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Koi fish, or Nishikigoi, are the product of several centuries of selective breeding of the common brown Asian carp and the German carp. The first color mutations appeared
Koi are available in all colors from the purest white, through yellow, orange, red, near-lavender, blues, greens and coal black, in limitless combinations.
Most popular in Japan are the Kohaku, a pure white fish with persimmon-red patches arranged in a stepping stone pattern.
In the USA, favorite types run the gamut from the legendary "Big Three" (Kohaku, Taisho Sanke, and Showa Sanke, the last two appreciated for varying proportions of white, black and red) to the eye catching Ogons, metallic fish that look like they have been hammered from gold or platinum.
New developments are the long fin or butterfly Koi and the Gin Rin Koi, where each scale sparkles like a diamond.
In Western Washington, Koi can be purchased from several importers of Japanese Koi, from pet stores or from garden centers. They are raised commercially in Japan, Singapore, Israel, and in most temperate American states, especially California. They are usually offered in sizes ranging from three to twenty-four inches. Japanese shows are filled with "Jumbos" which exceed three feet in length.
Koi starter fish may be purchased for as little as several dollars with nice fish going from about $25 to many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Koi are omnivorous and will eat a great variety of foods. Special Koi food can be purchased. Many keepers supplement them with trout chow, catfish chow, bread, Cheerios, peas, lettuce, spinach, fresh shrimp, earthworms and krill. A real treat for Koi is watermelon. On occasion Koi have eaten slugs!
When Koi become accustomed to your presence, they will eat from your hand. Some have even been trained to take food from their owner's lips.
Koi dispositions are mellow and their toothless mouths are soft. They pose no danger to smaller fish. A twenty-four inch Koi can be safely housed with four inch Koi, common goldfish, or comets. Very slow moving fancy goldfish may have a problem competing for food.
Koi ponds can be constructed from concrete, Gunite, PVC or butyl rubber liners, fiberglass tanks, or they can be housed in natural ponds (not a hole in the ground.) Ponds should be at least three feet deep with a minimum of three hundred gallons for each mature fish. Though Koi will survive poor conditions, they do best with good filtration and aeration. Remember, Koi do grow and under ideal conditions, they can reach two feet in three years.
It is not unheard of for a happy Koi to live thirty years. The record in Japan is two hundred and twenty-three years.
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