A 3ft 3ins Koi called S Legend has sold for $1. 8 million in Japan, exceeding the previous world record by more than $1 million. Of the Kohaku variety, the fish was purchased by a collector from Taiwan following a bidding war in Hiroshima.
Grand Champion Koi
S Legend was sold by breeder Kentaro Saki and had previously won the top award, Grand Champion, at the All Japan Koi Show. There's no prize money involved at the show but the prestige of winning is enormous. S legend is favourite to win for a second year.
Colouring is considered to be the most important attribute of koi although judges and enthusiasts also consider size, body shape and graceful movement in the water when valuing the fish. It is also vital that the fish look healthy. The best specimens have an excellent balance of colours and patterns according to their particular variety.
Koi bloodlines and colour cells
Bloodlines are highly prized and are the result of decades of selective breeding. Koi possess six types of colour cells in their skin. These cells can be red, yellow, black, white, blue, or metallic. For a fish to exhibit the reddish-orange pattern that S Legend boasts, breeders must select for fish which have white bodies and many red cells concentrated in large patches. The colouration is much-loved in Japan as the colours are important to the country's culture and represent joy and purity. They are also the colours of the Japanese flag.
Brighter koi are worth more
Colour cells in koi can sit at different depths in the skin. The depth of the colour cells determines how bright the fish appears to be. The brighter the koi, the more it will be worth. As koi can produce hundreds of thousands of offspring, breeders must choose which fish to raise with care if they are to maximise their profits. They don't have enough pond pace to rear every fish for years.
One in a billion fish
In the case of S Legend, the breeder waited 9 years before selling the fish. His patience was certainly rewarded and yielded a huge return on his investment. But S Legend is a one in a billion fish. There will probably be koi which are sold at higher prices in the future, but not many! The new owner will now be able to breed the female fish which has the potential to produce up to half a million eggs. These should yield roughly 5, 000 young koi which are good enough to sell on.
The Kohaku variety of koi is a white-skinned fish, with large red markings on the top. To be the perfect Kohaku, the white area must be completely pristine without any discolouration or yellowing. Kohaku means red and white and was the first ornamental variety to be established in Japan. The country is the largest producer of koi in the world and 90% of the fish are exported.