I am sure there are many koi hobbyists who interact with their koi and can tell you that koi are nearly as intelligent as dogs. But such stories get lost among more popular articles about koi  beauty, water quality issues, koi health issues and koi food.

Koi are Teleosts or Lower vertebrates. They are more primitive than frogs. But they are intelligent. They are like 2-year old human babies. They can understand us but cannot speak in our audible range. Our koi know most common phrases such as “thank you”, “good night”, “come here”, “stop it”. They know their names and names of other 38 koi in the pond. They even know the sequence of songs on their music CD. They know words that do not point to things. Example: “later”, “thank you”


What is the advantage of having friendly koi?

Friendly koi can communicate with their pet-parents. Our koi rub their mouths against my elbow if their water quality is bad. That is a request for water-change. If a friendly koi is sick, it doesn't hide from its pet-parents. Rather it will lay on the floor where they can view it. I can hand-feed antibiotic powder stuffed Manda-Fu to our sick koi. If a koi is really sick and needs to be isolated, I can hold a plastic bag and ask the koi to move into the bag and it does! No need to treat the entire pond, no need for injections. Koi have poor vasculature. The antibiotics you inject are too powerful and are likely to damage the sick koi’s kidney and liver. Best way to deal with the situation is to diagnose before the koi gets too sick to eat.

Friendly koi are intelligent enough to know who to trust. Our koi wait for my permission to approach visitors for a kiss. They do not take food from strangers unless I ask them to. If they trust their pet-parents, they have no worries about being pulled out from the pond. Our koi growth rate is above average even with very little food (0.25-0.5% of their body weight).

How to find friendly koi?

If you are going to visit the Koi dealer, put your hand in water to see if any koi come to you. Do not offer food. If a koi comes for food, then that koi is a stupid one. It will be the first victim of Blue Heron. Smart koi will watch your facial expression to see if you are trustworthy, not the food in your hand. Koi at the dealers are usually not friendly because they haven't had any contact with humans. They are just goods until the day they are bought. Nobody working at Koi farms make eye contact with their Koi. They just don't have time for individual attention. You have better chances of finding a potential jumbo koi that is friendly, from hobbyists. Visit Koi owners or ask them to post videos and see if the koi parent interacts with his/her koi. If they do, then most likely the baby koi will be friendly.

Some Koi dealers may show videos of friendly Koi from the Internet or taken at customers’ place. Ask them where you can find such Koi. NOT ALL KOI can be trained. NOT ALL KOI are friendly. You must see in person. Generally Koi dealers post videos of Chagoi eating food from their hands. It is true that both Chagoi and Ochiba Shigure are friendly. But Chagoi and Ochiba Shigure will do anything for food, even fall victim to Blue Heron for the food it drops in the pond. But Chagoi and Ochiba are dumb Koi. You can not train them to perform tricks or expect them to play with you because they can not concentrate on anything other than food.

Baby Koi of a friendly Koi need not be friendly either. We have some baby Koi whose mother and father are friendly but babies are not and vice versa. So, there are Koi that are too dumb and therefore are friendly. There are also Koi that are intelligent but are confident enough to escape (when trouble comes) and therefore are friendly. Then there are Koi that are intelligent but may not be confident enough or not physically fit and therefore are NOT friendly. This is why friendliness is not totally genetic.

In a pond, a single unfriendly, nervous fish can make the whole pond nervous. If you want your Koi to be friendly, you are better off finding a new home for the nervous Koi.

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