Koi Keeping in the Winter

It’s not a very exciting time of the year. Outside it’s just cold and we’re wishing for a little more snow. We have some wild turkeys that must live nearby since they are always walking through the yard several times each day. The pond digger tries a variety of methods to discourage them.

In the garage, the koi are doing very well. No one is sick, they remain relatively active and they always act as if they are hungry. The water temperature is around 58 degrees so we do watch carefully for signs of skin infection. I have one or two koi who will try to bounce off of the net or some how scrape themselves on something in the pond. Any scratch seems to resolve in a few days so knock on wood the koi seem to have a strong immune system.

So the winter is a perfect time to read up on koi and prepare to be a student koi judge. Our AKJA program recommends we thoroughly read Kate McGill’s “Koi Appreciation” book.

Along with the Mcgill book, I have a number of other koi references and I end up spending a lot of time reading multiple books and internet articles about each particular variety. I have struggled with the best system to have information easily accessible. I enjoy writing in notebooks, but it’s not practical to carry them around and tabbing them doesn’t ensure I can quickly find what I want. Plus there are so many visual references I would like. So I’ve settled on a system of PDFs in iBooks and Pinterest. One Note could be nice but seeing how long it can take it to sync, my system seems easier.

My Pinterest boards do not reflect the “best” examples of the koi varieties but will help me to practice classifying the koi for benching in shows. So many varieties out there… There is one group that drive me crazy – Karasugoi…a number of black base koi – Matsukawabake , Hajiro, Hagashiro, Kumonryu, Beni Kumonryu, Karasu. I’m not personally interested in these type of koi so perhaps that’s why I feel they are more difficult to remember. I also get sidetracked with how different varieties were created and reading about the historical bloodlines. All the judges seem quite articulate in being able to point out bloodline characteristics in present day koi. I have to create some little cheat photos since the internet often fails to have exactly what I want.  Book + iPhone = a new pin on one of my Pinterest boards 😂.

Through my study of the different varieties I’ve actually changed how I try to look at koi. I have usually looked at a koi to determine what faults do I see. However, when we appreciate koi, we’re looking for those qualities that make the koi beautiful. We always look for conformation and quality first, then we start looking for those traits that a stellar example of the variety would have. It’s kind of nice to look for positive points about a koi. It seems very Japanese to me to emphasize the positives and not point out the negatives immediately. We have all kinds of koi keepers in the United States and everyone is trying to do their best. Some koi keepers are lucky to have a lot of resources and others may be limited but still have a lot of heart. I think it’s important that as a koi judge, we nurture good koi keeping and encourage everyone.

In 18 days I’ll be flying back to Japan for the All Japan Koi Show – so excited! It will be a great opportunity to take a lot of photos that I would like to have for reference. I’m thinking about creating a little wish list of shots that I would like. It would also be nice if the pond builder could come with me but someone has to work (and take care of our koi)😂.