Dazzling fish have their own pageant

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Area koi show showcases pedigreed carp

By Ada Lang

Flashing their incredible colors and swishing their flowing tails, approximately 68 koi, 47 goldfish and their 7 owners
dazzled roughly 300 visitors recently at the 10th Annual Koi and Goldfish Show, hosted by the Nature’s Coast Koi Club.
The event was held Oct. 9-10 at the home of Johnny and Martha Foster of Old Town. 

Visitors came from as far as Tampa, and North Carolina — while the judges came from Illinois. Crystal trophies were
awarded to the top winners and ribbons to the runners up at a banquet. Showing koi and goldfish is a serious matter for these folks and their trained eyes can spot the best of the bunch. Not only size, fin and tail shapes, but even scale patterns can determine who is (or is not) a winner.

For the Fosters, things started out 18 years ago as a simple desire to have a fish pond that was originally stocked with bream (also a carp), catfish (another type of carp) and bass (not a carp, but a perch). That progressed to raising and showing comets, a type of goldfish, and koi that grow to over 24 inches long at the age of 7.

A series of ponds and tanks house not only the fish but also turtles. Bird cages dot the shaded property — housing doves and parrots. Johnny Foster quipped, “Now I just can’t go anywhere without coming home with a fish." In Japan, the hobby of raising koi has been elevated to a fine art and while the average life span is 75 years for a koi, one was documented in Japan as being 120 years old and was passed down within the family the way we would pass
down an antique piece of furniture. In the United States, such long-lived fish are less common and “they will live until the owner kills them”, according to Johnny Foster.

The myth that the fish will only grow as large as their containment, is just that: a myth. In reality, dirty water and poor quality food, is the main reason that they do not grow to their optimal size. A fish in a small tank but in clean
water and good quality food will grown until it simply cannot even turn around — although that is not recommended.

So, if you are thinking of starting out small, with just a few goldfish, beware of how large this hobby can grow and call Johnny or Martha Foster for some advice. They can be reached at 352-542-8925. Also, consider joining the Nature’s Coast Koi Club. If you missed their show, there will be another one at Kanapaha Gardens in Gainesville the first weekend in November, so break out the fish bowl.