The World's Oldest Koi Fish Lived To 226 Years Old | TOTUM
Eric BlairFebruary 22nd
2021

A Japanese Koi carp is believed to be the longest living freshwater fish ever recorded, having lived to the incredible age of 226 before dying in 1977.

The scarlet-coloured female Higoi, called Hanako, was born in 1751 in the middle of the Tokugawa era in Japan.

While on average Koi Carp have a respectable lifespan of roughly 40 years, Hanako - which means ‘flower girl’ in Japanese - is believed to have lived for over two centuries in a pond near Mt. Ontake, which is located about 200 km (125 mi) west of Tokyo, at the borders of Kiso and Ōtaki, Nagano Prefecture, and Gero, Gifu Prefecture - and happens to be Japan's second tallest active volcano.

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Hanako’s story came to light when her last owner, Dr Komei Koshihara was interviewed for a national broadcast in 1966 on Nippon Hoso Kyokai radio station.

Dr Koshihara said he had Hanako's age verified by Professor Masayoshi Hiro at the Laboratory of Animal Science of the Nagoya Women's College, after his grandmother told him the fish had been handed down through generations of the family. 

In an English transcript from the broadcast, as per hanakokoi.com, Dr Koshihara describe how he has a special bond with the koi. 

"Hanako is still in perfect condition and swimming about majestically in a quiet ravine descending Mt. Ontake in a short distance,” he said. “She weighs 7.5 kilograms and is 70 centimetres in length.

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“She and I are dearest friends. When I call her saying 'Hanako! Hanako!' from the brink of the pond, she unhesitatingly comes swimming to my feet. If I lightly pat her on the head, she looks quite delighted. Sometimes I go so far as to take her out of the water and embrace her.

"At one time a person watching asked me whether I was performing a trick with the carp. Although a fish, she seems to feel that she is dearly loved, and it appears that there is some communication of feeling between us.

"At present my greatest pleasure is to go to my native place two or three times a month and keep company with 'Hanako'."

The doctor said he was often asked how they had been able to determine the age of the fish. He explains that it requires 'the aid of a specialist' and a 'microscope'.

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He said: “As a tree trunk has its annual rings, so a fish has its annual rings on its scales, and we only have to count them to know the age of a fish," he said, revealing that two of Hanako’s scales had been extracted and analysed allowing Professor Hiro to count the rings of growth and determine her age at over 200 years old.

Koshihara also revealed where the fish came from, continuing: "My grandmother on maternal side [...] is said to have been told by her mother-in-law, 'When I was married into this family, my mother-in-law said to me, "That carp has been handed down to us from olden times; you must take good care of it."'

"When I was told this story, I became very curious to know how long the carp had lived. I found out Hanako's age by the before-mentioned method, but you may easily imagine how greatly I was grieved when I was forced to take a scale off her beautiful body.

"I caught her in a net very cautiously and repeatedly said, 'Excuse me!'

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"I took off two scales from different parts of her body by using a strong tweezer. The scales were examined by Prof. Masayoshi Hiro, D.Sc., Laboratory of Domestic Science, Nagoya Women's College.

"It took two months for him to acquire a satisfactory result. By using the light microscope, he photographed every part of the scales.”

Hanako is said to have died in July 1977 at the age of 226, making her not only the oldest koi, but also the longest living freshwater fish to ever exist on record - a record that is yet to be surpassed today!

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