A water feature is an enchanting element in a garden and it is enhanced by the addition of fish. In the 1800’s the Japanese, who had been raising fish for food, began to breed koi (a species of carp) for their colors, patterns, and body shapes. They were brought to Hawaii in 1939 and are now our most popular pond fish.
An important and comprehensive book on koi-keeping has been recently published – Koi: A Handbook on Keeping Nishigoi by Servaas de Kock & Ronnie Watt. Throughout the book are enticing color photographs of well-designed koi ponds, often including waterfalls which aerate the water creating a healthier environment for the fish.
There are chapters for Feeding, Health Care, and Anatomy, as well as chapters on Koi History and Creating a Koi Collection. This last chapter is a fascinating look behind the scenes at what goes into creating show quality koi that get top dollar (or yen).
The most mesmerizing chapter is the one on Koi Varieties. There are 15 variety groups and everyone has their favorites. The most striking is undoubtedly Tancha Kohaku – pure white with a large circle of red on the top of the head, a living Japanese flag. Koi with metallic luster are extremely popular because of their delightful shimmer in the water. They are called Hikari, the Japanese word for “shining”.
Water quality is the most important factor for koi and it has its own chapter. The authors caution against tap water because of its high chlorine content. A sudden water temperature change of even 4 degrees can have drastic, even deadly, effects for the fish. The chapter on the pond itself is extremely useful, covering such things as the various filtration systems and minimum depth (4 feet).
Firefly Books, Buffalo, New York, 800-387-5085, www.fireflybooks.com, 2006, 1-55407-215-8, 159 pages, color photographs and drawings, paperback, $22.95