Japanese KOI

Aquaponics Japanese KOI

How Beautiful can they get?

Koi are among the longest-living vertebrates known to man with some living over 200 years and now they are being raised worldwide in Aquaponic systems. The most popular category of Koi is the ”Gosanke”, which is made up of the Kohaku (Nishikigoi), Taisho Sanshoku, and Showa Sanshoku varieties and their subject matter is a much larger subject than can be covered in just one page so I have created a complete website dedicated to JAPANESE KOI ~ The story continues

History - The carp is a large group of fish originally found in Central Europe and Asia. Asian carps were originally domesticated in East Asia, where they were used as food fish. The ability of carp to survive and adapt to many climates and water conditions allowed the domesticated species to be propagated to many new locations including Japan. Natural color mutations of these carp would have occurred across all populations. Carp were first bred for color mutations in China more than a thousand years ago, where selective breeding of the Prussian carp led to the development of the Goldfish. Carp are known as Koi in Japan. Of the various domesticated carp species, the common carp is one of the more commonly used in Aquaculture.

The common carp was grown as a food fish at least as far back as the 5th century in China. Common carp were first bred for color in Japan in the 1820s, initially in the town of Ojiya in the Niigata prefecture on the North Eastern coast of Honshu Island. By the 20th century, a number of color patterns had been established, most notably the red-and-white ”Kohaku”. The outside world was not aware of the development of color variations in koi until 1914, when the Niigata Koi were exhibited in the annual exposition in Tokyo. At that point, interest in Koi exploded throughout Japan. The hobby of keeping Koi eventually spread worldwide. Koi are now commonly sold in most pet stores, with higher-quality fish available from specialist dealers.

Hybridization - Extensive hybridization between different populations has muddled the historical zoo-geography of the common carp. However, scientific consensus is that there are at least two subspecies of the common carp, one from Western Eurasia and another from East Asia. One recent study on the mitochondrial DNA of various Common carp indicate that Koi are of the East Asian subspecies. However another recent study on the mitochondrial DNA of Koi have found that Koi are descended from multiple lineages of common carp from both Western Eurasian and East Asian varieties. “Discovery of an ancient lineage of Cyprinus carpio from Lake Biwa, Central Japan, based on mtDNA sequence data, with reference to possible multiple origins of Koi.

Aquaponics aquaculture

Beautiful young Japanese KOI

This could be the result of Koi being bred from a mix of East Asian and Western Eurasian carp varieties, or Koi being bred exclusively from East Asian varieties and being subsequently hybridized with Western Eurasian varieties. The Butterfly Koi is one known product of such a cross.

Keeping KOI - The common carp is a hardy fish, and koi retain that durability. Koi are cold-water fish, but benefit from being kept in the 59 – 77 degrees F range and do not react well to long cold winter temperatures, their immune system ‘turns off’ below 50 degrees F. Koi ponds usually have a meter or more of depth in areas of the world that become warm during the summer, whereas in areas that have harsher winters, ponds generally have a minimum of 4 1/2 feet. Specific pond construction has evolved by koi keepers intent on raising show quality koi.

Koi’s bright colors put them at a severe disadvantage against predators; a white-skinned ”Kohaku” is a visual dinner bell against the dark green of a pond. Herons, kingfishers, raccoons, cats, foxes, Badgers and hedgehogs are all capable of emptying a pond of its fish. A well-designed outdoor pond will have areas too deep for herons to stand in, overhangs high enough above the water that mammals can’t reach in, and shade trees overhead to block the view of aerial passers-by. It may prove necessary to string nets or wires above the surface. A pond usually includes a pump and filtration system to keep the water clear.

Koi are an omnivorous fish and will often eat a wide variety of foods, including peas, lettuce, and watermelon. Koi food is designed not only to be nutritionally balanced, but also to float so as to encourage them to come to the surface. When they are eating, it is possible to check koi for parasites and ulcers. Koi will recognize the person feeding them and gather around them at feeding times. They can be trained to take food from one’s hand. In the winter, their digestive system slows nearly to a halt, and they eat very little, perhaps no more than nibbles of algae from the bottom. Their appetite will not come back until the water becomes warm in the spring. When the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, feeding, particularly with protein, is halted or the food can go rancid in their stomach, causing sickness. Koi can live for centuries. One famous scarlet koi, named “Hanako” (c. 1751 – July 7, 1977) was owned by several individuals, the last of whom was Dr. Komei Koshihara. Hanako was reportedly 226 years old upon her death. Her age was determined by removing one of her

Aquaponics ~ Ko in pond

Aquaponics Ko pond complete with rubber snake to keep the birds away

scales and examining it extensively in 1966.

Breeding KOI - Like most fish, Koi reproduce through spawning during which a female lays a vast number of eggs and one or more males fertilize them. According to the size of the female, the egg count during a spawn could be anywhere between 50,000 upwards to 300,000 for just one female. Nurturing the resulting offspring (referred to as “fry”) is no more difficult than raising the fry of the tropical cichlids that Tropical fish hobbyist do every day. Although a Koi breeder may carefully select the parents they wish based on their desired characteristics, the resulting fry will nonetheless exhibit a wide range of color and quality.

As previously mentioned, Koi can produce literally thousands of offspring from a single spawning. However, unlike cattle, purebred dogs, or more relevantly, goldfish, the large majority of these offspring, even from the best champion-grade Koi, will not be acceptable as Nishikigoi. In other words, they won’t all bear coloration or design of coloration when compared to their parents. Thats when the culling process begins as in addition to run-of-the-mill coloration and design there are almost always some that are genetically defective. Could be a crooked spine, misshapen tail or some other physical defect.

Aquaponics Koi Pond

A beautiful Japanese style KOI pond

These unacceptable offspring are culled as soon as their defect becomes apparent. The balance of the offspring are culled many time at various stages of development based on the breeder’s expert eye and in some cases, the use of closely guarded trade techniques. These culled fry are usually destroyed or used as feeder fish. Older culls found within their first year when between 3″ to 6″ long (also called “Tosai”), are considered ‘pond-quality’ Koi and are sold to tropical fish stores, aquarium shops, large chain stores that carry tropical fish for sale and in recent years in this day of the Internet, through tropical fish

2.2m koi

Most expensive live fish ever sold ~ $2.2

auction web sites. Even though they are considered run-of-the-mill pond Koi, they can still bring a handsome retail price which can range, depending on size, from $9.95 at a large chain store up to $300 or more on up to several thousands of dollars via the use of Internet auction web sites which cater to the more serious hobbyist and more all the way up to 2.2 million.

 Here is a picture of “Alexandria”

Price wise, even though you may have a far superior Koi swimming merrily around in your out door pond than the one that just won the International Koi Show in Japan this year, the fact that the fish that won that show could place the valuation of that Koi in the millions of dollars when sold (you having purchased yours at a local shop when 6″ long for $19.95) you would never be able to sell yours for millions. But don’t be upset. The same holds true with other animals that win Championship contest such as dogs, cats etc. It cost a lot of money to be able to put a Koi or dog or cat in a sufficient number of shows to ever get a chance at being judged the best ever for that particular year. Even though it is the large Koi breeders of the world, especially in Japan, that win those shows, it doesn’t mean that you can’t raise Koi of the same or superior quality. As mentioned earlier, you can’t control what the off spring are going to look like.

You can only purchase and raise Koi with the best body conformation and definition of color you can afford, then it’s all up to chance. After that what you do with the resulting offspring is what you make of it. The semi-randomized result of the Koi reproductive process has both advantages and disadvantages for the breeder. While it requires diligent oversight to narrow down the favorable result that the breeder wants, it also makes possible the development of new varieties of Koi within relatively few generations. The Koi fish …. ounce for ounce ….. pound for pound are more valuable than any other aquatic animal or fish you as an individual can raise.

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