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Koi appreciation

It is unrealistic to assume that the average koi keeper will be lucky enough to acquire the perfect example described in the following pages, when selecting koi for their ponds. Even if you are fortunate enough to find such a koi, chances are that it will not be for sale or you cannot afford it. Still, it is regarded as essential that every person involved in the koi hobby should understand the requirements of a good koi. This knowledge and awareness will help to improve the overall quality of koi. It can also assist when selecting a koi or when admiring it.

Novice koi hobbyists usually buy their first few koi based solely on the colour and pattern that they like.  These are important factors and immediately attract the attention while choosing a koi. However, body conformation should be a koi hobbyist's first consideration in choosing a koi. Body conformation is really the basic starting point in finding a healthy, balanced and powerful but elegant koi. It is extremely difficult to describe the correct body shape in words. Koi keepers are therefore encouraged to study as many photos and attend as many pond safaris and koi shows as possible. When viewing koi at these venues, ask yourself whether the fish exudes power, elegance as well as balance, the most beautifully marked koi with a kinked back will be worthless and the irritation factor of such a fish in a pond will prompt many koi keepers to get rid of it. When selecting a koi, remember that deformities, regardless of how minor they are, will become more pronounced as the koi grows.  

The koi cannot be missing anything like a fin or have any abnormalities like a pushed in mouth. It must be healthy, with no signs of ulcers, open skin, smashed mouths, disease, or infections anywhere in the body.   The head of the koi must be symmetrical and of correct size in relation to its body - not too big, nor too small.  If the transition from the gill plate of the head to the body is not smooth, then the head is probably incorrectly proportioned. (Showa especially!) The snout must also be of the correct shape and size - not too short or too protruding. Shape and size of the fins are important. It should be in proportion to the body (Ogon sometimes have odd pectoral fins)     

The body of a koi must conform as closely as possible to the industry-accepted standard, i.e., it must be thick and torpedo-shaped (large at the middle and tapering gradually towards both ends). When viewed from the top, the widest part of the body should be between the pectoral fins and the start of the dorsal fin. It must be wide at the shoulders and have a thick peduncle. Broad, thick body shape of female koi is preferred giving an imposing appearance when compared to the thin trout shaped body of a male koi. Some may argue that this is not always the case, but the percentage of males with the required body shape is very low.

The appearance and texture of the skin is also a difficult concept to grasp. A high skin quality on a koi will give the impression of delicacy, firmness and youthfulness. It will look soft and smooth with barely noticeable scale edges. Even if other factors are not what you would like, that basic high quality bright, soft lustrous skin would still shine through.

Next consideration is the qualities of colour, pattern, the pattern edges and balance. Colour should be as deep and as strong and as even as possible.

This also includes how well the koi is “finished”. Are all of the colours up, and is there a good sheen on the skin. When looking at any colour, the most important feature is its homogeneity. The colour should look even within each pattern element. An exception is where colour appears on the head. It may look a little different in colour and texture compared to the colour on the body of a fully scaled koi (wagoi), simply because there are no scales on the head. When the colours are almost equal, like in a “finished” mature koi, the appearance is more elegant.

The white on most multicoloured Koi is the canvas upon which nature will paint. It therefore follows that the base should be as perfect as possible, free of blemishes, free of discolouring and as white as possible. The red or hi is the most talked about colour with the mistaken belief propagated by many that the best red is the most blood red or most close to scarlet. This, however, is not true. The best red is a red which appears deeply ingrained to the body of the Koi, often referred to as "thick". It should be, the same colour and intensity from nose to tail and not, if possible, gradually fading towards the tail area. Sumi, or black, is probably the subject which will occupy Koi enthusiasts in debate for many years to come because much sumi is not strictly black, but a rich dark blue/black.

When a koi has more than one colour, the balance of the pattern should be considered. No small spots or stains should appear between the various markings. Pattern must also be proportional to the size of the koi and not have a small pattern on a huge body or a huge pattern on a small body. It should be artistically balanced and not front, tail or side heavy. The edges of a pattern play an important role in the overall quality of a fish. The edges of a marking closest to the tail (kiwa) should be clean-cut. The edges closest to the front side of a marking may appear a little blurred (sashi). That is normal as long as the width of this blurred effect is uniform. This is where a scale of a different colour overlays the marking. Usually the uniqueness or character of the pattern on the head of a koi makes it special.

Deportment is the way the koi holds its position in the water and how it swims. Is the fish alert to its environment or is it sulking away from attention. The stress, health of a koi and the quality of its environment will greatly affect a koi’s deportment.

No koi is perfect, so a koi must not be judged by its imperfections.  Instead, a koi is judged as a total package in terms of how pleasant it looks and how it carries itself.


Koi appreciation

 It must be stressed that koi appreciation should never be about hunting for perfection, because it does not exist. It should be about that particular feature or a combination of various features that makes a particular Koi attractive or outstanding, giving it distinction, character and elegance.

Updated 13 April 2009

Last Updated on Monday, 16 December 2013 13:41