Koi ponds: big fish, in any size pond

 

The New York Times

Japanese koi are domesticated carp prized for their size, color, patterns and luster. They are coldblooded, but the people who nurture them in backyard ponds and enter them in competitions are as passionate as any Pekingese owner.

Mat McCann, 40, the British-born manager at Quality Koi Farm, a 43-acre business owned by Joseph Zuritsky, in Carneys Point, N.J., uses Japanese stock and methods to breed international champions. (This ambition is not unlike perfecting American truffles, mozzarella and soccer players.) The farm is open to the public from spring through autumn, and collectors travel from all points to peer into its mud ponds. (The interview was edited and condensed.)

Q: How did you get involved with koi?

A: When I was 7 years old, I started as a hobbyist. My father was going to a koi club meeting, and I was a tagalong.

Q: You just returned from a trip to Japan. Why did you go?

A: This trip was basically to go back to the guy who taught us, our mentor, Toshio Sakai of Isawa Nishikigoi Center, and select from his fish that were born last year. We’re given a unique opportunity to select the best from the best. I only selected a total of 50 fish.

Q: What does it take for a koi to be a champion?

A: Shape is basically the symmetry within the body itself; all fins are present and equal size. The best fish have slender proportions for the first four or five years. Luster is an aspect of the skin quality; it should have a sheen, like silk. In terms of the color quality, it’s a thickness so we almost liken it to how many coats of paint on the fish. We look underneath the scales so, for example, if it’s a red patch and there’s white underneath, it’s the lowest quality.

Q: What’s the typical lifespan of a koi?

A: That greatly depends on the skill of the keeper. Typically, you’re looking at 10 years plus, once you really know what you’re doing. We have fish that are 35 years old. Koi are a hybridized carp, and there are carp in the wild that are 60, 80 years old.

Q: Koi-raising seems to attract a particularly passionate kind of person.

A: It’s been likened to a drug in many respects. It’s not a hobby that you can do halfway and still be successful. A decent-size pond doesn’t come inexpensively, and then each week people like to go out with their kids and buy some koi, and before long they’ve got a selection with names.

Q: What’s the price range from backyard koi to a competition-level fish?

A: We sell koi from $12.50, and most of the backyard-pond level go for less than $100. The very, very best are literally one in a million or beyond. The highest would be $100,000.

Q: Do they have personalities?

A: They do in terms of feeding habits. You can train the carp to hand feed, and they will adjust to your footsteps. They know you’re coming to give them food and they’ll approach you.

Q: Do you get attached to your fish? Do you give them names?

A: All our parent females have names. It’s one way of following the bloodline. Staff frequently get attached to certain fish.

Q: One problem with koi ponds is gas buildup?

A: Bacteria and microorganisms do their thing in the mud, and the other gases present grow to such a point, they take the place of oxygen in the water.

Q: So how do you fix that?

A: That’s one of the jobs students get to do. They probably spend two to three hours a day in a pair of waders walking in the mud. It’s incredibly difficult, especially as it gets hotter. It’s a fantastic weight-loss program. It’s not a job anybody likes but it’s a very important job.

Q: Do the gases smell?

A: Yes. I’ll let your imagination run wild with that one.

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

  • Ask Angie

    What to expect from a house cleaning service

    Q: What is reasonable to expect from a housecleaning service?

  •  
A “before” photo of the family’s cluttered living room.

    Makeover

    A fresh start family room

    Rebecca and her three kids have had a challenging year. The loss of Darcy, their husband and father, hit them all very hard. Rebecca wanted to start down the road to recovery by designing a fabulous new family room where they could all have fun and spend some quality time together.

  •  
Neil Patrick Harris listed his home in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles at $2.995 million.

    Hot Property: Los Angeles

    Country stars selling Malibu pad for $7.5 million

    Country music superstars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood have put their place in Malibu up for sale at $7.5 million.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category