What you need to know before buying Koi
You have successfully built your Koi pond. You have spent weeks, perhaps even months waiting with intense anticipation for the moment to come when you would actually buy Koi fish. Before doing so, however, it is important that you are aware of some basic guidelines for selecting and buying Koi fish.
First, you must be aware that not all Koi fish are equal; not even those that belong to the same variety. This will become evident when you buy Koi for the first time and you notice a wide range of prices for Koi fish. The key factors that are used to distinguish individual Koi fish are size, grade and age. Koi fish prices can range widely. It is possible to find specimens in the $40-$50 range, just as it is possible to find others selling for tens of thousands of dollars.
Although there are exceptions, it can generally be stated that smaller sized Koi will be available for a much lower price than larger specimens. The smaller Koi are usually 3” to 6”. Above that, size classifications include specimens measuring 6”-8”, 8”-10”, 10”-12”, 12”-14”, 16”+ and so on, until reaching fully grown Koi surpassing 2 feet.
Likewise, the grade of the specimen is also reflected in the price. When you buy Koi fish, you must ask yourself what exactly it is that you wish to obtain from the fish. This may sound like a simple question. Your initial impulse might be to answer that you want a majestic animal to grace you with its beauty. To some degree, all Koi owners could include that in their answer, but in order to determine which grade of Koi is best for you, it is important to identify underlying and ancillary expectations for your Koi pond.
Koi fish are classified as either Pond Grade, Ornamental Grade or Show Grade. Remember, all Koi fish are technically members of the same species. They are all Common Carp; however, much as the domesticated dog has been selectively bred to develop desired characteristics among different dog breeds, so to is the case with the breeding of different varieties of Koi fish. It can help to draw another correlation from this analogy. View a Pond Grade Koi as a mutt, while a Show Grade Koi is your pure bred show dog. Just as one would expect to pay an enormous sum of money for a pedigreed dog of prized lineage and one would pay next to nothing for rescuing a mutt from an animal shelter, so too is the monetary difference when you buy Koi of different grades.
Pond Grade Koi are normally bred by hobbyists, they are sometimes sold informally, and their breeders may lack some of the quality control mechanisms to ensure healthy specimens; but they are also the cheapest of the bunch. It cannot be said that you should completely avoid Pond Grade Koi when considering to buy Koi fish. If your plans for your Koi pond are limited and you are not looking to invest too much money in populating your pond, Pond Grade Koi can be a good choice. Just keep in mind that Pond Grade Koi will likely never develop the bright full coloration of their higher grade cousins and that they may also be prone to ailments or diseases not found in the higher grades.
Ornamental Grade Koi are those bred to display good coloration and markings. They are commercially bred and are not intended to participate in Koi competitions, but they are the best entry level Koi for most first-time Koi ponders.
Show Grade Koi as the name implies are the upper-class elite of Koi. They are also priced accordingly. Unless you plan on participating in Koi competitions or breeding the next generation of Show Grade Koi, these specimens may be well out of the range of the average Koi pond enthusiast.
Of course, regardless of the size or grade of Koi that you purchase, remember to follow the same rules that are used when buying any fish. Before you buy Koi check out the dealer or pet shop from where you intend to purchase it. Preferably, observe the fish for a few weeks. Avoid specimens which seem sickly, pale or that do not display an appetite. If you buy Koi fish online, check out Koi forums and determine what reputation that online dealer has. Also, ascertain what, if any, DOA policy the online dealer has in place prior to making any payment.