North Idaho Koi Keepers

Koi Growout Project 2006-2008

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Articles
Dan & Sharon Olson purchased 6 young koi from Toshio Sakai in Japan with the intent of growing them out in the hope of understanding the grading system of Japanese breeders.  Two "A", two "B" and two "C" koi have been given the same food in the same pond.  One additional special koi, Cherry Blossom, has been included for comparison.  These koi have been viewed and assessed 5 times at NIKK workshops.

Click on the pictures below to go a history page for that koi

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Our club workshops focus on members ponds and koi.  Here Dick Benbow points out features of the koi swimming comfortably in their familiar pond.  Later Dan coaxes some of the fish closer for examination by the group. 
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What’s the Difference?

 

By Phyllis Anderson

 

All koi keepers strive to learn more about koi, that’s a given.  But in May 2006 a group of koi kichis decided during one of our normal gatherings to come up with a new way for us to better understand the potential of Tategoi that we select.  This article is a collaboration of Tategoi study information from my friends in koi. Several serious koi keepers had been gathering for koi study workshops during the last two years with the intent of possibly starting a new club that would focus strictly on the love of koi.  In using all the criteria and training we’ve gathered from pictures and books, we all agreed it was not giving us the confidence that we needed to tackle the challenge of selecting koi for the future.  We agreed that a hands-on, living example of koi growing development might give us the fulfillment we all were seeking.  Why is one fish considered an “A” and another a “C”?

 

In the course of our conversations, it was suggested that Dan and Sharon through their normal channels contact Toshio Sakai of Isawa Nishikigoi Center about our goal.  Mr. Sakai, through the translation of his daughter Miwa, recommended that a koi study would be a valuable learning experience.  He set the grow-out project in motion by supplying 6 Gosankes, two Grade “A”, two Grade “B” and two Grade “C”.  Mr. Sakai also sent a special Tategoi Showa for Sharon to add to the group for comparison.

 

In May 2006, these great little koi arrived at the Seattle Airport from Japan.  After a 5-hour road trip to Spokane in Olson’s travel tank inside their Koi Kruiser, they were placed in Olson’s 3800-gallon quarantine pond.  Once the fish were settled in to their new home, we were able to better study their confirmation.   On June 11, members of the future North Idaho Koi Keepers were anxiously awaiting the first viewing of these special fish.  For this workshop, Dick Benbow and several other koi keepers from various parts of the Pacific Northwest joined us.  Measurements and pictures were taken at that time to start a photo journal of the koi development.  This chart records the length of the fish during this study. 

 

 

KOI

6/11/06

10/7/06

5/26/07

10/13/07

6/11/08

Showa CB**

10.5”

14”

18.5”

20”

20.5”

Showa A**

12.5”

15.5”

20”

22”

22”

Showa B

12.25”

14.5”

15”

17.25”

17.5”

Showa C

12.25”

15.5”

16.5”

19”

19”

Sanke A**

12”

14.5”

17.5”

19”

19.5”

Sanke B

12.5”

14.25”

15”

18.5”

19.25”

Sanke C

11”

15”

16.25”

18.25”

18.5”

** Kept indoors & fed summer food through the first winter.

 

During their first couple of weeks in the quarantine pond, the new koi were fed primarily fresh lettuce and fruits. For the next four weeks they were fed pellets consisting of krill, seaweed, crustaceans, high growth and energy foods, along with fresh lettuce and fruits.  The feeding regimen was 3-4 times daily during the first six weeks.  When the newcomers were introduced to the Olson’s large outdoor pond with larger koi the feeding regimen continued 3-4 times daily. 

 

Following another workshop in October to update the information and pictures of the young koi, half the young trainees were left in the outdoor pond and were subjected to the preferred method of cooling down and encountering a dormant period at their home in the inland Pacific Northwest.  The other half, Showa CB, Showa A, and Sanke A, enjoyed the warmth of the indoor quarantine tank to see if that would actually have an effect on their growth.  The indoor koi were fed a summer regimen while the outdoor koi were fed winter food.  Once outdoor water temperature dropped to 55 degrees feeding stopped in order to give the outdoor koi their four-season cycle.  

 

These koi have suffered no illnesses or injury, and have been allowed to grow undisturbed together among an assortment of larger koi inhabiting this facility.  Following their first winter in Spokane, the youngsters were once again measured and photographed at a May workshop in 2007.  The rest of their summer was spent together in the outdoor community pond.  The progress of the study koi was reviewed again in October before these 7 fish headed into their next winter, all remaining with the group in the large pond outdoors, covered and heated to control the environment as a “normal” winter cooling period.

 

The last workshop was held in June 2008.  Some of these fish have maintained their patterns through the study, while others have changed very visibly.  Shiro skin quality has remained high with all of them while Sumi and Beni have changed as would be expected.  When Mr. Sakai travels to the Pacific Northwest as a keynote speaker at the September PNKCA Convention in Idaho, he has been invited to assess their growth and condition as this study comes to an end. 

 

What have we all learned?  Watching the development over a two-year period, we have watched small koi grow in length and begin to develop girth.  We have had the opportunity to evaluate basic body structure to watch how it effects the body conformity that we hope is going to give us insight to what the koi will look like when they mature. 

 

Growth:  We determined that the study koi wintering in cold-water conditions did not grow in length at the same rate as the koi wintering in warmer water for the winter.  After the first winter we measured all the fish in the spring and found that the koi left outside grew at a rate of about to 1 inches over 7 months.  The koi kept warm indoors during this same timeframe grew 2 to 3 inches.  Our study continued to determine if the 4 koi that had been kept outdoors would grow at a faster rate than those kept inside during the winter through the 5 months of warmer water and summer feeding.  The results were that our 3 koi wintered indoors grew between 1 to 2 inches while the 4 kept outside during winter months grew between 2 to 3 inches.  This leads us to believe there is possibly some potential for koi to catch up through greater summer growth rates after going through the four seasons, but we also believe those 4 koi will not match the size of the other 3 that had the benefit of winter feeding and warmer water during their first winter.   We will keep all study koi through the summer of 2008 and measure one last time; maybe we will discover more details about growth rates this fall.

 

Confirmation and Skin Quality:  Upon their delivery from Japan at the Seattle airport we very carefully looked over all seven study koi.  We really wanted to understand better the different levels of Tategoi quality and felt it started with confirmation and skin quality.  We were able to discern that group A had softer color with a little more depth (coats of paint).  However, B & C levels were less discernable with C level appearing possibly better than B, quite confusing at the time.  In addition, we were looking for colors being in the right areas (show quality potential) on all the koi.  We decided at this point that they were all remarkable Tategoi and it was too early to see a difference in the quality of the pattern between A, B & C.  In fact, Sanke C had so little Sumi at the time we thought we were looking at a Kohaku.  Dick Benbow, who helped with loading out at Seattle, wanted to get a better understanding of the nature of their body confirmation.  What Dick wanted to help us understand was that the definition of shoulder hump size could give us a prediction of how large our koi may grow?  Now we have witnessed that the koi with the larger shoulders in the beginning are now the largest of our study koi group.  These are all beneficial observations for helping us pick our koi of the future, Tategoi.

 

Olson’s Koi Ponds:  For those who would ask for more details, here is some specific information on the outdoor pond.  The system contains 38,500 gallons.  The rectangular pond measures 45 feet x 12 feet inside, 4 feet at the shallow end sloped to a 9-foot hopper bottom.   Filtration begins with 2 air dome style four-inch main drains and 2 other four-inch main drains located at the deep end of the pond combined into one eight-inch pipe that flows into a swirl separator cone shaped vortex 6 feet in diameter with a depth of 8 feet.  From swirl separator water flows into a parallel chambered filter with matting and kaldness media.  Each chamber flows into two separate systems:  System # 1 gravity flows to a 3 hp variable speed pump, bead filter  and UV light that sends 6,000 gallons per hour through 4 separate three-inch returns at the shallow end.  System # 2 gravity flows to another 3 HP variable speed pump into a bead filter.  The returns go through a heat bypass from a natural gas boiler and marine stainless steel style heat exchanger and UV light bypass to 8 two-inch returns located at the bottom of the shallow end of the pond.  Two skimmers located at the deep end of the pond also circulate through System #2.

In addition, the pond has an overflow pipe to allow a constant water change from our well at a rate of 2,400 gallons daily.  The turnover rate for this pond is once every two hours

 

The indoor quarantine tank – 3,850 gallons.  Concrete rectangular pond 9 feet by 10 feet by 8 feet deep with a hopper bottom.   A one-hp variable speed pump that is gravity fed from one four-inch air dome main drain sends the water to a bead filter, UV light bypass and marine heat exchanger bypass.  Four one-inch returns, two located one foot from the bottom and two set up to return water by way of a spray bar above the water line.  A two-inch overflow tube is located at the top of water line.  A one-inch water line hooked up to the well water can be used for a continuous water change has also been installed.

 

More pictures of the study are available at the North Idaho Koi Keepers website:

www.northidahokoikeepers.com.  This article is a combined effort of Dan & Sharon Olson and Gene & Phyllis Anderson – along with a lot of discussions amongst our group, including Dick Benbow.  We went into this project to learn “What’s the Difference” and all feel we’ve gained a lot through this experience.  Our thanks for Mr. Sakai and the Olsons for presenting this unique learning experience.  Stay tuned for more from this energetic and enthusiastic group of koi keepers.