Koi: All Five Senses?
Owning koi can be an enjoyable and exciting experience. As a water gardener, you probably have wondered about how your koi experience their environment. What about the five senses? Can koi taste and hear the way we do? Here are the answers to those little questions that help you understand your aquatic pets better.
Can Koi Smell?
Koi have an acute sense of smell that, along with taste, is their primary sense of food location in their natural environment. Koi can detect dissolving food with their nose by the “nares” located at the base of their nostrils. Much like U-tubes, water enters through the forward opening and exits through the rear opening.
Can Koi Hear?
Even though they do not have external ears, they can hear. Koi sense vibrations in the water and hear with the Wesberian Ossicles, a group of bones that are connected on one end to the forward swim bladder and on the other end to the auditory center, a sensing organ that resembles our inner ear. Koi are sensitive to sound and can be stressed to the point of illness by loud noises, especially if those noises are constant.
Can Koi See Very Well?
Koi have such good sight that they could probably read a book. In fact, because they have bilaterally placed eyes that are independently movable, they have a greater range of vision than humans do. They not only see black and white but color as well. Just be careful when netting and handling koi, because they do not have eyelids, making their eyes more vulnerable than ours.
Can Koi Taste?
The barbells on koi help them to taste. Somewhat similar to the tongue, the barbells as well as the mouth and lips have taste buds. Though many years ago koi had three barbells, they now only have two.
Do Koi Have Teeth?
Though this question isn’t included in the five senses, it is frequently asked. Koi do have teeth though not in their jaws. The teeth are located just behind the gill chambers. These teeth grind food against the bony carp stone on the top of the pharynx.
Do Koi Have a Sense of Touch?
Koi do have the sense of touch, and the most sensitive area for this is located about midway down the side of the fish’s lateral line. There are holes in the scales that lead to a canal beneath the surface. When water moves against the side of the fish, the mucous in the canal vibrates, and these vibrations stimulate the nervous system through cells causing the flight reaction.
Source: Montgomery, Linda. “The Five Senses of Koi.” Koi USA. Volume 31, Issue 3, November/December 2006, p. 54.