Are Japanese Koi Better Than Other Koi?

Page Summary: There is a never ending somewhat futile debate for most pond keepers or hobbyists who keep fish in a pond. The debate centres around the source of koi... Japan, England or Taiwan for example. In practice for most of us the debate is a bit senseless because we built a pond to enjoy it and not to grow fish for serious koi showing purposes or for professional breeding purposes. The buying of koi and pond keeping of koi for most people is about having a garden fish pond with beautifully coloured and thriving fish. It actually matters little what the source of the koi is. For the deadly serious koi keeper there is little doubt that Japan is the top supplier of high quality koi.

Are Japanese Koi Better?

It is a widely held belief that Japanese koi are superior in comparison to koi from other origins, such as koi from Israel, the UK or China. In fact, many koi dealers market their koi merely by emphasising their Japanese origin. Generally, koi that are farmed in Japan are also more expensive, which only serves to perpetuate the belief that these specimens of fish are always better and more exclusive than other breeds of koi purely because of where they come from.

So what’s the truth? Are Japanese koi always better and is it a case of you get what you pay for?

The simple answer is no, not always – you are not guaranteed the finest specimen of koi just because it was farmed in Japan.

While the quality of Japanese koi is generally of a higher standard than koi from other origins, this is certainly not a cast-iron rule.

Instead of focusing on origin, koi keepers are advised to rather purchase koi based on their physical health and aesthetic appeal.

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Determining Factors in the Quality of Koi

Even though koi keepers shouldn’t be duped into believing that Japanese koi are always better simply because they come from Japan, we can acknowledge that the Japanese are world leaders in breeding top quality koi.

What is their secret? Well, the answer has everything to do with genetics. The quality of a koi is determined by the genes that it inherits from its parents. Wild carp are dull and unmarked, while fishpond koi have been genetically engineered through artificial selection to look as brilliantly coloured as they do. Of course, these desirable traits are very unstable, and it would only take a few generations for these koi to revert back to their original physical make-up. This is the reason why top koi breeders devote themselves to protecting and enhancing the desirable genes of their brood stock. They do this by cross-breeding closely related fish to enhance the occurrence of the desirable, recessive traits. After much time, this will result in a breed with identifiable characteristics, which often becomes the trademark of the particular breeder in question.

You’d be amazed at the dedication of the top Japanese koi breeders, as many have devoted a lifetime to perfecting their variety of koi. These top varieties of koi have been kept within the family and handed down from generation to generation. With a genetic heritage that has been refined year after year, it’s plain to see why so many other countries are simply unable to compete.

However, even though the top echelon of koi breeders emanate from Japan, we can’t afford to forget the fact that this country also has a good deal of undesirable genes that manifest in very average koi. Anybody who has farmed koi for a living can appreciate the challenges that come with breeding – it really does take years of dedication to perfect a breed, which is why the UK lags behind top Japanese koi farmers in this regard. For instance, you will find excellent quality koi of a less complex variety, like the ogons and shusui, in many parts of the world, but you will generally find that the exceptionally complex variety of go sanke will always come from Japan.

The UK koi farming market has had to look for ways to make its endeavour economically viable, so its approach now is to breed a mixed range of koi as opposed to focusing on a specific variety. This is why many koi that are bred in the UK are of the Heinz variety. Koi from Israel are farmed in a similar manner, but on a larger scale so they generally tend to be more competitively priced.

Other Factors to Consider Before Purchasing

  1. Acclimatisation – the warmer climates that koi farmers from Japan and Israel enjoy also allows them to breed and grow koi at exceptional rates. This is one of the reasons why koi from these parts of the world are an impressive size. The only problem is that koi from these warmer countries will have to acclimatise to their new environment in the UK which could cause some degree of stress in the beginning.
  2. Transportation – the long distances that koi from Japan and Israel have to travel to the UK can cause them considerable stress, which is why a reputable dealer will allow them to rest and acclimatise before making a sale.
  3. Risk of disease – it is important to note that the incidence of KHV in Israel has been confirmed, as well as the evidence which suggests that KHD is in Japan. Very few ponds in the UK have been affected by KHV, but it is good to discuss this concern with your aquatic dealer as a precautionary measure when buying koi from other origins.
  4. Breeder traceability – it is now possible to purchase koi of Japanese origin together with information about where they come from, their lineage and who bred them. This will allow you to determine whether a show-winning koi farmer produced them and it will also give you an idea as to how your kois’ colours and markings will develop. While you may also be able to trace breeders of koi in the UK or Israel, you’ll get less information concerning the finer details of any individual koi that you’re looking to purchase.

Having examined the determining factors in the production of quality koi, there’s no doubt that Japan remains our prime resource for exceptional koi. Other countries are simply unable to compete with the generational history of koi farming in Japan that has seen many men devote their lives to the perfection of one or two varieties. However, ordinary Japanese koi do exist, which is why you are advised to rather inspect each individual koi and evaluate your purchase based on its inherent merits rather than its origin.

Youll be amazed at how simple it can be to breed fish with the help of spawning brushes. Spawning BrushYoull need one mature female and at least two males.

Put the brushes one above the other at the edge of the pond. Spawning usually occurs in the early morning after a night of flurried activity and can take several hours. Most of the eggs will stick to the brushes which can then be taken out of the pond and put in filtered water of the same temperature. If the eggs are not separated from the adult fish they may be eaten.

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