The koi has a history that dates back 2500 years. They are all derived from the common carp with colour mutations from the basic black carp (known as Magoi) developed 200 years ago, right down to the “youngest of the variety, nishikigoi, which was established at the beginning of the second millenium.
Description of Varieties
Below are some literal translation to the names of koi that you may encounter:
hi = red only in patches
aka = red the whole fish
sumi = black only in patches
karasu = Black the whole fish
nezu = gray
shiro = white
midori = green
ki = yellow
cha = brown
orenji = orange
beni = dark red
ai = indigo
kin = gold (yellow metallic)
gin = silver (white metallic)
matsuba = Pine Cone Pattern
Bekko = Black & White
Rin = shiny Scale
doitsu = scale-less or mirror carp
The most common variety are the Kohaku, white koi with red markings, which should be deep red with well defined edges (kiwa).
A tancho kohaku is a white koi with a red spot on its head. Varieties in this type are:
• Inazuma kohaku (inazuma means \’lightning strike\’) with red patterns running down from head to tail.
• nidan (two) kohaku has two red markings
• sandan (three) kohaku has three red markings
• yondan kohaku has four red markings.
• Godan kohaku has 5 markings
• Kuchibeni – with a red marking on its lips
• Oh moyo – large unbroken marking from head to tail
• Menkaburi – hood like pattern covering whole head extending from gills to mouth
Taisho sanke (known as sanke), hi (red) and sumi (black) on a white background.
• maruten sanke has a separate red spot on the head with normal markings on the body.
• Tsubo-suni - black (sumi) is on the white
• Kasane-sumi – when the black is on the red
• Kuchibeni – when there is red on the lips
• Aka Sanke – when the red runs from head to tail
• Doitsu Sanke this is a scale less variation
A tancho sanke has a red spot on the head and a white body with black markings.
Showa sanshoku (known as showa), red and white markings on a black background.
• hi showa – predominantly red showa.
• kindai showa – predominantly white pattern.
• tancho showa – has a red spot on the head and a black body with white markings.
• Bloke Showa – in this Koi the back is in a netlike pattern
Do not confuse Utsurimono (Utsuri meaning reflections) with bekko. Utsurimono are “colour on black” varieties while bekko are “black on colour”.
• Shiro utsuri – black koi with white markings.
• Hi utsuri – black with red markings.
• Ki utsuri – black with yellow markings (rare variety).
• Doitsu utsuri – scale-less versions of the above.
Doitsu koi are koi with scales only along the dorsal and lateral lines.
Bekko black (sumi) markings on red (aka)/yellow (Ki)/white (shiro).
You can also get the doitsu bekko which is scale-less version of this type.
Asagi has a blue back and red sides. The blue scales are edged with white (giving a net appearance). The head is either light blue or white, while the base of the pectoral fins, tail fin, stomach and gill plates should be orange or red in color.
• Konjo Asagi – a dark blue almost black back
• Narumi Asagi – a mid blue color to the back
• Mizu Asagi – a light blue color to the back
Shusui are the doitsu of the Asagi koi. They are blue-grey with dark blue scales along the dorsal and lateral lines and red on the sides and fins.
• Hana Shusui - where a band of red runs up to the lateral line; light blue appears up to the dorsal line
• Hi Shusui - where the red (hi) spreads up to the dorsal line
• ki Shusui – where the red (hi) is replaced by yellow (ki)
Goromo literally means \’robed\’ is a hybrid between Asagi and Kohaku or Showa.
• Ai goromo – Asagi crossed with the Kohaku its red scales have distinctive blue borders
• Koromo-Sanke – this is a cross between a Sanke and a ai-goromo; has blue shadows overlaying the red scales
• Budo Sanke – with blue/purple markings on the red
• Sumi goromo – solid black on the red markings.
Kawarimono are non-metallic koi that do not fall into the above groups. These include:
• Karasu – black Koi with a red belly
• Hajiro – black Koi with white tips to the tail, dorsal and pectoral fins.
• cage shiro – basic black and white patterning of the Shiro Utsuri, with the kage patterning (shadowy, reticulated) on the white
• aka Hajiro (benigoi) – red non-metallic Koi with white or clear tips to the pectoral, caudal and tail fins.
• Midorigoi – green non-metallic Koi; normally doitsu
• Kigoi – yellow non metallic Koi; those with red eyes are favoured
• Chagoi – brownish-buff to a dark tea non metallic Koi
• Soragoi – blue-grey non metallic koi.
Part of the Kawarimono group, the ochiba shigure have light blue to gray body with a pattern of yellow through to orange or brown.
Kumonryu comes under the Kawarimono group and is a doitsu koi which is black with white markings on its head, fins and body.
Goshiki also come under the Kawarimono group and are white, red, black, blue and dark blue, giving a purplish appearance.
Hikari-utsuri-mono is a group of single coloured metallic koi. The varieties in this group are:
• platinum ogon – metallic grey koi
• Nezu Ogon – metallic silver grey
• Yamabuki Ogon – yellow-gold metallic koi
• Orenji ogon – deep metallic orange koi
• Kin matsuba – metallic gold/orange koi with black centre scales (resulting in pine cone effect)
• Gin matsuba – are the silver version.
Hikarimoyo – Mono are other metallic koi that have more than one colour but are not showa or utsuri. The varieties in this group are:
• Yamato-nishiki – metallic sanke
• Kujaku – platinum with red markings; scales are overlaid with a matsuba pattern
• Platinum kohaku – metallic kohaku
• Kikusui – doitsu platinum kohaku
• Gin bekko – metallic shiro bekko.
• Kinsui and ginsui – metallic varieties of shusui
• Hariwake are platinum with orange (orenji hariwake) or yellow (yamabuki hariwake) markings; they include the scaled, doitsu, matsuba (pine cone effect) or doitsu matsuba
• kikokuru – metallic Kumonryu; usually black and silver or red or yellow on silver
Ginrin kohaku are white koi with red markings on silver sparkling scales.
Those with golden sparkling scales are kinrin. Koi with both are kinginrin.