Finding Japanese Koi fish at a Pudukottai farm

A Koi breeding farm in the small village of Permanadu in Pudukottai district supplies ornamental Japanese fish to customers from all over India.

A Koi breeding farm in the small village of Permanadu in Pudukottai district supplies ornamental Japanese fish to customers from all over India.

As the water ripples in the large tanks, Japanese Koi, looking like living jewels, lie waiting for a hand to bring them food pellets. Koi carp are finicky eaters, patiently waiting their turn and seemingly appreciating the flu. “Koi are very sensitive to people and when their owner feeds them, they will eat more because they know them,” says PVR Sekaran, who has been raising Japanese ornamental fish at Perumanadu village in his native Pudukottai district since 2011.

We are miles away from Japan, but the Koi here hold the beauty of their Japanese counterparts. Priced between ₹1,200 and ₹1 lakh, Perumanadu Farm’s fish attracts well-heeled customers from Rajasthan, Goa, Chennai, Delhi and other big cities.

Bright colors

Known as “nishikigoi” in Japanese, the fish is originally from China, where its domestication began in the fourth century. Chinese invaders brought koi with them to Japan as a food source. In the early 19th century, Japanese rice farmers in Nigatta began domesticating the brightly colored, genetically modified koi carp as an ornamental fish.

Today, Koi is a label used for varieties of Amur carp (Cyprinus rubrofuscus). “Koi fascinated me when I was in Singapore, where my brother Palaniselvam, a marine biologist, also has a small fish farm,” says Sekaran. “As there was no high quality Koi breeding in India at that time, I felt this could be a great business opportunity for us.”

Sekaran’s brother trained him in Koi breeding for two months in Singapore, after which Sekaran set up the PVR Koi Center on three acres of land in Perumanadu. The farm buys supplies from suppliers in Japan, quarantines them for 24 days in Singapore and then imports them to India. “We give Japanese fish directly to those who can afford it. For others, we breed and raise them individually on the farm,” says Sekaran. Only about 100-150 fish are selected from 10,000 eggs hatched.

Traveling fish

After the customer chooses their pond, the fish are kept in a quarantine tank and trained for the new location. “We take a water sample from the customer’s home and use it to fit the new tank. During the journey, fish are lightly sedated to avoid stress. Ice packs keep water cool during long journeys,” says Aravind, joint managing director. A small group of test fish is first sent to the customer’s ponds; After they get used to the water, the selected fish are transferred. “We usually take back the test fish, but the customer can keep the others if they want,” says Aravind.

Koi suffer from skin diseases, especially if the water has high ammonia levels. It can also develop tumors. If a fish is sick, it will either show erratic swimming behavior or stop swimming altogether and park itself at the bottom of the water. “We have a ‘hospital tank’ where we take care of sick fish and keep them under observation for a week before returning them to their owners. My brother Palaniselvam in Singapore is helping us with telemedicine consultation,” says Sekaran.

Online connection

One wonders how enthusiasts find their way here with a rough track from the Pudukottai highway to the farm. “It’s more our website and word of mouth,” says Sekaran’s son Aravind, who has been helping out on the farm for the past two years.

The farm grows the fish from 15 to 30 cm before selling them through its web portal.

“We have a specially adapted ‘water studio’ where we take individual pictures of each fish. The price is determined according to its appearance, color and other parameters,” says Aravind. At least 35 species are offered at the center; some like the Sanke with black and red marbling cost ₹10,000. Tancho, a highly sought-after white Koi with a large red spot like the Japanese flag on its head, was sold at ₹40,000.

PVR.Sekaran, Proprietor, PVR Koi Center (Nishikigoi Breeders) Permanadu, Pudukottai District. | Photo Credit: M MOORTHY

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