Unbeknownst to many, the word koi literally means carp. Together with its cousin the goldfish, the breeding of nishikigoi – or brocaded carp – is a testament to what many years of careful breeding can accomplish.
Carp was first introduced to Japan as a protein supplement. These fish can survive and are adaptable to a variety of climates. The breeding for colour started somewhere in the 1820s. It was only in 1914 that the rest of the world became aware of colour variations when the Niigata Prefecture started exhibiting their koi at an annual exposition in Tokyo, Japan.
The South African Koi Keepers Society or SAKKS started on the 1st of April 1988 and currently have 5 Chapters. The Southern Cape Chapter will have their annual Koi Show on 25 & 26 March 2017, at the Eden Meander Lifestyle Centre in George.
Approximately 370 koi from Cape Town, East London and the Garden Route will have to show their best to the judges. A koi fish is only viewed from the top and judging is done based on body shape, hue of colour, quality of the pattern (kiwa and shashi), skin quality and the elegance of its swimming pattern. Fish are groomed for months in advance to be in prime condition for the show.
The panel of six judges includes a guest judge from the Philippines, Nishikigoi Judge Wewe Fantoso and one of the only two qualified Nishikigoi Judges in South Africa, Mike Harvey. In nishikigoi judging, it kicks off with the selection of the Grand Champion in each of the size ranges. She (the fullness of the female body is preferred to the sleeker males) will determine the outcome of the rest of the prize winning koi in all 9 size categories.
Although koi has, for many years, been viewed as a rich man’s hobby, koi fishing is not as difficult as it may seem. With a life expectancy of more than 70 years, it is easy for fish to outlive their keepers. As such, a member of the Gauteng Chapter purchased her prize winning ‘living jewel’ for a mere R2.00.
Phillip Muller, the Show Chairman, owner of Knysna Koi Farm, and renowned utsurimono breeder, recommends that prospective koi keepers educate themselves before purchasing koi. Through the ignorance of the buyer, dealers have been known to sell fish for much more that their worth, not a difficult feat with 15 varieties of koi being available, and still more being bred.
The Southern Cape Chapter holds quarterly ‘Koi Safaris’ and have a passion for sharing their knowledge with novice koi keepers. Phillip is a qualified local Nishikigoi Judge but is prohibited from judging as he is also a seller. Visitors to the show will also be able to purchase koi food, accessories and even fish. Phillip will have two of his show koi available.
In Japanese koi is also a homophone for a word meaning ‘affection’ or ‘love’ and, just as they are a symbol of love and friendship in Japan, they are just as much a symbol of the love and affection koi keepers have for their fish.
The 2017 Southern Cape Koi show is open:
Saturday 25 March from 09:00 to 16:00
Sunday 26 March from 09:00 to 13:00
You can contact the Southern Cape Koi Chapter on 082 851 6404 (Phillip)
Find the South African Koi Keepers Society on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SAKoiKeepers/
Visit the South African Koi Keepers Society at www.koisa.co.za