Raising koi is an art form that many hold absolutely sacred.
Koi are bred under traditional standards as literal precious jewels, carefully culled and curated to ensure only the most stunning, perfect fish remain.
Pet fish are a little less carefully selected and bred, especially those within pet store breeder situations.
Still, there is one thing that creates division regardless of your breeding methods and preferences: the white ghost koi.
There is something about this species of koi that has caused people to either love them or believe them to not be actual koi at all.
Some even outright claim they should not exist and should have been culled from the start!
Let’s explore the strange history of the white ghost koi and see what makes it so divisive and interesting!
The History of the White Ghost Koi
So, to preface, not all ghost koi are white.
Collectors usually opt for the white options since they suit the ghost title more closely but they can actually be a wide variety of colors.
Their names do not even come in reference to their coloration, but instead the way their glimmering fins appear ghostly in the depths of a pond or tank as they swim!
Ghost koi were first bred in Britain in the 1980s when a farmer allowed a cross between a metallic koi and a wild mirror carp.
The resulting fish had a metallic head and glimmering, hauntingly beautiful pectoral fins that shown in the water in a way that looked like ghosts were moving through the depths.
These koi were also fertile despite being crossed with wild carp, resulting in the lineage carrying on further!
The farmer loved his new koi and soon began breeding them and caught the eye of collectors for his flashy new fish.
Traditional Japanese breeders take such careful measures to ensure their koi are bred for specific qualities and attributes.
Due to this, many do not consider the wild-bred ghost koi to count as an actual koi in the traditional sense.
The ghost koi also do not have any significant patterning or specific color requirements, making them something traditional breeders would cull in favor of fish with more definite breeding placements within subspecies.
Still, ghost koi have gained quite a following and are loved as pond pets.
The Ghost Koi Appeal
Aside from the controversy, ghost koi actually make fantastic pets.
They are visually stunning and suit a lot of different pond styles.
They are also very fast-growing and can handle less carefully managed pond conditions since they are naturally much hardier than their show-bred full-blooded koi counterparts.
This makes them very suitable for beginner koi keepers!
Ghost koi are bred in a situation that involves wild koi.
This allows them to naturally be much more disease resistant by nature, curating a much healthier and hardier fish that can handle less than optimal water conditions.
They also require less intensive and expensive filtration systems since they have such close ties to the wild carp that live in naturalistic environments.
Additionally, ghost koi are incredibly diverse.
Since they are bred with wild carp, you never know what colorations you will end up with.
They can be solid white, cream, orange, yellow, gold, or any mix of those colors.
Some even appear dark due to their ties to the wild carp.
Ghost koi can also have a wide range of scale formations, ranging from scaleless to metallic and fully scaled.
These diverse fish are great if you want a lot of fish of the same breeding type that appears different in the water.
These koi are also very affordable.
Since no traditional breeders want to use them as show koi, they are almost solely bred by non-industry specialists, resulting in a lower price level.
This makes these koi very accessible and good for starting out with your koi keeping venture since not only are they affordable and beautiful, but also very hardy and able to handle a lot of trial and error, which frequently comes with the first introductory months with koi keeping.
Perhaps the best aspect of these fish is that they retained the friendliness of traditional koi.
You get the best of both worlds here, with the health benefits and durability of wild carp and the handleable nature of a traditional ornamental koi.
You truly cannot go wrong with keeping these stunning fish as pets, especially if you want something that has a lot of variation and growth potential.
Fun fact: ghost koi can get up to forty pounds!
Ghost Koi and KHV
The koi herpes virus is a disease that can have up to a one hundred percent mortality rate.
It is vicious and highly infectious, spreading through feces, urine, and shedding skin mucus and infecting entire koi populations very quickly.
While most breeders do not have to worry about this disease since their breeding is carefully controlled, a lot of ghost koi are more susceptible to exposure since they are frequently bred involving wild-caught koi fish in many mass breeding situations.
Due to this, it is very important to quarantine your ghost koi upon receiving it to ensure it does not exhibit any symptoms of KHV.
These symptoms include lethargy, damaged gills, sunken or cloudy, irritated eyes, and dry, rough skin caused by the mucus layer peeling off.
If you suspect this disease is present, seek help for your fish immediately to assist it in recovering.
It is important to note that while this is more present in ghost koi populations, most still are not impacted.
Do not let this discourage you from trying ghost koi out!
Celebrating White Ghost Koi
Ghost koi are a wonderful, stunning fish that, while not traditional, offer a lot of impact and beauty to your pond.
They are hardy, friendly, and all-around fantastic and worth checking out!
Just be sure to follow quarantine protocol, as you should with any new additions to your pond, to ensure that your fish is healthy and ready to be introduced to the rest of your koi population.
Once they are marked as all clear, you are in for a real treat!