The Koi goldfish is not actually considered a goldfish, even though it is a domesticated version of a cold water Asian carp. The Koi goldfish is a domesticated version of Cyprinus carpio, a fact which makes it a very close relative to the goldfish. While the goldfish is the result of Chinese breeders, the Koi is however a Japanese fish. Cyprinus carpio belongs to the genus Cyprinus within the family Cyprinidae. The name “Koi” is simply the Japanese word for carp, and was originally used for the wild Cyprinus carpio (Common carp). In Japanese, the correct term for an ornamental domesticated is actually Nishikigoi, but the word Koi has made its way into English and is therefore commonly used to describe the Koi goldfish all over the word.

Koi goldfish breeding is believed to have begun in 19th century Japan, probably in an effort to mimic the Chinese goldfish. The traditional centre for Koi breeding is the Niigata Prefecture, a region located on the Honshu island. Carps which due to naturally occurring mutations were more brightly coloured than normal carps were collected in rice fields and used for selective breeding. In the wild, bright colours are usually a bad thing for a carp since they will make the fish an easy target for predators. When raised in sheltered ponds, the brightly coloured carps could however survive and reproduce. By the 20th century, several different colour patterns had already been established among Koi goldfish breeders. Among them was the Kohaku colouration; a red and white colour pattern that is still very popular among Koi keepers in Japan as well as in the rest of the world.

In 1914, Koi goldfish was displayed during the annual exposition in Tokyo and this caused the Koi to become famous throughout Japan. Koi goldfish was also given to Crown Prince Hirohito, and soon Koi keeping became extremely fashionable in the entire country.

The keeping of Koi goldfish did not really catch on outside Japan until the invention of the plastic bag made it possible to transport Koi goldfish more safely. Faster shipping methods, such as airplanes, did of course also play an important role here. Today, Koi is commonly found in pet shops all over the world. Devoted Koi goldfish keepers will usually purchase their Koi goldfish directly from breeders or specialist dealers to ensure high quality.

Koi goldfish is often kept in outdoor ponds, but it can do well in aquariums too. You should however keep in mind that a Koi goldfish from a good bloodline can reach a size of 3 feet (90 centimetres) as an adult. The common carp is a durable cold water fish and the Koi goldfish has inherited a lot of its strength and adaptability. The pH value should however be kept between 7 and 9, preferably around 8. Koi goldfish is very sensitive to acidic water.

Since the Koi goldfish is a coldwater species, it will prefer a pond where the maximum dept is at least one meter, since this means that the fish will have access to cooler water even during really hot summer days. If you live in an area where the summer temperatures can go up very high, you should dig a pond that is 1.5 meters or deeper. The same is true for areas where the winter temperature can go below the freezing point. You can also use a heater to prevent the pond from freezing solid. It is also a good idea to keep an opening in the ice, e.g. by inserting a bubbler.

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