Ghost Koi

ghost koi in aquarium
British bred Ghost Koi. Photo : Hampshire Carp Hacheries

In the beginning.....


I first came across Ghost koi in the early 1980’s during my early years of my career as a fish farmer. At the time I was working for a malting company developing a carp recirculation system and was looking for a supply of carp.

We visited Newhay Carp Farm in Selby and it was here that I first met Vilis Michaels, known to his friends as simply Bill. He also, was heavily involved with carp farming and had a strong relationship with nearby Warburtons Bakery. The idea was to farm carp and utilise waste from the bakery as a feed.

Although we had travelled up from Suffolk to pick up a supply of mirror carp Bill was also keen to show us some fish he had just spawned by crossing mirror carp with some metallic koi. These he had termed “ghost Koi” on account of the skull-like pattern that they exhibited on the top of their head. Bill recognised the potential of these hybrids as they showed typical ‘hybrid vigour’ being hardy, fast growing and more valuable than the table carp we were both used to producing.

Since those early days I, and many other farmers, have since developed many different different strains of ghost koi. A reflection really of the many varieties of koi that could be used as parents. Generally the breed has dark scales along the side and a light coloured pattern on the head. Some varieties however are much lighter in colour and more typically resemble an ogon.

How big do Ghost Koi grow?

As a direct result of their ancestors thrive in similar Ghost Koi exhibit similar growth rates to wild carp. They eat similar food and will thrive in a similar pond. In fact genetically they are the same species as koi and mirror and common carp. They all will interbreed and produce fertile offspring. In spite of their recent history they have been known to grow to over 30lbs. and several specimens have achieved the magical 40lb barrier. Currently the British rod caught record belongs to a 47lb 14oz specimen caught in 2017 from a water in Norfolk. No doubt the will soon be beaten


When to consider Ghost Koi for an aquaponic system.

Provided you are not set on producing a fish for the table, ghost koi may well be a perfect choice for an aquaponic system. Here’s why;

  • ghost koi are widely available and can be sent by carrier through the UK
  • they are much cheaper than koi as they are not selected to the same degree
  • they are hardy and resistant, but not immune, to many common fish parasites
  • ghost koi are big eaters and consequently fast growing
  • the quality of colour continues to improve as selective breeding develops
  • if economics is important to you, like most of us, ghost koi will fetch a higher price than most table fish such as tilapia and trout.

If you are primarily looking at aquaponics to produce plants you need a hardy species of fish that will withstand the typical temperatures that the Uk endures. Ghost koi may well be a perfect choice.

When you shouldn't consider Ghost Koi

Ghost koi would not be a sensible choice if:

  •  you have a small aquaponic system without the means of regularly transferring fish to a much larger pond. Ghost koi eat a lot of food, grow fast, produce a lot of waste ands such, require a big filtration system in order to maintain satisfactory water quality
  •  you want to produce a quality table fish. Although I have no doubts ghosts koi are edible I have never met anyone who has been at all excited by the prospect of tucking into one for dinner.

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