Butterfly Koi Fish – Care Guide & Where To Buy

Butterfly Koi, also known as dragon carp or long-finned Koi are gaining popularity in the fishing hall of fameWith their exotic, flashy colors and dramatic long flowing wings that never stop growing and add opulence to your pond interiors.

Butterfly Koi Fish are notably amiable, docile, and hardy. The only thing they need is clean water and a balanced diet high in nutrients. However, if you’re new to Koi keeping, chances are you’re in the dark about this hybrid yet graceful breed of long fin Koi that’s taking the koi hobby by storm.

In this article, I’ll walk you through some basic information about butterfly Koi – from their behavior, care, and recommended intake to their life expectancy and temperament.

Let’s get Koi-ing!

Species Overview

Scientific NameCyprinus carpio
Common NameButterfly Koi, Dragon Koi, Long-fin Koi
Activity LevelVery active, free-swimming carps
Lifespan25 to 35 years or longer
Size12 to 15 inches 
TemperamentAmiable, calm, and peaceful
Minimum Pond Size1000 gallons
Water TypeFreshwater
Pond set-upPlanted heavily in garden ponds
CompatibilityOther carps, amphibians, and game fish

The beautiful butterfly Koi or American Koi is one of the hardiest and social Koi breeds sold by Blue Ridge fish hatchery. The scientific name of Dragon Koi is Cyprinus carpio that belongs to the family Cyprinidae. Butterfly Koy is famous for its signature, long-flowing fins that are graced with dozens of rays of cartilage that support the longer fins and radiate outwardly, bringing blissful color to your garden ponds.

The butterfly Koi comes in various beautiful hues ranging from red, orange, yellow, blue, black, and metallic colors that look nothing less than precious jewels in the fishpond.

Origin and Habitat

Even though the word Koi is a Japanese word for carps, Butterfly Koi are not true breeds. Hence, they are dismissed from Koi competitions in Japan as they are not considered an original koi type.

The origin of Butterfly Koi is a debatable topic. Some believe they originated from Indonesia through the interbreeding of Indonesian long-finned wild carp and traditional Koi. Some fish enthusiasts claim that the Blue Ridge fish hatchery bred Koi butterfly under the supervision of Wyatt LefeverThe outcome was a beautiful long fin Koi with vivid colors, resembling the butterflies, and hence the name.

Speaking of the habitat, I highly recommend that you keep your Butterfly Koi in ponds rather than an aquarium. That’s because they tend to grow much bigger. Also, they are voracious eaters and might need some extra treats and plants to feed on. 

One main reason to opt for the pond is that they look elegant from the top than their sides, making them a perfect fit for your garden ponds.

However, you should have plently of space for your butterfly Koi as they need at least 1000 gallons of water to thrive and survive healthily.

How Big are Butterfly Koi Fish?

The bodies of Butterfly Koi fish are slender and skinnier than Japanese Koi. Nevertheless, they usually grow to the same length as their short-finned cousins, i.e., about 12 to 15 inches. However, some dragon Koi might become as big as 3 feet, provided optimum favorable conditions.

The beauty of Butterfly Koi enhances with time as they grow older and develop graceful, long flowing fins and whiskers. The older the Koi Butterfly, the longer and better their fins and whiskers, and the more graceful they look while swimming.

How Long Do They Live?

Since butterfly Koi are a hybrid of traditional Koi and Indonesian carps, they are hardy, robust, and disease resistant, which increases their life expectancy. Most butterfly Koi fish live up to the same age as traditional Koi, i.e., 25 to 30 years.

What Do They Look like?

Koi butterfly is a beautiful result of breeding wild carps and traditional Koi. Since they are hybrids, they inherit incredible qualities from both parents — the carp’s long fins and Koi’s vibrant color. 

Furthermore, their bodies are slimmer with long barbels on their face than Japanese Koi. The thing that sets this breed of Koi apart from its short-finned cousins is the lush, flowing, long and delicate fins that are larger in proportion than their standard body size, resembling a butterfly’s wings when in motion.


Temperament and Activity Level

Just like their cousins, butterfly Koi are social, calm, and amiable. Therefore, they are a perfect fit for novice Koi parents. The activity level of Koi depends on fish to fish. Some tend to play, jump, hide all day, while others prefer to stay aloof.

Good Tank Mates

Choosing tank mates for Butterfly Koi can be a nuisance because Koi are coldwater fish, and even though friendly, some might turn out to be aggressive with other species.

Therefore, before selecting tank mates for your butterfly Koi, make sure your fish are not aggressive. Also, you should avoid keeping anti-social fish with Koi as it may cause trouble.

Also, if you’re keeping Butterfly Koi in the tank, you can choose tropical fish as the temperature can be controlled and maintained in tanks.

Here’s a list of fish you can keep as good tank mates with Koi.

  1. Pond Goldfish
  2. Barbels
  3. Barbs
  4. Catfish (tropical fish that can be kept as Koi tank mate)
  5. Golden Orfe
  6. Tench
  7. Pleco (tropical fish that gets along with butterfly Koi well)

Fish to avoid

Due to several reasons, you should avoid the following fish in the same tank or pond as Koi.

  1. Cichlid (aggressive)
  2. Guppies (easy prey for Koi due to their small size)
  3. Danios (too small)
  4. Fancy goldfish (slow-paced)

What Do they eat? 

The diet of Butterfly Koi is no hassle. You can feed absolutely anything from you would feed a traditional Koi. However, it is ideal that you feed your butterfly Koi high-quality pellet feed with protein contents of no more than 30%. Pellet Koi Food for butterfly Koi ensures maximum nutrients and a balanced diet keeping them healthy and growing.

What About Live Foods?

Koi butterfly loves live treats. They are voracious eaters and can eat everything a human would. From oranges, lettuce, peas, and watermelon to shrimps and algae — you name it.

How Much And How Often To Feed

During hot weather, it’s recommended that you feed a Koi butterfly one or two times a day. During winters, you should serve it less because the physical activity level is low, and Koi go into hibernation.

Pro Tip: It’s advisable not feeding Koi butterfly before and after rains or storms because fish needs Oxygen to digest their food, and in extreme weather conditions, oxygen levels drop down.

Butterfly Koi Care Requirements

Since Koi butterfly grows out to become large fish, even up to 40 inches. It’s advisable to have a pond size that can hold at least 1000 gallons or more. Also, butterfly Koi are graceful swimmers and need more room to swim around freely to reach their full potential.

Water Quality

If you want your Koi to be wholesome with lustrous glowing skin, maintain the recommended pond water quality. The ideal temperature Koi can handle is between 33 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even though, Koi are coldwater fish. It is crucial to keep the temperature at bay in extreme conditions. You should install a pond de-icer to maintain the water quality if the temperatures drop to 33 degrees Fahrenheit and consider making your pond deeper (3 foot deep at least) in order for your Koi to go dormant safely.

Furthermore, warmer water can exacerbate other diseases with less dissolved oxygen and more Ammonia that is toxic for your butterfly Koi.

Therefore, I recommend keeping a check and balance of the water quality and maintaining temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Pond Maintenance

As air is to humans, so is water to fish. 

The water quality is essential for maintaining your fish’s overall health. Therefore, pond maintenance is an obligation to do.

Being a responsible Koi owner, your job is to perform a frequent fish water test to be sure your pond water meets the optimal requirements of your Koi. There are several indicator tests for testing water quality and would help you maintain the pond easily.

Please note that these tests are not as accurate as the laboratories. However, they are economical and give an estimate of what could be improved.

Ammonia Testing

Ammonia is a slow poison for your butterfly Koi. A clean and well-maintained pond should show zero readings of Ammonia.

To prevent Ammonia from developing in your Butterfly Koi ponds, you should change water as needed and keep performing the tests every week. If you want an overview on how to change water, check out Dee’s Yard’s video below:

I recommend daily Ammonia tests in new ponds.

Oxygen Testing (Dissolved)

You can keep a healthy track of your fishpond’s water temperature with a thermometer — it is essential during hotter months to maintain the temperature.

Furthermore, the dissolved oxygen test is crucial during warm weather because high temperatures tend to deplete the oxygen levels. Your Koi should not come at the surface of the pond gasping for air.

Therefore, it’s imperative to add aeration by installing air pumps and a waterfall to maintain a reading of 6.00 ppm or above.

pH Test

pH reading of 7.5 to 7.8 is considered ideal for healthy water readings.

Please note that the readings can fluctuate in a new pond during days and nights. Therefore, you should take the readings in the evenings or mornings.

Nitrite Test

Your pond should show a reading of zero for excellent water conditions. If the recordings turn out to be high, discontinue the feedings and change water immediately to avoid harmful diseases.

I recommend analyzing nitrite readings regularly until and unless they become consistent.

How To Set Up A Pond

Seting Up A Pond For Butterfly Koi

The only thing to consider while setting up Butterfly Koi pond is the water quality and proper aeration. Koi enjoys well-aerated ponds with aquatic plants. However, avoid too much vegetation as it might cause oxygen deficiency for your Koi.

Here are some significant pointers to consider while setting up a pond for butterfly Koi. 

  1. Feed the Koi two times and carefully monitor their eating habits.
  2. Remove the leftover food so that the pH of the pond remains unaffected.
  3. It is recommended to install nets over the pond to save your Koi from predators

Health And Disease

Butterfly Koi are very hardy and can survive extreme conditions provided that the water and pond maintenance is top-notch. You should never worry about the health concerns in Koi if you’re feeding them nutritional food with protein contents.

However, Koi usually develop diseases over time that are dangerous and fatal.

Signs Of Poor Health

Your Koi is struggling with health issues if you find the following symptoms.

  1. Less of appetite
  2. Clamped fins
  3. Ulcers or open wounds
  4. White spots
  5. Self-isolation
  6. Restless and lethargic
  7. Gasting at the pond surface 

Common Health Issues And Treatment

There are common health issues that should not concern you much, but the treatment should be carried out to avoid further inconvenience.

Here are some common issues in Koi with their recommended treatments.

a. Bacterial infections.

To treat bacterial infections, isolate your Koi in a quarantine tank to prevent spreading and consult with a vet for recommended treatment.

b. Parasites.

To treat parasites, you should manually remove the parasite with the tweezer and ensure that the whole body comes out.

c. Viruses.

The treatment of the virus is similar to the treatment of Bacteria and parasites.


Since Koi butterfly is a popular breed, they are readily available from online stores and Koi breeders. However, before investing, it is imperative that you choose the best quality Koi for your valuable garden ponds. Unfortunately, most stores and breeders sell inferior quality fish. Hence you should visit the breeders’ inventory and evaluate the fish. Butterfly koi typically are not cheap, so be wary if prices are too good to be true.

My Pick!
Butterfly Koi

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I recommend Next Day Koi for the best quality What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) Butterfly Koi available online. Use our offer code for an extra discount!

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Personally, I trust Next Day Koi for all my Koi fish. The best thing that I love about Next day Koi is that they give you the liberty to choose your own delivery date at unbelievable prices. If you are curious about other places, check out my best places to buy fish online post for recommended places to buy.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re considering buying a beautiful butterfly Koi for your garden ponds, don’t worry. They are mystical pets with long and flowing fins that add excellence and value to your pond without demanding much. All you need to do to keep them happy is to maintain their water quality.

One thing you should be careful about this Koi breed is their long fins. You should never handle them with hands as the fins are delicate and might rot.


  1. Thanks for the article, it was very informative, but I have a question. For normal koi it’s usually advised 250 gallons per fish, so, are we talking about multiple butterfly kois or do they need more space than regular ones. Like I plan on building a koi pond of 2,000 gallons at my backyard and was planning on getting 6-7 koi, and I’d like to mix regular ones with butterfly ones. Would I be overstocking them in the long run?

    • Hi Ceyda. The stocking is the same with regular koi and butterfly koi. You can put 6 full growth koi in a 2,000 gallon. Just make sure you have a good filtration unit and open space to swim. If the fish feel crowded, they will get stressed and their immune system will get compromised.

  2. Thank you so very much for your article. My butterfly koi is called Gloria and I have had her for 8 years. She is about 13′ and all gold with white high lights in her tail and find. She is sick at the moment and think your article will help me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Romaine Holley

    • Aww thanks Romaine. These types of comments warm my heart. Given Gloria’s size, you likely can find a fish doctor in your area who specializes in pond fish. Koi are one of the fish that Vets will see and examine. I wish that was the case for other fish, but Koi keepers have it pretty good with access to specialized vets. If they don’t have an aquatic specialist, they may be able to refer you to a specialist who can take a call.

      Best of luck with Gloria.

  3. Thanks for this article as it’s very informative on basic information I needed. I have to say though that I am still seriously considering keeping butterfly koi in a tank as I think they show just as well sideways. With that in mind can you share your thoughts in terms of what you would recommend for things like tank size minimums (standard or tall, deep or shallow depth etc.), number of fish based on tank size (I’m looking at a 150 gallon tank), expected growth rate and so on.

    • It would be difficult to keep them long-term in an aquarium. As babies short term it might work. Even a 500 gallon aquarium is going to be tough with Koi. I’m pretty hard pressed on my advice on keeping them in ponds with at least 1000 gallons in size. They stress in smaller spaces, don’t live as long, and won’t go dormant in an aquarium.


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