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Koi in Japanese
simply means carp. It is an all encompassing generic term. The fish
referred to as koi today are hybridized descendants of the common carp (Cyprinus
carpio of the family Cyprinidae).
Although Koi are most often associated with the Japanese, they are not
indigenous to Japan.
The Japanese were introduced to both the common carp and the Prussian
(today’s goldfish) by the Chinese somewhere between 400 and
600 years ago. The
domestication of both carp species dates back to the Jin Dynasty
where they were kept in outdoor ponds and water gardens. By the time China
exporting these fish; the selective breeding of the Prusssian carp by
Chinese had already produced the colorful precursors to modern
Ironically, it was the Japanese and not the Chinese who are responsible
selectively breeding the common carp into fish known around the world
Koi are known as nishikigoi (brocaded carp)
brocaded carp are the genetically bred ornamental varieties of the
While the Chinese had to some extent selectively bred this species, it
until the 1820s that Japanese aqua-culturists began to breed them for
color variations that were already found in their cousins the Prussian
The initial breeding of modern Koi took place in the town of Ojiya
on the north eastern coast of Honshu Island.
results of this selective breeding process were first revealed by fish
Gonzo Hirio, in 1914 at the annual exhibition in Tokyo.
The news of a new ornamental fish
species quickly swept through Japan.
The most popular breeds of nishikigoi in Japan
fall within the category
Gosanke breeds include Kohaku,
Taisho Sanshoku, and Showa
with large red and small black markings
with red and white markings
with large red markings
New variations of Koi
are still being developed. They have been bred with wild carp, Ogon Koi
several other compatible carp species producing an ever increasing
Koi offspring. It should be noted that many purists in Japan
these latter variations as bastardized and not “true nishikigoi.” This has not
diminished the enthusiasm found throughout the
rest of the world. Some command quite hefty price tags among serious
collectors depending on their rarity and exoticism in coloration.
have been genetically interbred for over a
thousand years. Koi have only been breed for their ornamental qualities
the 1820s. If released into the wild, goldfish will continue to
goldfish. Koi, however, if left on their own will revert back to their
unadorned dull grey coloration in a matter of generations.
may be the difference between a
nanosecond in evolution and thousands of successive generations of
breeding. While Koi rival or exceed the color variations found in
lack the diversity in body types and tail configurations. These two
so closely related to that they can and do interbreed. However the
offspring are very often infertile.
are one of the longest lived specifies on the planet.
The oldest documented koi was a scarlet Kio named Hanako.
lived to 226 years of age (1751-July 7,
1977). Her last owner was Dr. Komei
Koshihara. Her age was determined by removing one of her scales in 1966
submitting it to extensive examination.
Koi is every bit as hardy a species as its
ancient ancestors. Like goldfish, Koi are a cold water species. They
best in water temperature ranging from 59-77 °F.
They are very active in
warmer months and enter a state of near hibernation in cold
winter months their digestive system slows to a crawl and they become
inactive. If the temperature drops below 50 °F
they are in danger of
immune systems shutting down. Consequently, Koi ponds and waterways are
deeper in areas with harsher winters than they are in more temperate
Areas of ponds are often heated in more severe climates.
are omnivorous. They will eat virtually anything, but
should be fed a well balance diet consisting of both plant and animal
will readily accept a wide variety of fruits and table vegetables
lettuce, peas, broccoli and watermelon. They can easily be trained to
out of your hand. They will even learn to recognize their feeder and
around in his presence.
a commercial level, Koi are not typically individually
breed. A female Koi lays thousands of eggs. These eggs are
fertilized by multiple males. When the resulting offspring reach 3-6
length they are inspected by experienced Koi masters. Unadorned fish or
with birth defects are commonly destroyed or recycle as a food product
sustain the more desirable offspring. Those who make the initial cut
further graded from premium quality to lower grade “pond
randomized breeding technique makes it possible to create entirely new
offshoots from existing varieties within just a few generations.
are generally considered too large to be kept as aquarium
fish. They can easily reach an adult length in excess of four feet.
not, however, affect their importance to the aquarium fish trade. Their
interesting history and human manipulated diversity makes them a note
addition to this guide.
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