The dealer you are buying your Koi from should have a clean facility. A dealer can have a much higher stocking density than a hobbyist since the he holds Koi won't be there for an extended period of time. The tanks that house the Koi should not be over stocked and the should either be placed a few feet apart or they should have a barrier in between. If your dealer has a shipment that is under quarantine, you don't want to purchase a Koi from a tank that is potentially comprimised. The water the fish are in should be clean with adequate filtration to support a heavy fish load.
You dealer should quarantine and perform virus tests on each of his shipments. Avoid any dealers that fly a shipment of Koi in and then immediately offer them for sale.
The Koi you are looking at should be healthy. It should exhibit normal behavior. If you notice the Koi flashing (scratching itself on the side of the tank) avoid it, it could have a parasite problem. Look the Koi over for any visible parasites and ulcers. Inspect other Koi at the dealer, if you notice a lot of health problems with their fish, you may want to go somewhere else.
The following criteria are used to select a beautiful Koi fish:
The body of a Koi fish should be symmetrical, with no physical deformities. Female Koi are prefered over males, due to their body shape when they mature. A mature female with have a large body that has a blimp-like shape. A mature male will have a cigar-like body shape.
The condition of the skin greatly affects the appearance of the color. If a Koi is sick, is malnourished, or if it is in a bad environment, the skin quality suffers along with the color.
Quality of Color
The color should be even throughout the fish. If you were looking at a Kohaku, you would not want spots of red that were darker than others. Keep in mind that the color on the head will look different on the body since it won't be diffused by the scales. Inspect a Koi for any color loss. It will be a patch or part that will look faded. Colors should be strong, for instance, the white should be bright with no yellowing.
The edge of the color pattern should be defined. Blurry edges will look worse as the Koi grows.
Pattern of Colors
The color should be evenly distributed across the top of the body of the fish. A Kohaku with red patterns towards the back of the fish will look less impressive than one with a stepping stone pattern down its back.
Most small Koi have a set price. Larger Koi are priced on an individual basis. Japanese Koi garnish the highest prices. They are show winners and they keep their color because of strict breeding protocols. The majority of domestic (US bred) and imported (Malaysia, Indonesia, China, ect) Koi fish are easily affordable, but often remain small and will lose their color. Be wary of dealers that try to sell you Koi with inflated prices. Often times, they will label the Koi as "imported" or they will sell domestically bred Koi with "Japanese parents" to "improve" the value of their Koi. Any dealer worth his salt will know the source of his Koi.
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