Friday, September 29, 2006

Brunei's First Koi Show

Brunei's first ever Japanese koi show called The Living Jewel Show 2006 will be on the 1st October. It will be held at Sykt Biotropical Fish Shop in Kg Bunut and is due to start early at 8am and close at 4pm. Entry is free of charge and they are hoping for some of the best koi in Brunei to compete.

According to Mr Ricky of Sykt Biotropical Fish Shop and joint organiser, not many people in Brunei raise koi because they are very expensive, but due to his customers requests they thought it would be fun and a great way to share their hobby. From what I've found they may be small in numbers but Brunei koi fans make up for it with enthusiam and when looking around at the koi forums they have a healthy sized community and a hunger for knowledge. Judging by some of the photos their koi don't lack the quality which look excellent, but they don't have the same level of support and dealer network that some countries enjoy. I'm sure this is set to change with companies such as AEC Engineering, Gardenia, Jaya Hypermart and Izeki koi foods joining Sykt Biotropical Fish Shop in a growing list of sponsors.

Goodluck to everyone involved and hopefully someone will post some pictures.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sakai Autumn Harvest Auction

The Sakai Fish Farm of Hiroshima produces argubly the best koi in the world and have consistantly won the All Japan Show so when harvest time comes around everyone is understandably excited. I mentioned today that auctions can be a good way to buy koi but unless you are a top dealer or well connected the Sakai autumn harvest auction is one we can only dream about attending as it's invitation only. The proceedings start on the 3rd of October with an open sale and a chance to view the koi with the auction the next day on the 4th.

Some of the koi on offer are genuine Tategoi and some say potential Grand Champions of the future. Most of the koi are 2 to 3 year olds and in fact if you have the funds Sakai will look after your purchases and grow them on to be entered in all the top Japanese shows. Some of the bidders will no doubt be investor buyers who buy Tategoi and leave them in the safe hands of the farmers or dealers to then sell them on for a profit once they have reached their full potential. If the koi are lucky enough to win or even place well at shows then their value can vastly increase. It is quite a common practice for breeders and dealers to look after customers koi and these are called Azukarigoi - roughly translated as koi placed in your care.

Sakai farm have posted some photos of the koi in the lots at the auction and it gives us a good idea of the quality on offer.


The Best Time to Buy Koi

Even though for many koi owners, in the west especially, their thoughts are turning to preparations for winter and less time spent by the pond, actually autumn is one of the best times to buy koi. Currently most of the koi dealers have end of season sales on and some real bargains can be found. As well as a reason for the dealers to boost their sales they help to clear some of their koi ponds to give them more room for the new stocks coming in later this year and next spring.

There is much anticipation and excitement amongst the breeders, dealers and koi fans about the autumn koi harvests in Japan that are due to start in October. If you want to be there many of the breeders and dealers have put together packages for buying trips as most of the dealers will be there selecting their koi. You will have to be quick as these trips have become very popular if you can afford to, as the autumn harvest is the most magical time on the koi calender.

A good reason to buy koi now is because all the koi will have been through the quarantine procedures (or should have) and should have settled down well. You may have seen the koi before on several occasions when visiting your dealer and so you can get a better idea of its health and character. Watching a koi feed is one good indication of whether a koi is going to grow big and a health koi should always be hungry.

Obviously the risk is that some of the best koi will have already sold but most dealers hold some good ones back to spread throughout the season,and often have regular smaller shipments. There will be some koi that are harder to sell but this should be reflected in the price. Never feel pressured into buying koi and if you are not 100% happy then walk away as there are plenty more fish in the sea; or should that be pond? As well as sales many dealers and clubs have auctions this time of the year which are popular and can be a very good way to get a bargain as long as you stick within your budget. I would say that you should definitely view the koi you are interested in before the bidding and try to find out everything you can about its history. Some of the koi breeders also have auctions this time of year, with the Sakai farm harvest auction on 3rd-4th of October one of the favorites and eagerly awaited but sadly invitation only.

Where ever you buy koi from the same rules apply regarding quarantining them yourself. As the water temperatures decline so quarantining the new koi is also helpful to adjust the koi to your ponds temperature not just for the health reasons. Many dealers ponds are indoors in the UK and often heated to much high levels than outdoor ponds. A newly bought koi that's been feeding heavily in a warm indoor pond is not going to take too kindly to being thrown into an outdoor pond if it's icy. If the temperatures are very low and you don't heat your pond then it's best to wait to next spring before adding anymore koi. It's common sense really.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Koi Health Check

With the end of summer and the highest temperatures behind us, now is a good time to give your koi a quick close check over. By gently putting them in a bowl you can make sure your koi are in good health before they go into winter and also keep track of their development. How much have your koi grown this year? A photograph the same time every year can be very helpful to track each koi's growth and any changes in colour and pattern. This is a great way to learn about nishikigoi and to improve your skills predicting which ones have potential.

If there are any health problems then they can be dealt with now while the water is still warm and the koi's immune systems are at full strength. If needs be the koi can go straight into quarantine to recover to full strength before the onset of the worst winter weather. Depending on how the koi recovers a decision can then be made about whether to keep the koi in quarantine heated throughout the winter.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Atlanta Koi Club show results 2006

The Atlanta Koi Club have posted on their website the results and some nice photos of their annual show that took place last weekend. The overall winner or Grand Champion was a Showa which is nice to see winning as it's a variety that often loses out to fellow Gosankes, Kohaku and Sanke.

Perhaps even more unusually was that runner up Grand Champion B was a rather nice Shusui. At a lot of shows it's unheard of for a non-Gosanke koi to come in the top ten let alone come second, and it's especially unusual for a doitsu koi. I think it's good to see other varieties of koi get some attention. I'm not keen on many doitsu koi as they seem to look messy but Shusui and Kumonryu are definately special. Really it should be the best koi on the day that wins not governed by personal preference or how difficult it was to produce.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How to Photograph Koi

People take photographs of koi for many reasons but are often disappointed with the results. This is not suprising as koi are notoriously difficult to photograph well but with some of the tips here you should be able to improve your chances. Most koi photographs can be put into two catergories;

  1. Koi portraits, taken to record the best view of the attributes of a particular koi - These are mainly taken when selling koi (similar to the photos you take when selling a car) or they are taken at shows for judging purposes and used in magazines. These are the glamour shots in the koi world and are usually taken by professionals.
  2. General pond pics and artistic shots, This group includes the most common photos we take of koi in a group in a pond and often are action shots.

There are lots of ways you can take photos of koi with underwater cameras, through windows in ponds and aquariums but fish photography is a wide field and can require specialist equipment so I will concentrate today on the most common method of photographing koi from above.


Like all good photography the choice of cameras and equipment is important but they aren't the only thing involved for achieving the results you want. Technique is probably most important when photographing koi but having the right camera can help. SLR's have more choice of add-ons and give you the greatest level of control but increasingly people are using compact digital cameras for which you need to be aware of their weaknesses. Most modern digital cameras have a range of settings that many people don't use, but if you familiarize yourself with them they can benefit your koi photos enormously.

Surface Glare/ Polarizing Lenses

This is the biggest headache when photographing any fish from above and ruins most shots with a bright reflection or underexposure. Polarizing lenses can be a great help but camera angle and position is also important. If possible a little shading helps and not facing the sun but also try to avoid casting a shadow. To eliminate glare some professionals try to shoot indoors or at night but I think this can cast shadows that look unnatural.

Fitting polarizing lenses to SLR's is not a problem as they just thread onto most lenses but it's not always so easy for compact cameras. Polarizing filters are relatively cheap so if you cannot get one to fit you could hold one over the lens or a better method is to custom fit one yourself. I have found that a 35mm film case fits my IXUS zoom lens snuggly when chopped in half and can take some of the smaller Nikon polarizers available.


A camera can be automatic or manual focus but when automatic if possible set it so the target point is in focus because reflections on the water can play tricks with some cameras. Automatic or manual it is critical to hold the camera steady while squeezing the shutter release. Autofocus systems can work very well most of the time but when close up on the curved surface of a brightly coloured koi they can become totally confused and produce a fuzzy picture. To avoid this when taking a koi portrait aim the camera at the lead edge of the dorsal fin or an eye as these give the contrast needed for the autofocus to work.


Best results can be found in the shade by using the flash as a fill in. Keep the camera/flash angle around 60 degrees to the water surface so as to avoid the flash light bouncing back into the lens. Koi can get red eye the same as people so it's worth trying the anti-red eye setting on your camera and if the flash is separate try adjusting this to different angles or speeds. If you take lots of photos in quick succession it's important that the flash will keep up and not spend ages recharging.

Take Lots of Shots

Even with the perfect conditions and the best equipment professional photographers still struggle to get the best photos of koi. They improve their chances by taking as many shots as necessary to get the shot they were after. The very nature of koi constantly active and swimming around makes timing crucial. A fast camera response time can be helpful and camera settings and speeds can be adjusted depending on what type of shots you are after. Some time delay shots look stunning but most people want clear detailed images so faster exposure times can be helpful such as sport settings on some cameras.

The best photos are by people that understand koi and being able to predict their behavior helps them make the most of the best photo opportunities. Bigger koi are slower and bolder than young koi that are skittish and difficult to follow but in either case it's best to avoid chasing them round a pond. A camera set to take rapid repeat shots can be helpful but often a combination of patience and luck works best.

Photo Angle for Koi Portraits

Taking portrait shots in a pond is very difficult so its easier to restrict their swimming space by putting them in a bowl. Traditionally koi have for along time now been photographed in blue bowls which provide the perfect contrast to the koi and help bring out their colours in the picture. Rectangular bowls or floating baskets have proved best because in circular bowls koi tend to swim around the sides. Make the water depth to within 2-3 inches above the koi and switch off air pumps so water movement isn't as obvious. It's always best to get someone to help you so you can keep your hands dry and take care not to drop the camera in the pond!

The perfect koi portrait is taken from head on with the koi in the middle of the shot and not hugging the sides of the bowl. The pectoral fins are outstretched and stationary, not trying to back paddle out of the shot. The angle of the shot should be taken so that it's not too low so all you see is a big head, nor too high catching the reflections. Zooming in helps frame the subject but make sure the whole koi fits into the picture from nose to tail.

By being around koi and taking lots of shots you should be able to take some great photos of koi, even if they don't all come out well. I have found the more I take the luckier I get!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tadpole UV

The Tadpole UV filter is a compact pond system that's fully submersible and doesn't require any plumbing. The Tadpole UV is suitable for small koi ponds up to 1500 gallons and is easily hidden under the water, which is especially useful if you want to add a UV filter after the pond is built.
I wrote a post on a range of submersible UV sterilizers before but the difference here is that this can truly be called a UV filter, as the water is drawn through a fairly large pre-filter by a 500 gph pump, before passing the 25 watt UV sterilizer bulb. This would be ideal for an outdoor temporary quarantine vat for koi because of the ease of installation and when using chemical treatments it could very simply be removed. This is an interesting product that's most likely to be used as a fit and forget UV filter for smaller fish ponds where it will work well removing algae but it also has possibilities as an addition to larger koi systems.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The 10 most common mistakes people make with koi

Making mistakes is often a helpful method of learning, but when you are dealing with the care of animals such as koi, it can be a very upsetting experience for people and potentially life threatening for the koi. With the increase in experience and information available now, beginners to the hobby should be able to avoid the major pitfalls. There will always be problems from time to time but knowing how to deal with these comes with experience.

There's a business technique, also used in personal development, that says if you want to do something or get somewhere you study someone that's done it. This is probably why we are so fascinated with the Japanese mastery of koi. This brings me to the title of this post as it was a question from a beginner on one of the koi forums. I wouldn't call myself an expert but I answered it the best I could from my experience and as no-one disagreed or added any further suggestions, I thought I would share it with you.

The 10 most common mistakes people make with koi in no particular order but from what I have heard, seen and early on did myself are:
  1. Building the pond too small, only to regret it later.
  2. Rushing to put the koi in the pond before everything is ready. eg; the water and filter need time to mature.
  3. Trying to save too much money on construction and equipment.
  4. Over feeding.
  5. Not changing the water often enough or cleaning out waste.
  6. Buying too many koi and over stocking.
  7. Building your own koi pond filter that doesn't work well enough.
  8. Using too many treatments or the wrong ones.
  9. Not quarantining new koi.
  10. Thinking you know everything and not asking for help.(One of my biggest mistakes)

I think I have been guilty of most of these at one time or another but most are easily avoidable. When I first started I went through a catalogue of errors even though I thought I was doing the right thing. I first bought a liner advertised for fish farming in an effort to save money, which turned out to be not dissimilar to a shopping bag. In fact it was the same stuff you get as tent ground sheets. Not put off I proceeded with help from my dad to box weld it into place by hot glue gun. When finished it looked great in its dark green with all the corners nice and neat and the bottom drain expertly installed. When time came to fill it with water though it leaked like a sieve with the sides ballooning out. It turned out that the hot glue had melted thousands of tiny holes through the plastic liner. This went straight in the bin with my next plan to seal the concrete but this led to more disasters...

To cut a short story even shorter the moral is not to cut corners and learn from tried and trusted products and methods used successfully by koi experts. This is not to say you cannot save money or experiment, as I have built my own filters that worked well in the past, but to do so you should know the risks.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Duck Feeds Koi

I wasn't going to post this but then I thought, why not! This is a cute clip of a baby duck feeding the patiently waiting koi. I must be going soft in my old age. Enjoy.

If this isn't enough I've found more. How about The Koi and the Swan. I think I've really lost it now.

KHV in Japan - Niigata Final Report

Mr Hajime Isa has given his 5th and final report on the KHV (Koi Herpes Virus) outbreak that was confirmed in June. This can be found on the International Nishikigoi Promotion Center website. There's good news that Niigata the prefecture made famous for being the birth place of koi, has been given the all clear to lift restraints on distribution of their koi now that KHV has been eradicated totally from all their stocks. This means you can buy Niigata koi safe in the knowledge that you are buying some of the most tested and disease free koi from anywhere in the world.

This report couldn't come at a better time as the Autumn harvests start in October which is a magical time in the koi breeders calendar. By all accounts this summer continues to be very hot in Japan with the koi growing fast, so when they come to net the mud ponds hopefully they should have some great discoveries. Fortunately the outbreak occurred early in the year so the damage was well limited, but with some koi breeders and dealers struggling to recover from the 2004 earthquakes it can't have been an easy year for them. I for one am looking forward to seeing this years 'crop' and the best way we can support them is to buy their fabulous koi.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Understanding Water

I've been studying water recently. Not just staring into my koi pond but trying to learn more about the science and properties of good water for koi. I thought I knew everything about the right water for koi and the processes going on and I do know enough to keep koi healthy but I was hoping to discover something more. It seems I got more than I bargained for as a quick search on Google for the properties and science of water chemistry reveals I was just scratching the surface.

Most people that keep koi know the Nitrogen Cycle inside out and the relationship between pH, and this is all we really need to know but I'm curious to understand the other processes taking place in a pond. I was never very good at chemistry or physics at school but my enthusiam to learn everything about koi has pushed me to at least try to understand it. That said water is an incredible substance with some quite amazing properties so when investigating it you feel that even someone like Steven Hawkins may struggle to comprehend all of it. Here is an excerpt that when I first read it I thought was a joke that they were going to give an explanation to in plain English, but no it continued for another 50 odd pages!

Water molecules ionize endothermically f due to electric field fluctuations caused by nearby dipole librations resulting from thermal effects, and favorable localized hydrogen bonding 567; a process that is facilitated by exciting the O-H stretch overtone vibration. Ions may separate by means of the Grotthuss mechanism but normally recombine within a few femtoseconds.

This was taken from an article about ionization of water which many koi pond products claim to interact with but which few people actually understand let alone explain. Even the scientists argue about some of waters apparently mysterious properties and reactions. I was going to write something poetic "like water is the stuff of life" but we've heard it all before and what's more interesting is the real truth about water, which when thought about is really quite odd. It's these odd things that makes life possible as we know it and the combination of hydrogen and oxygen, two common elements in the universe, form a compact molecule that easily recombines with others. Here is a website that lists 63 anomalies of water which can explain how odd water is far better than I ever could, but even some of the explanations made my brain fade. My favorites are:

  • Liquid water can exist at very low temperatures and freeze on heating. Hot water may freeze faster than cold water (the reason hotwater pipes burst before cold)
  • The density of ice increases on heating - up to 70K.
  • Pressure reduces ice's melting point (anyone that ski's or climbs mountains can see this effect -more snow higher up)
  • The speed of sound increases with temperature up to 74C.
  • The refractive index of water is highest just below 0C (Best photos of your koi will be when it's warmest - Frozen in a block of ice or boiling water has less refraction but obviously your fish will have died by then:)
  • Electrical conductivity increases in warmer water up to 230C (It's easier to electricute yourself in hot water, but don't try this!)

I could go on and on but this has little to do with keeping koi, although we all know about stratificaton of water as it gets colder, with ice floating in water because of the density change. The reason I got into all this is not only to gain greater understanding but also a number of people are quoting more and more supposedly scientific explanations which may or may not be true. One area which would considerably aid koi ponds is the possibility of aerobic denitrification. Recently a number of products and systems have claimed to reduce nitrates with bacteria to oxygen and nitrogen gas in highly oxygenated water. Apparently this has been used in marine aquariums but as yet I have failed to find a reliable report. This is something I'm sure will be of interest to all koi pond owners as a future development.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Malaysia Open Wakagoi Championship 2006

Sentul Park Koi Centre have news of a brand new Malaysian koi show that they are hosting as part of "Japan cultural week" there in Kuala Lumpur. The show will be the 1st Malaysia Open Wakagoi Championship and will be held on Sept. 23-24 2006 at Sentul Park West. It's open to all koi hobbyists and according to the Malaysia koi forum, entries have been received from Japan, UK, Singapore, Australia, Thailand & Brunei. It looks set to be a very promising show especially as 10 renowned Japanese breeders are expected to be judging the event and bringing some of their early harvested koi to be auctioned for charity.

It sounds like an exciting and interesting week is planned starting on the 16th Sept with a "Bon Odori", a popular Japanese dance festival in mid-summer. The rest of the week will be filled with events and activities including a carnival day with Japanese food, tea ceremony, drum performance, games and lots of stalls. The finale will be the koi show so it looks well worth a visit if your local, or maybe plan a trip to take in the whole week as part of a holiday.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My Koi in quarantine update

I thought I would post a few recent photos of my koi with popeyes to show you how it's doing. This koi has displayed these symptoms now for over three months and while not getting better it also doesn't appear to be any worse. I guess this is what is known as a chronic illness, dragging on for months. Earlier I didn't rate it's chances but now apart from the eyes you couldn't tell anything was wrong. There are no problems with any of my other koi so it must have been a one off triggered by the fluctuating temperatures in spring.

I shouldn't really get too upset but she is one of my first koi and has been trouble free for over fifteen years and one of the family. Not particularly great in quality from Israeli stock if I can recall, she could best be described either as a poor sanke or a kohaku with a spot of sumi on her head, hence the family name 'Spotty'. Her redeeming qualities are that of a great shape and always friendly, or is that always hungry?

What's worrying is that this won't clear up before winter when the immune system shuts down, so I've decided to install a heater. I have talked about using antibiotics before but some people have suggested that these could make things worse if the type of infection is not correctly identified. It's not easy with koi health as you can't just call your local vet out to take a look. What I don't understand is if the kidneys have been damaged by the infection why only the eyes seem to be effected? Anyway hopefully in her sterile quarantine tank she can make a full recovery but I wish I could risk adding a friend for her.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Koi Show Roundup

Some of the koi clubs that had shows recently have just published their results and added information so I thought I would post their links for anyone that's interested.

Since I posted the dates for koi shows this september the Camellia Koi Club have gone from providing very little information about their forthcoming 2006 Sacramento Koi Show to producing more than you could ever need! There are maps, layout plans, photos, advice for showing your koi and a nice list introducing the judges. Perhaps of most interest to those not familiar with the club is the presence of Mr Toshio Sakai of Isawa Nishikigoi Center, who famous for Matsunosuke koi will be one of the judges. He's obviously going to be a big draw and it looks set to be a great show, only wish I could make it.

The Holland Koi Show website has posted the results with photos of the top positions. The Grand Champion went to Masahari Oki from Nishikigoi Koiko in Germany for a loverly size 7 sanke.

The Inland Empire Water Garden and Koi Society 2006 show results are up which also included a goldfish show. I am a particular fan of Ranchu goldfish said to have been kept originaly by the Samuri. When large they are truely awesome. Winner of the Grand Champion koi went to a koi I would say is a traditional Taisho Sanke.

The Rocky Mountain Koi Club have some great photos of their show and the winners receiving their trophies, but as yet I can't find anything about the koi taking part. Maybe it's me not looking hard enough.

One of the smaller shows but still worth a visit was the Potteries & District BKKS show at Trentham Wakes (or 'Gardens' as I remember it). I can't say a lot but from what I've heard this was a good show this year.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Steve Irwin dies in Stingray accident

I am shocked and saddened this morning to hear the news that Steve Irwin the 'Crocodile Hunter' has died following a diving accident with a Stingray fish. I know this has little to do with koi other than fish were involved but he was a great personality and through his TV shows and zoo work he did a lot to promote respect and conservation for all types of animals. His passion for animals and life was infectious and this really showed on screen. He did appear almost invincible when confronted by some of the most dangerous animals on the planet so it seems almost at odds that his demise should come about from a Stingray.

Many of the news channels are talking about the incident as an attack by the stingray which is very unlikely because when confronted they try to swim away. It seems that Steve was very unlucky by coming too close to the spine of a Stingray which punctured his chest. Stingray spines are very strong and sharp with a poisonous tip which they use only for defense but are rarely life threatening for humans. Steve must have died from the puncture wound or the toxin being released so close to his heart that the shock to his body triggered a heart attack. Apparently he was snorkelling in shallow waters when the Stingray raised it's spine into Steve's chest when he was above it.

The internet is going mad for information about Stingrays now which actually little is known about them. There are over 70 different species of Stingray with some even sold in tropical fish stores for aquariums, so if something good can be gained from this accident I hope it's a better understanding not a fear of them.

We could say that he died doing something he loved but it does seem upsetting that he was only 44, obviously fit and also leaves a young family behind. My best wishes and condolences go to his family and friends.

Friday, September 01, 2006

End of Summer?

It's September already and for most koi keepers the best summer months have now gone and thoughts are turning to winter. I know this is a bit of a generalization and many countries are currently baking in record temperatures and some of you aren't blessed with changing seasons, but here in the UK a definite change is in the air. For some it may be hard to contemplate the end of summer just yet but thinking ahead can help to avoid potential problems.

The UK weather can be an unpredictable and changeable at the best of times with September being especially so. Sometimes it can feel like the middle of July or August, and then a cold snap hits bringing frosts which can come as quite a shock to the system. On average it's a gradual decline in temperatures which allows the enjoyment of our koi to continue as they remain active. This is one reason to build your koi pond as large and deep as you can to reduce any temperature swings that can cause problems.

I have switched feeding my koi silk worm pupae and high protein growth food to a more regular staple pellet food now temperatures are a little lower to maintain water quality even though they are as hungry as ever. With many ponds water temperatures still fairly high this is a time to continue feeding your koi to build enough reserves to carry them through winter. This highlights the differences between conditions koi live in around the world as Japan remains very hot with their koi growing at an incredible rate. This has lead many lucky enough to afford it to heat their ponds to extend the growing season and reduce the winter cold spells.

Your koi should be in peak condition now and there are a few shows this month but generally we should try to reduce their stress and concentrate on easing them into winter. Their immune systems should be at full strength and the filters at optimum performance but some problems can occur so they should be dealt with immediately and regular checks and maintenance continued. There is nothing worse than fixing leaking plumbing or getting your hands wet when it's freezing cold and koi health problems respond much better in warmer waters. Now is the time to prepare but also hopefully to enjoy the last few months with you koi in the garden before they disappear for another year.

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