One of the most important tasks carried out by Japanese Koi breeders in the production of high class Koi is the selection process. This blog post features the start of an article from issue 5 of Koi Talk magazine, written by Koi expert and magazine Co-Founder, Ricky Stoddart. If you’d like to read the full article issue 5 is available to buy in the back issues section of our website.
One of the most important tasks carried out by Japanese breeders in the production of high class Koi is the selection process. The superb jumbo specimens that can be witnessed at a breeder’s facility have survived a large number of selections to reach that point. This article focuses on why the selection process is so important, how it affects the value of the fish you purchase and how you can apply this process to your own pond to give your best Koi the chance to reach their potential.
Ever since I’ve been involved with Koi the various different selections carried out by the Japanese is something that has captivated me. The process has always been surrounded with mystique, with many believing the incredibly well trained eye of the breeder gives him the ability to select a Grand Champion from thousands of baby Koi. In truth there is no mystique and no breeder could pick a Grand Champion directly from his fry, and this is why the selection process is required. The breeders do have a very well trained eye and in-depth knowledge of their own breeding lines, as well as the many others that exist. In turn this knowledge allows them to know if minor flaws within a particular Koi will be corrected as it develops in the future. I however believe that with each Koi a breeder chooses they have a great deal of uncertainty as to how its future will map out. Certainly during the sembetsu (the selection process where breeders separate the different quality of Koi to keep and develop) and tosai selections a great deal of uncertainty is always present. As each year passes and further selections are carried out the future of each Koi becomes much clearer. So, how much of the selection process is left to chance?
Let’s start at the very beginning with the sembetsu of the newly hatched Koi. In general, once the eggs have hatched, the baby Koi will be left for around 3-7 days in the holding net where the eggs were laid. All of the fry will then be bagged and moved to a mud pond to grow until the breeder deems the size appropriate for the first sembetsu. The amount of times he culls a pond depends on several circumstances, mainly the quality of Koi the breeder produces and how he wishes to grow them. Fujio Oomo from Nishikigoi Nigaata Direct Koi Farm once gave a comparison to me during the fourth sembetsu of his Showa. The particular pond had around 100 pieces and he was looking to reduce this down to about 60 pieces – stocking levels don’t get any more generous than that! Fujio is only looking to produce high class Showa and he likes to rear them as super jumbo tosai and provide them with the finest conditions he can. At the time he informed me that lower class breeders would only carry out 2-3 rounds of culling at the very most and at the end of it anything from 1,000 to 2,500 Koi could be retained in the same size of pond that he was growing only 60 pieces. I am now going slightly off topic but this is once such issue where the end price of the Koi is greatly affected. The production costs for the Koi within the pond for the lower class breeder are getting divided between thousands of Koi but in Fujio’s case it’s just 60. Not all 60 of them will command serious prices, normally just 10% will go on to provide a good income for the breeder in later years.
Selecting the fry in most instances is not all that technical, especially with varieties such as Kohaku. For the first two rounds all the breeder is looking for is a good pigment and pattern; sounds relatively simple? The tricky part however comes when the Koi between 2cm and 4cm are only just starting to develop beni and differentiating between that and the shiroji is difficult. Generally, from the third round onwards more attention is given to the quality of the skin and kiwa with pattern still being of big importance. Showa are one variety that has a different process to others as their first round of selection uses a siphoning process to select all of the black fry that later become Showa. This whole process is carried out from spawning in May/June, through to when the Koi are harvested in September.
This blog post features the start of an article from issue 5 of Koi Talk magazine, written by Koi expert and magazine Co-Founder, Ricky Stoddart. If you’d like to read the full article issue 5 is available to buy in the back issues section of our website.