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Blue Ridge Fish Breeding Process

Spawning koi

Co-owner, of Blue Ridge Koi, Randy LeFever carefully injects hormones into a sedated Chagoi breeder.


Blue Ridge Koi use a variety of methods to spawn Koi in the spring.

Some are Wild-Spawned where the male Koi and female Koi are placed in the mud ponds and allowed to spawn on removable nests. Some nests will be moved to grow-out ponds and others will remain in the ponds with the parent fish.

Most are Tank-Spawned. Compatible breeders are selected and placed together into spawning tanks. Each tank is lined along the sides and bottom with spawning mats. Once paired, each breeder is sedated, and then injected with hormones to ensure ovulation. After recovering from sedation, the parent koi are left in the spawning tanks overnight. If everything goes to plan, we arrive the next morning to find spawning mats covered in eggs. The spawning mats are removed from the tanks and transported to mud ponds where the eggs will hatch.

A select few varieties of koi, and all of their goldfish, are Hand-Stripped. Similar to tank spawning, breeder koi are sedated and injected with hormones. However, instead of placing males and females together, they are kept separate, to prevent them from breeding. The brood stock is monitored closely for ovulation. When the time is right, the eggs and milt are stripped from the breeders by hand. The eggs and milt are mixed together in sterilized, stainless steel bowls. The fertilized eggs are then placed into hatching cones, where they will remain until they hatch, 4 to 5 days later.

No matter what method is used, the koi fry all end up in mud ponds. They will grow rapidly, and will be monitored closely until they are ready for the next phase, culling.

Koi eggs
A successful spawn. Hundreds of fertilized koi eggs cling to the fibers of a spawning mat.



Producing high quality koi is incredibly labor intensive. It is a common misconception that high quality breeder koi produce thousands of offspring that look just like their parents. Breed two high quality Kohaku together, and you get thousands of equally high quality Kohaku, right? Not quite.

Since the beautiful colors and patterns seen in koi are actually a genetic mutation, a very small percentage of koi offspring are attractive enough to have any market value. In some varieties, as much as 99% of the offspring are unattractive, with no commercial value.

The Blue Ridge Hatchery spend many hours a year culling Koi and butterfly Koi. The first cull happens in mid- summer when the fish are 1 to 2 inches in length where the unmarketable fish are removed. In some varieties, as many as 99% of the population is culled out. Here, groups of "pickers" will spend painstaking hours searching for koi that show signs of potential, and culling those that don't.

The "keepers" are then put into grow out ponds where they will continue to grow. As the fish grow in size, they're continually harvested and sorted and the best fish are grown to bigger sizes.

One inch keepers, ready for release into a grow-out pond.


Koi are harvested using long nets called seines. In full ponds, the fish are lured into corners with food and the seine is pulled across the corner. After a few pulls, koi quickly learn to avoid the net and the water has to be removed to catch them.

A long, flat net, called a “seine”, is used to crowd the fish into a corner.

The thousands of hours spent spawning and culling eventually produces high quality koi and goldfish crops, ready for harvest.

To harvest our crops, we use long, flat nets known as "seines". A seine is lined with cork floats along the top, and lead sinkers along the bottom. After using sinking pellets to lure fish into a pond corner, the seine is quickly pulled across the corner, trapping the fish between the seine and the pond bank. The seine is slowly drawn into the bank, and the fish are removed from the seine with dip nets.

After just a few "pulls", the fish quickly learn what’s up, and will no longer come to the corner. At this point, the pond must be drained, and the remaining fish are removed.

The fish will be delivered to your door next day via UPS.

Koi Fish picture

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