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Thread: "Hanging Belly", "Drop Belly" Nature & Nurture

  1. #1
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    "Hanging Belly", "Drop Belly" Nature & Nurture

    In the course of discussion in another thread, Yerrag made a post that brought up an issue we do not see discussed in a comprehensive way, so I thought it deserved a thread of it's own.

    First, Yerrag's comment:

    "What I find most difficult is reining in the appetite of the "gorgers." They like to skim the surface, like to be close to people, are very friendly, and live to eat. They eat more than their share, leaving little for the rest, especially the more timid koi. They easily develop drop belly, and because of them the whole pond population has to go through long fasting periods. On their account!

    Yet I love their personality. They are why I consider koi pets than just trophy koi.

    To rein in their appetite, I find it necessary to wet my floating pellets thoroughly enough without them being too drench, and to coat them with a layer of bentonite. Then I flatten them into flat wafers, and throw them in the water. They sink slowly, unlike how sinking pellets sink, and these are consumed more equitably among the koi. It keeps the glutton from overeating and from developing that belly, and allows timid koi to eat more.

    Fed on my continuous belt feeder over a period of 8 hours over the day, the koi can always be seen by the belt feeder. Since I've had this system, I find that I'm able to keep drop bellies from coming back, although a few koi still are plump.

    It is believed that drop bellies are genetic, but I wonder if it has more to do with the eating behavior, in a tendency to gorge, rather than with the koi's inherent shape. If koi are kept from gorging, would the koi still develop a drop belly? And if a koi is never fed too much to develop a drop belly in its early years, would it look just as nice in body conformation befitting a tategoi?

    There is a lot of experimentation and observation that can be done in the hobby. Food and feeding is enough grist for the mill. And this where passion defines how a koi keeper would not mind making the effort to tweak rather to settle with what's packaged. "

  2. #2
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    We are not talking about a female koi that gets heavy with eggs seasonally, a normal function of being female. Nor are we talking about 'big, fat koi' like the blimp-shaped award winners produced by Sakai Fish Farms so regularly. Rather, it is a matter of how some female koi develop grossly enlarged bellies that completely ruin overall conformation year-round. In some, it is clearly a matter of how (where) they hold their eggs without fully re-absorbing them post-Spring. In many, it seems to be a matter of eggs being held, fat development in the abdomen and basic body form. Without dissecting individual fish, there is no way to be certain about any individual fish. We can just make educated guesses based on observation of the individual koi over time.

    Speaking in broad terms, there are both genetic and husbandry factors at work. No doubt, fasting can slim down a koi and reduce the degree of disproportion. In many, many instances, however, the koi with an enlarged hanging belly ruining her form keeps that grossly poor form. A highly restricted diet can minimize the unsightliness, and may seem to result in a koi with something close to the desired streamlined body when viewed strictly from above. View her at an angle, or get a side view, however, and the abdomen silhouette remains far removed from the ideal.

    When we look at the wild magoi carp, these 'hanging bellies' do not appear.... or, at least, not with anything approaching the frequency seen in nishikigoi. Indeed, it seems to me that some tendency toward a 'hanging belly' exists in most nishikigoi when compared to the body silhouettes of magoi, even if the tendency is slight and not distracting to any extent. Of course, my observations in this regard are based more on photos of magoi than on personal viewing.... including photos of numerous magoi netted from the wild for commercial purposes. Still, I think the observation has some validity. The magoi have long, streamlined body form, much closer to the traditional Matsunosuke Sanke cigar-shape than to your typical line-bred koi. The same is not true, however, of the food carp harvests in eastern Europe. Photos of those carp show a very obvious enlarged belly form... distended even to the point of verging toward a pancake shape. The European food carp may have wild coloring, but there is nothing natural about their body form.

    It is widely known that the European food carp is at the base of creating doitsu nishikigoi. (And, we certainly see body form issues with doitsu with regularity.) What is not as fully appreciated is that the European food carp was used to increase the size of nishikigoi long before the current era of nishikigoi refinement. Those food carp genes lurk throughout the genetics of nishikigoi. The continuing refinement of nishikigoi has much to do with eliminating the body form negatives introduced by the European food carp.

    ....I now must tend to my real work. I hope we can delve further into this subject. It leads us to the whole complex of issues of related to husbandry to achieve desired body form.
    Last edited by MikeM; 04-14-2016 at 10:23 AM. Reason: weird spacing

  3. #3
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    ...No doubt, fasting can slim down a koi and reduce the degree of disproportion. In many, many instances, however, the koi with an enlarged hanging belly ruining her form keeps that grossly poor form. A highly restricted diet can minimize the unsightliness, and may seem to result in a koi with something close to the desired streamlined body when viewed strictly from above. View her at an angle, or get a side view, however, and the abdomen silhouette remains far removed from the ideal.
    It's also my observation with my asagi. In her case though, it is a pigeon breast. Seems like a pigeon breast is more difficult to deal with than a drop belly. My yamabuki's conformation got a lot, lot better after it laid eggs, and a year later, it won an award at a show "Best in Hikarimoyo."

    Yet I keep thinking that if I had kept these two koi from gorging in their tosai-sansai years, I could have influenced their conformation developing to the better.

    When we look at the wild magoi carp, these 'hanging bellies' do not appear.... or, at least, not with anything approaching the frequency seen in nishikigoi... What is not as fully appreciated is that the European food carp was used to increase the size of nishikigoi long before the current era of nishikigoi refinement. Those food carp genes lurk throughout the genetics of nishikigoi. The continuing refinement of nishikigoi has much to do with eliminating the body form negatives introduced by the European food carp.
    One does not eat pellets, while the other does. And I wonder if the genetic refinement that's being done is merely to winnow out the koi which gets fat and ugly eating pellets. The koi of GC-worthy conformation, fed on pellets, are products of survival, not of the fittest, but of the culling process favoring nice bodies despite a carb-heavy pellet regimen.

    In a recent thread on Polish-bred non-gosanke koi, it was remarked that these koi have nice body conformation, very much unlike what would be expected of them. In my mind, I think the breeder must know how and what to feed these koi, so that poor conformation could be avoided. When these koi are bought and regular feeding practices are applied on them, I wonder how they will look past their tosai year.

  4. #4
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    There was a short video posted in a FB group a couple of weeks ago showing a group of Karashigoi bred by Momotaro. (I wish I could post it here, but office security does not allow me to do so.) The Karashi were all wonderful, of course.... none had what we would call a hanging belly. Still, if you focused on just the belly lines, they covered quite a range. These were all fine koi, raised for maximum sales pricing. They were the same age and of similar size. They were undoubtedly raised together and fed the same. The differentiating traits were the degree of yellow hue and the body lines. The main difference in their bodies was the abdominal silhouette when they swam in a way that allowed an angled view. Some definitely had a sharper slope from belly to tail tube, and in a couple that slope was more gradual. In typical top view dealer photos, I think they would have appeared alike except for the degree of yellow and a couple of cm in length. A customer would be debating whether 2cm was enough of a difference to choose a 'bigger' one over a more nearly true yellow one. I think the more important trait was the belly line. The tendency toward a more enlarged abdomen was present, which would have future impact on the overall body lines, albeit that all were fine examples of the variety. ....There is variation in even the top grade of a crop produced by the most talented breeders.

  5. #5
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Since Momotaro's feeding practices are focused on gosankes, it may be that those practices are not compatible with the raising of Karashigoi. That may be the reason the karashigoi bellies are not well-developed. I wonder if there is a breeder that specializes in karashigoi. Could they have done a better job refining the karashigoi to improving the belly?

    Izumiya- known for yamabuki - have they been successful in refining the yamabuki so the belly looks nice?

  6. #6
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    The Momotaro Karashigoi I referenced were fine examples of koi. I think a person would see the same variation in the Karashigoi of Konishi ...and a group of any variety produced by any breeder. Each koi is different. Body form covers a full range of variation. It is not limited to 'bad', 'good' or 'great'. There is everything in-between, and extends to worse than 'bad' and better than 'great'.

  7. #7
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    The variations, I see them as a given. No matter how refined the breeding gets, uniformity that approaches cloning is not an expectation nor a goal. Perhaps the variations can be lessened such that a high percentage doesn't go a certain value above or below the mean. When it comes to the belly, anything above a maximum slope may be unappealing and be considered defective.
    How the belly becomes defective is a matter that can't easily be traced to genes nor to feeding practices. Perhaps throwing a few momotaro karashigoi in the wild and tagging them and retrieving them at a future point may yield some answers.

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