Types of Koi Fish Breeds and Varieties
Koi fish are ornamental fish that have become popular among fish enthusiasts around the world. They are known for their vibrant colors and unique patterns, which can differ greatly depending on their breed and variety. There are many different types of koi fish breeds and varieties, each with its own distinct characteristics.
What Are Koi Fish?
Koi fish originated in Japan and are a popular addition to backyard ponds and water gardens due to their beauty and graceful swimming patterns. Koi fish are an important part of Japanese culture, where they are respected as symbols of perseverance, strength, and success. In fact, koi fish are thought to bring good luck and prosperity to those who keep them.
The oldest koi fish on record is said to have lived for over 226 years, highlighting the longevity and robustness of this species. Proper care and maintenance can ensure that these beautiful fish live for many years and continue to bring joy to their owners.
Koi fish come in a wide range of colors, including white, black, red, yellow, blue, and even metallic shades. They can have patterns such as spots, stripes, and even unique designs resembling a Japanese flag. The different colors and patterns of koi fish are often associated with different meanings in Japanese culture, further enhancing their symbolism and significance.
Types of Koi Fish Breeds
Koi fish are some of the most beautiful and ornamental fish species known to man. These fish are admired all over the world for their vibrant colors, elegant patterns, and unique personalities. Over the years, koi fish have evolved into dozens of different breeds, each with its own distinct features and characteristics.
Hariwake and Kikusui
Hariwake koi are known for their striking metallic scales, which come in a beautiful gold or silver color. These scales reflect the light in a way that almost gives the fish a luminous, glowing appearance, making them a joy to watch as they swim through the water. What sets the Hariwake apart from other metallic sheen koi is the way the scales are arranged on the body of the fish. In this breed, the scales are typically arranged in a straight line along the lateral line of the fish, giving it a unique and eye-catching appearance.
Kikusui koi have a bright, warm gold or orange base color, which is overlaid with beautiful white markings. The white markings are typically arranged in a pattern that resembles chrysanthemum flowers. In Japanese, "Kikusui" literally means "chrysanthemum water," which makes sense given the flower-like pattern of the markings.
The Goshiki is a rare variety outside of Japanese culture. It can be identified by the light gray or black reticulation on the scales in the white areas, along with a beni pattern similar to a Kohaku. Goshiki is a non-metallic variety of Koi. Oftentimes the beni, or red pattern, is very vibrant and may appear as if it is floating overtop of the dark scales underneath. The fins of Goshiki are generally non-metallic white, which is the base color of the Koi. Often young Goshiki do not display any of the gray color at all, and are often mid-identified as Kohaku.
Goromo koi are a popular type of Japanese koi known as the ‘robed koi.’ They sport a Kohaku type pattern on a shiroji base. They have gray reticulation on the scales within the Hi plate, while the white areas remain a clear and clean white. The fins of Goromo are the same as the base color, a non-metallic Shiroji white. When the reticulation color appears as blue or a purplish color the variety name becomes Budo Goromo. Pond water temperatures may affect the strength of the reticulation color.
Soragoi Koi are classified into the Kawarigoi group. They are a single gray colored koi. At a young age the Soragoi can appear to have black bodies. Usually, the black body color diminishes to reveal a beautiful blue-gray color. Soragoi have a distinctive trait; a thin dark edge on each scale that resembles a pencil outline. Soragoi generally have a plump body shape just like the Chagoi and Ochiba Shigure. They can become very friendly as well, adding to their size due to their robust appetite and eagerness to consume any food offered by their owner.
Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri
Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri are in the Utsurimono class of Koi and are very popular types of Koi. By definition, they are a non-metallic koi with black bodies and a secondary color. Shiro Utsuri is the most well-known of the Utsuri types. Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri are not as common. These two variations are often hard to find, but they add great diversity to any koi collection.
- Black body with Red: The Hi Utsuri is a black koi with redas the secondary color. Hi (hē) is the term for the red color on the Utsuri in Japanese culture. However, the color is generally not a true “fire engine red.” Rather, hi appears as orange or reddish-orange.
- Black body with Yellow: A Ki Utsuri is a black-bodied koi with yellow as its secondary color. Ki (key) is the Japanese term for the color yellow on the Utsuri. More often than not, the yellow color is slightly muted or may appear a bit drab.
Regardless of which variation you are looking at, both Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri have black color (sumi) as the base. The pattern on all Utsuri koi, regardless of color, is a wrapping style. Two colors appear as large segments or blocks of color. The secondary color of either red or yellow alternates with the black sumi areas. The colors intertwine to form an interesting wrap-around pattern.
Tancho Kohaku is a popular variety of koi fish that has been bred for its striking appearance and unique coloration. This particular variety of koi is known for its white body, which is adorned with a large, bright red spot or “crest” on its head. This red marking is reminiscent of the Japanese flag and is considered a symbol of good fortune and luck.
Kujaku koi are members of the Hikari Moyo class, which means Kujaku are a fully-scaled, metallic fish with more than one color. They have a platinum base color and a secondary color that forms a pattern. The second color can range from red to orange or yellow. The scales have dark pigments in the center of the scales, known as “pinecone.” Kujaku koi fish are also bred with Doitsu scales and with longfins.
When choosing a Kujaku, look for a clean color with lots of shine (Hikari) over the entire body. Iridescent shine is most eye-catching on the head, pectoral fins, and dorsal line or spine. Brilliant white fins enable this variety of koi to stand out in most ponds, even those with less than desired water clarity. The shimmery white pectoral fins elevate this type of koi to one of the most popular varieties.
Shiro Utsuri are Koi with black bodies and white as its secondary color. Utsurimono is the class in which Shiro Utsuri are placed and are by definition non-metallic black koi with a secondary color. It is one of the classifications, or groups of koi, for judging purposes. Shiro Utsuri is held in high regard in Japanese culture. At some koi shows in the USA, the Shiro Utsuri competes alongside the Go-Sanke: Kohaku, Sanke, and Showa Sanshoku for top honors.
Ochiba Shigure, more commonly called Ochiba, is a non-metallic blue-gray koi with brown markings. Ochiba are in the Kawarigoi class and there are no defined standards for the pattern on Ochiba. The name Ochiba Shigure literally means “autumn leaves on the water” in Japanese culture. When you study an Ochiba koi, you can begin to understand this when visualizing brown fall leaves drifting across a pond.
Ochiba are a friendly variety of koi that can assume a large size due to their customary tendency to eat food readily from their owner’s hand. Thus, they often develop a sizable body shape. A gray and brown koi may not instantly come to mind as a stunningly beautiful fish. However, once you interact with an Ochiba Shigure an appreciation for the variety will be gained.
Ogon, which translates to "gold" in Japanese, is a variety of koi fish that is prized for its shimmering metallic scales. It is one of the oldest and most popular types of koi fish, often referred to as the king of koi due to its appealing appearance and widespread popularity.
Ogon can come in a variety of colors, including gold, silver, and platinum, with some also having black markings on their fins. The fish can have a solid color or kohaku-style patterns, which are black spots on a white or silver base. Its scales are reflective and highly prized for their reflective quality, often shimmering in sunlight and making a beautiful spectacle in any pond.
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Shusui, a blue koi, is a variety of koi for sale that are raised at Kloubec Koi Farm. Blue fish are very popular in Japanese koi ponds and water gardens. Shusui koi fish have blue Doitsu (German) scales that form a single line on the koi’s back. Water temperatures can have an impact on the blue color of Shusui. Asagi is another type of blue koi, though it is fully scaled. Red pigment called Hi should appear on the Shusui in the same locations as the Asagi. Although it is quite acceptable for Hi to emerge above the lateral line on Shusui. The Doitsu scales should be neatly aligned and be reminiscent of a zipper. Shusui and Asagi koi are also produced with butterfly fins or Longfin varieties.
Originally known asTaisho Sanke, or Taisho Sanshoku, this variety of koi may be one of the most popular types of koi in Japanese culture, decorative ponds, and water gardens. The koi variety is commonly called Sanke by koi enthusiasts. The Taisho Sanke is a white Koi fish with red and black markings. The word Sanke literally means ‘tri color’ in Japanese culture and language. A Sanke is a koi with three colors; white, red, and black. It can be identified as a white koi with a red pattern and occasional black markings.
Kikokuryu and Kin Kikokuryu
Kikokuryu and Kin Kikokuryu are members of the Hikari Moyo class of koi, or the Kawarigoi, depending on how it’s benched for competition purposes. They both have iridescent metallic skin and are always Doitsu, or scale-less by definition. The Kikokuryu has a solid white-to-gray color throughout the body, even to the tips of the fins. Many times, Kikokuryu can develop areas of intense gray, almost black coloration, commonly misidentified as a pattern. When more than one color is displayed on the shiny platinum/gray base color, the variety type is Kin Kikokuryu, or Beni Kin Kikokuryu. This koi variety name is often shortened to Beni Kiko. When a second color is present it can become distorted by the heavy metallic quality of the fish’s skin.
Black is often diffused and appears a smoky gray. Likewise, beni can become a brownish orange when altered by the heavy luster. It is rare that any pigments are their typical hue when appearing along with strong luster. These two varieties of koi are often a mystery. They can be stunningly beautiful and are extremely popular varieties of koi.
Showa Sanshoku is a very popular koi variety. Showa Koi have three colors: white, black, and red. When you search for quality koi for sale, look for one that has a pleasing pattern of Hi (red). Next, review the white (shiroji). It should be clean and clear, appearing bright in contrast to the other pigments. Showa variety will have bands of black, or sumi, similar to the black pattern on Shiro Utsuri. The bands will wrap around the body and face of the koi fish as seen on the Shiro Utsuri variety.
Additionally, many Showa koi can have sumi appearing at the joint of the pectoral fins. Showa have much more sumi than Taisho Sanke. The sumi bands on Showa Sanshoku seem to all be connected below the surface and encompass the body. Consequently, Showa Sanshoku appears quite magnificent with bold patterns and a formidable body shape.
As a breeder of Japanese koi fish, Kloubec Koi Farm produces Showa and Showa Longfin, butterfly koi.
Kohaku may be one of the most easily recognized types of koi variety found in backyard koi ponds. It has a simplistic elegance and is highly revered in Japanese culture and throughout the USA. The Kohaku is a non-metallic white koi with a pattern of red, or beni. There are many recognized patterns on Kohaku and each has a specific Japanese name and criteria for judging purposes.
Kohaku koi should have a clean, white base color that extends through each of its fins. The hi plates should form pleasing and interesting patterns. Clean and clear definition between the colors is expected on high-grade specimens. The body shape of a large Kohaku can seem quite imposing. Oftentimes, Kohaku will arise from the breeding of Taisho Sanke and Showa Sanshoku, as well as from direct Kohaku pairings.
Asagi, or blue koi, are produced at Kloubec Koi Farm. Blue koi fish are desirable for water gardens and Japanese koi ponds. A quality blue koi fish for sale in the Asagi class generally has clean, blue-colored scales with reticulation. It should also have red, or Hi, on the pectoral fin joints, cheeks, and on its body sides below the lateral line. The head of Asagi koi should be clear of any pattern or pigment.
Water temperatures can sometimes affect the depth of blue color, making it appear closer to a gray or charcoal color. Longfin Asagi and Shusui will compete in the butterfly koi class at koi shows. Asagi and Shusui are sometimes called Blue Back koi and usually compete in the same variety class.
Kumonryu and Beni Kumonryu
Kumonryu and Beni Kumonryu are both members of the Kawarigoi class. Both varieties of Koi are always Doitsu (scale-less). Kumonryu is white with black pattern, usually running along the body of the Koi. Beni Kumonryu has the addition of red, or beni, pigment along with the black (sumi) pattern. There are no strict rules for patterns on these Kumonryu types. They are somewhat rare and are an ever-popular variety of koi with the koi hobbyist and enthusiasts. The name Kumonryu means ‘dragon-fish’ in Japanese culture.
Chagoi is a non-metallic brown koi that is grouped into the Kawarigoi class. Chagoi vary in color from basic solid brown tea color to tan, olive, or a reddish-brown color sometimes called “root beer.” Some Chagoi have also been seen with a very dark color, close to a black hue.
What the Chagoi lacks in the typical ideal of koi beauty, it more than makes up for with personality. Chagoi are the Friendly Koi that everyone needs in their pond. They train easily to eat out of your hand. In fact, most Chagoi haven’t met a human that they don’t like. With a big appetite and eagerness to feed frequently, Chagoi tend to grow to great lengths and massive body size. Chagoi are known for their big body shape as well as their big personality. They add a dimension of simple elegance to the koi pond with their subtle coloration and beautiful body shape.
Gin Matsuba and Kin Matsuba are members of the Hikari Muji class. These two Matsuba varieties are single-colored, metallic-skinned koi, just like the Ogon types. However, they have isolated sumi (black) on the center of each scale. This feature is called reticulation and is generally referred to as “pinecone scales.” The addition of sumi on the scales does not eliminate them from the Hikari Muji class, because the dark centers are not considered a pattern. Their variety names literally mean glittering golden (kin) and glittering silver (gin) pinecones which appear as raised markings on a solid metallic ground.
Both Gin Matsuba and Kin Matsuba are considered single-colored koi for judging purposes. Gin Matsuba and Kin Matsuba both have iridescent metallic skin. Sheen or luster is also expected
on the metallic Matsuba. It should cover the entire fish, including the fins, producing a smooth, polished appearance. The same criteria for depth and clarity of color and sheen apply to Matsuba that apply to the Ogon.
How many types of koi are there?
There are over 100 types of koi, but only 13 groups or classes.
What are the three varieties of koi?
The BIG-3 varieties of koi are Kohaku, Sanke and Showa. These are generally referred to as Go-Sanke.
Which koi is expensive?
Any koi can be expensive, depending on its color, pattern, and body shape or conformation.
Which koi fish is lucky?
The Karasugoi is considered as the lucky koi.
What is the biggest breed of koi?
The breed of Koi that generally grows to the biggest size is Chagoi.
What is the rarest koi color?
The rarest koi color is a type of blue known as "Ai Goromo" or "Indigo Goromo."
Which is better: koi or goldfish?
Both are great fish and can live together peacefully. However, if you’re looking to add more color to your pond, koi is the breed you’ll want to pursue.