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Thread: Rambling About Designing A Pond Impression Through Koi Selection

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Orlando, Florida

    Rambling About Designing A Pond Impression Through Koi Selection

    I'm stuck by the computer waiting for a phone call, so I'll just ramble about a subject that I've been thinking about when I'm sitting pondside.

    It is a common experience that new koikeepers try to acquire one of each variety, while experienced koikeepers keep gosanke. It is almost universal, however, that without regard to experience level, koi are selected for the merits of the individual fish, and not for the aesthetic effect of the entire collection. A newcomer's pond will usually be a mix of colors, sizes and types. Some sparkle. Some shine. Some colors are bright; some are muted. All such ponds differ, but are very alike in the overall impression, something like a quilt made from random remnants of fabrics with no design or theme. The gosanke pond gives a more dramatic impression, being red, white and black.

    At shows, I will see a vat of metallics for sale. The individual fish have marvelous shine and the metallic colors are precious. But, viewed as a whole, the vat will seem dull. How is it that so much shine seems dull? Without the bright reds and black, metallics by themselves give a flat, insipid impression. At one time I thought a pond of a dozen jumbo Yamabuki would be as grand a sight as one could behold. I have since seen photos and video of such at Izumiyu. It was not so grand. The Yamabuki were, but not the pond impression overall.

    Japanese visitors have been known to comment on the overall impression of a pond, particularly where Showa and Sanke predominate. The view often expressed is that the pond is too dark, too serious. I recall an article where a Japanese hobbyist urged a western hobbyist to add more Kohaku so the pond would be happy. There is an old Rinko article from back in the 1980s concerning aesthetic pond design, which dealt with selection of boulders and laying of pathways to create a garden that was a miniature microcosm. It suggested that Kohaku should dominate by a 5 to 1 ratio with Showa and Sanke to give an optimistic view and attract beneficent kami spirits.

    I have heard people say such things as 'focus on just gosanke and Shiro Utsuri, but add one Chagoi or Yamabuki or Asagi for the visual spice the difference adds'. However, I do not know anyone who actually does this, at least not purposefully and permanently. It may happen that way for a time, but then the koikeeper adds an Ochiba and then a Kujaku. It becomes a mixed pond.

    I attended a show several years ago at which one tank of entries grabbed my attention. It held three koi. There was one size 7 Kohaku, one size 4 Kohaku and one size 6 Ai Goromo. All three had intense red pigment very nearly the same in hue, with brilliant white, and the Goromo had gray-blue robing on just the edges of the scales on her back. Against the blue of the show tank, I was mesmerized. I have never seen another show tank in which the entries were so well-selected to compliment one another and impress as an aesthetic whole.

    My own pond is mainly gosanke, but six of my 15 koi are not: A Goshiki, a Hariwake, a Chagoi, a Shiro Utsuri, an Ochiba-Goshiki and an Ai Goromo make it a mixed pond. But, the Ochiba-Goshiki looks like a Kohaku. So, I can pretend it is just one-third non-gosanke. I would like to have the overall impression improve through purposeful selection. But, I know that will not occur. My old gals still have long lives ahead and when I add a koi it is because the individual koi grabs me. Still, I think the overall impression would improve if there were more Shiro Utsuri and less of other non-gosanke. Perhaps over the years ahead I'll shift the population in that direction. Perhaps not.

  2. #2
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    seattle, wa
    seeing someone's pond gives me a quick impression as to where this koi keeper is in the hobby. lots of gosanke, serious show person. lots of longfins, loves their watergarden.
    as an art major in school and someone who still works with art in the form of bonsai, I have three koi that I see as a must to add to a gosanke pond.
    Shiro utsuri, yamabuki or akemae kigoi, and ASAGI!!!!!

    Over the decades of visitors, the ladies always seem to be drawn to the yellow or blue fish.

    My own personal pond has goshiki sanke. pearle scale bekko and a hi asagi to mix with my gosanke.

    my tastes as of late have drifted to the obscure, cha-utsuri for example.
    Dick Benbow

  3. #3
    Sansai almostgeorgia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Amelia Island, FL
    I, too, once thought a pond full of nothing but yamabuki's, for example, would be visually stunning, and have seen the pictures from Izumiyu like everyone else. But in real life, perhaps it would not create quite an aesthetically pleasing pond overall. Though I keep gosanke, and have been adding more to my pond in that genre of late, I guess I'm too much of the 'gaijin' and still find myself drawn to all the bling that the ogon's, bekkos, various utsuris, etc., bring to a pond.

    As far as what attracts the eye of the ladies, I've curiously noted that first time adult female visitors to my pond invariably skip over all the gosanke and all the other brightly colored fish and almost never fail to immediately comment on a large ginrin chagoi swimming lazily in the pond. It may be the sheer size, or maybe the subtlety of a tea-colored koi offset by those glittering scales. They seldom seem to be able to articulate their likes, they just 'like' it.

    On a more personal note, I have found myself most attracted to a pond where the fish are a) not over crowded, and b) approximately all the same size. Maybe it's the inner koi-keeper speaking here, but I find what I consider to be an overstocked pond, even if the fish appear to be healthy, a bit disturbing at some subliminal level. I also find a pond with fish ranging from 85 cm down to 5 inch tosai rather 'busy'. As we add younger fish to our pond, unless we are lucky enough to maintain more than one, it's hard to avoid mixing our new, smaller additions in with the big girls. But to me there's nothing more pleasing to the eye (maybe calming and tranquil as well?) than an elegantly 'understocked' pond with several beautiful adult koi, all ranging from say 65-85 cm.

    To me the 'negative' space in a sun-lit pond with crystal-clear water and a black or dark-green algae covered bottom can be almost as important as the part which is occupied by the fish when it comes to overall pond aesthetics.

  4. #4
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    seattle, wa
    appreciate this quote...

    "To me the 'negative' space in a sun-lit pond with crystal-clear water and a black or dark-green algae covered bottom can be almost as important as the part which is occupied by the fish when it comes to overall pond aesthetics."

    as an avid student of bonsai and the difficult task of grasping tokonoma display, I know exactly what is being said here. Most excellent

  5. #5
    Tategoi semi skilled keeper's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Nottingham , England.
    Nice ramble MikeM, GOING BACK IN TIME, Koi may have come from carp that were kept for food. When a fish with slightly different pigmentation showed up, it was not killed but kept to look at. Not sure if this is true but it is a nice idea and sounds quite plausible !

    I like ponds that look both calm and mixed. I love Koi with quality skin, pure mat deep white is a great starting point for any color palate !
    A super top quality ( the one thats worth more than your house )Showa takes some beating !!!!!
    They can look hand painted so perfect but they are not my first love, I like Chargois because of the big block of color.
    THE QUESTION IS , Do you want a Japanese Koi pond, or a Koi pond full of Japanese Koi ?
    If you look at Japanese art and gardens , then look at Western ideas you will see just how far apart we are !
    In the past the Japanese people were mainly Shinto Buddhist. Were balance did not mean the same on one side as the other, it was much, much deeper.
    It meant light and shade , deep and weak colors big and little. Still do not understand many of the fine points .
    I totally get blending and contrast that is why most show pools are blue, while sales areas are black.
    The idea goes along the lines that blue adds calm, helps you to relax. It also helps show off the finer details ( INCLUDING FAULTS )
    Black like white stimulates and adds drama .Excited people spend money , Calm ones go home and think about it !
    Next year when I build my new pond, I will think long and hard about the Koi that go in it.
    Any Koi that goes in has a home for life ! I become very attached to my fish !!!!
    I will be buying small fish and growing on . I HAVE TO DECIDE HOW YOUNG TO START ! Can I have a 20 meter x 10 meters at 2.5 meters deep
    With 20 5cm Koi ?
    Watch this space ?

  6. #6
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Manila, Philippines
    Rambling does get us places, lots of ideas, and new ponds. Koi ponds do that to me. While it brings tranquility, it also makes the mind spin.
    Tora Bora likes this.

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