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 A Brief History of Appreciation

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civ_20
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PostSubject: A Brief History of Appreciation   Fri Mar 04, 2011 5:12 am

Nishikigoi History: A Brief History

Koi are descendents of wild (common) carp that have been selectively bred for color, pattern, size, body shape, scales (or lack thereof), and personality.


From Wild- Taming the Jewels
The wild carp originated in the freshwaters of the Caspian, Black, and Aral Sea drainages; they moved eastward with human help to Siberia and China and westward to Europe and the Danube River.

Some common characteristics include the following:
It gets big, nearing 50 inches.
It isn’t a picky eater.
It’s prolific, even under crowded conditions.
It tastes good.
It’s a movable feast.

It was precisely the wild carp’s flavor and its ability to adjust to captive conditions that led to the development and breeding of koi (the Japanese term for domesticated carp). In a country that had minimal access to large domestic animals such as cattle, carp also became a valuable source of protein.

The overall hardiness of the koi suited it perfectly for the process of domestication. Unlike many fish, carp proved to be quite undemanding in terms of water quality, oxygen levels, and diet. As a result, they were able to adjust to a variety of habitats throughout Japan and could breed readily in captive or semicaptive conditions.

From Food To Art

As the years went by, the koi-keepers in Japan couldn’t help but notice any oddball carp. As with any captive breeding program, spontaneous color and body shape aberrations cropped up from time to time. For example, the first unusual color was the red in a Magoi’s belly scales or at the bases of the fins. Occasionally a Magoi developed white areas or yellow-brown coloring rather than greenish-black. Koi-keepers started putting these brighter fish aside and breeding them to each other through several generations.

By 1830, the Magoi-keepers were experimenting with the cross of a white carp with a red carp, and the Japanese term koi had expanded to nishikigoi (brocaded or colored carp) to describe the new domestic version. Note: Today, if you go to Japan or buy fish imported from Japan, you’re looking at nishikigoi; when you buy koi raised in other countries, you’re simply buying koi. The difference is a little like buying chocolates from Switzerland (nishikigoi) or chocolates from your local grocery store (koi).

The Japanese koi breeders soon realized how lucrative breeding and selling koi destined for the dinner table could be. Some breeders started keeping journals of their nishikigoi, carefully recording the colors and shapes.

But as koi also became valued for their appearance, the koi with especially favored traits commanded a higher price than the koi intended for food. Interest spread among the Japanese people, fueling the desire for ever more beautiful and unique strains of koi.

From Art to Hobby

The popularity of koi within Japan flourished after an association of koi breeders held an exhibition of Japanese products in 1914 that included 25 of their prettiest nishikigoi. The concept of a food source that was easy to raise and pretty to boot was irresistible.

More koi breeders set up mud ponds. Nishikigoi went international in the 1960s, when the development of the polyethylene shipping bag for tropical fish meant breeders could ship live fish by air anywhere in the world. For the first time, anyone who really wanted a koi (and had the money) could have one. The poly bag even made it practical for koi fanciers to travel to Japan to pick out their own koi and then ship the koi directly to their homes. As a result, this undertaking that was once unique to Japan has been transformed into a major new hobby with enthusiasts throughout the world.

Courtesy: Koi for Dummies
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