Spring is sprung

Most people open the cottage on the Victoria Day weekend. Jack, however, is getting a head start. David has put up a spacious outdoor cage, which Jack can get to through the side window above his sleeping cage. We don’t know if Lily will like this new “cottage”, but we know Jack’s happy with it.

This month you’ll notice some fencing going up at the back of the store. We’re putting the koi ponds and pond plants outside this year, where they’ll benefit from the sun. Koi develop brighter colours in outdoor ponds, even without specialized feed. We’ve noticed that the yellowish hi utsuri we took home last fall has become quite bright.

At the moment we have four large koi, but we’ll be bringing the smaller ones in from their winter quarters¬† as soon as the outdoor pond is set up at the store.¬† We’re pretty sure, by the way, that the large white doitsu with the mirror scales down the back, the one at the top of the picture, is a female.

On June third we’ll have brand new koi. We’re hoping to get them from Gord at Koi Koi Koi, but we’ll have to see what he has, as he’s moving and has had to cut back on stock for this year only.

For those of you who’d like to hear more humourous stories from the pet store, check out Elizabeth’s new blog, North by NorthEast, at Pet Product News.

Koi coming

At the end of May I’ll be driving down to Southern Ontario to choose the koi for the year. It’s one of my favourite things to do for the pet store. While I like to get some of the popular patterns like kohaku (red and white) and sanke (white with red and black spots), I also look for some unusual patterns, like karasu (black) or chagoi (brown or bronze or greenish, tea-coloured fish).

Recently we got some large koi from someone who was no longer keeping a backyard pond. These fish are beautiful and in excellent condition, with smooth, healthy skin and good body conformation. One sanke (bottom left) has lots of shiro (white) with a branching pattern of sumi (black) along the spine and several large spots of hi (red). The other (top right)¬† has a rather cloudy sumi overlying the hi. The large koi is doitsu (scaleless) with large mirror scales along the spine. Finally, there’s a lovely darker fish, possibly a goromo (robed), with black markings over what appears to be hi (red).

Bear in mind that all the koi you find in the pet trade are lower-grade koi, not the high standard show koi. The prices reflect this. While a large koi in the pet trade might cost you as much as $200-$300, that wouldn’t begin to cover the cost of a top-grade show fish.

All the same, the only reason to buy a koi is that you like the way the fish looks. Try to see it from the top, as that is how you’ll be seeing it in the pond. Koi are bred to be viewed from above, so the side view of the fish doesn’t matter that much.

Most of these new koi are about 12″ in length, as you can see by the ruler included in the picture. (We put that in for scale – snicker!) The white doitsu is about 14″ long. We have some 5-8″ koi which will be coming into the store in a couple of weeks.

The fish I’ll be choosing at the end of May will be considerably smaller and less expensive. We buy some small koi every year, in spite of the saying that “Only a fool would buy a three-inch koi, and only a fool would sell one.” This is because the colour changes a lot as the fish grows and matures. A promising three-inch fish can turn muddy or lose most of its red colour. Alternately, an uninspiring-looking three-incher might turn into a lovely adult. You never can tell.