Koi fish are beautiful, hardy, and long lived decorative carp, a species of fish native to Asia. There are now koi in every area of the world but Antarctica, as people all over the world have succumbed to the appeal of this brightly colored, graceful fish. In Japanese, ‘koi’ means carp, but the term has come to mean the brightly colored ones that breeders obsess over and many people keep in garden ponds. Koi are classified by color; although they are bred with certain patterns and colors in mind, the offspring may be of many different colors and patterns. Breeders cull their fish, using the cast offs as feeder fish or selling them as pond fish. If allowed to breed freely, the fish will revert to their native drab coloration in a few generations. However, an individual fish retains its distinctive color throughout its life.
The brilliant colors of these decorative fish disappear after a few generations of free breeding without culling out the duller fish. Breeders only keep the fish that fit their requirements, using the others for feeder fish or selling them as common pond fish. Even the culls can be gorgeous, and these pets may well outlive their owners. The oldest koi on record was a female who lived a pampered life in Japan; at 226 years of age, this was the oldest known vertebrate.
Koi come in all colors, with orange, white, black, red, and cream being the most usual. Some purists refuse to accept some of the more modern variations as koi, rejecting the butterfly koi with its long, flowing fins and the scaleless varieties. Others enjoy the infinite variety of color and feature that shows up in the breed. Koi are not a variety of goldfish, which were also developed long ago from carp but are now accepted as a separate species.
Being cold water fish, koi adapt well to ponds in many climates. The best conditions are in temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with ponds deep enough to not heat up on sunny days. An aerator pump will help to keep the fish healthy, and a filter may be needed if the water becomes murky. The fish will help keep algae from overtaking a pond, since it makes up part of their diet. They are omnivorous, eating bugs as well as plants.
The bright colors of top quality koi make them easy prey for fish eating birds and mammals. Rocks to hide under, overhanging ledges to keep raccoons and other wild animals from reaching to grab the fish, and water too deep for wading herons and egrets help to protect the fish. It is a good idea to screen the pond from flying predators with shade trees or decorative lattice.
Koi are omnivorous, eating vegetable and animal foods. Food designed for this hobby fish will float, so you can see the fish as they come to the surface to feed. Take time not only to admire them but to check them for unhealthy skin patches or other signs of illness. You can train them to take food from your hand, if you like. They will grow to recognize the person who feeds them, just like other pets.
Having koi fish is fun, even if you don’t succumb to the desire to breed your own new variety. They can make any pond more beautiful and will be the focal point of your garden. There is a lot of advice on care of this popular fish online and in books. Maybe your family can have a fish for over two centuries.
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Originally posted 2017-06-15 08:32:43.