Jewels of the pond: Aesthetics of Japanese koi fish enrapture enthusiasts

Japanese koi fish of assorted colours ready to be sold as pets.

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By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Nov 30: For generations, the various colours and patterns displayed by Japanese koi fish have tickled the imagination and inspired fish lovers to cultivate the unique variety of carp in ponds around the world.

Commonly known as Japanese koi fish or ‘Nishikigoi’ in the Japanese language, this ornamental aquatic creature belonging to the Amur carp species have become popular pet fish.


Gone are the days when the fish thrived in lakes and rivers throughout Japan, and were commonly treated as a source of protein.

These days, Japanese koi fish are bred for aesthetic purposes and usually kept as pet fish.

It thrives in captivity and are treasured for their elegant form and stunning colorations when viewed from above.

The Japanese people have even dubbed the brocaded fish as a ‘swimming jewel’ because of their beauty.

Recently, this writer met up with a Japanese Koi fish enthusiast and a dealer here in the city, Kelvin Sim Jia Wei.

Kelvin Sim Jia Wei has been selling and importing the exotic fish for over 12 years.

Sim said he had been a dealer and has been importing Japanese koi fish direct from Japan for 12 years.

“I have always loved Japanese koi fish from a young age, and now I am a dealer for some of the finest varieties of the ornamental fish in captivity,” he explained.

“I am not a breeder, but I sell the imported fish to customers who seek out the Japanese koi fish to keep as pets.

“There are Japanese koi fish enthusiasts here in Kuching, and there is a demand for the pet fish here,” he said.

Sim said he had all the pure species of the Japanese koi fish in captivity from Japan like the Kohaku Koi (colourations of white and red), Showa Koi, Sankei Koi (colourations of white, black and red), and the combination of the three species, the Gosanke Koi.

An Utsuri Koi htat is often dubbed as the ‘Tiger Koi’ due to the resemblance of its scalation and colouration to that of a tiger’s hide.

He further disclosed that the best habitat for Japanese koi fish in captivity is in cold water climates.

“Such an environment is the best habitat for the fish, and it can influence the quality of the fish’s scale colour.

“In captivity, a mature Japanese koi fish can fetch a price of not less than RM10,000 and upwards.

“These Japanese koi fish are of course of a premium breed and ideal for competition if you fancy joining such events,” he added.

Sim lamented that in the last two years, they had not organised any Japanese koi fish competitions due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have invited Japanese experts here before to judge such competitions, and we hope that we can organise more such competitions in the future,” he said.

Sim also explained that such fish also must be fed a specific diet so that it remains healthy and able to showcase bright colourations.

“The Japanese koi fish that enter such competitions are treated with a special fish diet that we import too from Japan. The diet makes their colouration more vibrant.

“There is also a specific vegetable-based koi diet that is fed to the fish to control its body weight,” he added.

Sim then debunked a myth that Japanese koi fish can live up to hundreds of years old.

“From my experience, the fish can live up to 15 years in captivity.”

According to Sim, the Kohaku Koi can grow up to one metre in length, while a single colour fish can grow even longer than that.

He revealed that a female Japanese koi fish is much bigger and less vibrant in colour while the male is smaller and tend to have more vibrant colourations.

Gosanke Koi are one of the most sought after species.

It takes three years for them to mature, while the most sought after species is the Gosanke Koi.

“These aquatic creatures are so beautiful and peaceful when they swim together in a school. They swim gracefully, and Japanese koi fish don’t harm each other even in captivity.

“Nature has a way of making us fall in love with such creatures, and to me, the Japanese koi fish is not only kept as pets in ponds or water gardens for an aesthetic reason.

“They have the ability to teach us to live in peace and harmony together like them in our respective environments,” he said.

For further inquiries regarding Japanese koi fish, call Sim at 017-8998687. — DayakDaily