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Thread: The very best way to buy koi--

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2006

    The very best way to buy koi--

    The very best way to buy a koi is to pay enough, but not too much for a tosai or nisai. 'Not enough' means that there are certain realities in life- you will not get a show dog at the pound for $125. You will not get great specimens of marine fish for 'guppy like' prices. And you will not a koi of any real potential for less than $400.
    BEWARE however, there are TONS of junk fish being sold in the $400-- $1200 range, which is way way too much. Things like terrible examples of long fins are offered all the time for $400 plus-- it is RIDICULOUS as the $5 long fin can be grown to look EXACTLY like those $600 'jumbo' long fins on EBay. And in as little are three years in the right pond with the right maintenance and feeding technique.
    (As a side note, I often thought it would be fun to grow out peoples long fin carp for them for a fee. I would finish and 'enlarge' the koi over 123 months. Fun for someone with ambition and time. I'll give you the franchise! LOLs)
    back to Nishikigoi---- when it comes to buying a GOOD koi you can go one of two ways-- ( aside from the obvious - a show fish for now) you can buy a show fish for 'soon' or a show fish for 'later'.
    I use the words 'show fish' but you can substitute the words 'fish conforming to a show standard', if you are just a fine or high class koi collector.
    IF you are money conscious, and just a collector then a tosai will be OK and save you some money. $300 should buy you a very good 'soon' show fish. Male, well patterned and well colored. This is NOT a lesser fish compared to the big girls! It is almost, however, a hobby within a hobby. You can have a magnificent collection held in as small as a 3000 gallon pond and experience all the elements of the koi culture and its depth.
    In that case, $300 should be delivering you a whale of a fish! Recently, the ZNA America award was such a fish. And potentially a bridge into the next consideration-- a fish for 'later'
    The one gamble you will take in buying a tosai (1 year old) and hoping for a future fish is that much can change in two years at this stage of development. But of you start with a $400 nisai you have just improved your chances 100%. And 100% improved odds for 25% more or $100 more, is a good investment! In this case, you might try and buy females (based on feminine characteristics, lack of male characteristics and skin type). Here you can build a wonderful collection of show fish for entering at ages three and four and possibly five. These fish have a wider range of pricing and this is an area where consultation and experience can be the difference between waste of money and buying of value.
    And I can't stress this more-- you can't buy these fish on the INTERNET! The breeder or dealer will not send you his best via a faceless transaction between pay pal and an email order! Those fish are best bought at koi shows and at proper facilities.
    Presently, ZNA is working with a dealer that is offering the type of fish I am talking about (check out the nonprofit ZNA America blog for details)
    Once you have decided between tosai (forget jumbo tosai, unless you know for sure, as it has become more about forced growth than jumbo genetics- know your source!)
    Here is a way of looking at this that was taught to me by ZNA a long long time ago--- you can pay a lot for a finished fish- and enjoy it for a few years. Or you can pay more and get a fish with a longer finishing period-- that means you can 'enjoy' that money/purchase for a longer period of time. This is VALUE in koi. It is not how big they will get or how many prizes that fish will command. It is about the length of time of enjoyment.
    ALL koi will decline in time. You want fish with strong genetics that will last a long time. The money you part with should be looked at as what value you are getting for the money.
    Finally, the VERY best bargains are the fish that tell you what their future will be (beyond pattern prognostications!) these fish can be two or three years older. The real bargain comes in the fact that the breeder knows what is 'missing' in the potential. OFTEN it is just size and who really needs a 36 inch fish in a 5000 gallon pond!! 29 inches is really enough and you will get a discount for that. Or put another way, you will pay a huge premium for that last 7 inches! Is it worth it? Indeed, can you house that size fish and will it remain healthy and happy -- or will it fail due to come cutting of corners? Something to think about. JR

  2. #2
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    San Antonio, Texas
    Good discussion topic. Even if you do not care about ever showing your koi you should care about getting the most value for your money. Newer hobbyists should find a more experienced hobbyist that has a eye for koi to help them select their koi. The best place to find a koi mentor is a koi club that has a koi show and therefore members with show worthy koi.

    Determine you koi purchase budget for the year. Whatever your budget buy fewer but higher quality and if possible on your budget two or three year old koi. Our club participates in an annual spring seminar and fish sale at our local koi dealers each year. The majority of fish sold are tosai ranging from $30 up to $300 with some special tosai at maybe $500. I often see people spend $300 and buy ten $30 koi with the mistaken idea that it is like a lottery and they have 10 chances to hit the jackpot. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Koi "should be" priced according to their perceived future potential. Therefore the breeder/dealer perceive the $30 koi to be at their peak and while they will grow larger will likely never be as pretty in the future as they are when sold. So the buyer of 10 of these koi will end up with a over crowded pond full of larger koi that have lost most of their color and beauty in a few years. THey will need to find someone to adopt these koi to make room for some new purchases as they will likely be disappointed with the beauty of these adult koi.

    Take that same $300 and buy a single but much higher quality koi with the potential to get better for several years as it gets older and bigger. Also they have not overcrowded their pond with 10 koi and the water quality will be better allowing the koi they have to develop to their full potential. However this is where you really need a mentor or a good dealer to assist you as these types of koi can look much less colorful at this stage as they will develop and bloom into their beauty at a later time.
    Disclosure:These opinions are based on my experience and conversations with persons I consider accomplished koi keepers and do not reflect the viewpoint of any organization.

  3. #3
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Orlando, Florida
    Very rational, JR. But, is koi-buying a rational activity?

    Most people do not think in terms of what they want out of a koi before going to look for a koi, nor in deciding what to buy. They react to what they see, like a 4-year old in the bakery. Then have their internal mental debate, rationalizing why they just have to get that koi. Koi purchases are mainly impulse purchases. As with most impulse purchases, the new owner ends up less than fully satisfied. However, since koi are so often bought for the dream of what they will become, it can be a few years before it is realized that the dream will not come true. So, of course, the hype-sters get a lot of room to play their games when selling dreams on impulse. As LukeF would say, people buy the sizzle.

    For most pondkeepers, an all-male pond makes sense. But, few go that route. Chagoi are meant to be huge, so why are so many in ponds less than 4,000 gallons? If I lived in a one-room efficiency apartment, I'd not think of getting a Great Dane. Rationality disappears when it comes to koi.

    Dealers pretty much have to sell the dreams. There are actually few hobbyists who will buy reality... "Yes, the sumi is a complete question mark and could turn out shitty, that's why I only want $1,500 for that one." No sale for that pitch. They'll buy "The sumi is the slow developing type that breeder is so known for, and when it fully comes together his Showa blow you away. Just look at how the maruten on her head is centered, and the big frame. She could be a powerfully big fish. She is priced at $3,000, but for you I'll make it $2,000 if you can take her today. I'm so overstocked, I need to reduce my inventory." Nothing inaccurate in the second pitch. It builds the dream. The dream cost $500 more than reality, but if a dealer can't paint a dream he needs to cut prices to sell fish. ...Now, who is happier? The hobbyist who would not spend $1,500 for reality; or the one who spent $2,000 for the dream? Well, the one who walked away bought a dream elsewhere and they are equally happy, on the day.

    There was a third guy. He bought reality, saved $500 and went home hoping he had not made a mistake. A few years later, the first guy talks about how he has to alter his pond's water chemistry because it does not develop sumi the way it should. The third guy talks about how sumi develops in different ways on different fish. Don't know what happened to the second guy. He never came back around.

  4. #4
    Oyagoi HEADACHE6's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    $600 "Jumbo" Long fins, I didn't know there was such a thing.

    Guess I've been buying from the wrong Dealer.
    Last edited by HEADACHE6; 04-10-2012 at 11:00 AM.

  5. #5
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    seattle, wa
    At the NW get together this past february of matsunosuke fans, Toshio Sakai
    said repeatedly in his presentation that he wanted to produce Koi that lasted a very long time.

    And i see that JR also includes that idea in what he figures getting one's monies
    worth is. So,was curious if we could find a concensus as to how long that might be? I know in one of Toshio's national champion fish, it was 20 years old when it won.

  6. #6
    Oyagoi Lam Nguyen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Portland, Oregon
    The very best way to buy koi.................

    1. Is to never buy it without seeing it in person. Koi look so different in person than in pictures and even videos. If you are going to spend $1k or more on a koi, then why not book a $200-$300 flight ticket to fly down and take a look at the koi before purchase? And if you don't have the money to purchase flight ticket then you don't have enough money for the koi. If you don't have a few hours set aside to fly to see koi in person then you don't have the time to raise this potential tategoi.

    2. Is to never participate in a grow-out unless (1) you know the current quality of the koi AND (2) you are just doing it for fun. If you participate in a GO w/ the intention of getting a potential show contender.............let's just have fun with the GO. Keep in mind that you will need to exert time and emotional energy to rehome this koi a few months or years down the road.

    3. Is to know your current koi keeping skills and goals. You are not going to be able to raise a grand champion if you don't know how to bring out the best in your tategoi. Are your goals for now or for later? Are you wanting to win baby champ or are you wanting to 'go for the gold' a few years down the road?

    4. Is to know your pond capacity. Forget about raising a potential grand champion if you have a small pond.....unless you have a hidden mud pond somewhere to board your potential GC in the summer. Think big filtration, large volume of water with large water changes, stability, warmth, impeccable water parameter mgmt and to always stay on the top of your game.

    5. Is to know whether you want to leave your koi with the breeder for a summer or two or to bring her home. This hobby ain't cheap, especially when your goal/aspiration is to win it all. Not that it can't be done, but it would be extremely difficult to win a GC these days when your fellow hobbyists are bringing contenders from Japanese breeders at 30+ inches directly to koi shows.

    6. Is to know what sex you want: male, female or doesn't matter. As mentioned previously, you can purchase males for a small fraction of females but great males aren't cheap either. If the koi has a certificate with 'guaranteed female' or dealer 'guarantees' it's a female, make sure to have something in writing to back up this 'guarantee'. Why waste thousands of dollars on a 'guaranteed female' when it turns out male? Better yet, learn to sex koi yourself and ask breeder/dealer if you can sex it.

    7. Is to know how much you can afford or what your budget is before walking into a dealer or breeder facility and to not exceed that budget. Keep in mind also that there will always be koi that look better and are more expensive than your budget, but keep within your budget.

    8. Is to know the bloodline and development of the koi you will be looking at and do your homework before looking at them.

    9. Is to keep in mind that there will always be a better koi.......so keep looking and if you didn't get the one that you want, be rest assured that there will be another one out there.

    10. Is to have a checklist of things you will need to look for. I have a 3x5" flashcard of things that I look for: spine/mouth/eye/gillplate/fin deformities, broad/big head with eyes set wide apart, large mouth, feeding behavior (shy feeder who eats one pellet at a time or feeder that stays on top and sucks in pellets like there is no tomorrow), potential sex characteristics, body, sumi/beni/shiroji, kiwa/sashi on beni plates, type of beni (hard or soft and how this beni will do in your pond's water parameters). You also need to look at the ventral side of the koi - ask dealer/breeder to flip koi yourself or have them flip it for you.

    11. And last but not least, have mentors and either bring mentors with you or send pics/vids to your mentors for critique and assessment. Ask questions on potential strengths/weaknesses of koi. Ask your mentor whether this is a good investment or an investment that will head south.........

    Oftentimes we talk about how to choose a koi when IMO the very first topic we should talk about is how to build a 'proper' koi pond. What good is being able to select a winner when you don't have a stable pond? Invest in a good pond and build it once but build it well. 'It's a system, folks'.......where is Steve Childers?

    And what better way to learn than to have mentors and be an active member of a koi club, be it AKCA and/or ZNA.
    Last edited by Lam Nguyen; 04-10-2012 at 11:26 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Monroe, NC USA
    Let's keep in mind too the importance of maintaining good relationships. Having a good, genuine, mutually respectful relationship with your breeders and dealers will go far in getting the Koi that you want,... right quality, right price, etc.

    As with other areas of our lives, maintaining good solid trustworthy relationships where both parties feel that they are happy with transactions will go a long way,... and with those good connections and relationships you will have no problem getting the Koi you're looking for.

    Also,... I have to disagree with the opinions of never buying Koi from the internet, and always seeing Koi in person before buying. Back to relationships,... you should be able to call your breeder and dealer friends and get good Koi. America as one example is a very BIG country,... and our Koi hobby is very small,... there are very few Koi shows overall, and very few higher quality Koi dealers. It's not easy for hobbyists to get to breeders and dealers, and vice versa. Today in 2012 camera and HD video technology is incredible,... details and textures can be remarkably clear! Yes, it would be a wonderful luxury to see every Koi purchase in person, but let's not say never to buying from the web and from photos,... particularly when talking about Koi priced less than $1000. Too many hobbyists get cut short and are denied access to good Koi that way.

    Look at the details just these 2 photos tell us about this Koi,... and we haven't even seen a full shot showing body lines, head shape, and finnage yet.

    The simple formula of age - sex - and size at that age will help you break down any fish you are looking at,... IF the information is truthful and accurate.

    Hariwake - male - 24 months - 14" With this info. and close views of the details of the skin and color development we can see the quality level and the future potential of this fish. That and a solid, trustworthy, and fair relationship with your breeder will get great results.

    Brady Brandwood

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    pacific northwest, USA

    The 2012 Washington Koi and Water Garden Society (WK&WGS) show crowned a $250 growout fish as Grand Champion. It beat out fish that retailed significantly north of $10K.

    Why? The owner has a outstanding facilities for growing koi to their full potential. I think this lowers the barrier to success that most Koi face. And, of course, there was some luck involved...


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Great contributions folks. Good stuff and a lot of wisdom shared on this dicy subject. JR

  10. #10
    Tategoi bobbysuzanna's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Charlotte NC
    A truly outstanding thread. I think it's always important in this hobby to know what is your goal. I have a 5000 gallon pond and try to maintain meticulous water quality and lots of water changes. I try to maintain 6 or 7 koi and have no problem with moving koi on to other ponds if I find one I like better.
    The key seems to be to live within your means, not only financially, but with the amount of time you want to spend learning about koi and maintaining your pond.
    It's ultimately about what gives you joy, be it a pond full of goldfish or a potential All Japan grand champion growing out in Japan.
    I do have to admit I'd love to have a pond like Brother David's though!
    That will have to wait for my winning lottery ticket!

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