Ricky Stoddart

An Interview With The Italian Koi Association - Part 2

I was recently approached by the Italian Koi Association (IKA) about an article for their newly launched magazine and was pleased to get involved!

Here's Part 2 of the interview, if you missed Part 1 it's available on this link.

IKA logo 150 x 150.png

During your career to date you have successfully won a number of coveted awards at Japanese koi shows. What makes the difference between a typical koi and the competition winners?

This is a very interesting question, and one that I have asked myself many times in the past before I entered the Wakagoi Koi Show where I won my first major awards.

My specialism is in identifying young koi with a potential for future growth - a very specialist skill as I need to understand how a fish is likely to develop over time and how it is likely to change. This is the opposite of what’s needed to judge a competition so is not easy to learn to learn.

Across much of the western world koi competitions are judged on a number of criteria, essentially these are tick boxes if your fish meets a certain element of the judging. In Japan competitions are typically very different because the breeders become the judges and from their expansive knowledge can simply tell which fish is best from a subconscious glance and an emotional feeling that they get from a fish.

The most important criteria in any competition (and also when I select fish to sell) is the body shape. Simply put, if a fish does not have the correct body shape it will be impossible for it to be a competition winner.

The other two elements which I then place as equal importance are the skin quality and the pattern.

Many specialists consider pattern to be of a lesser importance, but in my eyes there are now so many outstanding fish with impeccable skin quality that the pattern also has to be unique to make a fish stand out against others, making them a koi show star.

What is your favourite type of koi?

As a koi professional I cannot be dismissive about any fish so I have an appreciation and knowledge of every single type of koi. That said, I do have a soft spot for Shiro Utsuri – the simplicity of the black and white pattern is what catches my eye.

These koi are often less appreciated at an early age because their sumi is under developed so you need imagination to understand what it will become, and you can watch its pattern develop and become more intense as the koi grows from tosai to nisai.

Who is your favourite breeder?

There are so many excellent breeders with their own specialisms, but I would have to say that my favourite is Nishikigoi Niigata Direct – the company that Fujio Oomo now runs. They rear their fish extremely well and have a fantastic variety of different koi available.

Fujio has supported me from the very start of my career and I’ve grown up with the fish from this company. I have been fortunate enough to be able to take part in a number of the Autumn Harvests on their farm as well as experiencing the spawning of their fish. It’s a fascinating place and quite underestimated, although I place them as one of the top breeders in the Niigata area.

What are the five top tips you would suggest to a koi hobbyist as they are starting out?

1. It is absolutely essential that you buy a test kit to check your water parameters are suitable for your koi. There are so many variables that can affect the quality of your water and in my opinion you should not own fish without a test kit to understand what is going on it their environment. A small investment in a test kit could save a lot of heartache in the long run if your fish become ill, or even die.

Linked to getting a test kit, it is important that a hobbyist keeps a record of their water levels over time. If your pond develops a problem the historical information will help to identify when a change occurred and will help to pinpoint what has caused the issue.

2. My second recommendation is to find a koi retailer that you feel you can trust, and can return to for advice in the future.

If you are starting out the best way to get a feel for the retailer is to visit their shop and ask some general questions to understand how helpful they may be. You’ll also get a good feeling for the retailer based on the quality and appearance of their stock – if the fish look healthy, or if for example they are flashing, or showing any other signs of discomfort.

Over time, the more you use your trusted koi retailer, the more they will understand your specific pond set up and they more they will be able to provide invaluable advice to you.

If you get a poor feeling for a retailer then simply walk away before you purchase – there are lots of other retailers out there that will be able to help you.

3. You need to know when your fish are happy, and to do this you need to observe them regularly. Look out for any changes in the way they behave as this will alert you to any problems in your pond, whether that is as a result of a parasite, or as a water problem.

It is important that you learn to observe the water as well as the fish – how it smells, as well as how it looks.

4. As soon as you see a problem in your pond, act on it immediately. Catching a parasite or change in water quality early on could mean the difference between your koi being healthy, or dying and infecting the rest of your stock in a matter of hours.

5. Nutrition is vital to keeping koi healthy, don’t buy a certain food just because it is the cheapest. I would recommend always reading the ingredients, and on the whole go for a product that is high in fishmeal. Some lower quality products include high percentages of cereal or poultrymeal, I would avoid these at all costs as they are not as easy for the fish to digest which can lead to future problems in your pond.

  • Please to add comment.