I recently started watching youtube videos about Koi, those insanely expensive carp from Japan. I think after hours and hours of experts explaining beauty and breeding, I think I roughly got the general idea. I’m still a hopeless amateur, of course, I don’t even know a fraction of what there is to know and I couldn’t evaluate the beauty of one Koi against the other even if my life depended on it. I just wanted to know how Koi are bred, how they are raised. I understood some of the citeria for beautiful fish, but that doesn’t mean I’m able to apply this very rough knowledge of mine.
That being said, let’s continue.
In a way it’s no different than breeding a pure bred dog: you’re aiming to produce a creature that has very certain features we consider “beautiful”. Breeding Koi does seem much more… heartless than breeding a dog or a cat. A carp lays thousands of eggs at once, a dog will have probably something between 3-10 puppies depending on the breed and how lucky the breeder was.
Therefore, you have a whole lot more babies to choose from when breeding fish and let me remind you this is entirely about beauty. You have this huge pool of offsprings and this is still a business. Businesses function after the laws of demand and suppy. People want beautiful Koi. A Koi that is not up to the standard is something nobody wants. It’s worthless to the point that you can’t sell it. People don’t want big ugly fish and Koi are big fish. Therefore, raising thousands of fish that are not up to the desired standard is a waste of money.
When breeding dogs, even the ugly ones usually somehow find a home and on average you will need to find homes for round about 5-6 puppies. That’s a whole lot easier than finding homes for 5-6 thousand fish of undesired color, pattern and body structure. As you can imagine, Koi are being selected very very strictly. Farms don’t want to waste money on raising ugly fish nobody wants. So what happens with the undesired fish? I’m not 100% sure, but I read somewhere the undesired ones from early selections are used as food for the bigger ones.
A beautiful Koi is being treated like royalty, an ugly Koi (which is most of them) is not
even worth living. I understand why Koi farmers do what they do, it just seems very extreme, especially at the stage of the very early selections where most of the Koi are being selected out. After they’ve reached a certain age and size and survived a few round of selections, farms will keep the “Tategoi” (the best ones) and sell the rest off, but they can’t do this at the early selections.
Breeding Koi is basically a game of luck you play with nature. You produce a whole damn lot of something in the hopes of getting a substainable amount of good individuals, a couple of great ones and maybe one champion. The rest, the thousands of siblings not good enough, are an unwanted byproduct.
Koi are extreamly beautiful fish. Chances are very high I will never have a Koi pond, but I can’t help being fascinated by these carp. The strict selections, the harsh nature of their breeding, the insane care the good ones receive, it’s all part of the fascination of Japan’s (and maybe the world’s) most beautiful fish.