Koi (Nishikigoi) Varieties

Koi have many different colors. Some of the major colors are white, black, red, yellow, blue, and cream.

While the possible variations are limitless, breeders have identified and named a number of specific categories. The most popular category is Gosanke, which is made up of the Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku, and Showa Sanshoku varieties.

Koi varieties

The major named varieties include:

  • Kohaku - A white-skinned koi, with large red markings on the top. The name means "red and white;" kohaku was the first ornamental variety to be established in Japan (late 19th century).
  • Taisho Sanshoku (or Taisho Sanke) - Very similar to the Kohaku, except for the addition of small black markings called sumi. This variety was first exhibited in 1914 by the koi breeder, Gonzo Hiroi, during the reign of the Taisho Emperor. In America, the name is often abbreviated to just "Sanke". The kanji,, may be read as either sanshoku or as sanke.
  • Showa Sanshoku (or Showa Sanke) - A black koi with red (hi) and white (shiroji) markings. The first Showa Sanke was exhibited in 1927, during the reign of the Showa Emperor. In America, the name is often abbreviated to just Showa. The amount of shiroji on Showa Sanke has increased in modern times Kindai Showa, to the point where it can be impossible to distinguish from Taisho Sanke. The kanji, may be read as either sanshoku or as sanke.
  • Tancho - Any koi with a solitary red patch on its head. The fish may be a Tancho Showa, Tancho Sanke, or even Tancho Goshiki. Named for the Japanese crane (Grus japonensis) which also has a red spot on its head.
  • Asagi - A koi that is light blue above and red below. The Japanese name means "light blue.".
  • Utsurimono - A black koi with a white, red, or yellow markings. The oldest attested form is the yellow form, called "Black and white markings" in the 19th century, but renamed Ki Utsuri by Elizaburo Hoshino, an early 20th century koi breeder. The red and white versions are called Hi Utsuri and Shiro Utsuri respectively. The word utsuri means to print (the black markings are reminiscent of ink stains).
  • Bekko - A white-, red-, or yellow-skinned koi with small black markings sumi. The Japanese name means "tortoise shell," and is also written as. The white- red- and yellow varieties are called Shiro Bekko Aka Bekko and Ki Bekko respectively. May be confused with the Utsuri.
  • Goshiki - A black koi with red, white, brown, and blue accents.
  • Shusui - The Japanese name means "Autumn jade." The Shusui was created in 1910 by Yoshigoro Akiyama, by crossing Japanese Asagi with German mirror carp. The fish has no scales, except for a single line of large mirror scales dorsally, extending from head to tail.
  • Kinginrin - A koi with metallic scales. The name translates into English as "gold and silver scales." Often abbreviated to Ginrin. There are Ginrin versions of almost all other varieties of koi, and they are fashionable.
  • Kawarimono - A "catch-all" term for koi that cannot be put into one of the other categories. This is a competition category (you cannot buy a "kawarigoi" from a pet shop) and many new varieties of koi compete against each other within this one category. Also known as kawarigoi
  • Ogon - A koi of one color only, but with metallic scales (ginrin or hikarimono ). The most commonly encountered colours are gold, platinum, and orange. Cream specimens exist but are very rare. Ogon compete in the Kawarimono category and the Japanese name means "Gold." The variety was created by Sawata Aoki in 1946 from wild carp he caught in 1921.
  • Kumonryu - Kumonryu is a black fish with curling white markings. The patterns are thought to be reminiscent of Japanese ink paintings of dragons. They famously change colour with the seasons. Kumonryu compete in the Kawarimono category.
  • Doitsu-goi - A German mirror carp with only a single line of large mirror-like scales along the top.
  • Ochiba - A light blue koi with yellow patches, reminiscent of autumn leaves on water. The Japanese name means "fallen leaves."
  • Koromo - Koi with patches of blue- or black-edged scales. This variety first arose in the 1950's as a cross between a Kohaku and an Asagi. The most commonly encountered Koromo is an Ai Goromo, which is coloured like a Kohaku, except that each of the scales within the red patches has a blue- or black-edge to it.
  • Hikari-moyomono - A koi with coloured markings over a metallic base, or koi in two metallic colours.
  • Ghost koi - "hybrid" of Ogon and wild carp. Not Nishikigoi.
  • Butterfly koi - long-finned version of all others. Not Nishikigoi. Bred in America and introduced back into Japan.