In 2013 I described koi as red and white, red/black/white, black/white, yellow, copper, tea colored or sparkly. No real clue about varieties, what to buy, where to buy – just interested in some pretty colors swimming around the water feature. Have things changed in the last four years! I have been on a crash course of learning about koi and koi appreciation. Lots of help from the koi club members and some wonderful koi dealers. The internet provides a lot of information and there are some great reference books. Two books that I look at a lot are: Steven Hickling’s “Koi – Living Jewels of the Orient” and Jos Aben’s “The Secrets of Koi Unravelled”.
In 2015, I settled on the Shiro Utsuri as my variety to take an in-depth look. I purchased a lot of shiro utsuri koi and have now weeded the group down to five koi. Since shiro utsuris can take a long time to develop (say five years), in 2016, I decided to start tackling the Showa variety. The pond builder and I like the aggressive looking quality a mature showa can have. Just like the shiro utsuri, a showa koi can look very different each year as it develops.
So first I look at the pattern diagrams you can find all over the internet.
Then I like to google for images of a koi and plugging in search terms like “champion” and “showa” will lead you to a photo of Lion Queen, All Japan Koi Show – I’d like a showa like her…
After searching through photos of koi that some people declare lovely, you can read up how some people may choose a showa. Here are a few appreciation tips
- large, wide, especially high caudal fin
- beautiful white skin (well that’s a given)
- start with red and end with red…alternatively, some will say, start with sumi and end with sumi
- motoguru present
- traditional showa – red dominant with equal white and black
- kindai showa – bigger white patterns
It’s difficult to see everything in an immature koi but knowing about these features might help. Shawn McHenry explained to me this summer that some people will tell you – “look for the red and bet on the black”. I really like simple advice. Another good system is someone like Kevin Pham who will tell me why some showa koi might be a good buy. No guarantees but always great teaching points.
I currently have seven showa koi in my collection, five in Minnesota and two on their way to the United States some time this winter. My oldest showa is Irene, who was purchased in the summer of 2013 when I wanted a red and black koi. Irene had a really big fat head and we found her stuck under rocks a few times in the lower pond. She’s a slow grower, good eater and almost always the first one to try any new food. Irene can be classified as a Hi Showa since we can see white from above. Wondering if she will ever get motoguru on her fins (probably not…) and wondering what will happen to the sumi on her left side that is emerging. Could just be messy or maybe in a year or two, look like something. Mysterious Irene…
I purchased two showa tosai last winter just to see development of two different sources. One did not pan out, so I gave it to a friend. I’m really tempted to go back to his pond next spring to see if I made a mistake but I feel the large loss of beni was not going to make a comeback. So, here is Abbott, a Taniguchi showa sourced from Genkikoi. I’m a big fan of deep red and while I’m worried a bit about losing color, we’ll focus on some color food for Abbott. This koi grew very quickly this summer – easily doubling in length and girth. Some people will say that growing too quickly will affect the color but it’s difficult to put the koi on a diet in the pond. I’m hoping that a little less food over the winter will help Abbott. I have had other koi go through similar “lightening up” of beni and then coloring back in later.Motoguru is present….yay!
Over the summer when I was in California, I visited Mystic koi and Shawn McHenry. I always love sparkly koi and he thought I might enjoy studying these two showas. The larger gin rin showa, Biggy, is from Omosako and the smaller one, Ziggy, is from Koda. Not much difference from July to November except for some steady growth. These two are always relaxed, the smaller one a little quicker to the food.
The fifth showa I have in Minnesota was a gift from a friend. I believe he is rethinking what type of pond and what type of koi he would like to concentrate on keeping. The bonus of this Matsue showa is that it’s a kuchibeni! I have only had her a few weeks and have not even named her.
She looks good with the rest of the kuchibeni koi. I’m excited to watch her sumi change over the next few years.
The newest showa koi for my collection are two nisai Kase showa sourced through Kevin Pham, Genkikoi when he was in Japan in October.
Not much that I can tell you about these two showa. I picked them for their shape, pretty white skin, motoguru, and existing beni. Plenty of sumi there to come in. Here’s the video of the group I selected my two koi from:
The pond builder likes koi but not as much as building things to keep the koi. He loves talking equipment and systems with others and frankly my eyes do tend to glaze over this very important subject. I will say that all of his efforts are probably the biggest factor that keep my koi healthy and looking good. He works tirelessly to make sure I am not stressing out over the koi – happy koi = happy wife. 😍 This weekend he finished up a bakki shower for the winter pool and changed out a pump because it did not appear to be clearing out the RDF effectively. His work area can look like a disaster area but the end result is always nice when we tidy up.
Here’s a two minute video of a walk around the winter pool equipment:
A nice Thanksgiving weekend playing with the koi, the koi pool and so much better because the garage is now heated!!
ADDENDUM 11.30.2017: I use my blog to record things that I want to refer back to on a regular basis. I just saw on Facebook something that Troy Head (koi judge, mover and shaker of the Louisville Koi Show, all around good guy, super knowledgeable about koi) posted about the showa Lion Queen that won All Japan in 2014. It’s a cool series of photographs as she grew. I think this is the most interesting aspect of keeping koi – watching the development and being pleasantly (hopefully) surprised when a beauty is the result.