Koi fish
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The fabulous koi fish, which now can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars each, had a very humble beginning. Although usually associated with Japan, the fish originated in the cold waters of central Europe and Asia (China) and were a food fish.

There are several varieties of Carp, and the Koi is a member of the Amur carp species. The Amur carp is quite boney and is usually only eaten in stews.

The Chinese introduced Carp to Japan during invasions around 200 CE. However, the story really gets started in the 17th century, when rice farmers in the Japanese village of Yamakoshi stocked their ponds with fish. They wanted something to go with their rice during the harsh winters. Hard to get to a grocery store miles away when the snow is over the top of your head.

Sometime in the early 1800s, the farmers noticed color variations in their pond fish. White, red, and yellow colored fish began to appear along with a black color fish called the Magoi. The white and redfish were interbred, and they produced the white and white color Koi, now know as the Kohaku. Further breeding led the colors of what is known as the “Big Three” or “Gosanke,” which includes the Kohaku, Showa, and Sanke.

Breeding of fancy Koi remained largely restricted to the Niigata region until the early 20th century. Needing some economic help, the Mayor sent 27 koi to an exhibition in Tokyo in 1914. The fish won second prize and thus began the koi industry that we know today.

Air travel made shipping fish from Japan to other parts of the world, and Koi started to gain worldwide popularity after World War II. From the cold rice ponds, the fabulous Koi are now prized citizens in backyard ponds everywhere.

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