Patience, risk and reward

More often than not people would see this type of koi as a high risk koi. When trying to assess Tosai and predict their future so many factors come into play. In this post we’ll be looking at Sumi in particular.


When we look at young immature Sumi, we always try to look for signs as to how the Sumi will develop in years to come. Sumi that falls on the white ground versus Sumi that falls on the beni at this age will always appear different, it is a good starter for when we’re trying to assess the future Sumi. The Sumi that falls on the beni effectively has an extra layer of colour to it, this extra layer can give us a false impression that the Sumi quality is actually very good.

What we need to consider is how the Sumi looks on the white ground, and try our best to predict how this Sumi will finish once it has developed. Try look for a few scales of really high class Sumi, even it’s only half a scale. Look below the lateral line or along the dorsal ridge. If there is one or two scales of really high quality Sumi on the white ground, then there is a good chance that it’ll finish nicely, especially when the colour sits within the root of the scale, opposed to the outer edges of the scale. When I mean high quality sumi, this isn’t sumi that is simply pure black, it’s black that has depth to it, black that is glossy. Sumi/skin like this can only be appreciated in the flesh, FACT.

If for example the Sumi on the beni is good, but there is no sign of high quality Sumi on the white ground, this type of koi can often be seen as a higher risk. This doesn’t mean that it will never develop, it’s just very hard to predict. Koi like this are interesting when it comes to pricing, from a buyers point of view you may think that because of it’s risk factor, it should in theory be cheaper. However, it’s a type of koi that IF it all comes together and develops/finishes properly then it’ll be a seriously stand out koi. The whole package is complete. For this reason it could be a lot more expensive than one initially thought.

When Koi finish and from a show point of view, consistency of colour plays a huge part. The same colour and lustre to the colour all the way down the koi can make or break a Koi, but is sometimes over looked. This goes for any colour we see on koi. Finished Sumi that is the same throughout the koi, be it on the beni or on the white ground is of high importance.

So… coming back to the koi below. In the Tosai photo, looking at the sumi on the koi, there really isn’t many hints as to the quality of Sumi. It’s relatively hard to predict what’s going to happen…however…

There is one area of the koi that can sometimes go unnoticed. An area of the koi that often has a direct link to future Sumi development. Yet also an area of the koi that may not even exist until later life. Motoguro, the sumi in the pectoral fins. This type of Motoguro as Tosai can sometimes be the only indication as to Sumi quality, things to look for is of course the colour, the depth of colour, but also the strength and boldness to it nearer the ball joint. In lower quality specimens you’ll often see Motoguro that nearly covers the entire fin, and often lacks the intensity of colour.

To keep Koi you need patience. Showa can take years to fully bloom into masterpieces. Try not to look at Koi in a negative light, try to take the positives from a Koi, especially when it comes to Tosai. Assess Koi with a view to the future and what potentially could happen.

Next time you bowl one of your koi and think to yourself, “I need to move this on”. If you have the pond space, give it another 12 months. It may surprise you and finally come together, at least it’ll give you a better idea of the direction it’s heading.

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