It seems that every park in Taipei has a pond at its centre. Inside the pond are many fishes, often big koi carps. Carp are known as koi in Japan, so it’s actually wrong to call them koi carps. Koi is fine.
Koi carps are ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp that are kept for decorative purposes. They are distinguished by coloration, patterning, and scalation. Some of the major colors are white, black, red, yellow, blue, and cream.
They originate from a domesticated carp species, the common carp. It was aquacultured as a food fish as at least as far back as the 5th century in China. Common carp were first bred for colour in Japan. By the 20th century, a number of colour patterns had been established, most notably the red-and-white Kohaku. The outside world was not aware of the development of colour variations in koi until 1914, when the Niigata koi were exhibited in the annual exposition in Tokyo. At that point, interest in koi exploded throughout Japan. The hobby of keeping koi eventually spread worldwide – and you can find kois in many ponds throughout Asia.
In Taiwan I noticed that many people feed fish, and I thought that this is strange, how can people walk through the city with fish food in their pockets? And then I noticed that there were big human-size fish statues next to the ponds, where you could buy some fish food in a small container to feed the koi. Clever!
I learned some interesting things about kois online:
- Koi are cold-water fish, but benefit from being kept in the 15-25 degrees C range and do not react well to long cold winter temperatures, their immune system ‘turns off’ below 10 degrees Celsius. Koi ponds usually have a meter or more of depth in areas of the world that become warm during the summer, whereas in areas that have harsher winters, ponds generally have a minimum of 1.5 meters. It seems specific pond construction has evolved by koi keepers intent on raising show quality koi
- Koi’s bright colors put them at a severe disadvantage against predators. A well-designed outdoor pond will have areas too deep for herons to stand in, overhangs high enough above the water that mammals can’t reach in, and shade trees overhead to block the view of aerial passers-by (no wonder the ponds look so beautiful with these big tall trees next to them!)
- Koi are an omnivorous fish and will often eat a wide variety of foods, including peas, lettuce, and watermelon (but in Taipei, people fed fish food to Kois)
- Koi food is designed not only to be nutritionally balanced, but also to float so as to encourage them to come to the surface
- Koi can live for centuries. One famous scarlet koi, named “Hanako” (c. 1751 – July 7, 1977) was owned by several individuals, the last of whom was Dr. Komei Koshihara. Hanako was reportedly 226 years old upon her death. Her age was determined by removing one of her scales and examining it extensively in 1966.