The Koi Ladder

During the last few years the number of people keeping koi in the UK seems to have grown rapidly, there are now more Koi keepers than ever before and many of these are on various steps of “the Koi ladder”.


On the bottom rung is the pond keeper, this is where the hobby normally begins. They invariably have a traditional garden pond with some koi of various origins i.e. Israel, Japan and Singapore etc mixed with other pond fish such as orfe and goldfish. The level of equipment on the pond is a standard submersible pump and filter box set up with plants etc. The koi have usually been added purely for the addition of extra colour or just simply as an alternative to goldfish. Many of these fish keepers will be happy with their koi and will never buy very many but will just be content with what they have.

On the next step is the Koi keeper, everything has been done as per the pond keeper but they have moved up a step due to the purchase of too many koi. As these prize possessions have grown the pond has become vastly overstocked and rather than thin down the stocking levels with the removal of their beloved Koi/pets, the koi keeper will decide to build the purpose built koi pond or totally revamp the old one. Once the new pond is finished the original koi are then placed in their new home and now due to all the extra space a few new koi will still continue to be added. The koi keeper buys a koi for life and regardless of its development will keep it without question. The health of the koi is paramount for this type of hobbyist and everything will always be done with the koi (pets) welfare in mind.

Some hobbyists may evolve from pond keeper to koi keeper and never progress any further in the hobby, but a few will take another step up the koi ladder and be classed as a koi collector. The koi collector normally has everything, the custom-built koi “pool” and the koi to go with it. The collector only ever purchases high quality koi or Tategoi (koi with potential to improve). Koi that enter the “pool” do not always remain there, they are only on a form of probation. If within a year or two they have not improved and are not growing to their full potential they are normally sent packing. These so called rejects are often found lower down the ladder in a friends pond who is still at the koi or pond keeping stage or at a Koi Society auction. To the untrained eye these so called rejects appear to be good quality large koi, which indeed they are but they are just not good enough for the koi collector.

The koi collectors budget can vary hugely and this step of the koi ladder goes on and on. The koi purchased are anything from one year olds (Tosai) through two year olds (Nisai), three year olds (sansai) and so on, but the quality of koi purchased is always high. The fish are normally bought from just one or two dealers and in some cases the hobbyist also accompanies his favourite dealer to Japan to buy even more prized possessions. The pilgrimage to Japan is the ultimate Koi experience for any serious hobbyist and every year more and more people are making the journey to the Koi Mecca. On many of my visits to Japan I have seen dazed Koi hobbyists wandering around Koi breeders establishments with permanent grins on their faces and re-mortgage applications in their back pocket!

The minute you mention high quality koi the word expensive always follows in the next sentence, as the top quality koi can demand vast sums of money with some in excess of £20,000-£30,000. The true amounts spent at the very pinnacle of the hobby are very rarely disclosed, but it can easily exceed the £20-30,000 mark. You are probably now thinking, how can someone pay that much for fish? But the very best in any hobby or collection always costs a lot of money, just ask a top vintage car collector what he can buy for £20,000, the answer would be “the bonnet badge from a classic Ferrari, if your lucky”. Obviously to be a Koi collector you do not need to spend this sort of money. High quality Koi can be purchased from around £150.00 , but the beauty of Koi is that if you are progressing in the hobby there is always a Koi in your price band, it just depend how deep your pockets are!

Obviously not everyone who keeps koi falls into these categories but this just gives an idea of how far you have to go with the hobby if you wish or dare!

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