Koi are a popular fish for ponds and make attractive additions to any body of water in the garden. There are many different species of koi, and each has its own unique personality and appearance. If you're thinking about adding a koi fish or two to your pond, here's a look at 15 of the most popular varieties.
Koi fish are very famous as ornamental species of fish. They descend from the carp, which gave them a unique name - Nishikigoi or Jinli (brocaded carp). They are classified as Japanese fish, but their genesis is credited to China.
During the 17th century, the Chinese cultivated carp in paddy fields. This same method then traveled to Japan. After a while, people noticed different color variations in Japan and decided to breed them. This is how so many koi species came into existence. Now they are farmed across the globe for business.
Color Guide To Determine Koi Fish Type
Before we dive deep into the world of different Koi species, here's a quick color guide to differentiate between the significant types.
For in-depth information about the types of koi fish and their colors, keep reading.
15 Types of Koi Fish
While there are many types of koi fish, here are fifteen of the most common ones you'll see.
They are a variation of Kohaku koi and were first bred in 1914 and are one of the 'Big Three' koi fish.
Another name of Taisho Sanke is Sanshoku, or simply Sanke. The word Sanshoku refers to three hues, i.e., red, white, and black. You can find all three colors on the Taisho sanke's body in various patterns.
Just like Kohaku, Sanke can also have two types of red markings on the head - hi (red nose with a purple tint) and beni (orange-red). However, Sanke is different from Kohaku because it has black shading or netting on its body that resembles a reverse pattern of the Kohaku's white and red markings. The red markings on a Sanke begin from the top of the head, so the face is generally clear, but there are exceptions. The base of the pectoral fins is white and has a few Sumi markings.
The black shading on a Sanke koi is known as Sumi. It's an essential aspect of the fish and is considered very favorable. The more evenly distributed the Sumi is, the higher the value of the fish. Another shading is white (shiroji) with red color marking.
However, too much Sumi is considered unfavorable as it can mask the red markings of koi fish.
Identification Marks: It has white coloration with red markings and has flame or cherry blossom patterns.
Kohaku's are considered the oldest and most popular type of koi fish. The statement, "The koi hobby begins and ends with Kohaku," indicates the popularity of this species. The common carp is the origin of this koi fish.
In terms of color, Kohaku's nose is yellowish. There are two types of red markings, each with its own name. For example, a hi type nose has red with a purple tint, while beni type is orange-red. The lines here are thick, but as the fish matures, markings fade, leaving only vague margins.
Kohaku fish has a white body, but it can have black markings on it as well. However, these are considered unfavorable and can lower the market value of the koi. Kohaku is most commonly seen with a red spot on their head that isn't connected to the rest of their body markings.
Moreover, there's a Bongiri type of Kohaku with traces on the body that may sometimes continue onto the head. Another type is Boze, a Kohaku with no markings on its head.
When it comes to koi pond mates, keep them with Goldfish, Grass carp, Suckermouth catfish, or Chinese high-fin banded shark. These fish have the exact pond requirements, making them the perfect koi pond partner.
Identification Marks: Showa has red, black, and blue markings on a white base body.
Showa Sanshoku or Showa Sanke is another name given to this fish. The black and blue markings are usually on the head and run down the body's center to the tail.
Jukichi Hoshino, in 1927, developed Showa as a means of competing with the popularity of the Asagi. He used a Kohaku and a Ki-Utsuri to create this style. These early Showas had grayish shiro and striped fins. The Sumi (black) was rough, and the hi was faint. Later on, Showa was crossed with Asagi to get black motoguro patterns in their fins.
However, the hi was still pale and weak. In 1964, Tomiji Kobayashi mixed a male Kohaku with a female Showa to develop a new type of Showa that featured an enormous crimson red design.
Just like Kohaku and Sanke, Showa Sanshuoku can also have two types of red markings on the head - hi and beni. However, what makes Showa Sanshoku different from Kohaku and Sanke is that it has black shading. A major distinction between the two varieties of koi fish is the Karasu (black-colored body) of the Showa. The Showa has white and red-colored markings on a primarily black body or base.
Identification Marks: It has a consistent offset pattern of colors and always has black on the head.
Utsurimono is a Japanese term that literally translates as "reflecting ones" or "reflections." Why it's written Utsurimono here is because Utsuri is not a single fish. This category consists of three distinct color variants. The Shiro (white) Utsuri is the first and most important. The hi (fire or red) Utsuri is the second type. The ki (yellow) Utsuri is the third and most challenging to find.
The Sumi design and pattern on the head and bodies of Utsuri koi fish and Showa are also quite similar.
The white, red, and yellow fields are broken up by a black backdrop (Sumi). It rises from beneath the white, red, or yellow area to produce a pattern that resembles the "reflection" of color on a black background.
In the Utsuri koi fish, the Sumi is positioned around the body just under the lateral line. These markings extend from the nose to the tail. They are symmetrical all across the length of the body and on both sides of the dorsal line.
Identification Marks: Tancho is white with a red spot in the center of the head.
It is named after the Japanese word for 'red' (Tancho), and some believe it is derived from the national bird of Japan, namely Tancho Crane. This bird also has a red spot on the head.
These red markings on their head can be found as a round, heart-shaped, square, or even oval shape.
They are usually found in two varieties - Kohaku Tancho and Showa Tancho. A Kohaku Tancho has a Kohaku pattern, and Showa Tancho has a Showa pattern with a red dot on the head.
Tancho is considered a vital koi fish in Japan and is often used in breeding programs to produce other koi varieties.
Identification Marks: A koi with a white coloration over the entire body with black markings.
The name Bekko originated from the snapping turtle, with the kanji characters for "Be" meaning snapping turtle and "Kko" signifying shell.
There are three main types of Bekko - Tancho Bekko, Sanke Bekko, and Showa Bekko. The Tancho Bekko has a red spot on its head and is only found in the Kohaku pattern. The Sanke Bekko has a red and white pattern and is the most common type of Bekko. The Showa Bekko has a black and white pattern and is the second most common type of Bekko.
Also, they are pretty identical in looks to Utsuri and often confuse people. But, there's a way to differentiate. The Bekko has a white, red, or yellow-colored base with Sumi markings, whereas the Utsuri has a black base with white, red, or yellow markings.
Bekko is considered the most basic koi variety and is often used as a starting point for new koi keepers. They are also bred in large quantities for the pet market.
Identification Marks: A koi with indigo color patterns on white skin.
Koromo, also known as Goromo, is derived from a word that means "clothed" or "robed." Kohaku and Asagi were crossed to create it. This fish is almost similar to that of Goshiki fish. The difference between the Goshiki and the Koromo is that only the red patterned regions of the Koromo have a pure white base. In contrast, the Asagi-style scale reticulation is visible in just a few places on the Goshiki.
Moreover, there are three variants of Koromo. Aigoromo refers to a blue reticulation within crimson scales of hi in Koromo. Budogoromo has a hi pattern, overlaid with Sumi giving it a grape-like (budo) shape to the hi shape. Sumigoromo has black spots on the scales' edges within the hi pattern.
Goromo koi's body is white-colored, like that of a Kohaku koi. The scales on each red-colored patch on the body of a Goromo koi fish have a blue-colored net-like pattern. However, on a Kohaku koi fish, the scales are red.
Identification Marks: It's the only koi that has a white color body with five color markings.
It gets its name from the Japanese words "goshi," meaning "five colors," and "ki," meaning "colored."
Five colors are red, white, black, blue, and yellow. The blue and yellow are very light and almost indistinguishable from each other. Goshiki was derived from Kohaku and Asagi koi fish. The hi markings on a Kohaku are also present on Goshiki. The net-like pattern of its skin is from the Asagi koi.
As the Goshiki matures, the red hi plate thickens and solidifies to resemble an external decal on the body of the koi fish. The mesh-like design disappears as well, leaving only a full crimson plate throughout the body.
Identification Marks: It consists of a wide variety of nonmetallic and multicolored koi fish.
Kawarimono means "changed things" and refers to all koi fish that don't fall into the other defined categories. In other words, it's a catch-all category for all the non-standard koi out there.
Most koi varieties were created by crossing two or more existing varieties. So, technically speaking, almost every koi could be classified as Kawarimono. But the term is generally reserved for new or unique varieties that don't fit neatly into any of the other categories.
Some of the more popular Kawarimono varieties include:
- Hajiro: Hajiro koi have a black body with white tips on the tail and fin.
- Hageshiro: Hageshiro is identical to Hajiro but different in colors. Instead of white color tips, it has a white face and head.
- Kumonryu: Kumonryu koi have a bi-colored body that's black on top and white on the bottom. They have a swirling white color pattern that keeps on changing with time. They can also have Dragon scale patterns.
- Ochiba Shigure: Ochiba Shigure is a Fall leaf koi with a silver-gray body and large dark spots. The spots give it a leaf-like appearance; hence it's where the name comes from.
Apart from the multicolored species, the Kawarimono collection also contains single-color fish. Kigoi (yellow-colored), Benigoi (dark-red), Midorigoi (green-colored), Soragoi (blue-gray), Chagoi (green-brown/brown colored) Shiro Muji are among them.
Identification Marks: Hikari Muji is a single-colored koi fish with a metallic sheen to its scales.
The word "Hikari" means "light" or "shiny" in Japanese, and as such, these fish are aptly named. Hikari Muji comes in all colors, but red, orange, yellow, and white are the most popular. They get their name because their scales shimmer and reflect light much as metal does.
Whether single or multicolored, Hikari koi are all stunning and highly appreciated by their consumers. Their gleaming metallic skin and sharp pectoral fins make these koi popular among pond owners and fans.
Hikari Muji is some of the most popular koi fish globally and is highly prized for its beauty. Also, there are a few types that fall under the Hikari Mono category:
- Aka Matsuba: A red-scaled fish with black centers. These scales make the koi fish look like it's growing on pine cones.
- Orenji Ogon: It is a bright, deep-orange koi fish.
- Kin Matsuba: It's a gold-colored, metallic-looking koi fish with the markings of an Aka Matsuba.
- Yamabuki Ogon: This is a bright yellow, metallic-looking koi fish.
- Gin Matsuba: A silver-colored koi fish is the Kin Matsuba variant.
Identification Marks: Hikari has metallic skin, different colors, and random patterns.
Hikari Moyo is a category of koi fish that contains several different patterns and colors. The word "Moyo" means "pattern" in Japanese.
The Hikari Moyo category contains some of the most popular koi fish globally. Some of the more popular Hikari Moyo koi fish include
- Hariwake: It's a white-colored koi with orange or yellow markings, just like a Kohaku koi.
- Yamato Nishiki: This is a metallic replica of the Sanke koi fish.
- Kujaku: The name Kohaku refers to a peahen. It's a metallic replica of the Kohaku koi fish with a Matsuba (pinecone) design.
- Sakura Ogon: This is a silver-colored replica of the Kohaku koi fish.
Identification Marks: Every Shusui Koi has a pinecone pattern down its back.
Shusui was created by crossing a Doitsu Koi with an Asagi, making it one of the first Doitsu breeds of Nishikigoi. Shusui was bred in the early 1900s by Yoshigoro Akiyama, a Japanese breeder. Shusui's backline is aggressively dark navy, while its belly is vividly orange or red like the Asagi. A hi Shusui has a red color mark up to the dorsal line.
Shusui's head is a pale bluish or white color, with no marks or spots. In Shusui koi fish, red-colored, extended cheeks are relatively common. There are no restrictions on the markings on the body other than for a single row of scales running neatly and uniformly down the back length.
Koi with these characteristics will have large, blue-black, and regular scales on their backs. Symmetry is common in all koi fish kinds. Therefore if a Shusui has one side red and the other side white, it should also have the markings of about the same size on the opposite side.
Identification Marks: They have a blue color net pattern on the top which looks incredible.
Asagi is among the oldest Nishikigoi breeds and is very popular in Japan. It has a pale blue body color with red-orange scales on the belly and fins. The word "Asagi" means "light blue" in Japanese.
Asagi descendants are very similar to typical Asagi koi. They have blue nonmetallic scales, reticulated diamond-like scale patterns, and splotches of red hue known as hi. These splotches are on the gill plates, belly, and tail. The color of the crimson areas on Asagi koi changes from a bright crimson to a more rusty tone as they get older. The hi patch may sometimes spread as koi grow older.
A common variety of Asagi is hi Asagi, which contains more red pigment than usual. Taki Asagi koi is another variation of the typical Asagi. These koi appear identical to standard Asagi, but they have an additional white scale between their crimson and blue hues.
Identification Marks: Koi with golden or silvery scales are known as "Kinginrin."
The term "Ginrin" refers to sparkling white scales. In contrast, the phrase "Kinrin" refers to brilliant scales encircled by crimson markings. Diamond-ginrin is one of three distinct colors (red, orange, and yellow). Almost every Nishikigoi type has been developed into Kinginrin.
The three types of Ginrin are classified as
- Tama (ge)-gin
Kinginrin is a breed of Nishikigoi that was developed in the early 1960s. It is a metallic koi with a deep body and a long tail. Kinginrin's body scales are large and rounded. Kinginrin is also known as the "Golden Carp."
This breed of koi fish is one of the most popular among collectors because of its beauty and rarity. It is considered one of the most valuable koi fish breeds globally.
Identification Marks: A true Hirenaga has no tears in its long fins and tails.
Hirenaga are some of the most popular koi fish, owing to their long, elegant fins and tails. Hirenaga have a deep body and metallic scales and comes in red, black, and blue colors.
Hirenaga carp are descended from Japanese Emperor Akihito. When Japan's emperor, Akihito, was a young prince in 1962, he went to Indonesia and saw longfin carp. He was intrigued by the prospect of crossing Indonesian longfins with Japanese koi.
He put the notion forward to Saitama Prefecture's Inland Water Fisheries Experiment Station. The station developed five new Hire Naga types due to this endeavor. In 1991, Emperor Akihito introduced 22 Hirenaga koi to a pond at the palace. Emperor Akihito's creation of Hirenaga koi wouldn't exist without him.
Facts About Koi
Before we begin with the types of koi, let's gather some information about their basic characteristics.
- These beautiful fish have a lifespan of around 50 years. However, some fish are believed to have lived for more than two centuries.
- Koi fish can reach up to 91 cm (36") in length if you take proper care of them. However, the average size is between 30 and 50 cm (12 - 20").
- The weight of an adult Koi fish ranges from 3 to 6 kg (6 - 13 lbs).
- Koi species are very intelligent and interact with humans. They are known to eat food from the hands and mouths of humans.
- Some believe that koi fish can recognize their owner's face.
- Koi are powerful fish that can travel against the current.
- Koi species love to swim in the depths of the ponds and prefer living in groups. They spend their days puffing mouthfuls of muck in the hopes of finding insect larvae, algae, or other delectable things.
- Koi fish are omnivores by nature, i.e., they prefer eating both plants and animals.
- There are more than 100 types of koi fish in the entire world.
Koi fish are among the most prevalent freshwater fish in the world that are kept as pets. They come in a vast motley of colors, patterns, and sizes. Koi are also known for their long lifespans, with some living for over 50 years.
If you're thinking about adding koi to your pond, do your research and learn about the different types of koi fish and their needs. We hope this blog post eases your search for the right type of koi for your pond.