When it comes to Koi carp, what does "perfect" actually mean? The truth is that "perfect" is different for every single Koi owner: what works for you will depend on the look you want. Don't judge by photos, though: the only way to make sure you end up with a fish that meets your exact needs is to see it in person.
While "perfect" is subjective, there are certain features that Koi have that determine a fish's quality. Here are some tips to help you find the Koi carp of your dreams.
An introduction to Koi
Koi carp originated in Japan in the 17th century: they started off as common brown carp but selective breeding led to the development of the distinctive colours and patterns that you see today. They can weigh up to 35lb each and grow to between two and three feet - and the average Koi lives for 20 to 30 years. In parts of Asia, they're eaten as a delicacy but here in the UK they're prized for their ornamental value.
What to look for when buying
While it can be easy to choose a Koi based on its colour alone, there are certain things that it's important to look out for to ensure that you're buying a healthy fish:
A healthy Koi will have a long, broad head, with a streamlined shape and a thin body: it should be a beautifully symmetrical fish. Check for any deformities anywhere on the body: unusual lumps, bumps, indents and scars could signal a problem. You should also ensure that the fins are in good condition, with no fraying or other damage.
Skin should be bright and shiny - but skin quality will be judged differently depending on which type of Koi you choose. Some have scales, some (Doitsu Koi) have no visible scales but all should look clean and bright.
Colour and pattern
Whichever colour and pattern you choose, ensure that it's even throughout the fish. Colours should be deep, rich and strong with no faded areas but bear in mind that colours and patterns can change and develop as the fish gets older.
While some are happy simply to choose a fish they like the look of, others will be after specific colour patterns. These are defined by Japanese names - here are some of the most popular:
• Bekko: A yellow, red or white background, with spots running down the back.
• Asagi: Blue-grey, reticulated scales on the body, with a pale blue head, a red belly and red in the pectoral fins.
• Hariwake: A platinum body with yellow or orange patterns.
• Goshiki: Comprising five different colours - red, blue, dark blue, black and white. The body is usually white, while the reticulated scales are predominantly blue and patterned with other colours.
For Koi carp to thrive, they need a pond with a capacity of at least 1,000 gallons of water and great water quality too. You'll also want to make sure your fish are well protected from birds and other predators: take a look at the Henry Cowls bird netting range to keep your precious Koi safe.