City parks across China often have at least one man-made pond or small lake. These ponds and small lakes are usually stocked with koi fish.
Children visiting parks with their families love to feed the koi fish. Some adults also enjoy this activity — I do. Bread is the most common thing people take to feed the fish. However, at some parks there are vendors who sell small plastic bags filled with fish food pellets. A bag of pellets at my favorite koi pond sells for 1 yuan ($.17 USD). I prefer to feed the fish the pellets because I think nutritionally it’s better for them than white bread.
The schools of koi fish can range from a hundred or so in a small pond to several thousand in a large pond or lake. Koi come in a variety of colors, patterns, and sizes.
The fish are never short on food. China is, after all, the most populous country in the world. City parks are frequented daily by numerous people, some of whom always take food for the koi.
When fed, the koi will bunch together in a tight, circular mass. During a feeding frenzy, the mass of koi becomes so dense that some of the fish find themselves buoyed up out of the water. However, it seems that none of the fish are ever injured during these frenzies.
The best part of feeding the fish is simply watching them. Their colors are soothing; their movements hypnotic.
Photographing the koi fish is fun, especially when thousands of them are competing for food. The water churns and boils as the koi flail and jostle for some free grub. The play of colors, light, and splashing water beckons the photographer.
I also enjoy seeing the excitement and wonder on the children’s faces as they watch the koi swim and feed. Children can find joy in simple things. When I see the children’s joyful expressions, I am able to temporarily set down my adult worries about life.
No two schools of koi are the same. Each pond will have its own mix of fish. Also, each pond is different. The color and clarity of the water and the amount of shade cover and sun received are different for every pond.
Sometimes the koi are joined by a turtle or two. A turtle floating on the water’s surface with a bunch of fish underneath it makes for an especially pleasing aesthetic.
The feeding and viewing of koi fish has become an occasional pastime for me. I find it relaxing. After I leave China, I will definitely miss going to the koi ponds to see these colorful fish.