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Winter is traditionally the time of year koi shows are held. Koi enthusiasts from all over the country annually converge to the National show in Johannesburg to let their koi compete with the best in the country and engage in koi-speak for a few days. These shows are colourful events, teeming with activity, with koi connoisseurs and novices discussing seriously the merits of show entries, the public watching in awe the magnificent koi on display in the show vats, and a good measure of Chinese and Japanese ceremonial splendour thrown in to boot.

The actual competition event will usually be staged on a Saturday. On the preceding Friday all the koi have to be benched, meaning that each fish is inspected for good health by a veterinarian, photographed, measured and categorised according to its variety. Unhealthy koi are not allowed to enter in order to prevent the spread of disease. On the Sunday of that week-end the awards ceremony takes place and in the afternoon the show is dismantled and all the fish go home.

All the larger koi events are adjudicated by certified judges, usually from Japan or Taiwan. These gentlemen have endless patience and will judge all fish in a particular size and variety category on its merits, and with all the winners moved to winners ponds, will select the Grand Champions in a specific size grouping, and finally arrive at the Supreme Grand Champion which is the overall winner. It takes many years of experience and training to become a certified judge, and foreign experts  will always allow a small group of local trainee judges to participate in the judging process. They may be asked to voice an opinion or make a choice, but the Chief Judge will always have the right to overule any decision.

There are some generally accepted ethics which apply to koi keepers who wish to show their fish at a show. First of these is that though every show quality koi deserves to be exhibited, it will be unfair for the koi with an obvious major defect for which it would be severely penalised irrespective of qualities, to be submitted as entry. It is a humiliation for the koi and his owner alike, and an embarrassment for everyone else. Secondly, the selection of koi entered by a keeper should reflect some skill. As there can only be one winner in any particular size and variety grouping, it will reflect negatively on a keeper that enters more than two fish in such a grouping. Lastly, it is considered rude to comment loudly and proudly how your own fish surpasses others in a show pond. Such discussions and comments must be dignified and never derogatory, as though every koi can hear what you say!

Exhibitors should select from their collection koi that are true to their variety and show the best qualities of colours. The strength of the red, black and other colours are important. The ground colour should be deep. The white as crisp as snow. Koi should not be deformed, have missing body parts like fins or eyes. They must swim graciously and not with a jerky motion. Only then look at the pattern. Select those fish with a striking, different, balanced pattern. Refinement and grace in larger fish, boldness and charm in younger ones....

Shows are open to all, and you need not be a member of the South African Koi Keeper Society in order to participate. There are shows held in all the major centres, from Cape Town to Oudsthoorn. Notification of these shows normally come via the media, but more detailed information will normally be found in the SAKKS newsletters. Being a member of a koi society will certainly prepare the novice and his koi better for participation.


Written for Animal Talk magazine --  April 1997

  Servaas de Kock & Ronnie Watt  

Photo: ZNA

A show quality Koi of the Tancho variety. Needless to explain why the Japanese place them in such high regard.

Even so: a very difficult fish to breed and raise to perfection.

Some Koi Questions.
Basic Needs of Koi 
Creating a Collection.
Improving your Collection
Improving your Collection further
Link to additional information.
Link to additional information.

Copyright 2004-2009 Servaas de Kock
Last modified: 27 September, 2005