Appreciation, what to look for

One of the most enjoyable aspects of our hobby is searching for new Koi to add to our collections. Naturally everyone is looking for something different but all the same there are many, many similarities in the Koi that we all like and strive to find. What criteria each of us applies to possible candidates for our new acquisition will depend upon our personal likes and dislikes and also will differ according to what we wish our new Koi to achieve for us. Are we looking for a Koi to grow on and to watch develop or are we looking for a Koi to enter into a show in the near or not so near future. All such requirements will affect our possible selections. However whichever requirements that we wish to meet there are, obviously some criteria that can be applied to all and any possible potential purchases.


Whatever we intend for our new Koi we should always look for the basic criteria that makes a good koi just that. Basic points such as body shape, skin quality, deportment should naturally always be taken into account. Why would any of us wish to purchase a poor quality Koi? More accurately why would any of us wish to knowingly purchase a poor quality Koi? I am sure that if we all knew perfectly well what constitutes a poor quality Koi then we would alter our choice accordingly. Whilst some of us may well believe that we can assess the shape, skin quality etc of a koi is this in fact true? I was once told by a hobbyist that the quality of a Koi is subjective. He stated that, for example, what constitutes a good body shape depends on the opinion of the person assessing it. I completely disagreed with him. My reply was that a Koi either has a good shape or it does not, there is no middle ground. If we are looking at a koi with a good shape then we can only disagree if one of us does not understand what a good body shape looks like.

One of the most frequently asked questions that I am asked is “what makes one Koi more expensive than another one?”. Many lesser experienced hobbyists believe that it is simply a case of the bigger the koi the higher the price. Others think it must be related to the pattern. When you explain that it is sixty percent down to body shape, thirty percent down to skin quality, pigmentation etc then deportment and finally pattern many often express considerable surprise. However when they then think about this it normally makes good sense to them. Pattern for example is a purely personal thing. I always use the analogy that you cannot say a green car is better quality than a blue one. It is personal choice in this regard.

Moving onto aspects such as skin quality this is more easily explained by being able to show people two Koi together, one with better skin quality than the other, it then becomes very clear to the viewer. It is very difficult to describe in words. I recently attended a Koi show to meet up with clients who were exhibiting some of their Koi and to check on some koi belonging to another client and good friend who could not attend the show on both days. This gentleman owns a truly superb kohaku whose skin quality is of an exceptional standard. I stood by his vat and watched and listened to the comments made by people admiring the Koi being exhibited. The one thing that everyone remarked about was the white skin of the Kohaku. Even when people who were obviously very new to the hobby looked into this vat remarks such as “look at how white that Koi is, it just glows” were quickly heard. This is how obvious good quality skin is when it is seen. You have to be able to compare. This is why it is important to view good Koi, average Koi and poor quality Koi. The more that you do this the easier it becomes to see the differences in all aspects of Koi appreciation.

One of the main stumbling blocks regarding the appreciation of Koi and also one of the aspects which causes confusion when looking to purchase a Koi is, again body shape. Whilst many would profess to know just what shape a Koi should have my question would be “at what size?”. For example we would not be expecting to see a tosai with the body shape of an eighty centimetre Koi would we? So already we have established that the “desirable” body shape for a Koi depends, to whatever degree, upon the size of the Koi in question. Body shape on Tosai is of very little importance apart from any serious irregularities. I also come across many hobbyists who wish to see considerable volume on a Koi of say, 40 to 45cm. Whilst this may be desirable if the Koi is to be entered into a show at this size it will very often indicate that the Koi will never achieve a large size, 80 to 85cm for example. A Koi with good potential to reach such a size will generally have a more slender shape at smaller sizes. Bloodline obviously plays a big part in such pointers though. This is why it is a mistake to apply rules of thumb to Koi in general and why it is essential to gain knowledge of an individual koi’s background and also the traits of its bloodline, all Koi are different in this respect.

Moving on to skin quality and pigmentation we encounter a very intricate area indeed.
Bloodline will play a huge part with regard to both of these aspects particularly that of pigment. We specialise in supplying Koi that will improve over a long period of time and that will hopefully allow the owner to appreciate their development and to allow them to learn far more than they would with a finished or nearly finished Koi. This can cause us a lot of trouble with people who do not understand this type of Koi. Very often we see people quite readily reject a particular Koi as they consider it to be inferior or of a low grade and it is more than likely in their opinion over priced for what it is. Sometimes though they see the koi months afterwards in a pond owned by one of their Koi friends and they comment as to how they would love to own a Koi such as this. When they find out they did in fact discount this Koi when it was in our shop they tend to look harder the next time. When we have examples of genuine tategoi they usually remain completely unnoticed by everyone except our more knowledgeable clients who tend to snap them up. I mention this only to highlight that there is a huge variation in the appreciation of Koi and in assessing them with a view to purchasing. What do you wish to purchase? A Koi for now or a Koi with a future of improvement and quality ahead of it? This is a major hurdle that has to be overcome before you can make an informed decision about your next purchase. This is where we leave the realms of what constitutes a good Koi and enter the area of what is a good Koi for a particular purpose.

Once we begin to enter the realm of genuine tategoi we can highlight the question of what constitutes a good Koi but even more usefully we can spotlight the fact that the matter of “timing” has to be a consideration as well. “When” will a particular Koi reach its ultimate quality? This will help to illustrate that we must know what we are wanting from any koi that we purchase. A thirty cm Koi that has (for a 30cm Koi) perfect body shape, excellent skin quality and pigmentation and may well be capable of winning baby champion at a forthcoming Koi show will most likely be, at best, an average quality Koi if and when it reaches, say 70cm. Vice versa, a Koi that is of a very high standard at 80cm would almost certainly not have had the standard when younger to have won baby champion as it would have been far too unfinished, pigmentation would have been too pale, body shape too slim and pattern far from finished, all of these are likely faults for such a Koi when young. All Koi reach their peak at different times, different ages and different sizes. So before you look to purchase you need to have some idea of what you wish to purchase. This will make things far easier.

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