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There are many Koi keepers and dealers who will claim to have Tategoi for sale or in their ponds.  Mostly the name Tategoi has become a descriptive word used loosely to describe young fish showing potential to improve as well as to justify the sale or purchase of a very expensive fish that looks terrible now and will probably look terrible forever. Sometimes the word is used for a Koi that the owner wants to get rid of at a very high price or is used for a Koi that the owner has paid too much for and is now justifying the purchase.

If one translates Tategoi from Japanese to English there is not a single word that can explain its meaning, but the basic meaning is ‘a Koi that is showing signs of top potential for the future’.

Another more accurate interpretation is that Tategoi is a Koi that should be grown on with the hope of reaching it envisaged potential.

The word to take note of in this translation is the word potential, just because a Koi is labeled ‘Tategoi’ it does not guarantee future greatness. As the Koi grows, the chances of a Tategoi fulfilling its potential becomes greater, because a three-year-old (sansai) Tategoi still has potential to maybe improve further but has already fulfilled quite a lot.

As far as genuine Tategoi are concerned, the unfortunate fact is that very few specialist dealers in South Africa will risk purchasing these Koi for re-sale, because the average customer will find them undesirable and very expensive. Customers may class them as junk and may also suspect that the dealer is profiteering on a royal scale. These customers cannot be blamed for this line of thought as very few will have experience of witnessing these rare Koi develop. The other side of the coin is also that very few breeders will sell their Tategoi to dealers. The demand by top breeders for Tategoi from top bloodlines is such that only a very few Koi keepers are privileged to buy Tategoi directly from breeders.

The reality is that breeders might set aside less than 1% of a spawning as true Tategoi and would class them as fish which would hold promise of achieving their excellence only in adult life. Such breeders are the only ones that can identify Tategoi and the identification is based on the personal knowledge of the traits of the parent fish and the development of fry from earlier spawning.

During a discussion meeting in 2001, which was reported on in NICHIRIN in 2002 a very informative discussion took place between some veteran ZNA members.

KIZAWA : "When it comes to a definition of a Tategoi, I think there are five points to consider. First of all, the quality must be good. Second, it must have the potential for growth. Then age. I must not be an adult. As for male or female, it isn’t true that a male can never be a Tategoi, Finally the balance of the patterning. If a Koi doesn’t have a nice patterning, it is half as much fun watching it grows. I think the rest depends on the individual, the person raising the Koi."

Mr. Tokutake, certified ZNA Koi Judge, is quoted on www.koi.com:  “Keeping Tategoi is never an easy task. When I purchase 10 of the highest grade Tategoi in the spring, even if one of them turns out the way I had hoped for at the end of the growing season, I consider myself very fortunate”.

Small Tategoi Tosai is probably the hardest to select but is also the most available. The reason for this is that it is not possible to ascertain whether they are male or female at this young age. Breeders mostly want females to grow on but have to select the Koi purely on quality and pattern without knowing which ones are female and which ones are not. The gender of the Koi is unpredictable at this stage of their development.

Grading young Koi in Japan is quite simple. As the months of summer pass, the culling brings the numbers down and at this stage the Breeder then pre-selects his Tategoi to grow to Nisai (two years).  Just prior to placing into the mud ponds in late spring/early summer these Tategoi are now graded for the last time and sometimes only half of them are placed into the mud ponds to grow on. Those that are left is no longer expensive and are now called ‘tateshita’ meaning that they did not make the grade. The best ‘tateshita’ is still very high quality Koi, but the breeder can only grow a certain number of Tategoi on, without compromising growth etc. These ‘tateshita” can be very easily purchased as the breeder no longer wants them.

When buying Tategoi Tosai in Japan from breeders they are far more accommodating with regards to the amount of money they want for such a small Koi, although many breeders are reluctant to sell their future fish at sensible prices. As the development of these Koi has only reached the first stage and the accompanying risks are still high, it is never wise to spend too much money on Tategoi Tosai.

When buying Tategoi Nisai, be prepared to pay much larger sums of money as it is now a completely different proposition. The females can now be identified and other quality factors are now eminently more apparent. The Koi has had one more year to live up to expectations regarding its potential. To buy a two year old Koi that is still regarded as a Tategoi by the breeder, you will have to pay a high price. Those that did not quite make the grade and have no obvious defects will still be a good buy. Those with obvious defects are now almost valueless.

When the two year old Koi are put into mud ponds to grow to Sansai (three years), the numbers have been reduced further but the quality has reached another level. Not only in the way they look but also in the amount of money it would cost to prize these fish away from the breeder.

A Koi can be regarded as Tategoi for up to seven years, maybe longer. It depends on the Breeder who may still feel a particular Koi has potential to develop further.



Kohaku_2years  Kohaku_3_years



Sanke_2_yearsw   Sanke_3_years



Showa_2_years             Showa_3_yearsw

Photos: Roy Pillay

As can be seen from the above, a Tategoi from a Japanese breeder is a Koi that has survived many culling procedures as well as carrying the personal, approval of the breeder. However there are no guarantees, and the risk remains with the purchaser.

Now, the easiest way to sell a Koi is to label it Tategoi, triple the price on it and leave the hobbyist to it. If the Koi doesn't develop it must have been something the hobbyist did or didn't do!

The only time to forgive the miss-use of the word “Tategoi”, is if a poor hobbyist have paid too much for a particular Koi and he/she has a burning desire to justify the purchase, or to boast about a specific Koi. If one can tolerate the exaggeration by a fisherman, one can also keep the peace and tolerate a hobbyist calling his Koi, “Tategoi”!

Updated 24 January 2010

Last Updated on Monday, 16 December 2013 13:44