This past weekend I had the privilege to be a student judge at the 2019 Central Koi and Goldfish Show. If you are ever in Orlando in March, this is a great show to experience koi and goldfish. You can’t beat the weather, particularly if you live in Little Siberia…and the show is really big. 255 koi were entered, not sure how many goldfish, many vendors, lots of interesting seminars and a surplus of really knowledgeable koi folks. I think there were 15 or more certified koi and goldfish judges present – show organizers/staff, helping out, giving talks, on the judging team – it’s quite an event.
For me it was a great experience to start judging. Truthfully I had a lot of good advice before I ever arrived in Orlando. The American Koi Judges Association members are a very helpful group when it comes to coaching. Once I was on site, coaching still continued and people made sure I understood why certain procedural events occurred. Everything we do is to ensure a fair experience for all participants who show their koi and to spread some knowledge about koi keeping. There is always something new to learn.
While we were judging, I was able to practice the skill of looking at conformation first on a koi that is swimming around. As a student judge, it is so important to block out pattern and train your eyes to look at shape — are all the parts in proportion, are the parts anatomically correct and koi quality – before pattern. You can learn a great deal from books and online but nothing beats having someone point out why this koi’s quality is better than the one swimming next to it…how a koi swims might be a clue that conformation might be slightly off…how some varieties will present particular conformation weaknesses. I wrote down all the little nuggets of information after judging and will need to catalog these facts. Judging the show also gives you a road map of what you need to study more. I had a mental block about black koi so I did a little extra studying about black varieties. Post show, I wish I had focused a little more attention on appreciating the Hikari Moyo and Gin Rin classifications. There’s always next time.
Here are some of the major award winners. I was surprised that only 30% of the entries were gosanke (kohaku, sanke and showa varieties). Maybe it’s my imagination but I have this thought that in other shows I have attended, the percentage of gosanke entries was 50% or higher. Lots of big koi – about half of the entries were size 4 or larger (then again, we are in Florida and the feeding season is much longer).
I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the vendors but I wanted to share something interesting at the Southwest Koi and Goldfish booth – sturgeons. They grow to be 4 feet long and eat koi food. They are very tame and weird – not something that I really want in my koi pond but interesting. I didn’t take a photo of it but Mike Weynschenck also displayed beautiful koi art – colored pencil drawings. The artist has drawn beautiful koi and can make a drawing of your prize koi from a photograph. I’m waiting for some notecard sets to be put up for sale…
The other really attractive feature of this show is the number of fun koi people on site. One couple brought in a full bar and a table with koi swimming around a PVC pipe edge. One koi dealer shared a bottle of 1990 Opus One wine with the crowd. I am always surprised to learn about what koi kichi people do outside of koi keeping. Next year, I hope to come back to Orlando as a show visitor and bring the pond builder too.
Back in Little Siberia, spring is definitely around the corner. The upper pond is now open and we are busy cleaning up fall leaves that have been trapped under snow for a few months. The evergreens have been uncovered but the less hardy rhododendrons are still in their burlap wrappings. Not too much plant damage this year. The arctic willows were the primary deer targets this year and since they grow back easily, not much of a loss.
The indoor pond has had a few hiccups this week. The ambient temperature in the garage is about 64 degrees Fahrenheit and the water is about 59 degrees now. The koi have recently shown some more interest in eating again (like Manda Fu 😂). Early Monday morning I noticed that one of the small koi was doing a jerky surface swim at high speed. I probably should have pulled the koi out and thrown it into quarantine. Since it looked normal after a few minutes, I thought it was just an odd event. Nothing unusual over the remainder of the day and Tuesday. In fact I was more concerned about a kohaku that was sporting some fungal looking patch on the head.
Chuck Norris is a 27″ kohaku that came to us as a little tosai. Has always been on the hardy side, good eater, has an unfortunate colored scale between two patches of beni, right on the shoulder. On March 17th, this koi looked quite normal. Monday evening I noticed that there was a giant white patch on the head. It’s always after 9:00 pm when I notice these issues. Since pond builder was out of town, I decided to wait until he was back the next day to take care of Chuck Norris. I thought it was going to be something to treat topically but we noticed a slight bruise on the cheek. Just to be on the safe side we went ahead and gave Chuck Norris some antibiotics. Has the koi gotten better? Hard to say – swimming with the crowd and eating, fungus patch looks marginally better. I did salt the pond and everyone seems peppier (I just noticed a fun little word play – ‘salt’ and ‘peppier’).
My other problem koi was a 13-14 inch kohaku named Cowboy. On Wednesday morning, I checked the pool and saw Cowboy floating. Still alive but barely. We all make choices and we needed to head to work. Not really a lot of time to play with a sick koi that was destined to leave our pond this spring. So I left it in a tub of water as a random offering to the scavengers in our neighborhood. No one took it during the day, so I moved it over to our back fence line and something took it overnight. I should have placed it on softer ground to see what took it but I think it was an owl or bird of prey.
I really was hoping to get through winter without a problem. The koi have been in the garage for five months now and we should be thankful that it has been so boring to maintain the koi. We still have another month of indoor koi land. I hope I won’t be writing about sick koi…