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Thread: Mystery Cause of Death of Large Koi

  1. #11
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HEADACHE6 View Post
    Mike, From what I can tell you keep great records.

    By chance could you share the Dates when these four Koi passed? Water Temps. at the time?
    I used to be a fanatic recorder of data, but not so much anymore. Here is what I have:

    A 90cm non-gosanke, 7+ yrs, August 2010
    A 95cm Sanke, 10+ yrs, June 2012
    A 95cm+ Showa, likely 8-9 yrs, September
    A 85+ Sanke, 7+ yrs, July 2016

    I check pond water temperature nearly every day, but do not record. It is typical for water temp to rise to around 78-79 by mid-June, and to be in 80-83 range in the mid-July to mid-September period (stretched into October past two years). Due to shading & tree cover, water temp seldom exceeds 83F, but has on a very few occasions for a day or three at a time. I cannot say whether any of these deaths occurred during an unusually warm period. The summers of and 2016 were record breakers for number of days with air temp above 90F, so likely there were more days of water temp being in high temp range. ....Yes, all instances have been during the warmer water period of the year. It seems obvious, but must say I'd not focused on that.

  2. #12
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sacicu View Post
    Its written in the article:

    Floating on the surface
    Argulosis,, White spot disease, Myxobolus koi infection, Gyrodactylosis, Dactylogyrosis, Chilodonellosis, Trichodinosis, Ichthyobodosis, Columnaris disease, Dropsy, Apiosoma

    From.the above causes, Dactylogyrosis or gill worm which is active in warmer waters is a possibility. If the gill worms suddenly hatch lots of eggs in the gills, this can suffocate a jumbo koi leading to lack of oxygen which explains why it was not eating and preferred to hover above the surface.

    Did you perform a gill scrape and microscope?
    What I meant was that none of those diseases were affecting the koi. I did see the list. Also, note that the hovering was not above the surface, it was near the surface. There was no sign of any of these fish gasping, breathing erratically or otherwise needing oxygen. To all outward appearance, they were completely normal and healthy except for the change in behavior. It is not unusual for me to see a koi stay near the surface, in the current, particularly at a spot where the fronds of a birdsnest fern overhang. But this behavior is for a few minutes at a time and the fish will interact with the other fishes. The hovering behavior I tried to describe is a koi staying very still, just under the surface, away from strong current, not interacting with other fish, on an extended basis.

    ...During these episodes, all other fish in the pond behaved fully normally and none were affected by any disease.

  3. #13
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yerrag View Post
    It's rather fast the way your koi died from the time you noticed the loss of appetite to dying, especially when you don't see any visible signs of pathology externally.

    I suppose the old Hariwake isn't as large as these koi, and is more of a mutt lineage, that it is somehow more hardy. Still, to have a koi last 24 years is no easy achievement, and would point to other factors other than your care.

    Could you tell us more about these koi? Japan or US bred. Breed. Age and size when introduced into the pond. History such as koi shows attended.

    Are fatalities confined to koi of such age and size?

    What are similar koi (I assume they are gosanke) of same age and size that are thriving? Age and size.
    Yes, it is how quickly they pass following the change in behavior that stands out.

    The old Hariwake is definitely a mutt! She was 32 inches (so, 81cm approx.) when measured 12 years ago. I've not measured her since. She may be closer to 85cm now, but has not grown much.

    The koi were both U.S.-bred and Japan-bred. All were sansai or older when added to my pond. I do not have my records with me to give correct data on individual fish, but you can see what I've posted in response to Troy above. My recollection is that two were in the 70-75cm range at the time they went in the pond. One would have been at or over 75cm. I think the fourth would have been 55-60cm. Three of the four were shown, but only locally. None were shown in the year of their death.

    I have had other fatalities over the past 12 years, but only these four are mysteries as to the cause. My oldest gosanke is a Showa acquired as nisai in 2003, so in her 16th year now and going strong. She was a little over 85cm when last measured. My largest gosanke is a Kohaku now over 95cm, 10 years old and doing fine. All other koi over 85cm were re-homed during the Fall of 2016.

  4. #14
    Jumbo Appliance Guy's Avatar
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    I rarely put much thought into identifying mysterious deaths because I believe there could be many physiological conditions that could cause deaths, and that any one of them could be the answer. I think sometimes koi keepers look to external factors and not necessarily the koi itself. We as keepers are always wanting to assign blame and correct things, so wanting to look at the environment is natural. But I think it has more to do with koi itself, and that koi, like any animal, are not perfect and not all will live full lives. Can't a koi die of internal issues for no reason other than it was born with an existing condition that took many years to run it's course? I'd say so.

  5. #15
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Yes, it is how quickly they pass following the change in behavior that stands out.

    The old Hariwake is definitely a mutt! She was 32 inches (so, 81cm approx.) when measured 12 years ago. I've not measured her since. She may be closer to 85cm now, but has not grown much.

    The koi were both U.S.-bred and Japan-bred. All were sansai or older when added to my pond. I do not have my records with me to give correct data on individual fish, but you can see what I've posted in response to Troy above. My recollection is that two were in the 70-75cm range at the time they went in the pond. One would have been at or over 75cm. I think the fourth would have been 55-60cm. Three of the four were shown, but only locally. None were shown in the year of their death.

    I have had other fatalities over the past 12 years, but only these four are mysteries as to the cause. My oldest gosanke is a Showa acquired as nisai in 2003, so in her 16th year now and going strong. She was a little over 85cm when last measured. My largest gosanke is a Kohaku now over 95cm, 10 years old and doing fine. All other koi over 85cm were re-homed during the Fall of 2016.
    Since I haven't had much experience with koi older than 6 years old, I feel though that with having two large koi dying over the past two years at age 5, each year added to a koi's age presents new challenges, and I'm still learning as I go. I just hope the lessons will not be costly, with my limited stock of large gosanke- only have 1.

    But I wonder about how getting these koi at a large size at sansai affects their longevity. They didn't die from poor care, and I would rule out parasites also since it would affect other koi as well.

    The subtlety by which the koi are afflicted with this "disease, if you will," must involve a degeneration that was turned on by an event. This degeneration did not build up slowly over the years, otherwise the koi would have shown outward signs of degeneration in the skin. There must be a latent condition in these koi that wasn't expressed until they reach a certain age and size combination.

    That the koi were raised elsewhere till sansai also gives you little control or insights over how they were raised. Maybe having a focus on growth sacrifices certain aspects of the koi's development that is more than skin deep.

    That the koi were transported over long distances, at a large size, makes it more difficult to guarantee their longevity, as the stress involved would be hard to measure although it would be more significant enough to have a long-lasting effect.

    And how the koi were quarantined and de-stressed and put back into the pond also would affect how and if they recover fully from this stress.

    I hope that you have enough of a sample size to find a common thread in your experience with these koi that died, and with the koi that thrive, so that you can draw from some helpful, though inconclusive deductions.

    Bobbysuzana may be on to something as to the water temperatures though. The lower oxygen levels at warm temperatures may be a trigger, and these koi for some reason were not equipped to handle warmer temperatures. As to why the other large koi were not similarly affected, you may be able to tell the circumstances by which they differed from the koi that died.

  6. #16
    Sansai
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeM View Post
    Last summer I lost a large koi, over 85cm with good bulk. On day one, her behavior was 'off', tending to hover near the surface.... closer to the surface and more still than the usual schooling in the current behavior my koi frequently exhibit. On day two, the hovering near the surface was nearly constant, with the koi moving only when disturbed and not drawn to food. On day three, she died. There were no outward signs of a problem. No parasites detectable, no redness or discoloration anywhere on the body, and the gills appeared healthy.

    Going back over my records from the past 12 years, this was the fourth such death in my pond. All four instances have involved full-bodied (but not bloated)female koi in excess of 85cm (two at or over 95cm). All were 7 years old or older (the youngest being 7+ and the oldest being 10+ years). From outset of hovering behavior to death has been as short as 3 days to as long as 5 days. None had parasites, and none had outward signs of anything being wrong. Only the hovering behavior signaled there being some problem.

    If there had been just one instance, I'd chalk it up to one of those inexplicable things that happen... That's koi for you. Always something. Now that it has occurred on 4 occasions over a period of 12 years, I have to conclude there is a cause that I should address. I can imagine and theorize about a dozen possibilities from heart attack to some mystery amoeba to too much of a warm climate, but that does me no practical good. And, without a full post-mortem autopsy (and who would have the experience to do such a thing??... too late now, of course), no definite cause seems likely to be established.

    Nonetheless, I am posting about this to see if there are others who have experienced it. Perhaps then it would be possible to determine common factors that might be relevant.

    ....As a side note, the loss last summer motivated me to re-home all the old bedraggled dowagers that had taken up space. (Except, I still have the warped Hariwake born in my old lily pond 24 years ago. Re-building can only go so far. )
    How often do you hear this.

    The partner tells the spouse, I don't feel well. Off he goes to bed.

    Next morning, here is your coffee dear.

    No movement.

    Died in his sleep peacefully.

    Garfield.

    PS Autopsy report. HEART FAILURE.

  7. #17
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coolwon View Post
    How often do you here this.

    The partner tells the spouse, I don't feel well. Off to bed.

    Next morning, here is your coffee dear.

    No movement.

    Died in his sleep peacefully.

    Garfield.
    Hmmm... some wisdom being imparted, but master, I do not understand.

  8. #18
    Daihonmei MikeM's Avatar
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    I've been discussing these mystery deaths outside the forum. Thus far, I have not had anyone say they had observed the same behavior shortly preceding a sudden death, but it seems it is not uncommon for folks to have had an older very large koi suddenly die with no outwardly observed reason.

    Consulting JR, his thoughts were that being in-bred carp, koi have inherent weaknesses which are exacerbated when kept in warm climates where they do not get four seasons. He points out that carp have huge variations in life span, from 25- 100 years in some strains of wild carp. But koi are inbred and shorter lived, with 12-18 years being about all one can achieve (with solid colored strains and throw back strains like Karasu and Asagi living lomger, in the range of 14-28 years). Add to that in-bred weakness and the lack of four seasons, all the 'little things' that happen in a pond from time to time ( power failure, over stocking, chlorine exposure, etc.) and it wears on the koi. JR suggested that aging and premature aging due to lack of a four season experience also show classic G.A.S. (general adaptation syndrome) like symptoms... in this instance homeostasis stress due to life style ( i.e., the closed system, long term diet, no winter season). "So it is possible that all this cuts some percentage off natural- unnatural life of an inbred koi. The larger the animal, the more likely the shortening . Not a size issue as much as a weight issue with no winter draining of storage." Like an overweight fellow lazing around munching junk food, organ failure becomes more likely. Some individuals will still live a long life, and some will have their life span notably shortened. JR's bottom line was that there was probably not much that could be done under the circumstances, and that as long as the koi are living to 10-12 years, it is part of the reality of having a number of koi and seeing end of life occur early in a percentage. "...the captive environment wears on organs-- low pollution levels effecting bacteria counts and wearing gills, kidneys and swim bladders over time. And carp as four season creatures are slaves to hormones. These effect metabolism and sexual organs big time. In the end, those organs/ systems show up in ovaries/ tumors, kidney, liver and gills. That's life for the aging koi- premature or aged."


    Another long-experienced hobbyist told me that every time he has a koi death, an autopsy is performed. He has found tumors that were not noticable externally, several koi with with enlarged gall bladders and some with impacted eggs not noticeable externally. While these findings may not point to the specific cause of death in a particular instance, they highlight potential contributing factors. His mystery deaths have mostly involved older koi.

    A second hobbyist informed me "I too do a necropsy on unexplained deaths. Sometimes there is no visible cause but many times ...the cause is obvious. One case the fish had chronic fatty liver disease. Nothing at all obvious from the outside, but clear once opened."

    To some extent it is comforting that others have had mystery deaths occur, sometimes sudden. Still, I am left questioning whether something peculiar has occurred in my pond, simply because I have had the same behavioral symptom occur on four occasions over a period of years, with death occurring within days after on-set of the 'hovering'. Nobody has said they observed the same thing occur. Perhaps the added stress of the warmest season on older, large koi triggers a speedy death? ...But, if the absence of Winter was the root cause, it seems to me that koikeepers in southern Asia would be familiar with similar occurrences.

    ....The mystery is unresolved.

  9. #19
    Tosai
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    Not too long ago South Africa went through a period of frequent power outages and, during this time, I was told the story of an old large female that was handfed and obviously very tame. Koi keepers would generally keep airlifts and aeration going during power outages but power hungry circulation pumps can obviously not be run from backup power that easily. This female would sense that water circulation had stopped for longer than what is needed to clean the filters and she would then hover (not gasp for air) near the surface. Her owner claimed that petting her would often settle her and that he sometimes (against his better judgement I am sure) fed her small amounts of food which also settled her 'emotionally'. He believed that her hovering was her way of communicating distress over the sudden change to her habitat. Possibly too much for some to swallow but there you have the story.

    Maybe MikeM's fish hovered because they sensed that something was amiss.

  10. #20
    Oyagoi yerrag's Avatar
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    Consulting JR, his thoughts were that being in-bred carp, koi have inherent weaknesses which are exacerbated when kept in warm climates where they do not get four seasons. He points out that carp have huge variations in life span, from 25- 100 years in some strains of wild carp. But koi are inbred and shorter lived, with 12-18 years being about all one can achieve (with solid colored strains and throw back strains like Karasu and Asagi living lomger, in the range of 14-28 years). Add to that in-bred weakness and the lack of four seasons, all the 'little things' that happen in a pond from time to time ( power failure, over stocking, chlorine exposure, etc.) and it wears on the koi. JR suggested that aging and premature aging due to lack of a four season experience also show classic G.A.S. (general adaptation syndrome) like symptoms... in this instance homeostasis stress due to life style ( i.e., the closed system, long term diet, no winter season). "So it is possible that all this cuts some percentage off natural- unnatural life of an inbred koi. The larger the animal, the more likely the shortening . Not a size issue as much as a weight issue with no winter draining of storage." Like an overweight fellow lazing around munching junk food, organ failure becomes more likely. Some individuals will still live a long life, and some will have their life span notably shortened. JR's bottom line was that there was probably not much that could be done under the circumstances, and that as long as the koi are living to 10-12 years, it is part of the reality of having a number of koi and seeing end of life occur early in a percentage. "...the captive environment wears on organs-- low pollution levels effecting bacteria counts and wearing gills, kidneys and swim bladders over time. And carp as four season creatures are slaves to hormones. These effect metabolism and sexual organs big time. In the end, those organs/ systems show up in ovaries/ tumors, kidney, liver and gills. That's life for the aging koi- premature or aged."
    Mike, since you've been caring for koi for around thirty years, and you've re-homed a fewlarge old koi, I'm assuming that you've raised large koi (other than the 24-yr old hariwake) from tosai or nisai, and that prior to these past 12 years, which would be eighteen years of koi raising, you did not experience such rapid and unexpected mortality from large koi. Is that correct?

    I'm not convinced of JR's argument that because koi are four season fish, they would live longer in temperate countries. I think koi are adaptable to tropical countries, and would live just as long. If we allow koi to adapt to a different climate. Since our water temperature in the tropics and in Florida are still tolerable and even conducive to koi development, the one adaptation where we could help our koi is to give them food that reflects what is available locally. The oil composition of locally available food sources would be weighted towards being saturated, and that would be part of the adaptation needed by the koi. Feeding the koi something that is more suitable to temperate conditions would not help the koi adapt. Saturated fats stand up better to the higher temperatures in a tropical climate, in that there is less opportunity for the oil to be oxidized in the body. Free radicals from oxidized oil cause degeneration. Organ degeneration and cancer formation are likely to be accelerated.

    That still doesn't answer the question of how your hariwake and other re-homed koi are able to survive and live long years. Perhaps the rate at which they were fed in their early years had a significant impact. The large koi that died were fed intensively that gave them growth rates that allowed them to become large koi. They may not even have benefited from the four-season variation in temperature, so that their growth would not be hindered. Even in tropical countries, the koi go through hot spells where they practically fast (or eat little). Since there is much profit to growing jumbo koi in the race to have larger gosanke that would compete much better in koi shows, more attention has been given to size, and longevity may be the trade-off.

    My only gosanke, raised from a 15cm SFF sanke tosai to 81cm at 5 years, would be my test case for how a more in-bred koi would fare in a tropical climate. It isn't raised for size, although it grew quickly, and it is fed with plenty of coconut meat to increase the raito of saturated oil to polyunsaturated fats that are available in koi pellets. It still has very good skin, its beni is still youthful looking and soft, although the tradeoff is that it isn't thick. It wasn't bad such that it was able to win the jumbo award, and got a vote or two in the reserve GC award. Since I've had two koi die recently at 5 years old, I have to see how this koi progresses in the coming years. Survival is my main concern, followed by skin quality, then growth.

    If this koi survives and develops well, it would be my only example of how tweaking food for the local conditions in a tropical country would help. I don't know of any other koi keeper doing this, but I'm sure there are, as I'm sure there are keepers who would rather stay away from plain view. Koi keeping and developing great koi is a reward in itself. Many keepers just don't need to show their koi to prove themselves.

    I can get back to you every year on the status of my sanke, and hopefully, I would be able to buttress my case. And help you deal with reducing casualty with large gosanke.

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