Fun Facts for National Koi Day

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In honor of National Koi Day, I thought I’d mention some facts about koi that you may find as interesting as I do.

The term “koi” or “koi fish” is technically incorrect.

That’s right, just like the name of our favorite megamonster Gojira (not “Godzilla”), Westerners got the name wrong. Our finny friends are actually nishiki-goi, colored carp. If you look up the work “koi”, you’ll find the translation is “love”, and the word refers to the physical act, not the Platonic ideal. Oh well, too late to change now, but at least it’s good for lots of overseas giggles.

The fish we call koi have been cultured and bred for so long that their digestive tracts have partially atrophied.

Only about 60% of the food they ingest actually gets digested, one of the reasons they are such prodigious feeders. (And poopers!)

Koi are not only affectionate but intelligent.

They recognize their owner, come when called and can be taught tricks like ringing a bell for food. Our Miss Piggy was with our family for 17 years and knew all of us by our silhouettes and voices. She would race to us when we approached, lifting her head out of the water to be petted, eagerly taking food from our fingers. When she died after a major snowmelt dumped road salt into our front yard pond, we were devastated.    

Barring accidents or predation, koi can live a long, looooong time.

Here in this country 10-20 years is considered a long life; in Japan the average is closer to 50 years, but under ideal conditions colored carp can live for many decades, even centuries. The oldest nishiki-goi on record, a scarlet fish named Hanako (‘flower girl’) was born during the Tokugawa era of shoguns and samurai. Treasured for her unusual color and affectionate nature, her original owners the Koshihara clan built her a spring-fed pond at the foot of Mt. Ontake in the mid 1700’s. In the 60s, two of her scales were taken and analyzed in a lab. Just like trees, scales exhibit growth rings that can be counted to reveal age. The laboratory determined her birth date to be the year 1751, making her 226 years old when she died on July 7th, 1977 (7-7-77)! National Koi Day, July 7 was created in her honor.

If any of these fascinating facts about our favorite pond pets pique your interest in having a koi pond installed, find an Atlantic-OASE Professional Contractor near you on our Find A Contractor page and stay tuned for our next blog “So You Want to Put in a Koi Pond!”


About the Author:

DEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

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