No. Goldfish are not Koi, but they can fill the desires many pondkeepers have for beautiful fish in their pond.
Burt Nichols, Water Garden Gems in Marion, Texas, is a big fan of goldfish. At his expansive store on the outskirts of San Antonio, he sells everything for the pond, from koi pond and water garden filtration, aquatic plants, supplies, garden art, gifts, koi and yes, goldfish – lots of goldfish.
In talking with Burt, he explained that he has roughly 20 goldfish customers for every koi customer. They are often seniors, who dote over their fish, spending lavishly to keep them healthy, far beyond their replacement cost. “They all have names you see, so they are part of the family.”
If you look at the goldfish he carries, you will notice they are not the common orange goldfish you might expect. Instead he focuses on Sarasa Comets and Shubunkins. The end result is a collection that looks remarkably like a collection of koi, but are a lot less expensive to buy and easier to maintain for the pondkeeper.
High quality Sarasa Comets look a lot like Kohaku, the bold red and white koi. Sarasa have deep red patches on a bright white body, like a good quality koi. Some have koi-like markings or patterns, but most are not as refined, although that doesn’t seem to deter their fans.
Shubunkins are better known and more commonly available, and are roughly the Sanke of goldfish, with a white body and red and black markings. Like Sarasa, there are a few that have patterns that are Sanke-like.
[adsense]Sarasa and Shubunkin both do well in garden ponds year round. An important point is that they do not get huge like koi can, so they are less likely to overwhelm a smaller pond, or one with limited filtration that could not support large koi. They do breed aggressively in most ponds, but as the population increases, so do the number of mouths eating the eggs and fry, so the population tends to level off at sustainable levels in most cases.
The joy of discovering new baby goldfish and watching them grow up in the pond is very addicting to many pondkeepers as well. And unlike koi, most of the babies turn into acceptable goldfish, with only a few staying brown or turning all white.
To the new pondkeeper, Sarasa Comets and Shubunkins are an ideal pond fish. They won’t overgrow the pond, they have the bright colors people have come to expect, and often believe can only be found in koi. They are not as delicate as koi, and are much more affordable to buy and replace. Oh, and did I mention they also play well with aquatic plants? That’s right. Water Lilies and other aquatic plants are the reason many want a pond in the first place, so why fight the battle of koi destroying the plants in the pond? If you populate a new pond with a healthy variety of Sarasa and Shubunkin, your new pond owner will have an easier go of it, particularly starting off.
Retailers should consider displaying a large inventory, demonstrating support for the goldfish, and providing the more discerning customer the opportunity to pick out the most attractive or koi like. The opportunity to discover a new fish is addicting, and can generate ongoing repeat business, if the customer can count on a new selection of fish to look through when they stop by the shop.
But the goldfish business doesn’t end with the end of summer. The fancy goldfish business is a wintertime opportunity with genuine potential. Goldfish such as Bubble Eye, Lionhead, and Ryukin make great aquarium fish. They are easy to care for, and beautiful in a home aquarium. Most of these are imported from Asia, and are priced in a way that a good margin can be maintained. You might be surprised at how a room full of fancy goldfish could help off-season sales, for not only fish, but food, medications, decorations, and support for a gift shop or coffee stand.