When it comes to buying fish for the pond, there a number of choices: Goldfish, common and fancy, Shebunkins, and Comets, but my favorite is Koi. Their colors, shapes and patterns seem infinite: reds, blues, gold, yellows, silver, greens, and even iridescent, as well as a mixture of different types of scales. Their movements are graceful, and I find it very relaxing to just sit and watch them glide effortlessly through the water. With the birth of 24 new Koi two years ago, combined with my large mature Koi, my pond population has blossomed to 36. It's a visual kaleidoscope of moving color come feeding time.
I have to admit, I've tried to identify and memorize the Japanese terms for the different types, but they just won't stick. I did, however, investigate and learned a little bit about their history, which I will share with you here:
The many beautiful Koi varieties we know today are, in fact, descendants of the black fish known as the Magoi. Koi are not indigenous to Japan. They originate from eastern Asia (in the Black, Azov, Caspian and Aral Seas) and from China, where the earliest written record of this fish can be found. Koi were introduced to Japan with the invading Chinese, and the first account of them being kept in Japan, apparently by an Emperor, dates back to AD 200. Although early records of Koi (i.e. common carp) date back some 2,500 years, their farm cultivation is much more recent. Color mutations first appeared some two hundred years ago, and by the end of the 19th century, many of the varieties we know today had been established. However, it was not until the 20th century that Koi-keeping as a hobby began to flourish. The development of road and rail links, and more particularly, the advancement of air travel, facilitated the transportation of Koi, and these beautiful fish soon attracted a huge following in other parts of the world, particularly in the USA and UK. Since the first days of the culture of nishikigoi (as fancy Koi came to be known) many farmers have invested much time and effort in developing new varieties. Although Japan still leads the world, other countries are now producing their own home markets* (as is the case here in the US).
There is much more history on this beautiful fish, but at least now you can impress your friends at the next cocktail party. Enjoy your Koi!
*Tetra Encyclopedia of Koi