In pursuit of koi full of dream
About improvement in parent Gosanke, keeping in concrete ponds & a challenge to Shiro Utsuri
Nishikigoi Niigata Direct (Niigata Prefecture)
** This article is originally from the issue No.816 (Feb 2023)
Gosanke parents being improved
— I hear that the grand champion Kohaku in the Nagaoka City Koi Show the other day comes from the NND event held in annual November.
Tanaka: We have an annual event of displaying and selling our potential “Koi” in mid October. The Kohaku in question took part in that event the year before last, which caught Mr. Patrick’s eye.
Patrick liked to find potential koi to make a Tategoi, while Misha was an energetic koi exporter who started his business six years ago as well as a member of the Shinkokai Niigata branch.
— The koi was 5 years old and 84cm long at the time of the event. How did you keep her after that?
Tanaka: This is one of a first-generation koi in the challenge we took on in concrete ponds since the spring of the year before last. At that time, we had it enter for the Nagaoka City Koi Show and it took second place with the size over 75bu. By mutual consent between the owner and us, we continued the keeping in the same way as we had taken in the fish house dedicated to concrete pond keeping.
We reared it with care for one year in the pond with a water volume 50ton including the 30ton pond and 20ton filter. Honestly speaking, the koi did not stand out that much at first, but in the second year the body shape was enriched and finished overall. The body length grew to 88cm. We didn’t hesitate to enter the Nagaoka City Koi Show again. As a result, we could have the honor of winning the highest prize.
— This is your second time victory in a row from the previous year, isn’t it? You won the same competition with a Taisho Sanshoku, last year, didn’t you?
Tanaka: Thank you. The victories proved to us that our new challenge of concrete pond keeping was successful and inspired us to keep on going.
We never say we take concrete pond keeping because mud pond doesn’t do better than concrete pond. We know that mud pond keeping has many benefits. The fact of the matter is we suffer damage by downpours and by wild animals like bears and wild boars. Our automatic feeding machines are sometimes destroyed by them. Considering the risk of such destabilizing factors, the idea occurred to us that finishing koi in concrete ponds might be another choice.
We go through many difficulties every year. Particularly in summer, we have to be more careful of the rise of water temperatures and the loss of appetite. We adjust the volume of water, use a shading net and cut the amount of food particularly during the hot daytime so that we can save the koi.
— The basics is a scarcely-populated keeping, isn’t it?
Tanaka: Fish population during the summer is limited ten in a pond at most. In order to bring koi to the best condition for contents, it is necessary to watch all the fish carefully every day and to make small adjustments at the last minute. The concrete pond keeping can make it possible to do so. This is a big benefit of it, I think.
A daily observation is the basics of the pond control. My routine in summer is to go to the mountain before sunrise to give the fish food, make sure of how things are in all the mud ponds, come back to the main fish house in the head office, watch the koi in the concrete pond, select koi with our staff, walk back to the mountain again before dark, back to the fish house again and check the condition of the koi again.
— Thorough keeping is a must, and on top of that, finishing and managing the koi for contests is the key.
Tanaka: Shipping of large koi for contests needs careful handling. On the day of the shipment, the entire staff starts preparation in the dark before sunrise. They pour the water used in the fish house into the pools which were set outside the fish house on the day before. After water accumulates in the ponds, they transfer the entry koi to the ponds. Then they add water from the outside pen to the pools little by little to drop the water temperatures slowly.
When the thermometer stands at 14°C, they suspend working and stand by for one hour. Wait until the water temperature falls down to about 12°C, and transfer the water in the tank on the truck. When the truck got to the venue of the koi show, the water temperature of the tank was 10°C. There is a difference of about 2°C between the start and end of transportation (between Takiya Town in Nagaoka and the venue in Yamakoshi). Careful adjustment of water temperature is also necessary to the pool where the koi is to be exhibited. After the water temperature reach the same temperature, the koi is put in the pool. It’s really reassuring to see the koi swimming energetically in the pool in the end. The same procedure is taken on the way back.
Like this, we handle our customers’ koi with the utmost care like this. It is because we try to minimize the stress of water temperature differences the koi suffers. There is a limit both to time and labor. We feel very sorry for our customers, but we can’t help limiting the number of entries to contests by a single koi per person.
— The Taisho Sanshoku is last year’s winner, and the Kohaku is this year’s winner. The two wins with different varieties have become big momentum in your future’s development, haven’t they?
Tanaka: Gosanke is the varieties that I’ve been involved with since I started breeding koi. I continued to take on the challenge of introducing new parents while making use of the traditional bloodline. Our farm marks its eighteenth year since it was established. Our consecutive efforts of improving parents of Taisho Sanshoku and Kohaku have led to good results. We are very proud of showing a large number of large koi, particularly of more than 80cm long, that can appeal to your senses.
— If you hear it comes 80cm at the time of listing, you will expect of a longer one for the next time.
Tanaka: A large koi is not always a good one, but I believe that if the charm of quality and body shape are enhanced with the size as big as that, you will definitely appreciate it. We are aiming at producing such koi as regarded as good koi to see.
Our efforts keep on going from now on, too. We’d like you all people of the world to find your favorite koi at the NND events, and also take on the challenge of entering for the event with a dream in your mind.
Challenge to Shiro Utsuri
— Following, I’d like to talk with you Mr. Oomo.
Oomo: As the proverb goes, “Time flies like an arrow.” 40 years has already passed since I first rent a mud pond at Yomogihira in Nagaoka City at the age of 25. Some companies have a retirement age, and I’m about to get to it. But I still want to get involved in producing “swimming jewels”, a little more. Currently I take an interest in Shiro Utsuri very much. Shiro Utsuri is a challenge to make my last dream come true.
This variety is dressed in simply black and white, but it is almost equivalent to the difficulties in producing Gosanke. Every day it makes me realize that without passion, no one could master this variety.
Among our staff, we decide who is in charge of individual varieties and ponds. They do series of work like fry breeding, feeding, net drawing and selecting. They are supposed to improve their skills while accumulating experiences.
I started to produce Shiro Utsuri in earnest about 8 years ago. I managed to create “beautiful Shiro Utsuri”, but I failed. They were not satisfactory in terms of skeleton and body shape.
An old customer from Britain (Mr. Donald Kerr) gave a helping hand to me who confronted problems. He said, “As I have a 88cm-long and well-framed female Shiro Utsuri, you can use it as the mother, if you want. I received his kind offer thankfully, which is a story of 4 years back. The Shiro Utsuri in question is the one which was produced and bred at the Omosako’s.
— The name comes from his name, Donald Kerr, thereby “DK-line”, doesn’t it?
Oomo: Yes. I had it spawn immediately that spring. This is how I set out for production. The first spawning was not successful because the number of eggs was not as many as I had ex-pected. However, there were enough fry for the two nursery ponds. After that, the mother fish learned to spawn many eggs every year, and in 2021 the number of eggs was a record high and we could breed fry in more than 10 mud ponds.
Also, in 2022 following the previous year, there were many talented, splendid Shiro Utsuri fry emerging, and those were children of a mother blood-lined to the koi in question. They are being bred to be of the same size and grow as evenly as possible.
What I’ve learned from the experiences, many of Shiro Utsuri fry tend to have red spots on their skin during the periods between the first and the third selection, and the appearance rate of fry having a silver-gray skin, which is a sign of developing into sheer Shiro Utsuri, is only 0.2%. I feel that this low rate has made me realize once again that Shiro Utsuri production is interesting. No matter how many years of experience and breeding skills you have, it is not so easy to produce any koi called “swimming jewels” or “growing beauty”. To discover a small number of rough “swimming jewels” from among many others and to polish them under careful breeding every day is the pleasure of koi breeders, I think.
— Being involved in the koi production and breeding are profound and very rewarding job, aren’t they?
Oomo: It is also a reality that no matter how hard you try, if the “goddess of fortune” does not stand by you, it will often not lead to good results. Once or twice or three times failure will not bring you good results. If you give up at that point, the goddess of fortune won’t be on your side.
So never give up. I believe that dreams must be realized, and that we need a strong desire and passion to keep taking on challenges.
Recently our desire of four-year-long standing has taken on realness. A considerable number of satisfactory Shiro Utsuri has come to appear. We’d like to continue to take on challenges of producing “dreamful Shiro Utsuri” available to play an active role in national competitions. I will never stop challenging myself, and I want to have this strong feeling even from now on.