Competitors from several states enter koi show in Perry

About 40 tubs of fish — each holding about 300 gallons of water — sat around the Heritage Hall building Sunday. One tub had two koi — weighing about 20 pounds each — slowly swimming around the tub. Other tubs held lots of small koi darting around in circles. The fish were a variety of colors: such as red, black and white (or a combination of these colors), yellow and dark grey. The goldfish were shown in small, clear aquariums.

Gabbard said he started getting koi fish about three years ago and has a 14,000-gallon pond with about 40 koi in it. His pond is 12 feet wide, 24 feet long and 6 feet deep.

“It’s almost the size of some swimming pools,” he said, laughing.

At the end of the work day as an assistant nurse manager of the operating room at Houston Medical Center, he likes to sit and watch the fish.

“It’s calming and relaxing and it’s the beauty of the fish,” Gabbard said. “It’s an interesting hobby.”

The show is for amateurs only and mostly earns the winners bragging rights, Gabbard said. Competitors were not just from Georgia as some traveled from Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

This is the first year the show was held at the fairgrounds.

“We like this venue and we are planning to continue it here,” Gabbard said.

The judging at the show was held Saturday, and Henry Culpepper of Orlando, Fla., won the grand champion prize, which earned him a crystal vase.

“I only brought three fish,” Culpepper said. “Mainly one for the show and the others to keep it company.”

Many koi owners don’t name their fish, but Culpepper said his wife had named the winning fish “Betty” after a character in the “Mad Men” television show.

While some home koi ponds have thousands of gallons of water, you don’t have to go big, Gabbard said. One member of the koi society buried a johnboat in the ground, minus the seats, and filled it with about 300 gallons of water and added Koi. Other members have small fish ponds in their yard as part of their landscaping.

Knox and Janelle Childers came to the show from Macon.

“We have a small pond,” Janelle Childers said. “I think we have 16 or 17 koi and some goldfish. … I just find them to be peaceful, and they are beautiful.”

The Childers put their pond near the front door so they could see the fish from their kitchen window. It has lights in it so they can even watch them at night, she said.

Janelle Childers said she doesn’t think the fish recognize her, but she doesn’t have to call them to dinner.

“When you feed them, they come to you,” she said. “I feed them once a day. If they look hungry I feed them again.”

A number of things can determine the size of a koi, Gabbard said. It can be the genetics of a fish and females are usually larger than males.

“If they are in too small of an environment, the fish will never get big,” he said. “If there is enough water and right conditions, they will grow larger. You should have about 500 to 1,000 gallons of water per fish in your pond in order for a fish to reach its full potential.”

Gabbard has one koi that weighs about 40 pounds, but since he has so many fish in his 14,000-gallon pond, many of them may not get very large.

“Unless I get rid of some of those they will never reach their potential,” he said.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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