When selecting koi, you should keep in mind that these fish will be viewed from the top in your pond. If the display tank is a
glass aquarium, and you are viewing the fish from the side, lift up the lid and look down at the fish. This is how you will see
the fish in your pond. *Please note that if you see your fish from the SIDE in your pond, there is probably something terribly
wrong with the fish!* A reputable dealer will pull the fish you are interested in out of the display tank and place it in a bowl
for closer inspection. Check and make sure it has all of it's fins: dorsal (top), caudial (tail), two pectoral (one on each side),
two ventral (below) and two anal (under tail). The two things to look for that will make any koi a stand out in your pond are:
1. A clean head, and 2. Even, symmetrical scales. Of course, color and color patterns are also VERY important, but more on
1. A "clean head" means that the fish's head is opaque. You should not be able to see any of the skull through the skin on top
of the head. Often, as certain varieties of koi mature, their heads will fill in, so to speak, as their skin thickens. For example,
Kohaku, Showa, and Sanke varieties are known to do this. However, until you know more about all the different varieties of
koi, it is better to stick with a good fish from the start. Note the two koi pictured below. They are both considered 'Yamabuki'
or yellow koi. The one on the left is a regular koi (Yamabuki Ogon), the one on the right is of the Doitsu (Doitsu Yamabuki), or
scaleless variety. Both are beautiful fish in their own right, but take a closer look at their heads. See how the fish on the right
has a solid, opaque head coloration, while the fish on the left has a splotchy, transparent head? Regardless of the color or
variety of koi you are looking for, look for the fish with the head on the right, and buy that one. When it gets to be about two
feet long, you will thank me.
(for those of us who are
(opposite of 'Left')
First and foremost, if you are purchasing koi, ALWAYS buy your koi from a reputable dealer. I cannot stress this enough. Ask
how long the dealer has had them, if they've been quarantined and if so, for how long. Have they been treated with salt?
Observe the fish in the tank. Do ANY of the koi have ulcers, white spots, frayed fins, or "fuzz"? Are the koi active and alert,
with fins spread, gliding gracefully through the water, or are the fish cowering in the corner, listless, with fins clamped? More
importantly, do ANY of the fish in the tank show these classic signs of stress? Never, never, NEVER buy a fish out of a tank that
has sick fish in it. The is a true "Buyer Beware" scenario, and if you don't practise quarantine procedures before putting fish in
your pond, you're setting yourself up for disaster.
That said, and assuming the fish appear healthy and active, let's move on to what to aesthetically look for when purchasing koi.
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line down the body of the fish. As the fish grows, the scales will grow too, and it will be obvious if they are all helter-skelter
when the scales are the size of a dime. Even the "scaleless" Doitsu variety will typically have one row of scales along it's dorsal
fin. Look for symmetry here.
in 5 years depends almost entirely on water conditions and diet. Poor water quality and bad nutrition can screw up genetics
when it comes to color.
As you can see from this small sample of examples, koi come in a wide variety of colors. Real living jewels. The Tancho Kohaku
(top right), is the National Fish of Japan because of it's red circle on a white ground. It is marked just like their flag, with the
rising sun of Japan. By the way, this particular fish was listed for sale at a modest $18,000.00 U.S. dollars. For a FISH!! Buy
something a little less expensive to start with.
Koi like company, so start with just a couple of fish and work your way up after 6 or 8 weeks. It is better to start with small,
quality fish than big, ugly ones. Like I said, you will never kill an ugly one. Just assume you are going to do everything right
and these fish are going to grow to their full size in your pond. Koi can get big, and I mean BIG. In Japan it is reported that
some of the largest koi have weighed in at over 20 pounds and are sometimes in excess of 3 feet long! Don't expect them to
grow to that size in your pond, after all, we're talking about Japan here, the koi breeding capitol of the world! They also
report to have koi over 100 years old! Your koi may get upwards to 30", and with proper care, they can live for quite a long
time. The oldest koi I have personally seen in a garden pond was 36 years old.
Did I mention you should get something you like? You may have to live with it for a while!
|Here are some outstanding koi pictures for you to drool over.
Now, if you're ready, let's move on to color and color patterns.