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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

April 30, 2013

My Koi Habit

By Elizabeth Creith


I’m hooked on koi, and I can’t kick the habit. If I had stuck to the standard koi we got from our other fish suppliers, I would have been fine. It’s all Julia Roberts’ fault. The first good-quality koi I ever saw were in her freezer.

Maybe I should be clearer about that. Her freezer was full of water, and the only thing plugged in was an industrial-size filter. The koi were swimming around quite happily. As for Julia Roberts, she was not the Hollywood actress but a koi enthusiast in Acton, Ontario, Canada. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to meet her if she had been her better-known namesake. Julia filled a gap in my life and in the pet store.

Every week or two the fax machine spits out the current availability and price list for our livestock suppliers--pages and pages of them, especially for fish. We can buy everything from arowanas to zebra danios. You would think we would not be missing a thing, but you’d be wrong.

Finding the Right Koi Dealer

We didn’t have a koi supplier.

Oh, sure, any fish supplier sold koi in sizes from 3 to 6 inches. Mostly they sold them exactly the same way they sold goldfish, which is to say they scooped; they caught; they shipped. You place your order and you take your chances. That doesn’t work for koi fanciers.

People who buy koi have preferences. It’s hard to fault them for being particular. Koi are expensive, and unlike a bad haircut, which lasts a few weeks, a single koi can live 70 years. If you’re going to have something around that long, it had better go with everything, and you’d better really like it.

We wanted better quality koi, but finding a koi dealer is a bit like finding a drug dealer. You can’t exactly look them up in the yellow pages. You have to know somebody who knows somebody, or you have to be in the right place at the right time. One day at the end of June, 400 miles from home, I took a wrong turn on the way to the highway and drove right past the right place—a homemade sandwich board that read:

Pond Plants

Two minutes later I was drooling over the most beautiful koi I had ever seen, with sleek, shining skin; perfect fins; and clear, symmetrical markings. I was in love. As with any great love affair, there was an immediate roadblock. I knew that no koi fancier in our neck of the woods would shell out the several hundred dollars one of these fish was worth. They might, however, buy smaller fish of similar quality.

"I wish I knew where to get some smaller ones,” I sighed. Julia wrote a name and number on the slip of paper.

"This is my pusher,” she said. All right, maybe she didn’t say precisely that. But you can’t tell me she wasn’t thinking it.

I found Julia’s pusher without any trouble. He had the hard stuff—2-foot-long koi in colors I had only read about in books. He also had a few dozen small koi left in his stock tanks. Even at 4 inches long, they clearly were superior to what we had been getting.

"This is the dregs of the season,” he said. "You need to come in May, when I get them in.”

"I'll take them,” I said. I bought as many as my ready cash would allow, and he packed them up with oxygen.

"So will I see you in May?” he asked. I didn’t have to answer; he could tell from the look on my face that I was well and truly hooked.

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