Jana worked in animal welfare with abused and unwanted pets. She loves sharing her hands-on experience regarding domestic and wild critters.
Apples and Worms
No, we're not talking fish food here. At the risk of sounding a little rough, all groups of people come with bad apples full of worms. It doesn't matter if individuals gather to share a love of koi, embroidery or moon rocks. Somebody will always get up another person's nose. There might be power games, rivalries, jealousy and people who are just plain uncomfortable to be around. Don't run away yet! This is not to say that your local koi club is a horror show populated by borderline psychotics and narcissists. That's just the worst that could happen. Most clubs become like a real family.
Apart from possible negative personalities, the drawbacks of a koi club could include expensive memberships and registrations, although some are free or otherwise affordable. At the end of the day, the positive far outstrips the negative. Let's move on to the bright side of joining like-minded fanciers of this funky fish.
There's no reason why anybody cannot become an expert by themselves. After all, there are books, videos and limitless resources on the internet. Self-study lacks one thing, however—the real-life presence of experienced tutors. Being face-to-face with salted keepers allows you something remarkable—a valuable, direct resource. Club members are eager to share their knowledge with the novice, including nuances and trade secrets earned through hard experience. Books, videos and articles can only cover so much. A living expert—or a room full of them—is like the ultimate pool of information you can drink from.
A Foot in the Door
In any business, insider information and dealings lend an edge to skill and competition. Should you join a club, there are several related perks.
- Breeders might offer other club members first pickings of valuable fish up for sale. Often, you could find better quality koi this way compared to those found at commercial outlets.
- Advancing in this hobby is directly tied to money. If you have more funds or better equipment, things move forward. Members save money by selling fish or equipment at a lower rate among themselves and sometimes even just swap them.
As a hobby that involves living creatures, there's a chance that trouble might visit. It could be the outbreak of a serious disease or equipment failure. Few club members will ignore one of their own asking for help during an emergency. When there's a medical problem, advice and even medication might be offered. During a situation that could directly endanger the fish, such as a problem with pond's equipment or long-term power failure, it's not unheard of for other keepers to home the koi until the owner sorts out the issue.
If you are serious about being the best koi keeper and breeder you can be, then connections with the right people will serve you well. Most koi clubs have good connections when it comes to importing the best fish and helping you purchase them. Some even organize group trips to Japan, where the best koi are considered to reside. If you want to buy directly from Japanese breeders, a club provides invaluable guidance to the protocols involved. Certain Japanese sellers still follow old decorum and rules. Breaking them is considered disrespectful.
A Shot at Showing
A particularly rewarding part of owning koi is showing the fish you've raised yourself. Keeping up with the show circuit could be difficult when you don't belong to a club. Members are normally more informed about upcoming exhibitions. Once again, the more experienced individuals are usually very open to helping you prepare for your first show and explain what's happening when judges choose and decide on winners. Shows also have koi for sale and breeders from multiple clubs who cannot stop talking about the hobby. In other words, koi lover's heaven.
Advice About Ponds
A Chance to Protect Koi
While most meetings have a genial atmosphere, clubs also exist for a more serious reason. They protect koi. Sometimes, new laws threaten to make things difficult, such as legislation about invasive species and importing. Not only are clubs the place you'd probably hear about it, but they'd also rally to find a solution. In addition, dedicated keepers fight at the front line against new diseases. When the devastating koi herpes virus first struck, clubs broke the news, gave funding to research and implemented better quarantine practices against KHV.
What Do You Need?
The question of joining a club can ultimately be answered by asking yourself what you currently need from your hobby. Do you merely want to read more on the subject? Start breeding or showing? Just vegetate next to your beautiful koi pond? Reading and vegetating are both solo activities. Showing, breeding and buying better stock eventually require a more social element and a good club could provide that solid next step in keeping koi like an expert.
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit