At some point in every koi’s life, it will need to be handled; whether it’s at the breeder’s facilities, at the dealer’s, at home, when undergoing treatment or when being shown. In fact, compared to many other ornamental fish, some koi might be handled very regularly, especially if they’re shown. The question posed by koi keepers is therefore how often koi should be handled, and are there alternatives?
The best thing for any Koi is not to be handled at all. Handling can cause stress to the Koi and increases the risk of injury should it struggle and damage itself. There is a temptation for Koi keepers to catch and examine any Koi that has the slightest scratch but as this act in itself increases the risk of damage and stress to the Koi, it is often much better to simply keep a close eye on any small injury and if the environment is clean and the fish is healthy, any small wound will begin to heal in just a few days. Only if the injury gets worse should intervention be needed and in these circumstances handling will be necessary. When catching a Koi to be treated it should simply be guided, using a net, into a bowl floating in the water. The Koi can then be transferred, using either a plastic bag or sock net, into a bowl of anaesthetic so that it can be anaesthetised before being lifted gently, cradling the Koi in both hands, from the water and placed on a damp towel ready for treatment. Sock nets come in two different types, those that hold water in much the same way as a plastic bag does, and those that are porous and which cradle the Koi without water. It is important when handling Koi to always have wet hands or a damp towel as anything dry can remove the fishes slime coat and as this is where much of its immunity to infection is, it is important to make sure that it remains intact. When transporting a Koi it should be guided into a floating bowl and then a suitable plastic bag should be slipped around it, whilst it is still in the water, catching enough water at the same time to cover its back whilst in the bag. Oxygen can then be added, the bag secured and the fish transported. When showing Koi, it is necessary to measure the fish, which involves using ones hands to momentarily hold it against the side of a measuring bowl. When doing this it is important to gently guide the fish to the side of the bowl using soft hands and never forcibly hold the fish as this can lead to bruising and possible secondary infection. Koi should always be handled as little as possible but when it does become necessary it should be done with the utmost care and consideration.
Written for Koi Magazine, July 09