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Thread: Pectoral Fins

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Pectoral Fins

    There isn't much said about pectoral fins in evaluating koi. They should be balanced, in proportion to the size of the fish and not have defects. Lately I have found myself focusing on pectoral fins. They have a strong impact on how a koi is perceived, more than we are consciously aware. When extended, the pectorals frame the head and shoulders of a koi. That frame can make all the difference. There is something grand about a koi gliding through the water with the pectorals fully extended. Extended pectorals give an appearance of good health and robustness.

    There is wide variation in the shape and size of pectoral fins. Pectorals can be much too small in relation to body size; and can be disproportionately large, particularly in younger koi. They can be narrow or wide, short or long. In some of the really old show books there are photos of what were jumbos in their day with short, narrow pectorals that seem as if they are vestigial remnants of what a pectoral should be. (I do not believe they would be considered show worthy today.) Some koi with long, wide pectorals look as if some longfin genes must be expressing themselves, a look which can be off-putting in some instances, but attractive with some metallics if not too much.

    Some traits are fairly consistent within bloodlines. SFF Kohaku tend to have pectorals with a long, straight front edge, which gives the pectoral a narrow appearance when not fully extended. These pectorals are more elliptical or oval in shape than round. This is a look I do not find particularly appealing, but it does not detract from SFF's Kohaku at all. It is something of a neutral factor in my way of viewing Kohaku. In some older lines of Showa, the front edge often curves slightly, giving the overall fin a more rounded appearance. This can be quite impressive if the curving is only slight, the fin wide and accompanied with full-fan motoguro; but if the curving is too obvious, it gives the fish a crippled look that greatly detracts.

    Not all pectorals are fan-shaped. Sometimes the fin will have an angle creating a shape more like a gull's wing. (If only one pectoral shows this bend, it is very likely due to an injury when the fish was young. The trait is often seen with both pectorals, giving a highly symetrical but deviant appearance.) Some pectorals are rounded. While we usually focus on the leading edge of the pectoral, the shape is just as much affected by the back edge. This can be quite straight in some specimens, resulting in the extended fin being almost triangular... a pointy appearance that it is not very attractive IMO. Much has to do with the tip end of the fin. Is it rounded, or does it come to a sharp point. There is also variation in how the back edge terminates at the body of the koi, but this is hidden from view in both the show tank and the pond.

    Common issues that bother my eye are having the rays within the pectoral not be straight. Sometimes the rays within the fin are wavy, as if run through a crimping machine. In metallic koi, this is very bothersome to my eye. The pectorals of the metallics are one of their strongest features, so even small imperfections are magnified by the shine. Another commonly seen imperfection is a short leading ray, resulting in the fin not having a smooth edge. There have been a number of koi over the years that I have found quite remarkable, only to be deterred from acquiring them due to that little bump created by the leading ray not extending the full length of the fin.

    Sometimes we see pectorals with 'extensions' and 'flares', although these get clipped away if the creature is being groomed for show. I personally find these very bothersome. And, of course, there are the pectorals that got torn and have grown back together. In very young koi the healing can be inperceptible. In older koi, there is often a line of scar tissue which may not be noticeable unless the light strikes it at particular angles, or may be quite obvious. It would not seem that these slight imperfections should much matter. Every koi is subject to a split fin from normal handling. There is nothing unusual about a split fin or two when a mud pond is pulled. But, so often I find my eye keeps straying back to the scar line. It's like the orange scale on a Yamabuki. On a rational level, it is a minor thing, but my eye says otherwise.
    Last edited by MikeM; 12-17-2013 at 10:01 AM. Reason: typos

  2. #2
    Daihonmei dick benbow's Avatar
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    couldn't think of a darn thing to add, or comment on Mike. Tho I appreciate your eye for detail. If a fish is injured and scars, it's the first thing my eye goes to as I survey a pond.

    In my "other" hobby, bonsai, I tend to have that same
    critical eye. Especilly when it comes to foliage pads. The top should be cupped and even, and underneath, clean as a "whistle". otherwise your eye goes immediately to the fault.

  3. #3
    Oyagoi RayJordan's Avatar
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    Hi Mike,

    You have heard me say this before and I will say again you really should become a koi judge. On my last trip to Japan I looked at a lot of really nice koi before making my selection. With my limited koi budget I have to accept giving up some quality and size elements however, some aspects I know that I prefer or dislike can make a difference. Like yourself, I seem to focus on some flaws more than others and especially dislike wonky pec fins which are just too much a distraction for my personal taste in koi for my pond.

    For anyone that hasn't gone to Japan the opportunities to select a koi is amazing. However, when your budget is limited you have to decide what imperfections you can live with and which you cannot. In many ways this makes it easier to shop because once the breeder understands your budget and likes and dislikes they can quickly pull up the koi they have that meet these basic requirements.

    When judging a show, a judge must separate their personal preferences and prejudices and focus strictly on the judging standards. If a koi in a show happen to have fins shaped that I do not like, as long as the fins were within what is considered acceptable shape/size then they should be judged by the accepted judging standards without prejudice. This difference between ranking koi according to show standards vs which you would be interesting in buying is one of the basic lessons that new judges have to learn.



    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.

  4. #4
    Sansai nivek's Avatar
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    Brilliant and detailed observation Mike.

  5. #5
    Jumbo Appliance Guy's Avatar
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    Mmmm, interesting. I have always looked at pecs fins since I've gotten into koi. I think it comes from the marine aquarium hobby where pecs can characterize the difference in males/females and differentiate sub-species. So I think I have an advantage there. However, I can't tell conformation for shit, I pick males and I focus on pattern too much...

  6. #6
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Ray made a simple comment about a fundamental point that I think confuses a lot of people: "When judging a show, a judge must separate their personal preferences and prejudices and focus strictly on the judging standards. If a koi in a show happen to have fins shaped that I do not like, as long as the fins were within what is considered acceptable shape/size then they should be judged by the accepted judging standards without prejudice. This difference between ranking koi according to show standards vs which you would be interesting in buying is one of the basic lessons that new judges have to learn."

    My rambling about pectoral fins concerned my observations and preferences, not judging standards.

    BTW, if you observe sale tanks at shows, I think you'll see that Showa and Shiro Utsuri with good motoguro that hold their pectorals extended will sell more quickly that equivalent sisters that hold the pectorals closed; and metallics with wide, large pectorals will sell sooner than others. A dealer shared that observation with me once. He also told me that if you ask the buyers later what they most liked about the koi they bought, many will not mention the pectorals at all. ...It's one reason males attract attention in the small sizes.

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