Koi care and pond design tips

Pictures of koi varieties

There's a huge amount of variation in the colouring of koi, and the whole subject of koi varieties can be intimidating at first. Here I'm collecting pictures of the different koi varieties so you can see at a glance what they look like.

If you're just getting started, the best place to start is to learn to spot the three most popular koi varieties, known as the Gosanke breeds. They are the Kohaku (red on white - the original colouration), the Sanke (red and black on white - also called Taisho Sanshoku), and the Showa (red and white on black - also called Showa Sanshoku). The distinction between the last two is blurring these days!

Click on a photo for more information on that variety – or scroll down for a list of koi varieties with description.

Before I list the varieties, I should introduce the concept of 'reticulation'. Reticulation is where a koi has a 'net-like' pattern. It's created by there being a contrasting colour on the edge of the scales.

Here are the koi varieties:

  • Kohaku – a white koi with red markings. It's very important that a kohaku koi has a marking on the head. See picture.
  • Sanke (Taisho Sanshoku) – a white koi with red and black markings. See picture.
  • Showa (Showa Sanshoku) – a black koi with white and red markings. See picture.
  • Bekko – a bekko koi's body is a single colour (which can be white, red or yellow), and it has small black markings. There are three kinds of bekko – white (shiro bekko), red (aka bekko), and yellow (ki bekko). See picture.
  • Utsuri koi have a body of a single colour (white, red, or yellow), with black markings over the top. The difference between bekko and utsuri is that bekko have very small black markings, and utsuri have large black markings that wrap the body. There are three kinds of utsuri – white (shiro utsuri), red (hi utsuri), and yellow (ki utsuri). See picture.
  • Koromo koi are like kohaku in that they have a white body with red markings, but due to cross-breeding with asagi, these red areas have reticulation – the red scales have blue or black edges. See picture.
  • Asagi koi are blue and reticulated across the top of their body, and have red markings underneath. The reticulation in this case is blue scales with paler edges. See picture.
  • Goshiki koi have white-and-dark reticulated bodies, with plain red markings over the top. See picture.
  • Tancho koi can be kohaku, sanke or showa, but they have only one red marking – a large red circle on the head. They're popular because of the resemblance to the Japanese flag. See picture.
  • Ogon / Hikari Mujimono / Hikarimuji koi are single-colour metallic koi. They can be gold (yamabuki ogon), platinum (purachina), or orange (orenji ogon). See picture.
  • Hikari Moyo koi are metallic, but have more than one colour.
  • Kinginrin koi have scales with a sparkle to them. When the sparkle is silver, they are ginrin; when it's gold, they're kinrin. Any variety of koi can have a kinginrin version. They're not the same as ogon – ogon koi are smooth and metallic, whereas kinginrin sparkle. See picture.
  • Kujaku ('peacock') koi are metallic with reticulation – both body colour and markings are reticulated. They can have metallic red, orange or yellow markings. See picture.
  • Ochiba Shigure koi are a pale blue-grey reticulated koi, with orangey-mustard markings. They're named because they look like autumn leaves on water.
  • Doitsu derives from the word for 'German', and were created by cross-breeding with German leather carp, which is scaleless. Doitsu koi have no scales, or have scales only along the back. See picture.
  • Shusui koi are a Doitsu version of the Asagi. Instead of reticulation, then, shusui koi have large, dark blue mirror scales along their backs, and their bodies are paler than the asagi. See picture.

Photos courtesy of Flickr's Creative Commons license.

Header photos by Bitter Jeweler and hellsgeriatric courtesy of a Creative Commons license.
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