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Thread: A New Year's Ramble: Keeping Perspective

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

    A New Year's Ramble: Keeping Perspective

    A few days ago I got enmeshed in a discussion about biofilm that became so technical that nobody knew enough to bring it to a conclusion. This morning I found I had a private message I had not noticed for a couple of months from a person concerned about pH shifts although their koi have been doing fine for years. It's neat to understand processes occurring in our ponds. I get very curious about it all and can end up spending inordinate amounts of time learning 'stuff'. That it has little or no practical use does not stop me from posting about it. My enjoyment of koikeeping is enhanced by gaining a better understanding of what is going on. Sometimes, however, all of this delving into the science causes folks to lose sight of what is most important.

    Some years ago, the late Ray Abel arranged for a panel discussion at CFKS with three well-known Japanese breeders. These were koi breeders who had learned from their fathers and grown up with koi the way American children today grow up with computers at hand. The audience asked innumerable questions... but the wrong ones. Rather than ask about how an oyagoi selection decision was made, there were questions about the pH of their mudponds and other science-oriented topics. The breeders often had no answer. They did not know. What they knew was what worked to produce fine koi in their mudponds and greenhouses, and the business of koi. Ray Abel taught an important lesson that day when he told me, 'They're farmers. They don't worry over that crap.'

    Things have changed and many among the younger generation of breeders have learned some (or a lot) of aquaculture science. But, the most important things they have learned were learned on the farm, seeing what worked best. If the koi are thriving, who cares about the science mumbo jumbo? Why test the water when you have the experience to look at it and know it is fine? Or, just taste it. (I do not encourage drinking your pond water, but plenty of breeders have tasted theirs to check if all was OK.) Sometimes folks get too focused on attaining 'perfect' water parameters or the ideal nutritive analysis in the foods they use. What counts most... overwhelmingly so, is: How are the koi are doing?

    The best test kit of all is the one that tests every single thing anybody could ever test, the koi in your pond. They test it continuously, 24/7 and do not take holidays. If you know enough about koi to know what a robust, healthy one looks like and how she behaves, then she is the best test kit of all. The question is, do you know enough to read the results?

    Have you observed enough koi to know whether her skin is in tip top form? Do you have the experience to know whether her pigments are a bit dull for her age? There are plenty of pondkeepers who have had little exposure to koi although they have kept them for years. Their horizon may be limited to the scrawny koi seen in a petshop's aquaria, or the stunted culls that look 'so beautiful' in some hotel display pond. These folks may have learned how to keep koi alive, but they do not have the experience to 'read' the test results swimming before them.

    So, for the New Year, I suggest your resolutions include something as important as re-building that filter, or acquiring some gizmo... perhaps more important. Go see some great koi. Don't look just at shows, but in hobbyists' ponds, in dealers' ponds, at breeders' farms. And, really look at them. Put aside the idea of picking the one you like best, or finding one you like and can afford. Look at each one for what she is. You can look at all the pieces and parts, the traits and proportions, but instead of dissecting them, consider the whole fish, how she swims. The more this is done, the better each of us becomes in reading the test results our koi display every moment.

    There is still enjoyment in understanding the science behind our koikeeping, and the science is a critical tool if you do not like the test results swimming in front of your eyes. But, keep perspective. The science should not drive your hobby. Look to your koi to tell you.

  2. #2
    Jumbo Appliance Guy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Pensacola, FL
    I am still fascinated by biofilm and algae. But then again I'm still fascinated by all things koi related... I'm still a newbie that can't get enough.

    I was having a conversation the other day with a goldfish junkie. There's a parallel in koi and goldfish, but they are way, way different in care and quality departments (especially top view Ranchu). I had commented that koi keeping is quite easy. With some desire and effort, the skills required to keep alive and at least doing okay is fairly easy. There are methods that can be reproduced that will give an predictable result. But, while koi keeping may begin and end there, koi appreciation only begins there and never ends. It is the subject I struggle with the most. Koi keeping has been fairly easy for me. Having a heavy background in reef keeping gave me skills that have been transfered to koi keeping.But I've never been a numbers guy, in fact I don't want to be. Sure I test the water every now and then, but really the koi tell me when something is shifting. I feel I have a good relatioship with my koi and they give me clues about my water- especially the Shiro Utsuri, who lets me know when I need to step up the water exchange by exibiting a more course skin tone.

    One thing that is hard for me is to discover my deficiences. I mean how do know until I know? I was recently humbled by a comment by Mitsunori Isa in Mark Gardner's revistit of an article. Steady Improvement of the Isa Showa Lineage - Part 1 ยป Nishikigoi.Life Mark states: "I hear there is a special pond for giving finishing touches to the koi before they enter Koi shows." Mitsunori replies: "Well, we still lack the know how on raising Koi in indoor ponds, and are learning a lot from various Koi traders."

    [/COLOR]This comment got me to think of where I can improve. I suppose I can always improve on husbandry and equipment, but I would like to focus on the koi. So my goal this year is to look at sumi placement on koi and how it affects the overall look of the koi. I find that I tend to undervalue sumi placement. This happens to me at all sizes of koi and both Sanke and Showa. While I understand that pattern is not the priority, I do feel is a valuable component and that it is sometimes undervalued, which is what I do. I will get some time at Purdin this year in spring and perhaps again at spawning or culling time. I hope I at least improve my eye in some way.

    So much to learn, so little time. And money...

  3. #3
    Honmei ricshaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Southern California
    I am different.

    My Koi hobby is growing tosai. I focus on gosanke and don't like spending lots of money.

    I prefer gosanke over other less refined varieties and long-fin Koi.

    One of the most difficult challenges I have (champagne taste, beer budget) is looking past pattern priority.

    That means looking at Koi with show quality traits, but patterns that many find undesirable.

    My understanding of quality skin, beni and sumi is slowly improving.

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