Koi Water Barn, situated in the Kent village of Chelsfield, is a place that has been part of my Koi life back to the very beginning.  Before I could drive I would pester my parents or my brother to take us out on a Koi run to Kent (which even back then, long before the bridge spanned the River Thames, was gridlock getting through the Dartford Tunnel).  Back then ‘proper’ Koi dealers were somewhat few and far between, although Chelsfield, and a few miles around it, was blessed with 3; Koi Water Barn, Kent Koi Kompany and World of Koi.  The latter 2 have fallen by the wayside over the passing of time, however Koi Water Barn is very much thriving.

Koi Water Barn was started by the late John Pitham in the 1980s.  Sadly John passed away at a relatively young age, leaving the business to his son Tony who is the owner today.  Over the years many well known Koi people have been staff at ‘The Barn’ as it is perhaps more affectionately known, among them Keith and Nicky Phipps and Bill and Maureen McGurk (now of Purdin Koi Farm).  Day to day managing of The Barn now falls to Keith Holmes, someone who joined the business as a workplace student from Sparsholt College 21 years ago and never left, assisted by Andrew Logan, another long time employee.

Koi Water Barn advert from June 1988 BKKS Magazine

Koi Water Barn advert from June 1988 BKKS Magazine

In the summer of 1988 this would have been one of the earliest adverts which drew my south across the river to visit ‘The Barn’, back in the day it was somewhat tiny compared to its present area.  The vortex detailed in the advert somewhat dominated the area of sales ponds it filtered.

Sales tanks for small Koi at 'The Barn' - in the late 1980's this was 'The Barn'

Sales tanks for small Koi at ‘The Barn’ – in the late 1980’s this was ‘The Barn’

The image above shows what I recall as essentially being the complete shop when I first visited, the aforementioned vortex being situated somewhere around where the Nexus now sits on the left.

Enough of reminiscing about the olden days, suffice to say that over the years ‘The Barn’ has extended in almost all directions, although the front of the building is probably little changed.

Consumable dry good area

Consumable dry good area

‘The Barn’ has a good range of dry goods available including food from most of the well known brands, although NT Labs Medikoi and the new ‘Vitalis’ food range dominate.


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Koi food

Koi food

Koi Water Barn are distributors for the new ‘Vitalis’ Koi pellets which are somewhat unique in their make up compared to other foods on the market.  Available exclusively as a soft sinking pellet, Vitalis offers; advanced all-season formulation, enhanced growth and colouration, improved water quality and natural, sustainably sourced ingredients.

Vitalis Koi Food

Vitalis Koi Food

As well as the NT Labs range of food, there are plenty of NT Labs medication products available.  John Pitham was in fact instrumental in the formation of NT Labs Koi product range.  In the early days of ‘The Barn’ the wealth of health products, indeed all Koi products, that exist today simply didn’t.  John encouraged Andrew Stagg of NT Labs to expand into the Koi medication market, and the rest is history.

NT Labs 'Koi Care' medication

NT Labs ‘Koi Care’ medication

Pipe fittings

Pipe fittings

An undercover ‘outdoor’ area which used to display a wide range of different vortex and multibay filters available for customer collection is now somewhat redundant, although a wide range of pipe fittings remain available in this space.

Display ponds

Display ponds

As you can see the display ponds above were largely empty, a couple of them housing some small tosai that are presently being grown own.  When I was younger I remember spending lots of time searching through similar ponds of tosai at Koi Water Barn in the hope of finding the special one that the breeder missed.  It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, and how much more I may or may not know about the whole ‘Koi’ thing, still there is excitement of looking at a bunch of feeding tosai like those below trying to spot ‘the one’.

Tosai feeding at Koi Water Barn

Tosai feeding at Koi Water Barn

Tosai feeding at Koi Water Barn

Tosai feeding at Koi Water Barn

Tosai feeding at Koi Water Barn

Tosai feeding at Koi Water Barn

The pond below is the original ‘extension’ to the barn, and a pond which has housed some serious quality Koi over its lifetime which I would guess is now over 25 years.

Main display pond

Main display pond

Keith feeding the Koi in the main pond

Keith feeding the Koi in the main pond

The Koi in the pond at the moment are from Omosako and will soon be moved into the other display ponds pictured above to allow this pond to be used for a large shipment of Koi which will come in from Japan in the next few weeks.


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When this pond was built drum filters and moving bed bio filters were not even ideas in the Koi keepers’ senses.  Nowadays they are of course very much more common place and the units below are retrofitted to the main display pond.  Whilst this pond still runs on the original vortex and matting chambers it was designed with originally, the Oase unit serves both as a demonstration unit, and has a practical purpose.  The drum is actually pump fed from the vortex chamber meaning that a large amount of the solid waste generated by the Koi is actually removed by the drum.  I mentioned to Keith my scepticism about what historically has been a ‘garden pond’ brand, rather than a Koi brand, a company that has created various kinds of glorified box filters over the years, shunned by serious Koi keepers.  It seems that I am not alone being a sceptic, however Keith is happy to praise the units, and even more so the excellent quality of after-sales service and support being offered by Oase.  I have to say that Keith isn’t alone in singing the praises of this unit, several other dealers have also done so to me recently.

Oase drum and moving bed system

Oase drum and moving bed system

Screen of the Oase drum filter

Screen of the Oase drum filter

Oase moving bed filter

Oase moving bed filter

As mentioned, a large shipment of Koi is due soon at ‘The Barn’, with Koi incoming from Sakai Fish Farm, Beppu Fish Farm and various Niigata breeders.  The pictures on the wall adjacent to the main pond displaying some of the Koi which will soon be swimming in it.  You can see these Koi on the KWB website – http://www.koiwaterbarn.co.uk.

 

New stocks due to be imported shortly

New stocks due to be imported shortly

New stocks due to be imported shortly

New stocks due to be imported shortly

There is a small square pond next to the main pond which, likewise, over the years I’ve seen some very special Koi swim in.  Right now it is home to some small tosai from Omosako and Sakai Fish Farms and we bowled some up for a closer look.

Tosai for sale

Tosai for sale

Keith bowling some tosai

Keith bowling some tosai

Omosako Tosai Goshiki

Omosako Tosai Goshiki

Omosako Tosai Goshiki

Omosako Tosai Goshiki

Sakai Tosai Kohaku

Sakai Tosai Kohaku

Sakai Tosai Kohaku

Sakai Tosai Kohaku

Sakai Tosai Kohaku

Sakai Tosai Kohaku

I reckon those 2 Kohaku and the Goshiki would be fun to grow on at £200 for 3.

Thereafter we pulled up some Koi from the main pond.


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Keith bowling a Koi from the main pond

Keith bowling a Koi from the main pond

There was a time when Omosako meant Shiro Utsuri, or Shiro Utsuri.  In the last few years they have very much diversified, as we’ve seen with the tosai Goshiki above.  Below some Kujaku, a Goshiki and of course some Shiro Utsuri, all from Omosako.

Omosako Nisai Kujaku

Omosako Nisai Kujaku

Omosako Nisai Goshiki

Omosako Nisai Goshiki

Omosako Nisai Shiro Utsuri

Omosako Nisai Shiro Utsuri

The Shiro Utsuri below was my pick of the bowl, and at £1095 I thought it represented good value for money, and if you too like it, give Keith a call at ‘The Barn’ mentioning Nishikigoi.Life and you might just get a special price on it.

Omosako Nisai Shiro Utsuri

Omosako Nisai Shiro Utsuri

 

There have been plenty of Koi businesses that have come and gone in the last 30 years, and very few that are still going strong having been around for 30 years.  Koi Water Barn is one of the rare exceptions.  Interestingly the next chapter in ‘The Barn’s’ history may be about to start soon, but that is another story for another day.

With hundreds of new Koi about to arrive at Koi Water Barn in the coming few weeks it is surely worth a Saturday or Sunday drive out to see them for anyone in the South East area of England, something seemingly an ever decreasing number of hobbyists seem to do now that everything is online.

If you want to look online first, the Koi Water Barn website can be found at – http://www.koiwaterbarn.co.uk.


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