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Learn to buy Koi, you will love it!

Written by: Hugo J. Smal
Images Toen Feyen

Is there a manual for buying koi? It’s difficult because assessing koi is more than just adding up. Working at the Goyang Koi farm means that I’m not buying Koi. I must help to sell them. For us, that means that we must help you with buying them. We must give you the information needed to build a beautiful Koi collection. If these Koi come from the Goyang Koifarm we would be very proud. But first: learn to buy Koi.

Have a look at the body, the colours and the pattern. Do you like it?

Buying koi is perhaps the most pleasant side of the hobby. It is one big Koi knowledge test. Do you have a view on quality and do you not pay too much? The price of a koi is not determined by purchasing + costs + profit margin + VAT only. There are elusive things like taste and expectations for the future and that makes buying not only fascinating but also exciting.

You often see them at the koi shop: people who – hung over a basin for hours – watch the fish. They think and weigh: would that spot develop like that or would it grow that way? Is there still black under that skin or will that black mark disappear? Questions, questions, questions. The koi enthusiast has a hard time solving them.

Two Kohaku
Two Kohaku. Which is your favourite?

When I still bought Koi, I didn’t hang for hours above the basins. I always looked at which fish caught my attention in the large amount in the tank. Wich Koi stood out.

Future expectations are a bit like ‘gambling’. But let’s gamble with a strategy!

Still a guideline

When you talk to experienced koi buyers, you find out that they are not walking in the dark. They have a guide, some even pull it out of their inner pocket and stick to it with every purchase. They are rules that, when properly applied, indicate that at least the base material is good.

I will indicate the basic rules of the guideline here. You will need to get experience  by looking around a lot. By talking to grown up koi buyers and by regularly visiting a show. In the long run, you will come to a description of your own taste. That is the moment when you can also call yourself an experienced koi buyer.

However, keep one thing in mind: an experienced koi buyer does not have to be a good koi keeper. There are hobbyists who know everything about buying carp. Simply because it is the only way for them to keep fish in their pond. Rule one of the guidelines should, therefore, be: only buy fish if you are sure that you can also give them a long and happy life. For the real enthusiast, dying a koi, because it ends up in bad water, is the same as cutting a knife in ‘Who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue’. You just don’t go to jail for it. Koi is not only a living creature but also art!

Perfect koi, forget it

Every koi has a less good side. Even Japanese show winners can be criticized. For example, the Kohaku who won the All Japan Koi show 2014 had a red mark on the head that went across his eye.  As a ten-centimetre fish, I wouldn’t have given it a penny. Now as a Jumbo prize winner it turned out to be invaluable. That is why the judges only look at the strengths of the fish. Only when the Grand Champion is selected, and only when two fish have exactly the same number of points and are exactly the same size, a shortlist of weak points is compiled. So approach Koi positively.

Learn to buy Koi, look from above.

Asagi with a problem
Yes, it is a lovely Koi but it is bent. So it will always attract negative attention. Picture: Mark Kleijkers.

You should always judge a koi from above when it swims towards you. The harmony between health, body shape, markings and character can then be best guessed. Keep a close eye on how the fish swims. A large koi must steer majestically with gentle strokes of the tail. Small fish shoot through the water and are therefore slightly more difficult to judge.

In any case, make sure that the fish has no visible defects, such as torn or missing fins, bends, holes, missing gill covers, etc. It is pathetic, but leave them where they are. The fish that are already swimming around in your pond will not benefit from the extra load these less fortunate ones will put on the water. In addition, damaged or incomplete fish are weaker, therefore more likely to be sick and therefore a real threat to your own fish.

Quarantine is a must!

Invisible defects must be revealed during the quarantine period. Anyone who buys new fish and introduces it directly into their pond is a fool. There is always a risk of disease creeping in and must be avoided at all times. Quarantine is the only means for this. The installation in which this takes place must be a fully-fledged reception facility. So a basin or an aquarium. Or even better if there is room for it: a second pond in the garden. Naturally equipped with a mature filter.

Females body shape is better.

The shape of a female or male koi is very different. A man is a torpedo or cigar-shaped A woman has a full body with beautiful curves. In young koi, the distinction is difficult to make. Only when the fish are about four to five years old, the true body shows itself.
Males only have a chance in the smaller classes of competitions. The top prizes always go to the females. However, they have a drawback. When a pond is too shallow, the females will quickly get a belly and that is rejected. But when they reach full maturity in a proper pond, females are really at the top. Several factors play a role in this. The main thing is health. When a koi is in top condition will have a beautiful health shine.
The colours should be bright and of equal intensity all over the body. And the markings must be nicely distributed over the body. They have to carry the eye from front to back, as it were.

Give a good Koi start
More about our Koi on our Homepage

Always choose koi with large markings. Small markings will make them less and less impressive as they grow. The markings must absolutely refer to the variety to which the fish belongs and are not an indistinct mix. The contours must be sharp and clear.

A young koi will have a kind of baby skin. When you see this in an adult koi, you really have to do with quality. Always choose fish that show their colours clearly. A yellowish haze over white skin rarely goes away. Orange almost never turns red. Wait until you have enough experience before buying juveniles of varieties like Ai-Goromo. Predicting the quality of this koi species is very difficult.

Focus on the go-Sanke classes: Showa Sanke, Kohaku and Taisho Sanke. These are the fish most known about. The rules with which they must comply are virtually laid down. The colours are easy to judge. Moreover, when you hit it, they are the ultimate in koi keeping.

This explanation is only a brief introduction to buying and valuing koi. They are no more than a useful guide and when you apply them you will not be making too big blunders. In addition, your own taste plays a major role. So let that prevail. Only you decide which fish you want to swim in the pond. And remember that buying a Grand Champion is the same as a lottery ticket.

Remember also that we at the Goyang Koifarm always will be happy to talk with you about the quality of our fish. It makes us proud when we can help you to enjoy your life with your koi. We hope you learned to buy Koi.

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