Carp offer more than just decorative appeal, to the serious owner the fancy fish can also be a sound financial investment
To Kriengkai Chetchotisak, carp, or koi in Japanese, are not just pet fish; they are an investment. "When it comes to investment, I don't opt for banks. Rather, I choose to invest in carp. You first spend 5,000 baht on a carp. If you take care of it well and it grows up beautiful and healthy, you can sell it for 50,000 baht or more," said Mr Kriengkai, carp lover and owner of Hinode koi carp farm.
GILLS OF A LIFETIME: Kriengkai Chetchotisak has turned his hobby of keeping carp into a business.
Keeping carp as pets has long been regarded as an activity for the rich, but not any more. Take Mr Kriengkai, for example. He's been keeping carp for 30 years, starting out with ones that only cost 300 baht each that he kept in a small pond on the roof of his old house.
Carp breeding became a passion for him, so he decided to create a much larger pond to accommodate the increasing number of fish _ some of which now cost over two million baht each.
Carp are categorised into many different species by their colours and body patterns. Well known for their vibrant colours, healthy carp can grow as old as 80. Kohaku, sanke and showa are among the most common carp varieties.
SCALY HEIGHTS: Clockwise from centre, shiro, kohaku and Showa. Kohaku, white bodied koi with red markings, are among the most popular and valuable.
The most successful carp breeders, of course, are the Japanese.
"Well bred carp in Japan can grow to a length of 90cm. Carp keepers might not be able to differentiate carp bred in Japan from those bred in Thailand when they are still young because young carp will look pretty much the same. But when they reach a certain age, carp bred in Thailand will normally stop growing. They will only get fatter and fatter," the farm operator explained.
Carp imported from Japan are required by the Fisheries Department to undergo a 25-day quarantine period. During this time, proper water temperature is of paramount importance, as water temperature in Japan and Thailand is somewhat different.
"Water temperature in Japan is approximately 14-15C. But here in Thailand it's about 20C. So during the first six to seven days after the fish arrives from Japan, we might need to use ice to adjust water temperature. After that we can gradually adjust the temperature until the fish gets used to it."
For beginners, the first thing to be taken into consideration when it comes to carp keeping is space, Mr Kriengkai said. The space provided for the fish should be appropriate in terms of the pond size per number of carp. Ideally, the proportional ratio is one tonne of water per one fish, given a baby carp can grow to be a much bigger one. One tonne of water is equal to one cubic metre.
Such a space requirement does not necessarily suggest that keeping carp is suitable only for houses with big compounds, said Mr Kriengkai.
"You can keep carp as pets even if your house has limited space. Your pond can be as small as one by two-and-a-half metres with a depth of 70cm. Even though carp ponds should be made of concrete, you can use fibreglass. But if yours is a small pond, fish keepers should opt for male carp instead of female carp because male carp tend to have a slower growth rate."
Whether the fish will grow up in good health and with perfect shape also depends on the size of the pond. Simply speaking, a big pond allows more space for carp to swim and exercise than a tiny one.
According to Mr Kriengkai, the best diet formula for carp is nothing but pellet fish food, given that it contains nutritional value sufficient for the growth and development of the fish.
"If you feed them bread, of course they eat it all. But bread doesn't contain adequate nutrients for them," said Mr Kriengkai.
And just as with other pets, carp can fall victim to disease. One of the most commonly found illnesses in carp is known as KHV (koi herpes virus). According to Mr Kriengkai, even if KHV exists in the carp, they will remain asymptomatic so long as they are in good health.
Nonetheless, whenever the fish become weak, the virus will suddenly attack their bodies. They will become lethargic and not eat. If left unattended, they will die.
But how do we know if the fish doesn't feel well?
"Sick carp will exhibit one of two symptoms _ they will sink or float. If they float, it is likely that the fish is suffering from a gum disease. Gum diseases are usually caused by dirty water. To treat gum disease, leave the fish in salt water for a few days and the condition will be cured.
"But if the fish sinks, it suggests internal problems. This is usually called 'sink disease'. You notice it when the fish doesn't come to the surface to eat. This disorder is life-threatening, especially if left untreated," he said.
Carp are visually appealing only when they are looked at from above, so those who are thinking of keeping them in a fish tank might want to reconsider.
Mr Kriengkai has kept over 500 carp as pets.
To him, even though carp are not able to communicate with their owners as cats and dogs do, the beautiful fish bring happiness.
"For those who keep fish, happiness comes when you feed them and see them coming to the surface to eat," Mr Kriengkai said. "Fish, to me, are like other types of pets. Keeping them requires just as much love, commitment and careful attention as looking after any other animal."