Let continue from last week’s article on Choosing Young Koi With Potential (Part 1 of 2).
Although pattern has always been the first to look for many koi hobbyists. You should always choose quality first. A fish with good pattern, but low quality, will please you only temporarily, particularly when you notice no improvement in quality over the coming years. However, by choosing a koi for its quality, you may not particularly like the pattern at first, but in time you will come to admire it as it grows and blossoms in your pond. Consider also that some patterns will suit a small koi very well, whereas others are what I would call a ‘big fish pattern’. A flowery pattern with large amounts of white can look beautiful on a small koi, but as the koi gets big, it can start to look somewhat bare.
Take a look at the pattern of a Kohaku for example, and observe how far down the side of the koi the pattern falls. Let’s assume that we have an imaginary Kohaku with a continuous hi pattern (not particularly desirable) but this pattern falls relatively deeply (in places) down the side of the fish. Throughout the length of the fish, the pattern is crossing above and below the lateral line numerous times. In a small (20cm) fish, this would hold little interest to most people, as it would appear to have no pattern, just a continuous hi.
But, what happens when the koi grows up? Well, the pattern will obviously grow with the koi, but the koi will also gain weight considerably with size. What will inevitably happen, is that where the koi would have been relatively ‘flat sided’ in appearance as a small fish, it will put on weight and the body will become much thicker and tubular in profile. Because of this, any areas of pattern that fall above the lateral line will appear shallower with the areas of white ground becoming more apparent as the pattern is seemingly ‘pushed upwards’. Any pattern falling below the lateral line will appear to wrap towards the underside of the koi.
The overall effect would be that the same pattern seen on our imaginary small koi, would look considerably more interesting on our big koi. Remember that in two high-class koi of exactly the same quality, pattern can make one fish ten times the price of another. The main point to our ‘imaginary koi’ is not to convince you to rush out and buy a koi with a bland pattern, but to emphasise how a heavier pattern will often suit a big koi better than a small one. It is often the pattern that pushes the price of a koi beyond people’s reach.
Sumi quality is all too often misjudged. It is very easy to buy a koi such as a Showa that looks like a fantastic prospect for the future, with an loads of underlying sumi. However, all too often the underlying sumi will never develop. Several different types of sumi exist, so we will keep this section as simple as possible. Two main words are used for describing sumi. One is ‘Honzumi’, which is a very high quality glossy black, and the other is ‘Nabesumi’, which is low quality and dull.
When looking at the sumi, it is important to be able to see at least one scale of good sumi in order to assess the likelihood of future sumi developing. Assuming that the koi does have one scale with decent sumi, it should be very ‘black’, shiny and ideally darker towards the centre of the scale. In many cases, the outside edge of the scale will be darker than the centre (looking like a reticulation of sumi), which is an indication that the sumi isn’t
as good. Such sumi will often fade if the koi i s subjected to stressful situations, like being viewed in a bowl for a minute or two.
In the case of ‘Kage’ sumi, the sumi that starts from the centre of the scale is the type that will develop well, whereas the type that starts as a reticulation will often stay as ‘Kage’. Beware of koi that only have sumi showing on top of the red pattern, and in such cases, pay particular attention to the quality of even the slightest bit of sumi that is showing on white ground – completely disregard how good the sumi looks where it falls on top of the hi pattern.
When looking for Motoguro (sumi in the base of the pectoral fins), a completely black pectoral fin has a chance of staying completely black, but if the front ray of the pectoral fin is white, there is a much higher likelihood of the sumi receding later on to become beautiful Motoguro. Motoguro can also develop from seemingly nowhere. If the fins are white, take a look at the very base of the fin, or even the ball of the pectoral joint. If there is even the slightest trace of sumi there, then there is hope.
I hope this article and the previous one is to help you find koi that you will enjoy keeping and growing greatly for many years. But please remember, you get what you pay for, so if you have a small budget, and become very fussy after reading this article, then the chances are that you won’t be able to find a koi that will meet your requirements.
(Some parts of this article was extracted from the Koi Carp magazine)