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Thread: Sumi development vs general hardness - Myth?

  1. #1
    Jumbo HenryC's Avatar
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    Sumi development vs general hardness - Myth?

    For years I have read some state that Sanke and Showa require harder water to develop sumi. My experience has been quite the opposite. I have kept my water on the soft side, using a softener to tune my water to 60ppm GH. This year I took it a little further and dropped it to 40ppm GH mainly to see the effects on skin. Alkanlinity is kept at 100ppm so there are no pH shifts (rock solid at 7.9). Below is a side by side of my SFF Sanke. On the left is her photo in October while still in Japan (nisai 59cm). Just a hint of a few places sumi would emerge. On the right is her photo today (66cm). She arrived in Orlando in late December and after a month in QT, into my pond. So after less than 6 months in my pond her sumi has developed a great deal. All the time in 40ppm GH water. This is not the first time I have seen sumi develop well in soft water. I have raised several Sanke and Showa that have developed lacquer black sumi.

    I am wondering if this is common and the theories of harder water needed for sumi development being more of a myth than fact. Maybe it comes down to the genetics of the Koi. Sanke and Showa that are going to develop high quality sumi are going to do it whether in hard or soft water, while other Koi may need some assistance to bring it out.

    Opinions? Similar or contradictory experiences?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Sumi development vs general hardness - Myth?-sff_sanke.jpg  
    Henry

    Orlando, FL

  2. #2
    Oyagoi Eugeneg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenryC View Post
    For years I have read some state that Sanke and Showa require harder water to develop sumi. My experience has been quite the opposite. I have kept my water on the soft side, using a softener to tune my water to 60ppm GH. This year I took it a little further and dropped it to 40ppm GH mainly to see the effects on skin. Alkanlinity is kept at 100ppm so there are no pH shifts (rock solid at 7.9). Below is a side by side of my SFF Sanke. On the left is her photo in October while still in Japan (nisai 59cm). Just a hint of a few places sumi would emerge. On the right is her photo today (66cm). She arrived in Orlando in late December and after a month in QT, into my pond. So after less than 6 months in my pond her sumi has developed a great deal. All the time in 40ppm GH water. This is not the first time I have seen sumi develop well in soft water. I have raised several Sanke and Showa that have developed lacquer black sumi.

    I am wondering if this is common and the theories of harder water needed for sumi development being more of a myth than fact. Maybe it comes down to the genetics of the Koi. Sanke and Showa that are going to develop high quality sumi are going to do it whether in hard or soft water, while other Koi may need some assistance to bring it out.

    Opinions? Similar or contradictory experiences?
    This is quite a normal devlopment or so I found on Matsonasuke fish that
    had a good shiro to come through I dont think it has anything to do with the water
    Regards
    Eugene

  3. #3
    Honmei
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    Quote Originally Posted by HenryC View Post
    For years I have read some state that Sanke and Showa require harder water to develop sumi. My experience has been quite the opposite. I have kept my water on the soft side, using a softener to tune my water to 60ppm GH. This year I took it a little further and dropped it to 40ppm GH mainly to see the effects on skin. Alkanlinity is kept at 100ppm so there are no pH shifts (rock solid at 7.9). Below is a side by side of my SFF Sanke. On the left is her photo in October while still in Japan (nisai 59cm). Just a hint of a few places sumi would emerge. On the right is her photo today (66cm). She arrived in Orlando in late December and after a month in QT, into my pond. So after less than 6 months in my pond her sumi has developed a great deal. All the time in 40ppm GH water. This is not the first time I have seen sumi develop well in soft water. I have raised several Sanke and Showa that have developed lacquer black sumi.

    I am wondering if this is common and the theories of harder water needed for sumi development being more of a myth than fact. Maybe it comes down to the genetics of the Koi. Sanke and Showa that are going to develop high quality sumi are going to do it whether in hard or soft water, while other Koi may need some assistance to bring it out.

    Opinions? Similar or contradictory experiences?

    Henry,
    First off, nice Sanke. I love the body. Yes, the Sumi is developing nicely but still not complete. Once question though. How do you know That the sumi would not have developed even better in harder water?

    I'll give another antidotal "observation." I have a kohaku raised in soft water (30 ppm). I took her to a koi show on a Friday and by Saturday she had a brand new shimi. The show water was around 200ppm. I took her home from the show and within a week the shimi had faded and within a month it was gone.

    This is not to say that I don't think sumi will develope in soft water, but I believe harder water does help sumi develope....whether that be a good thing, or in some cases, a bad thing.

    Steve

  4. #4
    Tosai
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    I find this question very interesting, because the same has happened to my fish. We are lucky enough to be on well water, so I am able to avoid chlorine and other city water additives. The water is wonderful and the fish love it. I have had the water tested and there are no major metals/minerals or other such things in our water. We seem to have a marvelous aquifer.

    The water is slightly hard, however, and we do have a softener attached to the house (with the typical salt pellets). Inevitably, when I add water to the pond, it has run through the softener. And I feel that within a very short time of any new fish being introduced to the pond, that the color becomes far more brilliant.

    So, I've had the same theory as well. (Tho I don't disagree with the other poster who says your fish already had good shiro to come. It is a beautiful fish). But, perhaps it is a little of both--good shiro and soft water? Interesting you feel the same. How are you softening the water, by the way? Meaning, do you have a softener specifically for your pond water only or is it a whole house softener like I have?

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    Jumbo HenryC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by schildkoi View Post
    Henry,
    First off, nice Sanke. I love the body. Yes, the Sumi is developing nicely but still not complete. Once question though. How do you know That the sumi would not have developed even better in harder water?
    No doubt that her sumi still has a long way to go, and at her age that is a good thing. What I don't want is her sumi peaking at age 3 or 4. She has large Koi genetics, so I expect her to grow well past 80cm. As you stated at the end of your post, harder water may help sumi along, maybe faster and sometimes that could be a bad thing. I must say, I do like the skin quality I get from softer water.

    Quote Originally Posted by schildkoi View Post
    I'll give another antidotal "observation." I have a kohaku raised in soft water (30 ppm). I took her to a koi show on a Friday and by Saturday she had a brand new shimi. The show water was around 200ppm. I took her home from the show and within a week the shimi had faded and within a month it was gone.
    I used to have a Torazo Kohaku that would do the exact same thing. If the GH drifted above 80ppm, shimi city. Unfortunatey, her shimies would not fade once the GH was brought back down.

  6. #6
    Jumbo HenryC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lfreem View Post
    How are you softening the water, by the way?
    Sounds like the same way you are. My city water first goes through a large activated carbon filter to remove chlorine then through a whole house salt based water softener. I use a bypass and valves to tune the water to the GH desired. Even with that, I find I must test the pond GH weekly and adjust the valves when needed to maintain it at a stable value.

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    Oyagoi mrbradleybradley's Avatar
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    HenryC

    I am with you on this and have had sumi develop well in soft water. What interests me in this topic is my Showa and Sanke are Aussie homebreds and therefore they are less developed lines than yours - perhaps closer to the older lines. Certainly, the Japanese ZNA judges who attend our shows each year believe this as well. Where then did the sumi-hardness relationship to development come from?


  8. #8
    Daihonmei
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    Both myth and fact , Henry! You can make sumi cells more pronounced in hard water - especially among young male koi. I think that is a long established physiological fact. Koi skin develops best however in soft water and is maintained longest in soft water. So the idea that you want to raise tategoi in hard water to make sumi better is a myth.
    Hard water is used to finish sumi in a hurry and it can do a good job! It should be noted that some Japanese breeders think that it is the hard water used in concrete holding systems that also must contain higher levels of nitrate and salts associated with hard water that finish off their tateshita so well and so quickly.
    These are two different considerations however. One is to stop the unfinished condition in tateshita for market ( this would include high levels of color food for beni and the hard water in concrete ponds for sumi). The other vision or approach is the bringing along slowly of all tategoi with little crowding and soft water low in nitrate. It is really a wish to finish the fish slowly and more naturally .

    - JR

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    Daihonmei PapaBear's Avatar
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    I'm going to stick my neck out just a wee bit for speculations sake to bounce some thought off the board.

    Gh is a very generic term that incorporates a lot of minerals under a single banner, so the generic "higher gh is good for sumi" is likely a misnomer. I've heard (and tend to accept) that higher silicate content is good for sumi. That is one mineral type that will show up in gh readings right along with iron and copper and nobody wants those two in their pond.

    Personally I'm thinking more and more that the genetic makeup of different fish respond to environmental stability and content on a pretty much equal footing. Change things up on them and their skin will respond either for the good or the bad just as any other organ in their body will. Certain types may be more prone to assimilate certain specific minerals quickly than others triggering an organic response, and sumi development is an organic mechanism just as is guanine, beni, etc...

    Koi are the product of genetic defects that have been intentionally concentrated by selective breeding in order to produce something unnaturally beautiful. Because they are beautiful we don't see them that way, but that is how they came to be. The manner in which they process nutrients into color is a genetic anomoly, and water minerals are part of the "trace element" food chain. Why else would a species that naturally throws it all together in a Magoi Brown soup carve up those same nutrients into highly specifec colors that are completely segregated from each other?

    I'm going back to bed now. I woke up in the middle of the night and sleep is still on the menu
    Larry Iles
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    Jumbo RobF's Avatar
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    Henry, What a beautiful sanke. You set such a high standard, few, very few have the facilities to even ask the question you pose (I wrote this to you as an email, then I decided I had spent so much time writing it I should just post it). As you point out well established facts aren’t often evaluated since everyone knows that such and such has long been known. Rarely will anyone site sources or post links. In terms of pigmentation this is doubly true (for example http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/207/22/3999 ).

    Your question of course regards the prominence of the appearance of black pigmentation as related to water hardness. An apparent increase (or decrease) in the sumi indicates either (or both) more black or less white. Given the way that the sumi appears to come up the second alternative of less white would seem the less likely. However this pigmentation strategy of lessening the intervening color (of an iridophore layer) to reveal more black is not uncommon in other fish (http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/206/20/3607 ). But in terms of koi, the question, as I understand it is likely: “Does water hardness affect the aggregation of dermal melanophores koi?” There is considerable research regarding melanophores, even fish melanophores (like http://www.uvm.edu/~nkad/PDFs/gelfand.pdf ). The black pigment cells, the melanophores appear and disappear, when the melanin (black) granules spread out from or retreat to the melanosome’s center. This process of disaggregation and aggregation out of and into the melanosome’s many radial arms is driven by chemical agents along an electrical gradient. The more the microtubular arms of the melanosome are filled the more the black shows. So the question becomes “What is it, if anything, about water hardness is it that affects the distribution of melanin in the melanophores of koi?” The closely related, and commonly observed phenomena that water temperature affects the amount of sumi offers some insight into the question under consideration. It can be taken as proof that melanin disaggregation and re-aggregation (in warm water), is indeed affected by more than just genetics.

    So how could water hardness get to the melanosomes and influence the pigment aggregation state? Two possible routes would seem obvious: 1. From the outside in and 2. From the inside out. In the first case, outside in, says that the hardness kind of soaks in, like the way that temperature takes time to affect sumi. The purposes of melanin are many and mysterious, but protection from various environmental hazards is certainly one of them. In “Cellular responses of the skin of carp (Cyprinus carpio) exposed to acidified waterhttp://www.springerlink.com/content/v05263pg214763j6/ the migration of melanin into the epidermis is demonstrated to be caused by acidified water. But this is a protective response, into surface skin layers, a disease process that passes, and would be more related to the question of shimi. The issue here is sumi that is preferred. Is it the case that an increase in sumi is a response to harsher harder water conditions? If so would there be an upper limit? Is the affect linear? Can it be demonstrated experimentally? In vitro demonstration of melanin aggregation and disaggregation as a result of direct exposure to many chemicals actually is well established. Scales taken from the same individual and exposed to different levels of water hardness and examined under a light microscope might prove instructive in this instance. Time to get out that new microscope!

    And in the second case if it an inside out thing then somehow the water hardness would seem to be playing into Tyrosinase (the rate-limiting enzyme for melanin synthesis). If that is the case then supplements would seem a viable alternative (melanin enhancing foods just think of the market). From what I read if this is the case then you probably should share your morning coffee with your sanke (or pour it in the pond in the first case)!

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