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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Meaning of Koi Fish

Koi is the Japanese word for carp. Hobbyists in the Americas and Europe use the single word “Koi” when referring the to fish, while the Japanese call the fish Nishikigoi. It means “brocaded carp” and they use that term to differentiate between the regular carp they consume and the ornamental carp that are kept in pets. People that are not to familiar with them call them “Koi fish” (it’s similar to the word for the friendly orange fish, goldfish.)

It is believed that the Chinese brought the carp with them to Japan and with them, the knowledge of how to raise them in ponds for food. These plain carp sometimes had spots of yellow or red color. In the early 1800’s, the farmers in Niigata took note of this. They kept a few of the “special” colored carp and selectively bred them to bring out the color. Within a couple decades, the first bloodlines were established for the original varieties. Koi fish now come in a wide selection of colors, finishes, fin styles (butterfly long fin and regular) and scale variations (regular, scaless, or large scales along the dorsal fin and lateral line).

Some Koi fish colors are:

  • red
  • white
  • black
  • blue
  • yellow
  • green
  • purple
  • grey
  • brown
Some color finishes include:
  • flat
  • metallic
  • gin rin (pron. geen leen,) which is a pearlescent sheen that is on all the scales

Keeping Koi

Koi fish are considered an ornamental fish variety and are produced only for decorative value in outdoor ponds and water gardens. Keeping Koi has become exceedingly popular in the recent years, with the advent of overnight international shipping and compact filtration systems that purify pond water.

In the optimal environment, one that is low stress and properly filtered, Koi can live 20 to 30 years. They can also grow up to 3 feet if they have the rare “jumbo” genetics (do a search for “jumbo Koi” to see some for yourself). Koi are a schooling fish, and do best when there is a group of them in the pond. Overcrowding is an issue, as a rule of thumb there should only be one fish for every couple hundred gallons of water in the pond.

Koi are a hardy fish, they can live in a wide variety of conditions. Although they do thrive when the water is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the pH level is a neutral 7 and there if there is no Ammonia in the water (koi pond filters strip the Ammonia the fish produce from the water.)

Koi fish add interactivity to any plain water feature. Each fish has its own personality, some will even follow you if you are near the pond (they are usually looking for food.)

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