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Did you know there are over a hundred varieties of Koi fish? Yes, it’s crazy the variety of Koi you can get for your pond. Koi fish is a name known to many that need no introduction. However, selecting the best ones that fit your garden can lead to some serious buyer’s anxiety.
Pond enthusiasts love keeping Japanese Koi as a pet for their social, docile, and hardy nature. Also, the beautiful color variety is a treat for sore eyes.
But did you know not all Koi are colorful, shiny, and scaly? There are several varieties of Koi fish that lack color, scales, and luster but are still as majestic as a dragon. Some are super friendly and others, to some enthusiasts, aren’t considered Koi at all!
And in this article, I’ll walk you through 11 of the most popular types of Koi fish that add life to your gardens and their distinct characteristics.
Top 11 different types of Koi fish Varieties
There are over a hundred Koi varieties. However, I’m listing down 11 of the most popular varieties of Koi fish that have taken the fishing world by storm. Below is a quick infographic. You can see the full site graphic here.
When I speak of Koi fish, my mind automatically shifts and pulls me in the direction of Gosanke.
And I’ll tell you why.
In the world of Koi, nothing beats Gosanke since this Koi variety is granted the highest status among all the varieties. The family of Gosanke Koi includes three popular Koi varieties and that’s the reason we call Gosanke the “big three”.
Gosanke Koi is a diverse group of the world’s best koi fish including, Kohaku Koi, Taisho Sanshoku or Taisho Sanke, and Showa Sanshoku, all of which are Grand champion winners. The signature colors of Gosanke Koi are red (Hi), black (Sumi), and solid white (Shiroji), where red and white are common among the three varieties.
Let’s dissect the characteristics of the three varieties of Gosanke koi fish (Kohaku, Sanke, Showa).
If you’re an avid Koi keeper, you know that Koi keeping begins and ends with Kohaku.
Kohaku, which was once known as Sarasa appeared 200 years ago. Its distinctive characteristic was the red color that made it pop out in the pool of fishes.
Now any Koi variety that is graced with red color is judged on the basis of the Kohaku pattern, which is loved by Koi enthusiasts all around the world.
Note: There’s no Sumi in Kohaku Koi
The contemporary Kohaku Koi fish has a solid white (shiroji) body covered with red (hi or beni) markings. However, when the Koi fish is young, the base color (shiroji) may appear translucent or pinkish. The translucency of Shiroji in young Koi fish is considered ideal as the high-quality Shiroji (white) develops with the time that can be seen in Koi competitions. For Koi hobbyists, the white base color holds more importance than the patterned red (hi) because a stunning base color makes the red patterns stand out in the crowd.
As far as the patterns are concerned, the only color is red (hi or beni). However, beni can further be classified into two hues under some circumstances. The most popular and common color of beni is orange-red or purple-red. The color can be transformed into a deep scarlet by maintaining water quality and good nutritional Koi fish food with the right amount of color enhancers.
Things to look for
When choosing among a large batch of Kohakus, these are the things to look out for the perfect and healthy fit.
- Choose the Koi fish with red (beni) on the head that only goes down about as far as the nostrils
- The eyes of Kohaku should be clear with no red markings. However, recent research shows that red can cover one eye but never both the eyes
- The base or shiroji should be milky or snowy white with no yellow coloration
- The hi around tails and fins should be less
- The interior of Hi should have no hues of Shiroji
- The quality or depth of beni should be thick; the thicker the Beni, the better
3. Taisho Sanke
This winning breed of Koi fish is a bit confusing to many neophytes because of the three different names; Sanke, Taisho Sanke, and Taisho Sanshoku.
Whatever the name may be, they all represent Taisho Sanshoku. However, the most common name for this Koi fish breed is Sanke, and the most appropriate is Taisho Sanshoku. Sanshokumeans tricolor in Japanese, indicating three different colors of Sanke, particularly white, black, and red.
Simply put, Sanke Koi is a solid white (shiroji) Koi fish with red (hi, beni) and black (Sumi) markings.
Taisho Sanke appearance
To find a Taisho Sanke that is both healthy and happy, you need to choose a healthy Kohaku. The Kohaku Koi sets the standard for a wholesome Sanke. The clearer the white (shiroji), the healthier the Sanke Koi.
The base color of Sanke Koi fish is shiroji (solid, creamy white), which begins at the nose and extends to the tail and fins. The Hi on Sanke is a deep-orange shade rather than Cardinal red. Sanke possesses large, reddish-orange spots that make their color pattern appealing with shiroji between the patches of Hi.
Whereas, the Sumi tends to be the rarest color on Sanke Koi. The Sumi (black) on Sanke are comparatively smaller than the Hi or Beni, making it a secondary color, while Beni or Shiroji are primary.
Things to look for
- Shiroji should be clean, bright, and not discolored
- Sumi should appear as round patches and should be only present above the lateral line
- The head should have no Sumi
- On Sanke, the red should take up to 70% of Koi, the black about 10%, and the rest should be Shiroji
- Avoid Sanke with lots of small, peppery like Sumi markings. It’s a sign of poor quality Koi fish
- The fins should be all-white or partial white with black stripes
4. Showa Sanshoku
Novice Koi keepers often confuse Showa Sanshoku with Sanke because of the uncanny resemblance between the two types of Koi.
Showa Sanshoku is a tri-colored Koi variety with Sumi as the dominant color. In short, Showa is a black Koi adorned with white (Shiroji) and red (Hi) patterns.
Appearance-wise, Showa can be confused with Sanke because of the same colors. However, Sanke is graced with a white base that does not go beyond the lateral line or onto the head. Alternatively, Showa possesses a black skin that shows through Shiroji and Hi.
Also, one biggest difference between sanke-showa is the patterns of Showa wrap around.
The Showa is further classified into seven different types of koi according to their body markings.
- Hi Showa with dominant red and black and very little Shiroji (white).
- Kindai Showa with 40% white or more, and varying amounts of Hi and Sumi.
- Old style Showa is mostly black with scarce Shiroji and Hi as a secondary color.
- Doitsu Showa has a shortage of scales except for some broad scales.
- Kin Showa has a gold, metallic sheen that sparkles.
- Gin Rin Showa has a silver metallic sheen. However, there are some Koi varieties with a combination of gold and silver sheen. The class of Koi is known as Kin Gin Rin.
- Ai Showa has blue or deep indigo speckles over the body.
What to look for
- Thick base color with a lustrous appearance
- Sumi extends along the body length and extends into the fins moderately
- Red in Showa is strong and dense, particularly on the face, back, and tail region
- The pattern should be evenly distributed and easy on the eyes with sharp edges between the patterns
Utsurimono belongs to the same family as Showa Sanshoku. They are graced with a black coat and divided into further categories according to the color of their body markings.
Utsurimono possesses a non-metallic black color mixed with any secondary color, producing beautiful interlacing patterns.
Fun fact: Utsurimono was once considered a defective Showa Koi that lacked Hi (red) coloring. However, over the years, Koi enthusiasts have started to admire and adore this majestic Koi breed.
Like other varieties of Koi, Utsurimono is defined by its distinctive color patterns that leave the fish lovers in awe.
Appearance-wise, Utsurimono falls under three primary varieties.
- Ki Utsuri have a black coat with yellow as an accent color
- Hi Utsuri, as the name suggests, Hi utsuri has a black coat accentuated with a scarlet color.
- Shiro Utsuri has black skin with crystal white as the accent color. Also, the base of the pectoral fins of Shiro Utsuri is black.
What to look for
- The Sumi of Utsurimono should cover the nose, pectoral fin joints, and side faces
- Always look out for four common patterns on the head of Utsurimono, which are the lightning strike, the small black patches, the two distinctly different black patches, and the heavy black pattern. These patterns are then separated by the accent color of the variety
- The accent color should be properly distributed as if the black base is wrapped around the accent colors
Koi fish are known for their bizarre colors but not all Koi fish show various colors at once. There’s a variety of Koi that shows only one color which is known as Hikarmono or Ogon Koi.
The Ogon Koi can be of any color ranging from yellow, red, orange, platinum ogon, and cream. All these Koi colors can either be regular or metallic. However, the most common colors that the Ogon Koi comes in are white and yellow.
To be sure if you have a pure breed Hikarimono, identify its colors. If there’s more than one color, it’s not a pure breed of Ogon Koi. Suppose you have a platinum ogon, it should only possess one color i.e., platinum. If the color of your Platinum Ogon is not uniform, then it’s not purebred.
Hikarimono is a hardy Koi fish with a greater lifespan than other varieties. Hence, it’s low-maintenance and easy to breed.
Hikarimono Koi can be classified into 3 sub-categories.
- Hikari-Moyo is a metallic breed with patterns
- Hikari-Utsuri is a metallic variant of Utsurimono
- Hikari- Muji is a metallic version of Mujimono
The meaning of Kawarimono in Japanese means “Oddballs” and so Kawarimono is a classification of a variety of Koi that are non-metallic and don’t fit into other classes.
The Kawarimono Koi comes in three groups.
The Koi breeds that fall under the single-colored category are called Benigoi, where the Hi (red) covers almost the entire body that looks like a giant goldfish.
The Single-colored Koi breed features a uniform color tone with red or white-tipped fins and a voluminous body shape.
Koi varieties with black color display deep and even Sumi on fins or body. The four main varieties of Koi are.
a. Karasu has black fins and a body with an orange or white tummy
b. Hajiro has a black coat with a white nose and white-tipped fins
c. Hageshiro has a white head to the color combination
d. Youtsujiro has white fins
Other odd Koi varieties are Midorigoi (green-colored) and Matsuba Koi (red Koi with dark scales).
8. Gin rin
In a Koi fish pond, all that glitters is Gin rin.
Gin Rin or Kin Gin Rin is more like a scale-type reference, which means silver scales. Therefore, Gin Rin have glittery scales that resemble floating diamond in water ponds.
The color of the Gin Rin scales highly depends on the base color of Koi fish. For example, the Gin Rin reflects golden color when they cover red base (Hi) and silver while covering black or white skin.
Gin Rin Koi is different from Hikarimono and metallic variety of Koi because Gin Rin are metallic scales whereas, the Hikarimono and metallic variety display a shiny, lustrous coat.
There are four types of Gin Rin Koi.
- Diamond Gin Rin is the most common type with a crackled glass-like appearance
- Beta Gin is less common and the surface of skin sparkles like that of a mirror
- Pearl Gin is the most unusual type of Gin Rin with raised shiny deposits on the center of scales
- Kado Gin Rin is the least preferred type of Koi
Doitsu Koi are a modern addition to the Koi family. It is a crossbreed of Wagoi and European Caprinus Carpio Carpio with little to no scales.
However, in terms of scales, the Doitsu Koi can be divided into two types of Koi.
- The leather carp with little or no scales on the body
- The mirror carp with a row of enlarged scales on the lateral line and two lines running alongside the dorsal fin
Furthermore, the types of scales in Doitsu Koi fish can be divided into three types.
- Kawi Goi
- Kagami Goi
- Yoroi Goi
Pto Tip: In competitions, the Doitsu Koi is usually beat out in shows by the scaled Koi varieties.
The butterfly Koi is one of the most popular and beautiful varieties of Koi. It’s a shame that it’s considered a fake breed of Koi fish by the Japanese, which is the reason it’s more famous in the USA than in other parts of the world.
The butterfly Koi is the descendant of Goldfish and inherits one of the fanciest traits of its parent. i.e., long and flowing fins.
However, despite being one of the most graceful ornamental fish, it is not suitable for conditions because it deviates from the traditional Koi characteristics.
Tancho is a red-head Koi variety that wears its Hi (red) marking as a crown on the head.
Tancho Koi possess Hi markings on the head region only and comprise the family of Kohaku with lone, circular patterns of Hi on the head without Hi markings on the white, solid body.
The red spot on the head should be circular and crimson red in color for the ideal Tancho Koi, such as Tancho, Tancho Showa, and Tancho Sanke.
Most Popular Types For Shows
Though any Koi fish is truly capable of winning competitions, there are certain groups of Koi fish that are more prevalent for shows than others. They include.
Particularly the Gosanke variety of Koi is the most popular for Koi shows. However, the other classes are that are also in vogue for competitions are Utsuri, Bekko, Shusui, Koromo, Hikari Muji, Hikari Mono, Hikari Utsuri, Kawarigoi, Tancho, Kin Gin Rin. While some shows might also entertain the Doitsu Koi.
How many types are there?
There are over more than a hundred (100) varieties of Koi fish known to mankind to date. Each variance has its own distinctive features that set them apart from others. The most prominent features of Koi lie in the color, patterns, and body conformation.
What are the three varieties?
The three varieties of Koi or the “big three” refer to Gosanke, chiefly Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku (Sanke), and Showa Sanshoku (Showa). These three types of koi out of 100 varieties are highest-rated for their excellence, popularity, and quality.
What color is most expensive?
Kohaku Koi, the red and white carp is the most expensive Koi species in the world it was sold for around $2.2 million US dollars in China.
What is the rarest?
The rarest Koi fish till date is Ki Utsuri. The group of Utsurimono with yellow patterns over a black, lacquer body.
What is the biggest type?
Koi can be humongous. However, some Koi grow out to be bigger than the expectations. The same happened in 2007 when the Koi named “Big girl” was in the limelight as the world’s biggest Koi fish. Big Girl weighed around 90lbs and was 1.2m long.
No other Koi has beaten the the record of monstrous ‘Big Girl‘ so far.
What are the best to buy?
Choosing the best Koi for your garden ponds might be a nuisance. Because you never know the water quality and nutritional health of your fish before you spend some time with it.
I don’t recommend buying fish online, no matter how trustworthy the site seems. That’s because you can only check out for abnormalities and problems in person. Therefore, I recommend going to the store and analyzing the water conditions and nutritional needs of the fish before making a purchase.
I’m an avid Koi keeper, and all my life, I’ve bought my Koi from Next Day Koi. They have an extensive collection of Koi breeds that are bred for perfection and excellence at reasonable rates. Also, the freedom to pick your own delivery date while ordering is what makes Next Day Koi the best bet for an occupied person like me. You can use my promo code ASDEPOT for an extra 10% off!
Do they grow faster than goldfish?
Koi are hardy animals that are voracious eaters. Also, they live much longer than goldfish and have a healthier immunity system. As compared to Goldfish, Koi grow at a rapid rate, doubling the Goldfish in their first year.
How Can You Tell a Male from a Female?
Here are some pointers to look for when identifying a female or male Koi in the swarm of fish.
Koi males have more slender bodies than females. A female Koi has a rounded body, especially when she’s carrying eggs.
The pectoral fins of male Koi are pointed and solid in color. The female possesses rounder fins as compared to its male counterparts.
The breeding season brings many changes to Koi fish. Therefore, look out for Tubercles (little, white growths on the male head and pectoral fins). Comparatively, female Koi fish don’t develop Tubercles.
The Nishikigoi family has over a hundred different types of Koi, capable of animating your garden ponds through their rich, vibrant colors and unique body conformation. We identify the Koi varieties on the basis of their markings, pattern placement, accent colors, and history. This article speaks about nine different Koi varieties, out of which three are prized Koi, ideal for Japanese Koi competitions.
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.