"A Growing Experience"
Inspired by the experience of keeping tategoi in growing ponds in Niigata, I decided to try to create a similar situation at home here in Washington state.
I wanted to create a growing pond where tategoi that had been purchased in the spring, could be grown properly without the hassle of sending them back and forth to Japan. Because we had the ponds, this would provide us a first hand opportunity to observe how koi develop.
The soil in my area is very similar to the sandy soil of Isawa in Yamanashi that is supposed to be good for raising showa, but because of incredibly good drainage coupled with a high water table, I resorted to lining my growing pond with a butyl rubber liner. One of the advantages of using a butyl liner, is that the black absorbs the heat and helps to keep the water warm in Seattle's notoriously cool, wet weather.
With a 65,000 gallon pond completed and ready for stocking, I consulted with several Japanese breeders regarding an appropriate stocking level. The consensus was that, given my goal of growing out high quality yearlings, no more than 25 koi should be kept in the pond.
In the last week of May 1995, when the water temperature in Seattle finally reached 65F, we were at last ready to test the powers of our new growing pond. After a 1 hour bath in potassium permanganate, 25 yearlings from some of the finest bloodlines in Japan were released into the pond. The smallest of the group were about 5 inches long and the largest were just under 10 inches.
The koi that quickly established itself as the "leader of the pack" so to speak, was a stunning 9 inch Shiro Utsuri owned by Bill Blackburn of Federal Way, Washington. Bred by Mr. Iitsuka of Matsue Nishikigoi Center and purchased from Pan Intercorp, this Shiro Utsuri acted as if the pond belonged to her.
With an immaculate white background etched with a pitch black sumi pattern, it seemed almost impossible for this koi to improve any further. Her only flaw, if indeed it could be called a flaw, was an excessive amount of black in the left pectoral fin and the tail.
As the season progressed, all of the koi grew at an impressive rate. The pond had been constructed with a depth range of 4 to 8 feet to ensure the development of body confirmation, and water was circulated at a rate of 100 gpm to provide a vigorous current for the koi to exercise in.
Water quality was maintained with the assistance of an excellent product used in mud ponds in Japan called "Bio Healthy", and by adding fresh water at the rate of 2 1/2 gpm.
By the last week of September the nights had become brisk and the water temperature had fallen considerably. It was time to harvest the growing pond. Much to their owners' delight, all 25 koi emerged safely and now measured between 14 and 17 inches.
The Shiro Utsuri now measured a full 17 inches and had improved immensely. The excessive black in both the tail and the pectoral fins had receded into a classic "moto guro" pattern, and the body confirmation was impeccable.
An ecstatic Bill Blackburn took his koi home to winter over in his 10,000 gallon cement pond which he keeps heated to 72F. Despite rather crowded conditions in Bill's pond, which is a problem with which many koi keepers can identify, the Shiro Utsuri continued to grow, reaching almost 20 inches by the end of May 1996.
On June 1, 1996, this incredible two year old Shiro Utsuri took Best In Size Division 5, in the 1st All American Combined Koi Show at Koi America '96. Her amazing development over the preceding 12 months provides proof positive, that tategoi can reach their full potential anywhere, given the the proper care and environment.
Inspired by the success of our first "growing" experience and at the urging of Bill and some of the other participants, Pan Intercorp now has several "growing ponds" with a total of over a quarter million gallons of recirculating water.
All this dedicated to tategoi, and the theory that more is never enough.