The Different Varieties of Koi
There are fourteen different varieties of Koi, with a fifteenth variety that is used as a sort of a catchall variety for all of the different Koi types that do not quite fit into one of the other fourteen slots. This last variety is known as the Kawarimono, and a large percentage of Koi are placed in this category.
Inclusion in this variety has no bearing on the quality of the Koi. Placement in the fifteenth variety simply means that there is something not quite right about the fish. It may be attractive and healthy, but it does not fit the “breed standard” for any of the individual varieties. All Koi have a unique beauty, but those who are entered in shows must resemble this standard.
Crossbreeding For Different Varieties
The many different color varieties that you will see were brought to fruition by crossbreeding fish that are closely related to each other. Crossbreeding tends to make a genetic line more stable, bringing out the good qualities while pushing back the bad. Those who are preparing to be Koi breeders are advised to learn about the different varieties so that they will know which ones they are interested in breeding and raising.
The Kohaku is a White koi with red, or Hi markings. The color white should look as if it is freshly fallen snow, and there should be no superfluous marks on the white to distract the eye from the pristine color.
The clarity between the Hi color and the white is called the Kiwa. The pattern on the Kohaku should have depth and should be as well balanced as possible. There are several different pattern types, including the –
- Inazuma, which means lightning strike in Japanese.
- Nidan is the name for two red or Hi markings on the white background of the fish.
- Sandan is the name for three red or Hi markings on the white fish.
- Yondan is the name for four red or Hi markings on the Kohaku.
The Taisho Sanke is a Koi carp with three different colors. In this instance, the colors are red, or Hi, black, or Sumi, and white. The color depth and the balance of the pattern on the fish is important, just as it is on the Kohaku. The Taisho Sanke should not have any black (sumi) on the head. Black (Sumi) is welcome on the fins, and most particularly on the pectoral and the caudal fins. This is taken as a sign that the Sumi color should stay even over the entire body of the fish. The red (Hi) patterns may be on just a part of the body, or can extend back over the entire length of the body.
The Showa Sanshoku Koi has much more black (Sumi) included in its patterns than does the Taisho Sanke. In fact, this classification is mostly black with a foreground of red and white markings. Color depth is very important in this variety. The black (Sumi)should be deep and dark, the color of an object made of the dense and dark black wood known as ebony.
The red (Hi) markings need to be a blood red color, and the white should be as crisp and clean in appearance as a freshly washed and starched white shirt. The white color on the Showa Sanshoku should be even and uniform on the base of the pectoral fins. There are several different varieties of the Showa Sanshoku that can pop up in other Koi classifications, such as the –
- Kawarimono (Kage Showa, Kankoko Showa)
- Hikari-Utsurimono (Kin Showa)
- Tancho Showa
The Asagi Koi is one of the initial varieties of Koi. The body of the Asagi is a blue color, with the lighter shades of blue most preferred. The scales on the skin of the Asagi are given high importance. The edges of these scales must all be equal in length, and must be on the entire body of the koi from its tail to its head. The red (Hi) color that appears on the sides of the Asagi, on the head, and on the fins sometimes looks more orange than red. The Hi needs to be symmetrical on both sides of the Koi’s cheeks all the way to its eyes.
Three varieties of the Utsurimono have been painstakingly developed. These are the –
- Ki, which is a yellow and black Koi
- Hi, a red and black Koi
- Shiro, a white and black koi
The Utsurimono should be heavily marked with black (Sumi) in order to display a prominent contrast with the yellow, red, or white. All colored need to be somewhat balanced, as this helps to call attention to the pattern on the Koi.
The Utsurimono is sometimes mistaken for the Bekko koi. There are two differences to look for that will allow the observer to tell the two varieties of Koi apart. The main variation is that the Utsurimono is a black Koi with red, white, or yellow markings, while the Bekko Koi are either white, yellow, or red Koi that have black markings. The Utsurimono also feature black markings on their heads that run all the way down to their noses. The Bekko Koi do not have black markings in this area.
The word “Hikari” translates from the Japanese to mean “metallic”. “Mono” means one particular single color. This means that the Ogon is classified as a highly metallic-colored variety of Koi. There are –
Metallic silver, or Platinum Ogon,
Metallic yellow, or Yamabuki Ogon.
These two colors are the most common, and the easiest shades of Ogon to purchase.
There is also the –
- Fuji Ogon, where only the head of the Koi is metallic
- Orenji Ogon, which is all orange like a common goldfish, with a red splotch on its back. Goldfish lovers are usually quite fond og the Orenji.
With the exception of the Fuji, the metallic color of the Ogon must be the same from the head to the tail, and even flow down to the ends of each fin in order to be considered “correct”. The size of the fins also matters a great deal. Everyone wants to see long fins on the Ogon, as they help to counterbalance the plain Koi body.
The Bekko variety is a white, yellow or red Koi that can be identified by the unique black markings. This assortment has small and very simple black markings that are not included on the head of the Koi.
- The Shiro Bekko is white with black markings.
- The Aka Bekko is red with black markings
- The Ki Bekko is yellow with black markings, and is considered to be rare.
The Shusui is the result of a crossbreeding that took place in 1910. One Yoshigoro Akiyama crossed an Asagi Koi with a Doitsu Mirror carp. He ended up with a fish he called the Shusui. The color of this Koi is comparable to that of the Asagi.
The Shusui has a head that is a bluish gray color, with red on the jaws of the Koi. The skin is a lovely sky blue, with darker fish scales outlining the lateral and dorsal lines. Lines of red run down the back from the gills to the tail. There are several types of Shusui, including –
- Hi Shusui
- Hana Shusui
- Ki Shusui
- Pearl Shusui
The Koromo koi is a relatively new type of Koi that appeared around 1950. The Koromo came into existence by crossing the Kohaku with the Naruni Asagi. The Koromo has a lovely pattern of deep red edged with black on a white background/body. The red is described as being in a lace pattern, and the markings of the Koromo are prone to variations, depending on which variety you are looking at. The most commonly seen varieties include –
- Budo Sanke
- Koromo Sanke
- Koromo Showa
- Budo Goromo
In Japan, the word “goshiki” means five colors, which are red, white, black, dark blue and blue. All of these colors can be mixed on the body of one fish. The result of this is a Koi that has a rather purplish tint. Originally created by crossing the Asgai Koi with the Sanke Koi, the Goshiki has patterns that are quite striking. These surprisingly lovely fish are very popular with those who keep Koi as a hobby.
Any Koi that are metallic and have several colors, but do not come from Utsuri lineage are in this group. The Hikarimoyo-mono was created by crossing a Platinum Ogon with several other varieties, none of which had any Utsuri genes at all. This cross resulted in the –
- Gin Bekko
There is another group in this classification, which has fish of two colors, either gold, orange, or platinum. These Koi are called Hariwake. The Orenji Hariwake and the Hariwake Matsuba are two examples of this variety.
The Kawarimono classification is given to many non-metallic fish who do not seem to fit in any other variety of Koi. This classification should in no way be considered as a variety in which to dump the oddly marked Koi! Many gorgeous crossbred Koi come from the Kawarimono variety. Often, these are not bred on purpose, but appear in a spawning as a “sport” koi.
Generally, the Kawarimono are divided into three groups –
- Single-colored Koi
- Black Koi
- Other colors of Koi
The Cha-goi is a part of the catchall class known as Kawarimono. “Cha” is the word for a tea-colored Koi that is a very fast grower. The Cha-goi is very easy to tame, and most people thoroughly enjoy having this variety in their pond.
Ochiba-Shigure is an interesting name for a Koi. The words translate to mean “dead leaves on the water”. These fish are clothed in the basic colors of gray and green with a network of brown lines, rather like the stems of a dead leaf.
Also known as American koi, Butterfly koi, Longfin koi, and Dragon koi, the Onagaoi has beautiful long fins reminiscent of a butterfly’s wings. The Japanese bred these koi, hoping to improve the hardiness of all koi by doing so. A type of wild fish called Indonesian Longfin river carp were captured by these breeders to use in breeding experiments. These carp were bred with koi that were more traditional in appearance. The fish that resulted from this breeding had the long fins and the resiliency that was hoped for.
Koi Purists Dislike the Butterfly
Other breeding experiments were carried out in the hopes of setting the different patterns of traditional koi onto the long finned. This attempt at crossbreeding was mostly successful. Many koi purists are adamantly against the Onagaoi. This is the reason why many of the people who sell koi do not offer this variety. Famous breeders in Japan would not think of breeding the Onagaoi. These koi are not popular anywhere in the world except for the United States.