and colour are the second area of discern. is there a recognizable pattern, does it step or flow over the body does the colour stop at the lateral line or wrap the body is the colour sharp are the scales identified by fukurin.
Good-quality koi are proportional from head size to fins. You can get a hint of the potential size of the fish by looking at bone structure and the distance between the dorsal fin and caudal fin.
Usually, it’s smart to see the koi in person to really know what its body shape looks like. You’ll want to observe not only the body shape but also the skin quality, luster, and prowess. Comparing multiple koi is another way to enhance your appreciation and abilities to choose the best for your collection.
Things to Consider Before Your Purchase
Remember that larger fish are more expensive to ship because you get fewer per box. Also, regardless of the quality of fish you purchase, you will be unable to grow a big, beautiful specimen in a 12-foot pond with no bottom drain feeding low-quality food. To really thrive, you need to take this seriously by providing the best water quality, top-notch food, deep water, current for aeration and exercise, and an eight-month growing season.
What Do You Really Want?
Before you go out and purchase koi, ask yourself what you really want to achieve. There are several factors to consider:
- What is the best fish right now?
- Intent, Personal appreciation or Competition
- What will be the best fish in the future?
- Which fish do you like best?
- Do you prefer male or female?
- How old of a fish is best?
These questions will likely narrow your choices to just a few, helping you round out how you want to invest your money.