This article, written by Armiel de Torres, was first published in issue 5 of Nishikigoi Digest International.

Armiel is a Koi collector from Quezon City, Philippines. He is a qualified nurse who has worked in the UK. He helped organise the first ‘Fun Koi Show’ with PALHS and subsequently the Kois and Ponds Philippine Koi Show. He shares the hobby with his son and daughter and has, in his words, ‘won a few best in variety, best in size and judge’s choice awards’.

Armiel is a Koi collector from Quezon City, Philippines. He is a qualified nurse who has worked in the UK. He helped organise the first ‘Fun Koi Show’ with PALHS and subsequently the Kois and Ponds Philippine Koi Show. He shares the hobby with his son and daughter and has, in his words, ‘won a few best in variety, best in size and judge’s choice awards’.

What is the perfect body shape of a Koi? Should one possess a female body shape? We have always asked these questions. We also are ‘taught’ to appreciate the female body shape as it is said to be the most ‘ideal’. We have to now understand that because of better breeding practices and strict selection process as to which oyagoi should be paired, even male Koi nowadays have a better chance of developing the ‘ideal’ body shape.

This article is my personal insight about conformation. While I am in no authority to say and claim that what I say here is correct, the following thoughts are my own and that I am still in the stage of understanding and learning more about the subject. I am not a restrictive teacher or a selective learner either. I tend to gather all that there is available to get then filter and understand what is factual and acceptable. I understand that not everything we see or read on the Internet is true, neither not everything written by so-called ‘experts’ in Nishikigoi can be accepted and believed as ‘gospel truth’. I’m no expert here, just like everyone else I’m also a novice trying to learn, but here’s my personal view about the subject.

All the Kohaku below are 85 centimeters long and over, the titles and achievements that these Koi have already won for them are written below their images.

Nogami Koi Farm 2010 Rinyukai All Japan Grand Champion 2011 Jumbo Champion All Japan Combined

Nogami Koi Farm
2010 Rinyukai All Japan Grand Champion
2011 Jumbo Champion All Japan Combined

Sakai Fish Farm 2011 ZNA All Japan Grand Champion 2011 and 2013 All Japan Combined GC

Sakai Fish Farm
2011 ZNA All Japan Grand Champion
2011 and 2013 All Japan Combined GC

Dainichi Koi Farm 2012 Niigata Nogyosai Grand Champion 2013 Rinyukai All Japan Grand Champion 90bu Kokugyo 2014 All Japan Koi Show

Dainichi Koi Farm
2012 Niigata Nogyosai Grand Champion
2013 Rinyukai All Japan Grand Champion
90bu Kokugyo 2014 All Japan Koi Show

Muto Koi Farm 2011 All Japan Combined Show 90bu Kokugyo

Muto Koi Farm
2011 All Japan Combined Show
90bu Kokugyo

Takigawa Koi Farm 2008 ZNA All Japan Runner-up

Takigawa Koi Farm
2008 ZNA All Japan
Runner-up

Sakai Fish Farm 2012 Jumbo Champion All Japan Combined 2012 ZNA All Japan Grand Champion

Sakai Fish Farm
2012 Jumbo Champion All Japan Combined
2012 ZNA All Japan Grand Champion

Muto Koi Farm 2008 Rinyukai All Japan Grand Champion

Muto Koi Farm
2008 Rinyukai All Japan
Grand Champion

If all these Koi were to compete against each other, which do you think could possibly win to be the very best among them?

Judging by the photos alone it’s very difficult to say. Pictures (and videos), most of the time are deceiving that’s why we are told to avoid choosing or evaluating a Koi based only on how they appear on photos. Colour tones, hue and contrast can be easily manipulated in order to make one appear brighter or better. Some people buy, or order, their Koi online without even seeing the Koi in the flesh. Personally, I believe that you have to personally appreciate and see the fish before acquiring it, unless you really trust and know your dealers personally. For the Kohaku above, the best points that we could probably appreciate based on the photos are body shape and patterns. Anything more than that is very difficult and will be inaccurate. But, for these eight Kohaku, they have already been seen and judged to be the best, if not perfect, representatives of what Nishikigoi really is. We just have to trust the breeders/judges who adjudicated them during the shows.

Appreciating these Koi visually, they may all have different body shapes, head sizes, beni types and quality of shiroji, but they are said to represent the best of their own class. That is conformation. Some appear a little slimmer than the other, while some are a little too thick. One thick Koi could not have won against a slimmer Koi or vice versa if not for its proper proportions. Conformation gives us that impression, that is, the entirety and totality of the body. Here, we’re only looking at the length of the fish but we ought to know that the girth and depth of the body is also being looked at and taken into consideration in order to adequately appreciate the Koi as a whole.


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All these Kohaku were spawned from different bloodlines. Even those that came from a single breeder could not have the same body shape or conformation. The bloodline is what makes the fish genetically, how the fish conforms to the ideal skin quality, color characteristics, body shape, mass and conformation of its particular bloodline is how we should appreciate it.

One will say, in appreciating a Koi, we have to look at conformation first. We hear others advocating to choose only the Koi with thick tail tubes. In numerous Koi shows, conformation carries a huge weight in appreciating and differentiating which among those contending for a prize is the best fish to win. But, we have to take into consideration the age of the Koi in order for us to say that the conformation is what it is supposed to be. Koi age and grow in different manners and that means so do their body shapes. A Female will not have its typical bulk until it reaches reproductive age because not until then will it carry or develop the egg sack which is responsible for making that mid-section expand. That is one reason why, at the All Japan Koi Show, all Koi (male and female) in 50Bu and under are judged together, while those over 50Bu are judged separately. In choosing which Koi will have the better chance and probability of developing a very good body shape to size ratio, we have to understand and learn something about its genetics. Other than conformation, we ought to appreciate Koi for the best skin quality, but not all Koi will have the same type although their breeders will say that the Koi they produce has excellent skin quality. Each bloodline has a distinct skin trait (or color) that defines its very own characteristics when compared to other bloodlines, just like body shape. Those that came from Dainichi with bright white base may have a type different from Miyatora which is a little fleshy coloured. The reason why we call it ‘shiroji’ is because it encompasses a huge range of qualities of the color white (shiro). Likewise, the red that one breeder produces may be very deep and thick as crimson but the other, soft light orange or persimmon.  This is the reason why we hear different terms used to describe red, for example aka, beni or hi.

So we should not restrict ourselves from only choosing the thickest red or the whitest white because that is the one thought and perceived to be the best. More than anything, we ought to understand the bloodlines of what one breeder produces and appreciate the traits these bloodlines are known for like body shape, color depth and skin quality, etc., in order for us to have a greater understanding of what we are really looking for in a Koi. A breeder may produce Koi from different bloodlines – Dainichi’s XJR produces Kohaku with a slimmer but not thin-looking body shape with a thick rich Kagura beni than that of the massive and thick offspring of Rikidozan. But when crossed, the result produced the best from both bloodlines. One of those offspring purchased as nisai became the 2012 ZNA SoCal Grand Champion.

According to Shawn McHenry of Mystic Koi and Water Gardens in California,  ‘Learning to appreciate Koi isn’t always about chasing perfection.

And if I may sight Mark Gardner in one of his blogs about his conversation with Mr. Shigeyoshi Tanaka of Maruju Koi Farm, he wrote; ‘Shigeyoshi made a comment that too many hobbyists restrict themselves to only buying Koi with ‘show patterns’, neglecting other aspects of appreciation. He stated that hobbyists should not restrict themselves with such rules but buy Koi that they like, their purchases should reflect their individual personality.’


 


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Now, how is this one for conformation?

“Yokozuna” Jumbo Champion & Best in Variety Kohaku 38th All Japan Combined Nishikigoi Show (2007) Breeder - Sakai Fish Farm Oyagoi - Rose Symbol (Sakura Bloodline) Owner - Richard Tan (Singapore)

“Yokozuna”
Jumbo Champion & Best in Variety Kohaku
38th All Japan Combined Nishikigoi Show (2007)
Breeder – Sakai Fish Farm
Oyagoi – Rose Symbol (Sakura Bloodline)
Owner – Richard Tan (Singapore)

For us who have and can only see this Kohaku in photographs, the most recognisable trait we automatically notice is that thick body. We may never be able to describe her adequately as we are restricted by the picture, thus, our appreciation is likewise limited. But, here is a better alternative to help us out. Written by no less than Mike Snaden (Yume Koi) himself, he said this in his article in Koi Carp Magazine:

This Kohaku is extremely beautiful indeed. I heard comments about the head being a little misshapen, as if it had tram-lines in the top of it. However, I found this very easy to overlook, as the koi has so many good qualities.

This Koi has a very attractive and balanced pattern. The beni of this Koi is incredibly beautiful, with wonderful teri (gloss or lustre). Each and every scale of kiwa (trailing edge of pattern) is razor sharp, with most of it being maruzome (scalloped), and the sashi (leading edge of pattern) was absolutely perfect, with no weakness anywhere. This Koi has some truly precious qualities. The body is perhaps a little plump for my liking, but she carried it just so well, with her backline being perfect, and bellyline that showed no signs of pulling in tight where the pelvic fins are.

Commentary from INPC:

The appeal of this Koi is the big, sumo wrestler-like body conformation. What first catches the eye is the ‘dynamic yet graceful swim’ that this body produces. The head and body are wide, the tail cover is also well-fleshed, and this excellent body conformation has the figure of a log. This Koi is a good example of why Koi are called the ‘King of Ornamental Fish.’


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The pattern is not a simple nidanmoyo (two step). The two patches between the first and second hi plates are well-balanced and make this Koi very unique.

There may be Koi lovers who dislike red eyes in a Koi, but this Koi’s body conformation and patterns are qualities that cover such faults.

Just imaging the elegant swim of a Koi with this kind of body conformation gives one thrills, which is one of biggest reasons this Koi became the Gigantic Koi Division Champion.

 

“Red Queen” Jumbo Champion & Best in Variety Kohaku, 90Bu 43rd All Japan Combined Nishikigoi Show (2012) Breeder: Sakai Fish Farm Oyagoi:Beauty Rose (Sakura Bloodline) Owner:Felix Denanta (Indonesia)

“Red Queen”
Jumbo Champion & Best in Variety Kohaku, 90Bu 43rd All Japan Combined Nishikigoi Show (2012)
Breeder: Sakai Fish Farm
Oyagoi:Beauty Rose (Sakura Bloodline)
Owner:Felix Denanta (Indonesia)

Commentary from INPC:

“Everybody who sees this Kohaku first say, ‘Wow!!’.


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It is very rare to see such Kohaku giving a very strong impression and strength. So big, so powerful!

Breeding such great body conformation keeping the beautiful color and pattern cannot be realized without the superior breeding technology as well as everyday’s care.”


All of the Koi featured below are Kokugyo winners of the 43rd All Japan Combined Nishikigoi Show held in 2012. (Pictures courtesy of Steve Gibbins (www.Koi-Media.com))

Takachio Koi Farm, Superior Male 2012 All Japan Koi Show

Takachio Koi Farm,
Superior Male
2012 All Japan Koi Show

Koi Doraku 85bu Male Kokugyo 2012 All Japan Koi Show

Koi Doraku
85bu Male Kokugyo
2012 All Japan Koi Show

Momotaro Koi Farm 80bu Male Kokugyo 2012 All Japan Koi Show

Momotaro Koi Farm
80bu Male Kokugyo
2012 All Japan Koi Show

Momotaro Koi Farm 75bu Male Kokugyo 2012 All Japan Koi Show

Momotaro Koi Farm
75bu Male Kokugyo
2012 All Japan Koi Show

Yasuo Horikoshi 70bu Male Kokugyo 2012 All Japan Koi Show

Yasuo Horikoshi
70bu Male Kokugyo
2012 All Japan Koi Show

Isa Koi Farm 65bu Male Kokugyo 2012 All Japan Koi Show

Isa Koi Farm 65bu
Male Kokugyo
2012 All Japan Koi Show


 

In judging Nishikigoi, all Koi within size classes 12Bu up to 50Bu are adjudicated together regardless of gender. As such, each of the category will have one winner, the Kokugyoshō or simply Kokugyo (Best in Size).

However, at 55Bu and beyond, males and females have their separate classes of their own so that there are two awards given in a size class, i.e. Kokugyo Male and Kokugyo Female. One reason suggested for the separation of the sexes is that females at this size start to show their usual bulk because of the start of the reproductive development. This development explains the increase in girth and width of the female body compared to a typically slimmer more slender male conformation. Or so they say…


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The Koi with photos seen above are all male. I included the pictures of the 65Bu, 70Bu, 75Bu, 80Bu, 85Bu Kokugyo, and the Superior Male Champion, mainly because, for me, these Koi tend to contradict what we believe is true to the male Koi. I intentionally left out all other class winners (55Bu, 60Bu and 90Bu). When most written articles tell us that after 60Bu male beauty tend to go downhill, these males have bodies that are wide and that their overall conformation tend to be at the same level (if not better) than their female counterparts in the same award category.Special mention for these male Koi are two from Momotaro Koi Farm owned by Eisaku Kato, the 70Bu and 80Bu winners. It seems that these two have been taking home the same award year after year. That 80Bu Kohaku alone has taken the Kokugyo since 2008 at 70Bu.  Another Koi worth mentioning is the 65Bu winner bred by Isa Koi Farm. Personally, I thought at first glance and in watching the videos that it was female. Apparently it was in fact male.

Of course, the best male of them all is the one pictured below.

Bred by Takachio Koi Farm and owned by Felix Denanta of Indonesia, this male Kohaku is over 90 centimeters.

Superior Male Champion<br> 43rd All Japan Combined Nishikigoi Show (2012) Breeder: Takachio Koi Farm Owner:Felix Denanta (Indonesia)

Superior Male Champion
43rd All Japan Combined Nishikigoi Show (2012)
Breeder: Takachio Koi Farm
Owner:Felix Denanta (Indonesia)

INPC says;

“This Kohaku looks female but it is male. Very deep beni, high skin quality and clear kiwa. Male Kohaku having such total quality is really great and surprising.”

I would not be surprised if one day this Kohaku becomes a very sought after male Koi for breeders and hobbyists alike.


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Again, all these are my personal insights and opinions. Thanks for reading. Happy Koi hunting everyone!

 


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