Sunday, May 31, 2009
The original Koi were cultivated as food fish by Chinese rice farmers in the 17th century. When brought to the Niigata Prefecture, Japan’s premier rice-growing region, rice farmers there continued to keep Koi as a food source, especially during winter. But somewhere between the 1820s and 1830s, they began to notice that some Koi had amazing colors and markings on their bodies. They then began to breed some of the carp for aesthetic appeal. Some were brought to ponds near the farmer’s houses to make them easier to grow. This could possibly be the beginnings of the Koi as a form of pond decoration.
Although Koi is simply a carp, modern specimens are products of selective breeding over many generations. Koi that exhibited desirable colors, patterns and body shapes were chosen and paired with other top quality Koi to produce better ones. Breeders have toiled over centuries on how to eliminate dullness from the basic Koi variety. These attempts to modify the external properties of Koi have, in a way, affected their physiology; but inside they are basically still the same carp, with similar traits as that of their hardier ancestors.
The basic colors of the Koi fish are red, yellow and white, but as the fish were bred with other types of carp and other Goldfish, the end results is a mix of colors. Koi varieties are constantly changing--being researched and developed, bred and improved, and more more variations are becoming available. Some are "one-time hits" never to be seen again, others become "fixed" and become quality bloodlines, and still others are yet to be dreamed of.
The history of Koi is a colorful one, marked by success and failure along the way. Breeders could not always obtain the end results they were hoping for. However, as with any objects of beauty, enthusiasts will always find a way to bring out the best quality in them, no matter how long it takes.