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According to tradition, the first colored carp existed more than a thousand years ago. About 120 years ago, people in Japan began to breed different color varieties. Today, the breeding of these majestic-looking splendid fish is one of the great sources of income of traditional Japanese business culture. The beauty of koi has become known worldwide beyond the borders of Japan. Imitators from Japanese breeders outside Japan now represent serious competition. Having a few koi in one's pond, gracefully making their rounds, is now considered a sign of good taste worldwide. The koi has become synonymous with balance, tranquility and relaxation.
Types of Koi
The Kohaku is the most popular and widespread Koi in Japan. It is a white koi that has red markings. If the white is yellowish or even flesh-colored, the value of the fish decreases. The red sun on a white background is the national flag of Japan. The more the Kohaku's markings match the red and white of the flag and the more sharply the color edges contrast, the more valuable it is. Also, ideally, the red color patches should cover the scales so that they are no longer visible.
The "Little Red Riding Hood", the Tancho, is particularly popular. This is a completely white koi, distinguished by a circular red head spot if possible. It is the purest Japanese, showing the red sun of the Japanese flag at its best. The word components are "tan" for this particular red and "cho" for crowned. A red crown on immaculate white, the tancho in the pond radiates a special calm, again and again the eye of the observer falls on this regal looking animal. Only the head spot may be red, the rest of the body has to appear in purest white.
The Taisho Sanke is tricolored. It was bred at the beginning of the 19th century as a variant of the Kohaku, which shows a black pattern as an extension of the red spots on a white background. The black spots, the so-called sumi markings, are supposed to look like lacquered. The black spots can have different extensions, only the depth of color is important. The Japanese term for the color black in spots is sumi, if the whole fish is black, then karasu is the correct term.
The Showa Sanshoku is also three-colored, it also has the three colors white red and black, but here the basic color is a deep black. In the thirties of the last century this koi was bred. Also in this carp the value increases with the clear separation of each of the three colors, and the strong expression of the black color portion is particularly important. The head can have all three colors, but black is indispensable here. The beautiful, harmonious overall picture is strengthened by round, black areas in the area of the pectoral fins.
One of the oldest breeds of the Nishiki Koi is the Asagi. It has a geometrical mirror-symmetrical appearing back pattern in different shimmering blue tones. The head is clear light blue and has no markings. The particularly elegant looking Koi has red or orange beginnings on all fins and the cheeks, likewise the belly is red, which goes however only so far that from above the gray-blue total picture remains undisturbed.
The "German" carp, the Doitsu, is available with or without scales. Without scales it is also called leather carp, with scales mirror carp. The Doitsu serves as the breeding basis for several different carps, subgroups with the Doitsu designation include the Doitsu Kohaku, Sanke, Yamato and Hariwake.
The Shusui, which is a cross between the Asaki and the Doitsu, clearly shows the geometric structure of the Asagi by its distinct row of scales in the middle of the back. Its coloration is the same as that of the Asagi, only with more pronounced reds. Some Shusui have additional scale rows along the sides, but for the most part they are scaleless like the leather carp. In the Japanese language, the word "hi" means a red when applied to spots, when the whole koi is red, it is referred to as "aka". Accordingly, a koi whose back is colored red is called "Hi-Shusui".
A cross between the widespread Kohaku and the Asagi is the Koromo. Like the Kohaku, its basic pattern is red and white. It has scales like patterns of pine cones set off in blue as "Aigoromo" or black scale edges as "Sumigoromo", corresponding to the Japanese terms "ai" for deep blue and "sumi" for black. The grape is called "budo" in Japanese, so the koromo appearing like a grape in light purple is a "budogoromo". "Five-colored" is the literal translation for Goshiki. In addition to the three colors of red, white and black of the Sanke, it also has the two different shades of blue of the Asagi. The Goshiki is divided into two basic groups. The dark Kuro Goshiki represents strength and power, it appears unassailable. The light Kuro Goshiki, on the other hand, appears elegant. It is not always easy to clearly recognize and distinguish between the five different colors, this is where the true Koi connoisseur shows himself.
The Kinginrin is composed of three word elements. "kin" means gold, "gin" silver and "rin" scale. Gold-silver with scales, this is the Kinginrin, the koi with silver scales that shimmer like mother-of-pearl in the sunlight. The "British Koi Keeper Society" determined that a Kinginrin is considered a Ginrin Koi from the number of Ginrin scales 20. This carp looks particularly impressive when the mother-of-pearl shimmer of the scales is evenly distributed over the entire back. Only since 1929 this impressive coloration of the scales was discovered and from then on purposefully bred. Of course, such breeding also has its disadvantages, the Kinginrin is considered very susceptible to diseases and rarely grows longer than 70 cm.
All metallic shining koi are called Hikarimoyo, if they do not belong to the Hikarimuji or the Hikariutsuri. These are formerly extremely popular koi with a white-red basic pattern, which is sometimes extended by gray symmetrical patterns. This symmetry harmonizes especially with the irregular basic pattern. In recent years, the following of this koi in Japan has decreased.
Black spots like stepping stones have the Bekko, which translates to "shield flat". It comes in three basic colors "aka" red, "shiro" white and "ki" yellow. A real Bekko may have the black color only on the back, a black drawing on the head is frowned upon. It is bred from the Taisho Sanke and represents one of the first breeding types of Koi. The "sumi", the black spots, are at best on a uniform base color throughout. A Bekko is particularly rare and therefore valuable when the sumi show a symmetrical arrangement.
The Utsurimono, which has a black base color with the patterns in the basic colors of the Bekko, is often confused with it. A clear distinguishing feature is the bicolored head common to the Utsurimono, which must be all white in the Bekko at its best. As with all valuable koi, the colors must not run, but must be clearly demarcated. The Utsuri with the basic color yellow with black spots looks particularly elegant and stands out clearly from the other koi in the pond. Very elegant also look the monochrome, metallic shiny koi, the Ogon. They are available in golden yellow as Yamabuji Ogon or white as Platinum. The more uniform the scales and the more intense the coloration, even into the tips of the fins, the more valuable the Ogon. Last in this compilation are the Kawarimono, which cannot be classified in any of the other breeds. All of them are characterized by the fact that they do not have a metallic appearance. Otherwise there are the most different breeding forms in the most beautiful colors, in which Koi carps are conceivable. There are still many sub-designations, for example the Aka Hajiro is a red Kohaku Koi, which is white only on the pectoral fins, while in the Kanoko a red pattern is found only in the center of the scales.
The classic Koi breeders are found in Japan. However, the enjoyment of this beautiful ornamental fish has led to attempts to breed it worldwide, some with great success. Some well-known breeders are presented here. 40 years ago Aoki Haruo started his hobby, he began to breed Koi. Lover he still is and so it is not surprising that he always managed to bring new variants of the old breedings to perfection. His name is well known at the big Japanese Koi shows, he always amazes the experts with his new breedings of the highest quality. Probably one of the most famous Koi farms in the world is Dainichi Farm. Highest quality and most beautiful body shapes are the characteristics of the carps from this breeding. Minoru Mano founded this farm. He was considered the leading figure in Japanese koi breeding and was an important teacher of today's best koi breeders, in a way he created the master class. After his death, Futoshi Mano followed in his father's footsteps.
A "Dainichi Koi" represents the most important trademark in the industry. Katsuhiko Hiranishi is the third generation to run the Hiranishi Koi Farm, which has existed for 60 years. He is extremely selective. Of the 200,000 or so small koi it produces each year, it allows only 2,000 for breeding, often parting with animals that would pass muster in front of our eyes. To get one of his remarkable animals, one should apply early, because his coveted breeding successes are sold out quickly.
In the mountains of Matto, Ojiya there is often up to two meters of snow in winter. In this seclusion Yoshiaki Hirasawa breeds his special class Koi on his Hirashin Koi Farm like a hermit. Mainly Kohaku and Sanke are his specialties. In addition, he breeds very special and desirable variants of these basic forms. When his animals become four years or older, they show themselves in a special beauty, Japanese fans love them especially. Highest prices have won the beautiful fish in various exhibitions. Hoshikin is also a famous farm for breeding Kohaku Koi. Many prizes were won by Katsuyuki Hoshino, owner and spiritus rector of Hoshikin farm. He mentions five basic pillars as the secret of his breeding success, the quality of the parent animals, an optimal selection, the most accurate knowledge about the koi, the best water quality and finally an excellent feed.
Katsuyuki Hoshino also answers the question of how a customer can best care for the koi he has bought with the right water and feed. He has already won a large number of prizes with his koi, both for their beauty and size, his largest Kohaku being 97 centimeters long. Ichiro Mano founded the Izumiya Koi Farm in 1932. Like his ancestors, the current president of the farm, Senichi Mano breeds varieties of Sanke. But he also brought the golden yellow Yamabuji Ogon to a top form, it can't be more perfect, nobody could do it better so far. These are enormous Koi with an intense metallic shimmering yellow in a size up to more than one meter. Izumiya Koi Farm is also considered a teaching farm, many of the most famous breeders have learned there. In 1970 Hisashi Hirasawa founded the Marudoh Koi Farm. He had learned his trade, like many other breeders, for 18 years at the Dainichi Koi Farm and was already developing his own ideas at that time. After the death of his father, he took over the farm. The small family business gradually grew into a large operation as the children grew up and worked on the farm. The goal of the whole family was, and still is, to one day breed the most beautiful koi that will cause a worldwide sensation. Like many large koi farms in Japan, all the love of the breeders is put into their work. In 1947 Taisho Sanshoku Marusaka won the Mature Champions at the All Japan Nishikigoi Show, after that he got the nickname "Sanke". The son Teruo Hiroi is the present owner and head of the company. He started breeding his own koi at a young age and increased the fame of the farm more and more. Sanke and Hikarimono are the main breeding animals of this farm. But also a new breeding, the Midorigoi became a great success. Again and again Marusaka wins prizes at the Koi shows. Already in the third generation the Miyaishi Koi Farm, founded in 1937 by Taro Miya, is successfully continued as a family business. The number of varieties bred here is particularly large as well as the number of prizes won with them. Special attention is paid to the breeding of the Kin Showa, which stands out from the other Koi especially because of its incomparable brilliance. Already on the occasion of one of the first exhibitions, where this brightly shining Koi was nominated, it received the first prize. The enthusiasm for the impressive koi is one of the good reasons that this family business will continue from generation to generation.
Hisato Nogami is considered a koi artist, in fact the breeding he does at his Nogami Koi Farm can be considered art, so perfect do his breedings appear. But like everywhere else, there is hard work behind it to get the best results. Hisato Nogami is one more breeder who learned his craft from Minouro Mano of Dainichi Farm, and shows that he has achieved world fame himself as a worthy disciple of the great master, following his guidance. Young people often successfully embody new ideas, as does Otsuka Yoshikazu at his Otsuka Koi Farm. With him, the principle of two against one applies, two koi are sacrificed to obtain one particularly magnificent one. His varieties are remarkable, twice in a row he won with his Asaki at the All Japan Show. He breeds with the utmost enthusiasm to one day achieve his self-imposed goal of breeding the koi that everyone immediately knows is an Otsuka koi. The Uonuma Koi Farm, with its very special breeding methods, has created many an award-winning specimen. In seven ponds, different water qualities are successfully used in an attempt to give the different varieties of koi the water that is special to them. The boss Hiroie Yamaguchi also considers the type of pond bottom to be crucial. He runs the Koi breeding very successfully with scientific seeming methods. He has noticed that two koi of one mother show different developments in different water qualities.
Evaluation of Koi and their assessment
Not only in Japan you can find the experts who are able to evaluate the value of Koi and especially their evaluation at the regularly held shows and competitions. When you see the variety of colorfulness and body shapes of Koi at such a show, you quickly realize that highly specialized knowledge, acquired over decades, is necessary to make qualified judgments.
Every proud owner of a pond with Koi carps is afraid of occurring diseases in his animals. Prevention, as with all diseases, is the best medicine, but when it happens, there are specialists who are completely dedicated to the detection, treatment and care of koi diseases. If you notice that there are negative changes, you should immediately consult the Koi doctor. The doctor will quickly determine what the disease is and initiate the right therapy. Here are the signs of the most common Koi diseases. If detected and treated in time, they are curable.
What do Koi cost?
A small Koi up to twelve centimeters in length can be had for about ten Euros, a good quality Jumbo Koi with a beautiful pattern costs around 10,000 Euros. If you look at the presentations of the big breeders, you quickly start to rave. In addition to a pond with good water quality, which also costs money to maintain, you have to factor in the cost of food and possible disease treatments. But as with all hobbies, once the enthusiasm is awakened, the financial means are found to pursue this wonderful hobby.
Own Koi breeding
With the appropriate composition of the Koi stock in your own garden pond, you will soon notice that offspring have appeared, the idea of breeding your own is not far away. Many breeders in and outside Japan have started this way. There is a large amount of technical literature available and those who can spare the time will find in their own Koi breeding a fulfilling hobby which, if successful, can also expand into a financial mainstay. The occupation with these beautiful animals can quickly become more than a wonderful hobby in a class of its own.