Types of Koi

Cross Breeding Different Types of Koi in a Pond – A Hobby that Becomes an Obsession

Of the many species of cold water fish that inhabit backyard ponds, the koi reigns supreme. Koi are a domesticated, colorful form of the wild common carp, Cyprinus Carpio. The Japanese were first noted breeding koi in ponds in the early 19th century but it wasn’t until after World War II that many western nations also became interested. While many countries including the USA, Israel, Singapore, Italy, Hong Kong and Great Britain are now breeding koi on a commercial scale, the Japanese still produce the largest quantity and best quality of koi.
There are about one hundred different types of koi that have been currently categorized but these fish are not genetically fixed which means breeding one variety produces fry of other varieties. Those that currently exist are the result of much cross breeding and new varieties are appearing all the time. The naming conventions for the different types of koi are in Japanese which can make it confusing to  new fish keepers. The major categories are shown below:

Types of Koi


Ogon are highly metallic, single color koi normally platinum, red (hi), silver grey (nezu), orange (orengi), or yellow gold (yamabuki). Ogon should have no markings on their body and the scales should have a metallic luster and be evenly distributed.
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Platinum Ogon

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Orenji Ogon

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Yambuki Ogon









Very popular white koi with red (pronounced he) markings. There are 2 Kohaku patterns. First a continuous pattern that extends from head to tail and is known as moyo.  Second is a stepped color patterns known Asdangara is the more highly valued of the two.  Stepped patterns are defined by the number of markings on the body. Nidan Kohaku have 2 markings, Sandan Kohaku have 3 markings and Yondan Kohaku have 4. The picture below is a Yondan Kohaku.
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Black koi with white (Shiro Utsuri), red (Hi Utsuri) or yellow markings (Ki Utsuri). Often confused with Bekko, (below) the main difference is Utsuri are black koi with lighter color markings while Bekko are white, red or yellow koi with black markings.
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Hi Utsuri

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Ki Utsuri









Bekko are a non-metallic koi with white, (Shiro Bekko), red(Aka Bekko) or yellow (Ki Bekko) base color with black markings. Bekko are a derivative of the Sanke variety.
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Shiro Bekko









The Showa is a 3 color black koi with red and white markings and is very popular like the Kohaku and Sanke.

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Taisho Sanke

Taisho Sanke are three colored koi with red and black markings on a white base. Sanke literally means tri-color and the fish are very popular with hobbyists.
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Taisho Sanke









A red spot on the head when the koi has no other colors on the body.  A white koi, with a red head is a Tancho Kohaku
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Tancho Kohaku









5 color koi which mixes red, white, black, light blue and dark blue
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Tancho Goshiki









Asagi are a non-metallic grey blue koi and red along the side cheeks and bottom. The pattern on the scales is very distinct with darker blue at the center and lighter blue at the edges.  Asagi are one of the oldest varieties of koi and their existence has been documented for over 150 years.
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Koromo literally means “robed” referring to a type of koi whose markings are outlined in a darker color. The Koromo has a Kohaku pattern with very deep red markings. The “hi” scales have blue edges which creates the distinguished “robed” appearance. Koromo are a cross between the Kohaku and Asagi.
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Kujacku are platinum koi with “hi” markings that cover much of the body. The scales are overlaid with a “matsuba” or black pine cone pattern that are said to resemble a peacocks feathers. This is one of my favorite varieties.

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Kujaku - The Peacock Koi










Kawarimo is a koi category for those specimens that don’t fit into any other grouping and as such is constantly expanding.


Guidelines for Stocking Different Types of Koi


In selecting the initial stock to begin breeding koi in your backyard, prices are influenced by several factors:

1) SIZE: Fish kept longer by the breeder are larger, their quality is more evident and the cost is higher.

2) ORIGIN: Generally Japanese fish are more expensive. The colors are often better and they usually have an established genetic line  going back generations.

3) COLOR: Koi with better color qualities and the more popular patterns are more expensive

4) AGE: Is roughly related to size and the least expensive koi are the younger ones.
I generally target koi that are one to 2 years old ranging from 3 to 8 inches in length for my initial stock. I try for a variety of types and colors and over time these fish will reproduce naturally and I no longer have to purchase new koi other than when I come across a special must have specimen.

Full grown, high quality koi can be quite expensive (several hundred dollars to over $1,000 each) but younger koi, 3 -5 inches in length, can be found at affordable prices. Koi grow quite rapidly and can achieve a length of 2 feet in less than 5 years. In the proper environment they will reproduce so a modest initial stocking of several types of koi is all that is needed to get started.

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