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Basic Considerations in Koi Breeding



When starting a koi breeding or koi propagation program, several aspects must be carefully taken into consideration by the prospective koi breeder (note that in this article, the term 'breeder' may refer to either the person breeding the koi or the koi being bred).  Some of these important considerations are discussed below.


1.  The Brood Stock.  The term 'brood stock' refers to the group of koi that is used for breeding and propagating new koi.  It goes without saying that proper selection of the brood stock is very important for the success of any koi breeding program.  All koi spawners must be healthy and sexually mature, i.e., they should at least be 2 years old.  They must have absolutely no genetic deformities and must possess all the good qualities of excellent koi -  perfect body conformation, excellent color quality, balanced pattern distribution, graceful movement, etc.



Koi are prolific breeders, with a single female capable of producing hundreds of thousands of eggs.  As such, a breeding program doesn't need a brood stock of enormous size to produce sufficient quantities of fry.  It is therefore logical to put emphasis on the quality of the breeders rather than the quantity.  The only problem with having limited brood stock is the possibility of genetic inbreeding, so care must be taken to avoid this situation.


The size of brood stock required for breeding depends on the goal of the program. A hobbyist can get what he or she needs simply by pairing two nice koi, while a commercial koi farm that needs to produce millions of saleable fish must have around 100 females and about the same number of males.


2.  Propagation.  Many of us experienced seeing their first koi fry swimming in the main pond itself.  Indeed putting a bunch of healthy male and female koi in a pond with good-quality water and some plants can lead to koi spawning and, consequently, the arrival of baby koi.  This is not a good way to propagate koi though.  Fry almost never survive in such an environment because they become dinner for their elders first. Fortunately, koi experts have already come up with other ways to propagate koi more efficiently.


Many hobbyists mimic natural koi reproduction under a more controlled environment, following these basic steps: 1) selection of the female and male (2 males may be used but not more than this) for the breeding; 2)  preparation of the spawning area including the installation of adequate spawning materials; 3)  'conditioning' of the spawners prior to breeding;  4)  introduction of the 'ready' male to the 'ready' female; 5)  monitoring of the spawning until the eggs are released onto the spawning material and fertilized by the male; 6)  removal of the breeders (or the eggs) from the spawning pond; and 7) adjustment of the pond parameters (e.g., aeration) to achieve successful incubation and nursing of the fry.  See also:  Basic Koi Breeding Method.


Many advanced koi breeders, however, now employ what is known as the dry fertilization method, wherein a tranquilized ripe female is manually stripped of her eggs, which are collected in a clean, dry bowl.  This is done by gently squeezing her belly under dry conditions.  The sperms of a koi male are then collected in a beaker by similar methods.  The milt in the beaker is then poured into the bowl of eggs so that the sperms can fertilize the eggs.  The fertilized eggs are then deposited onto the spawning material in the incubation pond.



3.  Egg Incubation.  At this point, the fertilized eggs of your prized koi breeders must already be attached to the spawning material, whether this is immersed in an outdoor spawning pond or in an indoor incubator or hatchery.  Regardless of egg incubation environment, the water quality must be monitored and maintained at optimum levels at all times.  Experts recommend a water temperature of 22 to 25 deg C during incubation.  Adequate aeration must be provided but it should not disturb the water.  And of course, as any koi hobbyist knows, the water must be clean. Some breeders don't provide filtration during incubation so as not to agitate the water.


4.  Nursing of the Fry.  Once hatched, the fry are liberated from their confinement, but become exposed to the harsh realities of the outside world.  If they are in a well-planned koi fry nursery when they hatch, then they are lucky enough not having to worry about being eaten by predators (mainly their parents).   Newly-hatched fry can't swim well, so water turbulence must be kept as low as possible without sacrificing aeration and filtration requirements.  The larvae must likewise be provided with high levels of illumination since they are dependent at this point on vision to catch their food. Food supply must also be ample once the fry have hatched.  The fry may survive on microscopic organisms in a mature pond.  In an indoor hatchery, live food such as Artemia (brine shrimp) nauplii may be used. 


See also:  Basic Koi Breeding





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