Koi keeping – a fascinating hobby
When you start koi keeping you will be pleasantly surprised at how fond of your koi you become. They are living jewels and make wonderful pets.
Relaxing next to your pond, watching as the koi swim about lazily, is a very pleasant pastime. Over time it becomes apparent that each koi has its own personality and the large koi can become extremely tame, to the extent that they will feed from your hand. There is so much to learn and appreciate about koi that along with your time at the pond side you can also spend many hours reading and researching the subject.
The history of Nishikigoi
It is said that the name ‘Koi’ was first used to describe a particular type of fish in China about 2 500 years ago. There are different versions of the story, one saying that Confucius was given a fish named Koi, and another that Confucius named his son Li (literally meaning Koi) because he wished his son to be as orderly as the arrangement of scales on the back of the koi (at that stage in China koi were also considered to be a symbol of strength).
These early koi were carp, and bred from the Magoi or black carp line. The first mentions of coloured carp, particularly red, white and blue coloured carp, occur in manuscripts from about AD 250. The early mutations from the original black fish would have been red or white, and cross breeding would have resulted in a koi much like the Asagi of today (which is blue-grey and orange-red), since the hi (red) appeared on the belly of the fish. Later, a white fish with red on its back was bred, and it became the modern Kohaku.
In Niigata Prefecture, a beautiful mountainous region of Japan, the inhabitants were often cut off from the outside world by snow during winter and koi were first bred there as a food source. Today this prefecture is the home of many of the finest breeders of koi in the world, with the secrets of koi breeding having been passed down from generation to generation.
Modern koi varieties
Over the years koi breeders in Japan have developed many different varieties, the most popular being Kohaku, Sanke, Showa, Bekko, Utsurimono, Asagi, Shusui, Koromo, Goshiki, Tancho, Kinginrin, Kujaku, Chagoi, Ogon, Ochiba Shigure and Hariwake. These names can confuse the novice totally, but as your love for koi keeping grows and you spend your free time reading and researching, they will all begin to make sense. Having regular contact with a knowledgeable koi dealer can also help speed up the process.
When selecting koi for your pond, it is important to decide whether you plan to keep them purely as a hobby or whether you intend to become a collector with a selection composed of only top grade fish. While shiny, brightly coloured koi (such as the Ogon, Kinginrin and Doitsu varieties) will often attract the novice, it is recommended that a balanced collection has as its foundation a number of Kohaku (red and white) Sanke (red, and white with a little black) and Showa (black, red and white). Complement these fish with a selection of other varieties.
When buying koi, aim to purchase a few of the best quality small fish that have potential rather than many cheap but inferior quality fish. A koi that is not good as a baby does not have much chance of becoming beautiful in later life although, having said that, it is important to know that in some varieties, small koi that are good quality do not necessarily look good until they have matured. These are called ‘Tategoi’, meaning koi with future potential.
When you first begin selecting small koi you may find you look at a pond and think that they all look the same. However, once they are placed in a bowl so that you can look at them closely you will begin to see that they are very different from one another and you will be able to differentiate between a koi that has potential and one that does not. The best koi have a cigar-shaped body with good coloration, along with a perfect pattern and fins that are in proportion to the rest of its body.
Many a lifetime’s commitment
A famous scarlet koi, named Hanako, was owned by several individuals, the last of whom was Dr. Komei Koshihara. Hanako was reportedly 226 years old upon her death on 7 July 1977. Her age had been determined in 1966, when one of her scales was removed and examined. (Information obtained from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koi)
Article written by Angela Beckx of Koi @ Jungle. Contact Angela on 031 209 8781 or visit: www.rs02-pta.za-dns.com/~koikzn. Koi @ Jungle also stocks swimming pool products and equipment.