August 28, 2006

They’re not goldfish although they are distant relatives; they’re young koi—carp. Tank upon tank of koi in various stages of maturity can be found at Lilypons Water Gardens in Maryland, and mature koi swim in the waterlily beds on the 300 acres of property.

Nishikigoi meaning brocaded carp refers to the beautifully colored and patterned fish that are prized in freshwater ponds. They can grow to as much as 36 inches in length, and you can pay anything from a few dollars to as much as several thousand for a koi depending on size and rarity.

Koi appeal not only to people, but also to predators, especially the blue heron. When you pay big bucks to stock your fish pond, the last thing you want is someone stopping by on the lookout for a meal, so as well as providing rocks and other hiding places for their fish, some owners dot fake koi around their ponds. (I guess you could call them “dekoi,” and I bet any number of people already have.) They are amazingly realistic. Made of plastic and nd suspended on a nylon filament anchored to the bottom of the pond by a weight, they move with the water currents and appear to be swimming. But one beakful and the blue heron stalks off in disgust.