There Is So Much More Than Meets the Eye, As I Learned

Honolulu hosts an annual Koi show, usually in conjunction with the Japan Nishikigoi Expo, which I imagine must make it a best of the best’ type of show for Koi owners, breeders, enthusiast, or people like me who just like to look at them. So I was intrigued enough to go the Waikiki Aquarium for the afternoon to look around and attend a lecture by Japan’s expert Mr. Tetsutaro Kataoka. He only spoke Japanese, so what I try to explain below has to be tempered with three degrees of separation – from him to the interpreter to me and my hard of hearing left ear.

Koi show’s sponsors, a blue ribbon, & auction list

I know nothing about Koi, but do see them them often at some of our Hawaii Hotels, so every bit of the history he provided was extremely interesting. While original grey Carp probably came out of China, it was the Japanese who started noticing mutant patterns and colors that immerged while they kept them in their rice paddies as a convenient food source. Thus started the early selective breeding to bring out the best of them for beauty and the lucky pretty one’ would be send to the fish pond instead of the kitchen. One amazing fact in the breeding process is that a new color combination or pattern can spontaneously show up in a koi whose direct genes might be quite unremarkable. And the color can disappear almost as quickly if lineage breeding does not continue. But the Japanese were able to control the breeding to produce major pedigree lines, which today’s show pieces can be traced directly to.

I also learned that most consumers who purchase for their ponds will always first look at pattern for criteria in picking one. But in the shows, which this event was, the grading for prize ribbons is quite different:

  1. how they swim and move in water
  2. the quality of the skin and color
  3. dream’ or their future potential for the breed and lastly
  4. pattern.

They are pieces of treasured art, living masterpieces, symbols of peace, and can live for decades with the right care.

koi on left is world famous & locally owned others are a joy to see

It was an interesting part of the show to see that many of the Koi that were for sale had been listed on a special page on Ebay to be put up for live bidding during the event over the weekend. Right next to the pools of fish was a table of computers connected to the auction site, with picture of the inpidual Koi, specifications and beginning price.


I looked over a bidder’s shoulder to see that many bids were starting in the $1800 – 2000 range. This morning I checked Ebay out again and there still were some of the lesser expensive specimens left (about $200 + or -) that you could bid on if that interests you. But the next tent over had pools of baby koi, 3 or 4 inches long for about $5 – 25 each. I was immensely impressed at how well the sold fish were handled during the transfer from pool to bag. These guys knew what they were doing and took this work seriously. They were so quick I couldn’t even get a snap shot of the process!

Next year, if you are visiting during this time and would like to restock your koi pond, I’d suggest this as a good event to put on the calendar. The fish are shipped worldwide, so that’s not a problem. I think the problem would be choosing the right one. It’s an investment for sure. Such a gorgeous one, though.


  1. The world famous Koi in the picture is kinda blowing my mind.  I had no idea that Koi were actually just colorful carp that we developed through aesthetic husbandry.  I have appreciated Koi for years, so maybe some Hawaii travel is in store for the next Koi celebration!

  2. I can't believe how expensive some of the grown fish are, wow!  Many hotels have them on their grounds, Koi are very popular in the islands!

  3. Glad you had fun and learned a lot! And Just so you know The ones at the Show were beautiful but The "All Japan Show" I went to in January in Tokyo are a Whole step above.

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