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Article - Choosing A Winner

Selecting koi for the pond

My first koi cost me a whopping $30.00 at the local pet shop and was purchased simply because I needed a fish that was large enough (10”) and light-colored to show up in a pea-soup algae bloom! I put in the small pond about two weeks prior but was having no luck in enjoying the beautiful goldfish and shubunkin that were in the pond already. I tried everything I could think of, and naturally, everything I thought of was wrong so the pea soup algae continued to flourish. Even the $30.00 10-inch Yamabuki koi disappeared in the soup! That was the year 1992.

But over the years since, I joined a koi club, volunteered at koi shows, and learned a lot about koi. I found out first-hand what wins shows. I saw the clean lines and bright colors, contour and balance that take home trophies every time. And I saw the price tags on these fish. I bought small fish, around 5-6”, to let them grow and develop and found that I know absolutely NOTHING about the development of koi. Most lost their colors and of those that didn’t, many didn’t even survive. So I started buying larger fish, spending my shopping money to pay for better quality in the hopes of having blue ribbons and trophies to show for my efforts. Some of these fish had the audacity to get sick also. I didn’t give up. But I stopped spending money that I couldn’t afford.

A koi show judge, and friend, sat me down and asked me what I like about a koi. I was hard pressed to answer. I wasn’t sure what he meant. He asked me again. He said, “Do you like kohaku, showa, or sanke?” Or do you like some other type of koi?” I said, and this is important, “I just like a pretty fish.” He said, “Aaah! That is the answer! The fish that is beautiful to YOU is the fish you should buy. That fish is the winner.”

Today, I rarely take my fish to shows, mainly because it is such a chore to catch them in the first place, so the place I want to enjoy my winners is --- at home! Yes, the fish that appeals to me does not have to win a ribbon or trophy. It has to be beautiful to me. My pond has nothing but winners!

So when people ask me which fish they should buy, I always give them the wisdom I got from that judge- pick the one you like best. It’s like painting your house. You are the only one that has to live with it. You have to like it. Be proud of your koi. Don’t buy something someone else likes. It won’t matter once you take it home. Go ahead and take the one with the one crinkled fin, or the nicked tail. If it is beautiful to you, you will love it. I know I do. And that is what is important.