A few weeks back I had a message from Fabio Ciotti in Italy asking whether I would visit his Koi farm where they were having an open weekend at which some of 2018’s tosai would be offered for sale for the first time.  Several years ago I probably would have made any excuse I could not to visit someone breeding Koi outside of Japan, nowadays I love seeing what people are doing to produce Koi outside of Japan, the old standing belief that only the Japanese could breed quality Koi has long been dispelled in my mind.

Koi Lab (www.KoiLab.it) is located around 10km from the city of Parma, and midway between Milan and Bologna in the north of Italy.  My flight from London Stansted took me into Bologna where I was met by a Koi Lab customer, Fabio Surico, who, with his 2 young daughters, had travelled considerably further to attend the event having driven over 8 hours from Puglia in the south of Italy.

Koi Lab, located near Parma, and in-between Milan and Bologna

Koi Lab, located near Parma, and in-between Milan and Bologna

By the time I arrived the sun was starting to dip towards the horizon on what had been a lovely warm day in Northern Italy, whether which was going to stay for the whole weekend – unlike the weather in the UK which I’d left behind.

A lovely sunny afternoon

A lovely sunny afternoon

The previous couple of days had seen Fabio busily finishing various aspects of the premises, along with harvesting some of the 2018 born tategoi from the semi natural outdoor ponds in which they had been grown.

A number of these were in some temporary pools at the side of the building awaiting selection and photographing.  One particular Showa caught my eye, the sumi on it was quite beautiful, if only it had had a maruten marking on the head to complete the beni pattern.  The sumi quality, inherited from its mother, an Isa Koi Farm bred Showa, was to prove a consistent theme as we looked at more Koi over the course of my visit, more of which later.

Koi Lab Tosai Showa

Koi Lab Tosai Showa

As you can see from the pictures below, the weather was quite glorious on Saturday morning for the open day event.


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The aerial shot from Google Maps gives an idea of the layout of the pictures that follow.  The whole place is a bit of an oasis among some industrial buildings.

Google Map view of Koi Lab

Google Map view of Koi Lab

The central Koi Lab building is primarily home to African Cichlid side of the business.  Inside there is a myriad of different varieties.

African Cichlids on display at Koi LabAfrican Cichlids on display at Koi Lab

African Cichlids on display at Koi Lab

Temporary holding pools contained tosai, and some nisai, which had been harvested in the preceding days and would be offered for sale over the weekend.

Temporary holding pools

Temporary holding pools

The Koi side of the facility was developed in 2015.  Through the torii gate are several inground lined ponds used for raising fry and tosai.

Torii Gate leading to landscaped rear garden

Torii Gate leading to landscaped rear garden

Lined 'semi natural' growing pond

Lined ‘semi natural’ growing pond

The 2 ponds below had been harvested just prior to my visit and had contained tosai from the 2018 spawning.

Lined 'semi natural' growing ponds

Lined ‘semi natural’ growing ponds

Lined 'semi natural' growing ponds

Lined ‘semi natural’ growing ponds

Smaller 'semi natural' pond

Smaller ‘semi natural’ pond

These large collapsible swimming pools will be used to raise fry later in the year.  At the moment these, along with all the bodies of water on the facility were literally alive with daphnia, essential food for the newly hatched and growing fry once spawning has been undertaken.


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Portable swimming pools

Portable swimming pools

The following 2 pictures show the newly completed display pond and deck area.  The raised deck actually just provides a walkway above and cleverly disguises more temporary swimming pools.

Display pond and deck area

Display pond and deck area

Display pond and deck area

Display pond and deck area

Fabio releasing a tategoi into one of the display ponds

Fabio releasing a tategoi into one of the display ponds

The Koi hobby in Italy is very much in its infancy yet a healthy number of enthusiasts had gathered at Koi Lab to see the new Koi.  Many of the same people I understand were at the previous harvest event in November as well, no doubt hoping to get there hands on Koi which were not for sale at that time.

Visitors on the deck area

Visitors on the deck area

Discussing potential purchases

Discussing potential purchases

It was particularly interesting that 2 of the visitors to Koi Lab were also breeding Koi themselves, one of whom was combining breeding with growing vegetables aquaponically, something which intrigues me immensely and hope to start playing with myself.

Discussing potential purchases

Discussing potential purchases

Time for a toast - salute

Time for a toast – salute

Discussing potential purchases

Discussing potential purchases

Bagging up purchased Koi

Bagging up purchased Koi

Bagging up purchased Koi

Bagging up purchased Koi

After the visitors left time to sit and enjoy the pond of nisai and chat with Fabio about the plans for the 2019 spawning season, one in which Showa are likely to feature highly and will start to see the introduction of his own bred Koi back into the breeding programme, a great step for any breeder to be able to do.  There are several nisai Showa in the pond with very strong characteristics which Fabio wishes to build upon.

Fabio feeding the nisai with JPD Shori

Fabio feeding the nisai with JPD Shori

On Sunday we spent the morning photographing Fabio’s tategoi, I’ll talk about these more in the 2nd part of the article, however here’s a sneak peak at some of them.

Tategoi tosai Kohaku

Tategoi tosai Kohaku

Tategoi tosai Showa

Tategoi tosai Showa

Tategoi tosai Shiro Utsuri

Tategoi tosai Shiro Utsuri

I received a message whilst I was in Italy saying that it didn’t look quite like Purdin Koi Farm or Yoshikigoi.  It’s very true, it doesn’t.  However, my reply was that this is even more inspirational because this was realistically achievable in terms of my personal dreams.  I was genuinely impressed by some of the Koi that Fabio has been able to produce in a short period of time, with limited resources, making use of the space he has available.  I can’t help but keep wonder where i can find space to fit 6 large collapsible swimming pools………


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As I said, in the second part of this article we’ll look at some of the tategoi tosai more closely.


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