Real Ponds

Jason and Fiona Sugden

Jason and Fiona Sugden
Measurements: Roughly 12,000 gallons. Filters: Ultrasieve and Ultrabead 100. Pump: Badu…

Jon and Mandy Griffiths

Jon and Mandy Griffiths
Measurements: 16ft x10ft x 5ft6in; 4,020 gallons. Filter: Four-bay chamber with brushes,…

Dave Berryman

Dave Berryman
Measurements: 16ft x 10ft x 5ft5in; 3,500 gallons. Filters: Nexus 200 and an Eazy Pod.…

Jason Holland

Jason Holland
Measurements: 12ft x 12ft x 14ft; 3,000 gallons. Filter: Biosys 3. Pump: Oase Aquamax Eco…

Howard's end is a new beginning

EDH4969Howard's end is a new beginning
Many of us dream of retiring to Cornwall to live the country life. Keith Holmes finds out…
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 13:40

Jason and Fiona Sugden

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Measurements: Roughly 12,000 gallons.

Filters: Ultrasieve and Ultrabead 100.

Pump: Badu 14.

Other equipment: Two 55W UV units and Airtech blowers.

The fish: 40 Koi.
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 13:38

Jon and Mandy Griffiths

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Measurements: 16ft x10ft x 5ft6in;
4,020 gallons.

Filter: Four-bay chamber with brushes, Japanese matting, Aquarock and lytag.

Pumps: Two Argonaut pumps.

The fish: 30 fish from 4–24in.
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 12:01

Dave Berryman

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Measurements: 16ft x 10ft x 5ft5in;
3,500 gallons.

Filters: Nexus 200 and an Eazy Pod.

Pumps: Two Aquamax pumps.

The Fish: 20 Koi in total, which range in size from 4–30in.
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 11:22

Jason Holland

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Measurements: 12ft x 12ft x 14ft; 3,000 gallons.

Filter: Biosys 3.

Pump: Oase Aquamax Eco 12000.

Other equipment: Oase Swimskim 25, Oase Aqua-Oxy 100 with two airstones, 3kW Profi heater, Oase Lunaqua set, Bitron UV unit and a quarantine tank.

The fish: 19 Koi in total, including Sanke, Kin-Ki Utsuri, Hi Showa, Hi Utsuri, Ochiba Shigure, Purachina, Goshiki and many others.
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 14:25

Howard's end is a new beginning

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 EDH4969Many of us dream of retiring to Cornwall to live the country life. Keith Holmes finds out that for Howard, this meant moving 33 Koi and then finding space for spaniels, turkeys, geese, pigs and a rottweiler…

Before retiring to Cornwall three years ago, Howard ran a successful heating and plumbing business from Sidcup in Kent. Keen to find out where his hobby started, I asked Howard if he could recall his first introduction to Koi – or fish keeping in general. “I think it was some 27 years or so ago,” Howard told me, before he went on to say that he used to live in Welling, where he had a small pond for goldfish, but “Koi weren’t about in those days.”  EDH4867
 EDH4908“So when did you first get into Koi?” I asked. “A pet shop in Bexleyheath offered me some, so this was how I was introduced. Of course, this meant I had to build another pond.” I learned that this was a 15ft circle that was some 2ft deep. Howard then told me that they moved to Sidcup in 1989, where he built a 3,000-gallon Koi pond. This didn’t have a bottom drain, but rather a side-feed with an elbow down to the bottom, which fed a gravity-fed filter system, before going through brushes and matting, after which the water was pumped back to the pond via a UV unit.
Time for a hoe down?

Howard originally started out with just 10 Koi, but this would soon increase to around 40, as he acquired a collection from someone at his local Koi club. He told me that, “I joined the South East Section in 1990 for a short time, and I recall going on a pond visit to Essex to get some ideas about the pond at that time. But I stopped being a member eventually, due to not having the time.” 

Presumably, time isn't such an issue now that he's retired, so I wondered if Howard is a member of a club at the moment, “I now belong to the Plymouth club and I’m glad I joined, because I’ve had a lot of help with a few things.” Speaking of clubs, I had to ask Howard whether he had ever shown his Koi, “No, I’m not into showing my Koi. It’s the same with my dogs; I’ve never shown them.” the koi filters
Howard loves his dogs, but they are more working dogs than show dogs and his cocker spaniels all go out to work with him during the hunting season to work on the Maristow Barton Shoot. 
 EDH4892So back to that first Koi pond and the additional Koi collection that Howard acquired, “Everyone told me that the water quality would be poor with this many Koi, so I decided to add a bead filter to the system. I installed a Waterco Lacron 20in bead filter and ran this with an Aquamax 16000 pump, which worked perfectly.” 

That was Howard’s last pond before the move to Cornwall and his present pond, “We moved in 2008 as we had decided to retire there. In fact, we moved some 33 Koi, but I was able to go down on numerous occasions to set up a temporary housing using scaffold boards and a liner,” Howard explained. The Koi were in there for nine months in all, but Howard kept the filter system going on this temporary pond, keeping the filters alive. 

Howard didn't waste any time at all and got a digger as soon as they had moved in. He then set about work on his present 7,000 gallon pond. Much like his former pond in Sidcup, this one doesn’t have a bottom drain. Instead, it has a side feed – or to be more accurate – two 4in side feeds, in fact! Howard told me that one of his regrets is that he didn’t build the pond in plastic – or a bag, as some people say – as he had tremendous issues with the hole filling with water.

Country pursuits

So what about Howard besides the pond; what other interests does he have? Howard enjoys shooting, as well as a spot of trout fishing, “Last night, I had a trout I caught for tea!” he told me. “We also have a small holding here and we keep a few pigs each year – we have a freezer full from the last two we had. We also grow a lot of our own vegetables, as well as keep a few chickens and other animals.” 

This all makes for a green way of life, which is backed up by Howard’s interest in embracing the latest technology available in order to ensure that as much of his power needs as possible are met by greener energy. Screen Shot 2016 07 08 at 15.47.01
When you arrive at the homestead, you can easily see that Howard has embraced the opportunities afforded by this kind of thinking in a big way. As you pull up, you can see that on the roof of the bungalow are what I originally took to be two massive solar panels, but Howard tells me that they are actually Photoelectric cells. They function by using the sun’s light to generate electricity. I was amazed when Howard showed me how much electricity he was producing – even on a cloudy day. I was even more amazed to hear that any excess electricity is pumped back into the grid, for which Howard gets paid! 
Howard and his wife Maureen live just off  the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, where they retired some three years ago after leaving Sidcup in Kent. They share their house – or perhaps small holding would be a better description –not only with their Koi, but also four cocker spaniels and throughout the year, various other livestock such as pigs and chickensMy amazement turned to shock, however, when Howard told me how much it cost to install the set-up. It may have been a sizeable commitment at the outset, but Howard worked out that the return on his investment should be considerably better than any building society account over the years – and that's before you factor in the other less tangible but no less important benefit that he’s also helping to produce greener energy!  

But Howard's commitment to producing green energy doesn't end there, because he also has smaller solar panels for hot water, which he told me, “Have worked out cost effective for me as I got them at trade price, being in the trade. If it wasn’t for that, they would take too long to make enough of a saving to cover the cost.” All clever stuff and hopefully something that we will see more of as time goes on. 

The retiring type
As a retired heating engineer, you might reasonably expect Howard to heat his ponds, but he has yet to heat the current one in Cornwall. His former pond back in London was heated though, using a heat exchanger and a 40,000BTU boiler. He told me that, “I loved it! It was cheap to run and it could heat to whatever temperature I wanted. Money is scarce being retired though, so I don’t heat my current pond.” Before I could get a word in edgeways though, he added, “I am considering heating this pond with a heat pump, as I lost five of the biggest Koi this winter. It was simply heartbreaking.” 

He’s also looking at a cover for the pond to protect his Koi from the harsh conditions that come with living on the edge of Bodmin moor. 

As we ventured out into the gale force winds as they came in across the moor as if on cue, I asked Howard if there was anything he would like to say to the readers of this article “Yes; the larger the vortex the better. The late John Pitham proved this to me some 25 years ago and I’ve never looked back since!”

How the money was spent
Howard said, “I was lucky, really. As I was in the building trade, I didn’t have to pay full price for things. Plus I had a few friends that owed my a favour or two, so I called these in.” As a result, he struggled to come up with a total for what the pond had cost; all he could recall was that the filter system and pumps alone totalled in excess of £3,000.

If only…
“I would have heated this pond from the word go as I lost five of my biggest Koi over the harsh winter.” Howard told me and then added that he now intends to install a heat pump and cover on this pond before the next winter sets in.

The pond is constructed with a concrete base, which then has a solid concrete block wall built upon it. The pond does not have any bottom drains. Instead, it has two 4in side drains. The pond is waterproofed with fibreglass, and finished with natural stone on the edge as a coping. The front wall of the pond is finished in a hand-laid natural stone wall. Ever the green-conscious, Howard recycled many of the stones that were found while digging the pond and used them again.

Top tip
“Install the biggest and widest spirex (vortex) that you can fit in, as this is where all of the waste will collect. If it’s not too fast, it will take nearly all of the waste out of the system.” 

Friday, 08 July 2016 13:07

Repair leaking liner pond

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010678 leaking pond look under liner for dampYour worst nightmare has come true: your pond is leaking water, but you can’t work out why. Don’t panic! Keith Holmes looks at the most common causes of pond leaks and how to put them right.

how to fix leaky pond liner

There are a number of reasons for a leak to occur in a pond, but broadly speaking, these can be split into three categories: lining failure, pipe work and fitting failure, or equipment failure. 

The location and type of leak will dictate how you should rectify the problem, so let’s look at each in turn.

Lining leaks explained

The reason behind a leak will differ depending upon the lining material used and arguably the most popular today is a Butyl or plastic pond liner. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the most common material to leak as well, but a few precautions when installing can pay dividends. 

Firstly, a good quality underlay will help prevent roots from nearby plants and trees piercing the liner as they grow. You should choose a good quality named brand, as many of the cheaper liners may not have the same life expectancy, so they might fail sooner – a small saving now really isn’t worth it in the long run. 

You should also minimise the amount of liner that is exposed from the water, leaving it in direct sunlight. Although many liners are fine with this, some aren’t and the sunlight will cause them to degrade. 

The next most frequent cause of a leaking pond liner is due to tearing, which can be caused by predators such as cats, herons and foxes who may unwittingly pierce the liner when they try to catch a Koi, causing a small leak. 

Any pipe work that is fitted through the liner can also be a likely candidate for a leak to occur, but don’t be put off installing pipe work and other items through the pond lining. They should be fine as long as they are fitted correctly, using the correct sealing products. 

Fibreglass is another poplar option, as are pond-sealing paints, but both methods can fail over time. If the fibreglass preparation was done correctly and a competent person applied it to the pond, there’s little reason for this to leak unless the actual structure it rests upon gives way. 

The same is true for many of the pond paints and sealants, in that there is little reason for these to leak as long as the surface onto which they are applied is sound and the product is applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. But it is entirely possible to develop a leak simply through general wear and tear over many years. 

Lining leaks fixed

KOI TIPSOnce you’ve noticed the water level dropping in your pond, you’ll find the first step is both the easiest and the hardest: wait. You may be itching to burst into action to safeguard your Koi, but first you need to identify the source of the leak. 

Just sit back and let the level of water in the pond drop. The rate of the drop will slow as the pond level decreases and the pressure of water above the leak becomes less and less. It should stop eventually, but remember that you will see some drop in the water level just from evaporation if you’re doing this in summer.

You need to think ahead if you have a gravity-fed pond, because the filter system may not function once the water level has dropped a few inches. If this is the case, or if you suspect the leak to be low down or even on the bottom of the pond via a drain or similar, a wise precaution would be to move the Koi into temporary housing while you let the water fall. You should be able to locate the hole once the water has stopped dropping and then repair it following the step-by-step guides shown for a liner pond. 

For many fibreglass finishes and pond paints, you will be able to sand back and then simply apply a repair patch, but do check the manufacturer’s recommendations, as some products may require specific preparation to allow a repair to be carried out. 

If there’s a bottom drain and you either can’t find the leak or the pond has drained until empty, get the drain pressure tested to see if this is the cause. Unfortunately, it’s a major job if this is the culprit. HOT KOI TIPS
Hopefully though, it will just be a matter of either putting in a new liner straight over the top of the old one, or resealing with the same  product that was used initially. You should seek advice for the required preparation because in some instances, all traces of the original lining must be removed.

Pipe work and fitting problems

Many people automatically assume the worst and that there must be a problem with the liner if the pond is leaking. Luckily, this often isn’t true and the leak can be put down to one of many things. 
Many people are turning to flexible hose rather than rigid pipes to reduce loss of flow from sharp bends.For example, a hose may have come disconnected from a filter box so the water is basically being pumped to waste instead of recirculating in the pond. Even if the piece of pipe or hose has not come fully adrift but has simply developed a small leak, a constant drip can result in a significant drop in the water level over a single day. 

These types of problems can be easily resolved by repositioning the pipe work in the correct position. If a persistent drip is caused by a flexible pipe going onto a hose tail with a jubilee clip, or a fitting from a pump, you may want to consider using a sealing putty, which will even adhere on wet surfaces to bung the leak. 
Rubber boot fittings can be a  lifesaver if a pipe cracks and you have no spare and the shops are shut.
Waste valves can be another cause of leaks that is often overlooked. This is especially common if using slide valves for your wastewater discharge, as the rubber seals inside will wear and grit or dirt may get caught in them, preventing them from completely closing. This means that they are constantly letting water run to waste. 

It’s a straightforward job to either replace the valve for a new one or change the seals. Since this is a common problem with slide valves, you may want to look at swapping them for ball valves, as these tend not to suffer the same problems. If changing the culprit valve is in itself a problem, the only other solution would be to fit another valve somewhere after the leaking valve on the same pipe run. 

Finally – and perhaps more seriously – is when a section of pipe work splits or becomes damaged. This is especially common after a harsh winter, as frost and freezing may have damaged pipe work, causing it to become brittle and fail. 

If it’s only a small section that has failed, you may want to consider simply cutting it out and then using a rubber boot connector to rejoin the section of pipe for a quick and easy fix. For larger sections though, it may be necessary to replace complete runs of pipe. More and more people are using flexible hose these days as opposed to rigid pipe for this, due to the reduced loss of flow from sharp bends.

Equipment failure

This is the least likely cause for an apparent leak in your pond, but it’s still something you may have to consider. Be sure to inspect all of your filters to check that there are no obvious leaks and the connectors that are cut into the unit. If using a beadfilter or a filter with a multiport valve that has a waste setting, check that this is not leaking, because water could be constantly going to waste. 

You should check that all the air pumps are working, too. If the pumps are below water level and have failed, a back siphon could have started and this could be where all of your pond water is going. Finally, don’t forget your UV – the quartz sleeve may have cracked and water could be seeping from the end caps. Again, this could mount up to a significant amount of water over a day. If this was the cause though, the water touching the electrics should have caused something to trip, which would have alerted you.

Monday, 04 July 2011 11:33

Spotting Tosai - Part One

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Can anyone spot talent in a tosai, or is it the reserve of professional Koi breeders? In the first instalment of this four-part series, Adam Byer sets about a year-long project to find out

Here we see Adam making some selections in the polytunnel at Cuttlebrook Koi Farm.

Every Koi keeper wants to be able to spot a top Koi as a tosai, whether to bag a bargain at the breeders, or when working out which of their own fry to cull or keep. But can anyone learn this skill, or does it take decades of practice over dozens of generations to perfect the skill like the professional breeders? 

Understanding how Koi will develop is a valuable skill because there is profit in being able to predict which tosai will become potential show champions. Experts address large audiences on the subject, while Koi breeders and specialist dealers make their living off the back of their expertise in this field. 

There is a wealth of knowledge out there on the subject, between books, DVDs, websites and magazines like Koi, but it can be daunting to work out where to start, prompting us to ask just how hard can it be to put this theory into practice? During the course of this series, I hope to discover some of the good traits and characteristics to look for when identifying promise early on in a tosai’s development. The tosai still have a lot of  growing to do after just one summer in the mud pond.

I’ve learned through reading and talking to hobbyists and dealers that Koi development is based upon sound knowledge of breeding lines and skilled selection. That seems obvious, but it also seems to be true to say that Koi breeding is fundamentally a numbers game. That game starts at Koi farms where they breed thousands – perhaps even millions – of the same variety to find the few really good specimens. Most of the Koi you see for sale are the few really good ones; then there are the really, really good ones and so on. As a rule of thumb, the more ‘reallys’ in front of the word ‘good’, the longer the Koi resided on the farm, the more selections the breeder performed before choosing to sell it, the more resources he used and therefore, the higher its price tag. So the greater the potential savings if we can spot a really, really good one young. >
lots of tosai to select from netted 2 Finders… Keepers?

This project will involve buying some Koi, predicting how they will develop, tracking their progress and finally seeing whether they turn out as I expect after one year. As with Koi breeding in general, this will inevitably involve some trial and error, so
I wanted to include as many Koi as I could afford to replicate the underlying principal that Koi breeding is a numbers game. 

I needed to find Koi that had sufficient merits and development potential for my project, but at reasonable prices so that
I wouldn’t need to remortgage the house. Finally, I needed to find someone to give
me some coaching on Koi selection so that I stood a chance of making some decent choices and minimise my selection errors.

Koi breeders have to assess thousands of Koi each time they review their stock to decide which to grow-on and which to sell, but some individual Koi may be considered borderline cases. Breeders have limited growing-on space, so they have no choice but to release some of these borderline Koi into their sales tanks. While these difficult decisions must be agonising for Koi breeders, they present us with the opportunity to buy borderline tosai that could grow into something special – if we know what to look for.

Tosai some selected and held in a separate bowl. Over The Borderline

The first time I was able to identify borderline tosai was with help from an expert. While I was visiting Cuttlebrook Koi Farm one day, Mark Davis was sorting through a batch of around 200 tosai and he talked me through the process, explaining some of his decisions, which included examples of borderline individuals. He told me that during his time in Japan, they used to call these Koi ‘giri giri’, meaning they could go either way.

Cuttlebrook harvested their tosai in October and they had decided which ones to grow on themselves – and therefore which to sell – by early November. They put a few thousand tosai from a wide range of varieties into the sales tanks, including some giri giri and these candidates would be perfect for my project. All I needed to do was pick them out from the masses. 

It gets dark early in November and before I knew it, we ran out of daylight.
I was keen to carry on despite the darkness, and Mark kindly set up some lighting above the tank and we started selecting. The fluorescent light may not have been ideal, but it worked well enough and I was pleased to get going. We spent about half an hour selecting together and I continued for another couple of hours on my own, selecting around 40 Koi from 400. Finally, I had to admit that I had underestimated how long I would need, so I arranged to come back in a few days and start from scratch. 

It was a helpful practise session though, because it taught me the basics of selection and gave me a little bit of experience, which would help when I returned to make my final choices. I learned that reviewing tosai side by side made it easier to pick out the subtle differences. They can all become a bit of a blur, but you have to look at a lot of fish to get a feel for the differences between them. Sometimes, I found it difficult to split a group of tosai because they were roughly equal and other times I missed a visual clue like spotting one was too stocky or mistaking subtle hi as being lower quality, when it was actually higher quality. This is where experience really counts.
The hands of the master:  Mark Davis talks Adam through  the features on some tosai Forward Planning

The practice session showed me I had a lot to do if I wanted to review all of Mark’s tosai, so I devised an approach similar to the one used by Mark and Japanese breeders, which is to make several selections one after the other, each with their own purpose.

I decided that the first selection would be all about volume. There were at least 2,000 tosai to review and I planned to ignore variety and pick the best one out of every 10, focussing on the three points Mark had coached me on. This would identify the best 200 tosai based on body shape, skin and colour quality.

My second selection would focus on pattern and variety to leave me with a pool of tosai per variety that I could make final selections from. At this stage, I would be able to choose which varieties to include in my project because I could see how many had made it this far from each variety, as well as their overall quality and suitability as development subjects.

The third and final selection would be all about development interest. Not only did I plan to choose Koi with characteristics I thought suggested a bright future, but I also wanted to include some that showed characteristics suggesting a less certain future. These would act as control specimens that would either reinforce or undermine my selection criteria and process. The beauty of this project is that I will observe what actually happens and learn through experience; this series will give me the opportunity to share what I learn with you in these pages. 
The one that got away.The skill seems to lie in being able to assimilate visual information quickly, as well as experience in knowing what characteristics to seek out in a young Koi. To complicate matters, those selection characteristics change at each stage of a Koi’s life and each variety has its own unique characteristics. 

I can see how some visual clues are quicker and easier to assimilate than others and how it’s possible for Koi breeders to train people to carry out selections on their behalf. Quite simply, breeders need this support to get through the vast number of selection decisions at harvest time; particularly the massive Koi farms in Japan. As hobbyists, we can take heart from this – the implication is that we can learn the selection principles and apply them so we can find giri giri for ourselves.

PART TWO: The selection process begins in earnest, as we take a look at the tosai that Adam will take on to the next stage of the project to find out how to spot a good Koi at an early age.

Thursday, 07 July 2016 15:40

Yagenji Koi Farm

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Like so many koi businesses a hobby becomes a business, Martin Symonds talks to Yagenji Koi Farm 

Summer at YagenjisBeing woken up at 4am as a young boy to start helping his father with their koi business before going to school was not the best way for Daisuke Ishihara to start his life in the koi world, actually he did not like it and did not want to work in the koi business back then. Now at 43 years old he heads the Yagenji Koi Farm business with his younger brother Toshinori (now 40).

But the story of Yagenji Koi Farm starts way back with Daisuke’s Grandfather, Gonji Ishihara. This all started in the 1920’s when his Grandfather used to keep Magoi (Common Carp) and also farm rice and vegetables for food. He kept his Carp in reservoirs, which were used to supply water to rice ponds, and he also had some wooden ponds to keep the Magoi in.Daisuke and Toshinori working together
Over a period of time his grandfather started keeping koi mainly as a hobby as so many other local people did back then. But it was Daisuke’s father Yaichi Ishihara (now 75 years old) that really turned the then family hobby into a business. Yaichi had seen his father Gonji keeping koi with the Magoi and at the age of 20 years old he also started taking an interest in Koi. By the age of about 25 he was seeing other people in the area starting to sell koi locally and to visiting Japanese people outside from Niigata and to him it looked like a boom in selling Koi was happening, all this was happened around 1964 and as many other breeders have told me it was when the Olympics was held in Tokyo. So he decided to start turning some of his rice ponds into mud ponds so he could do more koi and sell them.

At first he did not breed them but bought small koi from other breeders like Matsunosuke (now Yamamatsu Koi Farm) and Marujyu Tanaka, these koi he would grow on, and would sell to the two main local koi wholesalers in Ojiya which were Miyakoya and Miyaishi back then. The varities he grew on were Kohaku and Sanke only. He would also sell to local people and any other Japanese people who visited the area. He kept the best koi for himself so he could use them as parent koi because he wanted to start breeding koi and not just growing other breeders koi.

So 50 years ago Yagenji Koi Farm was created. Daisuke is now 7th generation of his family called Ishihara the 1st generation name was Yagenji Ishihara and it was this name Yagenji that Yaichi decided to use as the name for his farm because in the area there were many families called Ishihara and he wanted to stand out.

Martin and Rene of JKX and DaisukeHis very first parent koi came from fish that he had grown on from the past. Anyone that has visied Yagenji Koi Farm will know it also boast one of the best views over Mushigame and pre earthquake the family home was also located here. It was also at the age of 28 that Yaichi built his very first koi house in 1967. Back then it was just Yaichi and his wife Keiko who worked within the business. His business continued to grow and grow and they felt the best time for their business was from the early 1970’s to the late 1990’s. They had around 20 mud ponds for all sizes of koi they were doing. The success of their business allowed him to build his second fish house around 28 years ago.

Both Yaichi’s sons Daisuke and Toshinori grew up seeing their fathers koi business grow and they can remember well having to help with the business at a very young age. As I mentioned Daisuke explains that at the young age of 10 his father would wake him up to at 4am, to help with the koi before going off to school and then when returning from school again helping in the evening. This must have been extremely hard for a young boy. In fact in made Daisuke dislike the koi business so much that when he finished high school he did not want to work in the business so he left for Tokyo to learn to become a cook and stayed there for 4 years till the age of 24 working as a chef. His brother on the other hand went straight into the koi business helping his father and mother as soon as he left school. 

Although Daisuke did not want to work in the koi business while he was in Tokyo he would always go to the All Japan Koi Show held towards the end of January every year. Over the 4 years he was in Tokyo he started to miss koi and his interest in the business started to grow again. Then two things happened, sadly his mother passed away while he was living in Tokyo, and he knew that this period was very hard for his father and brother and also his father needed an operation on his leg and back. So Daisuke discussed the possibility with his father about returning home to work with koi. Of course his father was happy to have him back, it meant he could have his operation and he would have both his sons working with him. So at the age of 24 Daisuke came back to start work in the family koi business, the year was 1994, and this was the year that I first met Daisuke. 
Martin and Daisuke talk koiAt this time they were breeding Kohaku, Sanke and Showa but they wanted to breed more varieties. So a Japanese koi agent back then called Miya suggested they do Gin Rin Showa and Shiro Utsuri. They bought Gin Rin Showa parent koi from Marusada Koi Farm and Showa from Marujyu Tanaka Koi Farm, they used these koi to start producing their own fish. Back in the mid 90’s the main busiest time for their business was spring and the autumn so their father Yaichi decided to send both his sons to work on other koi farms in Japan to gain experience. Toshinori went for 2 winters to work at Sakai Fish Farm in Hiroshima while Daisuke went to Momotaro Koi Farm for a whole year in 1997 after his father had recovered from his operation.

Maeda Momotaro and Yacihi were friends (they still have a good working relationship with them to this day) and actually Momotaro had been a customer of Yagenji Koi Farm. In 1994 Maeda had started his business and by 1997 was already producing high quality koi. So it seemed the logical choice for Daisuke to go and work there for a year. Daisuke learnt a lot in that year while at Momotaro especially he said with the growth rate and size of Tosai between the south and their farm in Niigata. So after one year he returned to the family business, and with his brother and father the business continued to grow. 

In 1999 I invited Yacihi to come to the UK and visit my facility back then, and the following year 2000 Daisuke came also. Daisuke can remember it was his very first time to fly and leave Japan and although he had a great time with me in the UK he thought it was a very long trip. One thing that sticks in his mind was he saw his Shiro Utsuri at my facility and saw they had developed excellent Sumi due to the hard water we had. That was way back in 2000 and since then he has not left Japan (he is not keen on flying) but rather leaves it to his brother who has now been to Singapore, Indonesia and Holland.

In 2000 they also built their large koi house, which to this day houses their amazing koi. In 2004 they made Yagenji Koi Farm an official company and at this time Yacihi made Daisuke the boss, although still to this day Daisuke explains that his father still oversees everything. Watching the two brothers work, you can clearly see they get on really well together and enjoy working together. Daisuke got married 15 years ago his wife also works in the business and now they have two sons aged 13 and 11. While Toshinori is also married, with one daughter who is now 6 years old. Toshinori lives in a place called Takea where they have another fish house.   

Martin Daisuke Nik while filming at Yagenji So Daisuke became head of the company in 2004 the very same year the earthquake hit the region. When the earthquake hit on the 23rd October 2004, he was in the family house washing his son. After it stopped he came outside to see cracks everywhere, no electicity and devastation across the area. In the end he was left with 1500 Tosai from 15,000 Tosai, from Nisai they had already harvested 80% of their fish and only managed to keep 20% of them and their remaining fish in the mud ponds had all been lost, as all their mud ponds had been destroyed. He managed to keep these few remaining koi alive for over a month, which allowed the government to repair some of the roads so that he and many other breeders could move their koi to other areas. In Daisuke case he sent his remaining fish to their long time friend Momotaro in Akoyama and closer to home Suda in Katakai. Sadly he had saved only one female of their parent koi a Kohaku while he still had about half is male parent koi left.

Like so many other breeders at that time he thought the koi business was finished in the area and it took him about 6 months watching how the government where helping to rebuild everything that he realised that may be they could start again. It took two years to fix everything, the old family house had to be taken down and they moved off the hillside and down the road about 500 metres where they built a new much larger family home right next to another large koi house. This koi house used to be run by a hobbyist but after the quake he stopped and this allowed Daisuke to take it over and is now used by them.

It took over one year to repair his mud ponds little by little and this allowed him to start bringing his koi back also from Momotaro and Suda. He also for the next 2 years bought fry from both these breeders to grow. He got new parent koi and with the few 3 to 4 year old Tategoi he had managed to save he started breeding with these.  

Yagenji 3 yr KohakuNow since the earthquake he feels it has taken them 10 years to get back to normal. Although he still feels that the best quality koi they had was just before the quake and it will take a further 3 years for him to feel that their quality will be as good if not better than then. They breed 11 different varieties, which include Go Sanke, Gin Rin Kohaku and Showa, Doitsu Sanke, Kujaku, Goshiki, Karasogoi and also Kikusui. Their business is now a staggering 80 to 90% export and 10% into the Japanese market. Although his high quality koi sales are split 50/50 between Japanese and foreign hobbyists. One thing that he has seen over the years is that foreigner’s appreciate high quality koi more and more which can only be a good thing.

Over the years their fish have won prizes in all the major koi shows in Japan, from Grand Champion at the Wakagoi Show for a 60cm Sanke, in the Nogiyosai Show although he had sold the fish a Sanke to another breeder it attained Grand Champion. In the All Japan Koi Show held in Tokyo his Kikusui have twice won best in variety and a Sanke won the Kokuryu prize. His dream for the future is to win Grand Champion at the All Japan Koi Show (as is every breeders dream) and knows if he works hard and keeps producing high quality koi then his dream may well come true.

Today Yagenji Koi Farm is growing from strengh to strengh, their fish are extremely popular world wide and always sell out. Their parent koi consist of 60 females and between 100 to 120 males, which they use about 20 pairs each year. They have 80 mud ponds (Tosai 50, Nisai 23 and big ponds 7). Each season they have between, 10 to 15,000 Tosai, 2000 Nisai, 200 Sansai and about 50 Yonsai to sell.

He enjoys doing business with foreigners and can also speak a small amount of English; I have had the pleasure of knowing Daisuke since 1994 and his father since 1981. Daisuke is always so interested in what I do and is one of the few breeders that has a good insight into the differences between how breeders from the south and Niigata differ, which I will be writing about in a later article. Daisuke and Toshinori’s warm friendly approach to all customers can not help but want you to do business with them. 

So Daisuke and his brother may be 7th generation of the Ishihara family in this area but because of Daisuke’s sons there is the 8th generation already waiting to take over from him and although Daisuke would love his sons to follow in the family business he assures me that he is not waking them up at 4am in the morning to help him like he and his brother was all those years ago.

Thursday, 07 July 2016 15:10

Calculate dosage rates

Written by

If your Koi fall ill it’s important to use the right treatments in the right doses – so, with the help of health expert Bernice Brewster, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to common ailments and their treatments 

As a Koi Keeper you will often need to accurately calculate or convert the capacity of your pond, which is especially important when you’re adding medications –  here’s a list of every measurement you’ll ever need…

how to koi measurements

When your Koi are ill it can be a worrying time and you will want to do all that you can to make them better as soon as possible. Common diseases can be identified by every Koi keeper, although diagnosis of many parasite infections requires the examination of mucus samples using a microscope as it is important to accurately identify any disease in order to apply the correct treatment.

Treatments are most effective when applied to the whole pond and tend to be most active during the first four hours after they’ve been added to a pond. It is good practice to follow up any pond treatment with partial water changes on subsequent days to remove any residue from the medication. You must always be careful when adding any medication to a pond and take great care to weigh or measure the treatments accurately.

Screen Shot 2016 07 07 at 15.27.53

Screen Shot 2016 07 07 at 15.18.32

Wednesday, 01 December 2010 13:52

Understanding sight - Koi eyes

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Understanding how your Koi’s fish senses work could go some way towards keeping them healthy and happy, as Craig Baldwin explains in the first of his series of articles, starting this month with the eyes…


While the importance of water quality has long been recognised as the single most important factor to influence the health of Koi, the role of the senses, and their influence on the ability of Koi to interact with their environment, is thought to be the most important factor to enable any fish to survive, and even thrive, within their aquatic environment. In this series, I’ll be looking at the various ways in which Koi use their senses to help protect themselves – starting this month with eyes.

Sensory awareness

Although the aquatic environment has a number of similarities to the environment in which we live, fish have evolved over millions of years to hone a range of senses that enable them to detect the smallest change in pressure, taste the presence of food particles in minute quantities and even observe the slightest movement of prey or predator. Unfortunately, while these finely tuned and specialised senses make fish perfectly adapted to surviving the many threats and hazards that are associated with natural waterbodies, they can present a potential threat to the long-term survival of Koi that are retained within the close confines of an ornamental pond. Consequently, you should be extra aware of the role of the senses in maintaining the health and welfare of your fish.

How the eye workshow koi eye works

As humans we have evolved to regard sight as our primary sense, and regard our eyes as being particularly sensitive to detecting any changes in light intensity or colour. Koi have evolved eyes that have a remarkably similar structure to ours but with a number of adaptations. These changes enable them to be much more sensitive to the unique, challenging and constantly changing light environment that is associated with an aquatic environment. 

One of the properties of light is that it will refract or ‘bend’ when it moves across a surface. Consequently when light enters water and is refracted, it produces a slightly distorted image. Similarly when light is refracted as it enters the human eye, a lens is stretched to focus light onto the back of the eye where it is processed into an electrical signal and transmitted to the brain, which then assembles it into an image. This specialism has resulted in the human eye being extremely effective at producing a detailed image when it is in its natural environment, but producing a distorted image when our eye tries to focus on an underwater image. 

Lens and retina

While the overall structure of a Koi eye is similar to ours, Koi have evolved a unique adaptation to their eyes – the lens is attached to the back of the eye by both a muscle and a specialist ligament. This enables the lens to move forwards and backwards, rather than being stretched, in order to focus light onto the retina at the back of the eye and produce a focused image of what the
fish sees.

"While the overall structure of a Koi eye is similar to ours, Koi have a unique difference – the lens is attached to the back of the eye by a muscle and specialist ligament."

The retina of a Koi is similar to a human’s in that it contains both rods and cones, and can process both black and white and colour images. However, unlike the terrestrial world of the senses, the intensity and colour (or spectrum) of light experienced by Koi is very different to what you see when you open your eyes. 
Cloudy eye can be caused by trauma, lack of nutrition, eye flukes or even exposure to bright lights Colour spectrum

Most of you may be aware that the colour, or spectrum, of light is strongly influenced by water. Many of the colours that you take for granted within your environment are effectively filtered out when they pass through water. This effect explains the reason why the light appears to be very dull and predominately blue at depths of 10m or over. However, the comparatively shallow ponds in which you keep your Koi do not appear to result in any substantial reduction in the spectrum of light that your Koi experience. In fact, many researchers believe that Koi are able to perceive the same range of colours that you can. However, despite having the ability to perceive a range of colours, the intensity of light that they perceive does have a far more dramatic impact upon their vision than you may be able to appreciate.

Light that hits the surface of a pond at
right angles to the surface will penetrate straight through. However, any waves or ripples at the surface of the water may cause even light to be refracted or reflected. Similarly, light that enters the water from a low angle (such as when the sun is setting or during the winter) may result in up to 80% of light being scattered at the surface. Accordingly, the intensity of light experienced by Koi can vary to a much greater extent and far more quickly than we experience on land.  

This extreme variation in light intensity appears to have a dramatic impact upon the ability of Koi to use their vision to interact with their environment. Research suggests that during periods of high light intensity, Koi are able to use specialised cells (known as ‘cones’) to recognise and perceive colours within their environment. 

However, as light intensity falls or changes, these specialised colour-responding cells or cones become unresponsive and Koi rely upon the retinal cells that are able to produce black and white, rather than colour, vision. The black-and-white receptor cells are known as ‘rods’. Accordingly, many researchers believe that, while Koi are able to perceive and react to colour, their primary visual perception during periods of low intensity illumination is in black and white. >

Light management

The knowledge that Koi can perceive colour images during periods of high light intensity, and black and white during periods of low light intensity, may not seem to have many implications for Koi keepers. However, the visual perception that Koi have during periods of low light intensity is very similar to ours, in that it is remarkably sensitive to light. When Koi have become acclimatised to low light levels for an extended period of time, the light sensitive rods can become completely overwhelmed by any sudden increase in light levels and temporarily cease to function, rendering the Koi almost totally blind. 

Koi can become completely overwhelmed by any sudden increase in light levels and their eyes may temporarily cease to function.

When placed in this situation, Koi immediately begin to panic and begin an intense stress reaction that will not only lead them to try and swim away rapidly, but may also have a detrimental impact upon a range of bodily functions such as digestion, reproduction and even immune response. Koi may smash into structures within their vicinity, causing severe levels of physical damage to them. Consequently, turning on any pond lights after a period of darkness, the sudden illumination of a security light or even rapidly opening up a box that has been used to transport Koi can literally become life-threatening to your fish.

The angle of light  

The angle of light entering a pond may also have an impact upon the behaviour and even health of Koi. Most fish have evolved a pattern of behaviour that ensures that their backs are pointing directly up to the sun, exposing their lighter-coloured stomach to any potential threats or predators that may be lurking beneath them. This form of behaviour is known as phototaxis. As the surface of the water also appears to be lightly coloured when viewed from below, their light-coloured stomachs provide effective camouflage against being detected by a predator. 

During periods of deepest winter, when the sun shines into a pond from a low angle, you might see your Koi swimming at an angle with their backs pointing directly towards the sun. Similarly, an intense patio light that is located next to a pond, or a pond light that shines in on an angle, may result in the same, sometimes alarming form of behaviour. I have known Koi keepers to be so alarmed at seeing their fish swimming at an angle that they immediately begin to net and check them. In one notorious example, a Koi keeper had just introduced a pair of new fish and observed this strange ‘angled’ swimming behaviour when he turned on his pond lights to admire his new purchases. He immediately caught his fish, returned them to their source and threatened all sorts of legal action over what he considered to be ‘diseased’ fish. When he returned to the store the next day, he was amazed to see his fish happily swimming around. Luckily, the fish retailer saw the funny side of this situation and allowed the Koi keeper to take his fish back. Unfortunately, the Koi keeper in question is still faced with a barrage of good-natured banter regarding the unusual behaviour of his fish whenever he enters
the shop! 

A guide to health

An understanding of the physical structure of the eye is considered by many successful Koi keepers as an important, or even vital, indicator of the health of their fish. A healthy Koi has a spherical eye with a clear, dark-coloured lens, often described as having a strong or intense lustre or glaze. Any variation or change in the shape, colour or lustre could be an indicator of a health or welfare problem and you should act on it immediately. Look for defects like bulging eyes when you’re buying a Koi as they will likely mean that the Koi is injured or ill.

Any fish with an apparent defect within its eye is, at best, likely to become an inferior competitor to other Koi in the same pond and, at worst, may be seriously injured or even harbour a number of parasites. Accordingly,
carrying out a close inspection of the eye of a Koi before you actually purchase it
is likely to be a valuable exercise for any Koi keeper.

Any fish with a defect in its eye is likely to become an inferior competitor to other Koi in the same pond and may even be 
seriously injured.

There are a range of health issues that may have an impact upon the shape, structure or even colour of the Koi eyes, summarised in the boxout below. There is, however, an unusual parasite infection that impacts upon the eye of Koi that I would like to discuss. While this parasite is still relatively uncommon in Koi-only ponds, I have observed an increasing number of incidences associated with Koi that are retained in larger, mixed species ponds or lakes.

The eye fluke

Eye flukes are parasitical flatworms or flukes that are capable of affecting the eyesight of Koi and making them significantly more prone to attack or predation by fish-eating birds. The fluke has a very complex life cycle that involves eggs being excreted in to a pond by an infected bird. These eggs then hatch into free-swimming larvae that are then capable of invading any snails that exist in the water. These larvae then use the snail to multiply, leave and actively seek out a fish host. Once they have located a suitable host, the larvae penetrate the fish and migrate to their eyes where, if they are found in significant quantities, they begin to affect the ability of Koi to see. The infected fish will then tend to swim towards the surface of the pond and are unable to avoid the attentions of any fish-eating birds. Birds then eat the fish, and the life cycle of the fluke is repeated. This orfe is suffering from eye flukes which, fortunately, are not that common in the Koi world

Luckily, the life cycle of this fluke is so complex that Koi keepers can help to reduce infection by removing one of the stages of its life cycle. Luckily, control methods such as discouraging fish-eating birds from visiting ponds, eradicating snails or simply avoiding the purchase of infected fish have proven to be extremely successful. Unfortunately, treatment of infected fish is almost impossible.

Sight and sound

While vision is an important sense, the physical nature of the aquatic environment does present the senses of Koi with an additional series of challenges and opportunities. The aim of my next article is to review the sensory role and impact of sound and pressure in the underwater environment of Koi and discuss how the associated senses of touch and pressure reception
may influence the behaviour and health of their fish.

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