Milestone in sight

I went on a trip with my koi club ("Kangei Koi Club") a week ago to three koi dealers in Kent; Koi Waterlife, Koi Waterbarn and Select Nishikigoi. The cold weather and snowy start didnt hold us back, and a few of us even skipped lunch to spend that little bit of extra time looking at koi.

I saw lots of koi at nissai and sansai that looked good and I couldnt help compare against what I have coming through. And, I've actually come home relatively optimistic about what I'm growing on, particularly with my best few.

The other take away was - and this has crept up on me - I am looking at fish differently to how I used to look at them before I started breeding koi. Firstly, when i was looking at the koi, and there were lots of pretty ones with good deals available - and a club member asked me whether I was tempted to buy any. The truth was that there were lots of koi that I could have been tempted with, and some of the deals were really appealing - but I found myself saying, "I'm breeding my own koi these days..." and I am always on the look out for fish to breed from, but my intention is to use those as parent fish so that I can produce my own pretty fish - rather than buy the pretty fish.

The other thing was that when I was looking at the red on the go sanke, I couldnt help but mentally relate each different type to particular individual baby kohaku's that I've been growing on. I've realised that the experience of breeding my own fish isnt just teaching me more about koi husbandry, but I'm also picking up lots of koi development points - watching my koi develop, it's like subliminal learning. Don't get me wrong - I've so much to learn, but that koi trip was the first time I realised that I've started to pick things up because of the breeding project.

Cold weather has made it difficult to keep my heated ponds in the polytunnel at sufficiently high temperature for optimum growing on conditions

In terms of my tosai - they continue to grow well, and many of the May 14 batch are closer to 40cm than to 30cm. The largest 2 or 3 will probably reach 40cm by the end of Feb. I measured one yesterday evening, when I was taking a few routine skin scrapes. And it measured 38cm. The main problem I've got now is the cold air temperatures - it's limiting the capacity of the air source heat pumps and I can't get the pond above 20 C right now. it really needs to be 24... And it's not been at that level consistently in 2015 - in fact, I think it's only hit that level for a few days during 2015. So I've swapped foods to use up my wheat germ and lower protein content food until the temperatures warm up, and then I'll swap back to the higher protein grower food.

With such good growth, and with 40cm tosai a milestone soon to be achieved - I'm thinking ahead to a nissai growth forecast. Nissai above 50cm would be good - above 55cm would be fantastic. there are problems on the horizon though because I'm going to run out of tank space in June when I should be harvesting new koi babies but lets cross that bridge when I come to it. I could really do with 1 more tank dedicated to growing on nissai and sansai. It would be a stretch to fit it into the polytunnel - but possible. But I could do without the cost to be honest. I'll see how the season goes, and how many fish I think are good enough to warrant that kind of special growing on care, and then I'll take it from there.

In addition to the growth - I'm starting to see the red come through and refine in a pleasing way too; the only thing this batch struggle with are the patterns. There are some nicely patterned ones, but no where near as many as a proportion of the batch compared to the Jul 14 spawning. Some of the pattern defects I'm seeing in my fish were also present in lots of the fish I saw on our dealer trip, which is a reminder that there are always compromises to be made when selecting koi - and I shouldnt be so hard on myself if I see a red blob on the nose, or some red creeping below the lateral line in parts of the pattern.

Here's a diary video from my IP of the May 14 kohaku tank - I've overfed them, and the water is a bit murky - but you'll get the overall gist of where they're at.

Click for video link: video link

Other news.the females (brood fish) are sensing the seasons moving along, and they're asking for food each time I walk past their tank. Bear in mind their not heated, and is sitting at a chilly 5C to 6C at the moment. But, they do like a bit of food - so i'm feeding sparingly.

I moved on some of the tosai that I selected out back in November; there were some some at 6-8 inches, and some at 8-10 inches - and thank you to everyone who took some. I need to start selecting through the heated growing on tanks for a new batch to make ready to move on - and I may start this weekend. My time is split because I need to whittle down the numbers in the growing on tanks, but I also have to finalise the material for talks at Kangei Koi Club and South Downs Koi Club which I've delivering next Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon respectively. I'm also a bit late finishing off an article for Koi Carp magazine, so there's that to do as well. Must try and get through all of that this weekend....