I selected through the May 15 kohaku spawning last weekend, and found 229 keepers out of 960. That’s a little under the 280 I kept at the same stage last year which were taken from around 500.
Quality wise – it’s very difficult to compare. I have more tanchos this year compared to last; I think there are around 10 or so this year compared to 2 last year. And – of the type of fry that already has a well defined pattern with good quality red evident; I had perhaps 2 or 3 last year, and around 5 this year.
A few pictures of the keepers:
And, some video of the keepers:
I remember last year thinking that apart from the 1 or 2 obviously good ones – the rest looked a bit iffy. And then 6 months on, and we realised that the overall quality was good, and there are at least 20 that looked really good. I just hope the same transformation happens this year….
With so many fish removed from the tank, the tank looks sparse, and this always happens after a thinning out. But that extra space will help the 229 keepers push on, and we need them to grow well over the next 6 months if we’re to have decent sized tosai next spring. They’ll be filling out the tank in no time.
I’m also aiming to have some decent examples in size 1 which will help me enter fish into more show classes. I can then use the summer to bring on the best ones up to a larger size.
The other news is that we’ve been reflecting on the year, and our project objectives. And, we’ve decided the time is right to whittle down the number of varieties we are going to attempt to breed to pretty much just Kohaku. I will keep one breeding set of shiro, and one breeding set of Showa. The showa set is the set from Shintaro, and we’re still waiting for the female to spawn. The shiro set is made up from one of our shiro females, and a pair of males that have proved themselves in the spawning situation. The main effort from now on will be with Kohaku, and that focus means we can adjust things around that particular aim.
That’s started with selling most of our non-kohaku brood fish. We have some lovely examples of shiro, showa and even a shusui that we’d hung onto this long, but they now have to go so we can recycle that money into more kohaku brood fish – at the very high quality end of the spectrum.
Another change we’re making is around our rearing approach, and even our tank set ups. Here’s the background -> the first point where you can select with kohaku is at the 1 inch size. And the keeper rate is low; 5% seems to be good.
Reflecting back on the beginning of the breeding season this year – we started with a fantastic kohaku spawning, with very high fertilisation rate and high hatch rate. We had at least 100k hatchlings one week after the spawning; we proceeded to put them all into one of our fry ponds which seems to have the capacity to rear between 20k to 30k fry to 1 inch, if everything works well. when I look back now... we could have made better use of that spawning.
To really get behind breeding kohakus, and dealing with the low keeper rates at first selection - and getting behind the issue that you can only select once the fry reach an inch - this means, when we get a good spawning from a proven brood set, we need to be able to rear all 100k hatchlings. And at the moment, we're not able to do that.
We could use both fry ponds outside, and that would get us half way there which is good, but will not take us far enough. So, we’re going to experiment with rearing some hatchlings in recirculation tanks in the polytunnel next year. The aim will be, that when we have a great spawning and hatch rate, we want to rear the majority of hatchlings to 1st selection size – with some in the fry ponds outside, and others in recirculation tanks in the polytunnel.
So, in short – next year – when we have a really good spawning – we will put as much effort as we can into rearing the whole batch, and perhaps not run any other spawnings that year. That probably wont change the amount of effort I have to put into the project compared to the previous year, but it's using that time slightly differently.
If you're one of the people who ask us whether we will have Shiro or Showa fry, I'm afraid the direction I'm taking the project in means we may not spawn those varieties. … I will retain a shiro and showa set – and what I’ve found in 3 years of breeding koi is that each year is different, and perhaps we’ll need that extra variety at some point. But – specialising in Kohaku is the way we’re going to give ourselves the best chance of achieving my long term aim, which is to regularly produce koi that win competitive prizes at koi shows in all the sizes up to the mid ranges.
As I write, it's Sunday night and in a week and a half's time I'll be on a plane to Japan! Can't wait :-)
And to close, a picture of my son - helping me catch up the fish in my vat at the All England Show a couple of weeks ago.... He did a great job :-)