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How to Choose Koi for Your Pond

As a koi keeper, a koi enthusiast, your koi collection is something that grows and changes over the years. As your interests and desires change, you may find yourself favoring different koi, or wanting to change the aesthetic of your collection. You may even find yourself wanting to upsize your pond to accommodate more koi (we see this one pretty frequently).

We’re here to help you through every step of your koi-keeping journey. These creatures are known as living jewels, and each is a unique piece of art. Select Koi's team are the artists you can commission to complete your masterpiece! Keep reading to learn some great tips from our expert koi selectors on how to complete your pond’s Nishikigoi masterpiece.

Reach out to us if you have any questions or need advice on what koi your pond needs next. We’re more than happy to help! Helping you find the perfect koi is one of our favorite parts of our business.

Based on Your Pond’s Specs

Select Koi team and a client look on at client's koi and pond.
Select Koi team and one of our valued clients at their koi pond!

Before we get started, it’s important to note that the higher quality of your filtration and the higher quality of food your feeding your koi, the more koi your pond will be able to support. This is why we offer the best filtration to fit your needs, Evolution Aqua filtration, through our sister company, Select Ponds. We also carry Nijikawa for your convenience; this food contains all of the necessary vitamins, minerals, and fibers to support healthy, happy, and beautiful koi that will grow to be the large koi of your dreams! Better quality food means reduced waste production and a lower affinity to illness or disease; you can carry more koi safely, and responsibly.

Now! Moving forward. One of the most common questions we get is “how many koi can I have in my pond?. The answer is everyone is different! It depends on the level of filtration that your pond has and the features of your pond. We're happy to assist you and give you an estimate! Just shoot us a message.

If you’re looking to grow your koi to be jumbo, the greater the depth of your koi pond, the better. This is because the koi need space to exercise; traversing from the top of the pond to the bottom gives them the space to grow big and strong. Some of the best ponds we have seen (including our own!) are 6 feet deep, but we recommend at least three to four feet deep.

Koi Diversity & Aesthetics

10 Jumbo Koi swim around a koi keeper's pond.
A breath-taking example of high-quality koi that compliment each other to create a fascinating canvas of rich colors and incredible patterns.

Just as any person will have a different taste in fashion or interior design, any single person will have different preferences on koi breeds and varieties! Some will prefer to fill their ponds exclusively with koi of the gosanke variety; Showa, Sanke, and Kohaku. Others prefer a more diverse pond, with anything from Tancho Showas, to Hi Utsuri, to Goshiki. Others still pine after the rarest koi, such as the Ai Goromo, Beni Kikokuryu, Gin Rin Matsukawabake (which we carry!).

Putting together a pond is similar to putting together an art collection. You would be hard-pressed to find impressionist paintings, like Monet, hanging next to surrealism paintings, like Dali, in the MET. This is because certain styles of art flow together more seamlessly than other styles of art.

It’s not as visually pleasing in your pond gallery if you have tiny tosai mixed with jumbo koi. So, you don’t want drastic size differences. A lot of our clients have multiple ponds. They’ll have one, smaller pond with their tosai and nisai, with their older and jumbo koi in another pond together. This is typically a larger pond that attracts most of their guests' attention, like a main attraction. They may also have a quarantine pond for when their koi get sick.

Separating koi by age/size is one example of balance in the composition of your pond. Another way you can ensure balance in the composition of your pond is by having a diverse range of high-quality koi that look good together. Your color palette should be a strong range of bright reds, blacks, whites, and yellows. Bonus points for a gin rin or a kin koi!

Some of the best ponds we've seen have a wide variety of breeds, meaning, they're incredibly diverse. You can achieve that diversity in a few ways, but here are some quick tips that will ensure your pond's population is diverse and beautiful!

We suggest having a chagoi to make your koi friendly! These guys are notoriously friendly and will teach your other koi to feed from your palm. We also recommend a matsuba (a solid black koi) or even a gin rin matsukawabaki. The Japanese believe this koi draws all of the impurities out of the water and protects the other koi from bad energy or evil intentions.

Also, everyone needs a tancho! This koi is an essential element, boasting a beautiful beni marking on the forehead of the koi; it looks just like the Japanese flag, a monument to where your koi come from. Beautiful Japan!

The combination of these particular koi is sure to bring peace, calm, and an atmosphere of relaxation. Stay tuned for a longer blog post on staple koi breeds and varieties for your pond.

Body & Skin Quality and Condition

Maruten Kohaku from Maruhiro Koi Farm
A truly gifted Sanke from Shintaro Koi Farm. This koi has deep, intense beni markings, with smooth, clean kiwa (edges). The body line is phenomenal, with a strong and straight backbone.

With Select Koi, we choose our koi based on a series of factors. We look at all of these factors for you when we hand-select your koi in Niigata, Japan, but this information will help you to better understand what a great potential koi is. All of our koi are of the highest quality, meaning they meet and exceed the standards for all of the following categories.

We generally choose female koi, as they tend to have higher taiko (koi height), thicker tails, and wider heads. Female koi are generally more expensive than male koi, as well.

  • Body shape; take into consideration the tail starter, backbone, and the taiko, or the body height. You want a well-aligned and balanced body line/shape. This is the best way to know if the koi will become very large later in life.

    • Kata (shoulders), between the head and the dorsal fin.

    • Hachi (forehead), where a good tancho pattern will be. We want the head to be well balanced, wide, voluminous; a narrow head is less aesthetically pleasing than a well-balanced and thick head. This applies to both Kata and Hachi.

    • Spine/backbone (shape, length) is the most important part when you are considering a new koi. It should be straight and strong.

    • Tebire (pectoral fin) & oyabone (first and biggest fin spray).

    • Obire (tail) and Tail starter. A wide tail starter will indicate that the koi will grow to be very large, similar to how a puppy with large paws will grow to be a large dog!

Koi Facts: Male koi will have fine bumps similar to sandpaper on the oyabones, especially during the summer months, while female koi will have smooth oyabones. This is one way you can take on the difficult task of identifying your koi's sex.

  • Great skin quality: You’ll want to consider skin condition, such as a healthy slime coat and scales (healthy scales, none missing or damaged). However, keep in mind that this is only temporary and does not mean that the koi do not have potential to grow large and beautiful. When you're looking at younger koi, consider skin quality, or the features of the skin, which is a way to judge that young koi's potential as it ages.

    • Depth and intensity of pigment.

      • Kiwa, or edge, or side. Kiwa is the edges of the patterns or the line which separates the pattern’s colors from the body’s base color. We want sharp, clean lines. A great example of Kiwa is our award-winning Kohaku, which you can find here. It also features beautiful Sashi on the second step or the patch of beni closer to the Tebire.

      • Sashi refers to edges or sides as well, but this time we’re looking at a blurred edge. For younger koi, sashi will need to be uniform in width (one or two scales of overlapping colors) throughout to indicate a strong koi in the future. Uneven Sashi could indicate weak pigmentation of hi/beni, or sumi. It may be present in your koi for 4-5 years, or more.

      • Fukurin. This word comes from the word fuku, which means to cover or wrap. It refers to the cuticle of the skin that appears drawn in a line around the scale. A good example of this is our blue asagi.

  • Pattern. While most breeders do not pay as much attention to this aspect, many koi keepers are primarily interested in a koi with a beautiful pattern. You want to look for a balanced pattern, where both sides of the koi’s body have a similar concentration of colors at similar intensity.

Cultivate Your Dream Koi Pond

When it comes down to it, your koi pond is whatever you want it to be, whatever you dream it to be. That's one of the most beautiful parts of koi keeping! Whatever breeds most interest you, whatever landscaping is most appealing to you, this is all part of cultivating a beautiful environment for you, your family, and your koi.

Whether you prefer gosanke or goshiki, kikokuryu or ai goromo, Select Koi has the koi for you! Whatever your koi dreams, we're here to help you realize those dreams. High-quality koi is the name of the game for us! Give us a call if you have any questions regarding your pond or your koi; we're happy to help.

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