Koi Species Profiles
Koi fish (Nishikigoi in Japanese) are a colorful, ornamental versions of the common carp. Though carp domestication is believed to have begun in China as far back as the 4th century, modern Japanese koi are believed to date back to early 19th-century Japan where wild, colorful carp were caught, kept and bred by rice farmers. There are now dozens of different color varieties of koi.
In the Koi world, there is a social status. Gosanke is the word that that expresses this status. Gosanke refers to the three varieties that represent Nishikigoi. They are the Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku and Showa Sanshoku. These are known as the Big 3 and have the highest status.
Utsurimono are derived from the same lineage as Showa Sanshoku. They too have black skin, and are divided according to the color of interlacing markings into "Shiro Utsuri (contrasted by white markings)," "Hi Utsuri (contrasted by red markings)" and "Ki Utsuri (contrasted by yellow markings)."
Like in Showa Sanshoku, Sumi of Shiro Utsuri should essentially covers the nose, side faces ('Menware' for diverging head pattern) and pectoral fin joints ('Motoguro' for black base).Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri have red and yellow markings respectively in place of white ones on Shiro Utsuri. The body of Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri has the same Sumi as Shiro Utsuri, but their pectoral fins do not show Motoguro, but are striped instead. Formerly Utsurimono were produced mostly as by-products of Showa Sanshoku breeding. Recently, however, very high quality Utsurimono have been bred with excellent Shiro Utsuri on one or both sides of parentage. Hi Utsuri continue to be born as the by-products of Showa Sanshoku breeding. However, we have seen very little of Ki Utsuri lately.
Hikarimuji (hee-KAH-ree-MOO-gee) is a classification that incorporates metallic, single-colored koi, which can come with or without scale reticulation. The classification (also denoted as Hikari Mujimono) designation comes from “Hikari” meaning “shining” or “metallic” and “Muji” which is quite simply “plain” or “solid.” The brightness and shine of Hikarimuji are immediately eye-catching in ponds, and as a result are a popular variety of koi. The Hikarimuji class includes Orenji Ogon, Platinum Ogon, Yamabuki, Nezu Ogon, Matsuba and Aka Matsuba. The Matsuba is split into “gin” (silver) and “kin” (golden). The “pine cone” reticulation pattern on the Matsuba—even though a different color (sumi or black)—is not considered part of the pattern in this classification.
What to Look For
As the distinguishing characteristic of this variety is the metallic skin, it is the quality of sheen and how well it reflects light (which is referred to as “luster”) that is what is ultimately most desirable in a Hikarimuji koi. The luster should be consistent and bright across the entire koi (from nose to tail as well as the other fins). High-quality luster has been likened to satin, which has a deep, bright and vibrant sheen regardless of its actual color. Additionally, the actual color itself should be uniform, dense and unblemished. Body conformation is also important (as in all koi).
Hikarimoyo (Hick-Ar-Ee-Moe-Yo) are multi-colored metallic koi. The term “Hikari” is translated as “metallic.” Indeed, it is a bright, metallic white that forms the base for each of the varieties of the Hikarimoyo. The koi in this class are immediately eye-catching as a result of the bright sheen of the platinum (bright white) base. It is then one through four additional colors that make up the patterns on the koi, giving each variety its appearance.
The strength of the metallic white under the color can diffuse the color above it, making reds appear orange and making black look more grey. Hikarimoyo can be scaled or Doitsu, standard or butterfly. There are eight varieties of koi under the Hikarimoyo: Kikusui, Hariwake, Kujaku, Kikokuryu, Kin Kikokuryu, Beni Kikokuryu, Yamato Nishiki, Heisei Nishiki.
What to Look For
The platinum white should have a bright, glistening luster and be consistent in color and luster across the body. The white should have very few or no blemishes. The pectoral fins should have flashy white all the way to the ends of the pectoral fins. The additional colors should be uniform, dense and unblemished. The preferred pattern of Hikarimoyo varieties follows that of other patterned koi. It should be balanced on both sides of the koi as well as on both ends.
Kawarimono (Kah-Wa-Ree-Moe-No) is a broad, catch-all term for a large variety of koi that don’t fit neatly into other classes. All the koi in this classification are non-metallic. There are 14 different types of koi in the Kawarimono class: Kumonryu, Beni Kumonryu, Matsukawabakke, Beni Matsukawabakke, Chagoi, Soragoi, Ochiba Shigure, Karasu, Hajiro, Shiro Muji, Kigoi, Gold Crown, Midorigoi, Kawarigoi.
The variety of koi in this classification are separated into three general groups: single-colored, black and other. Some refer to Kawarimono-type koi as the “leftover” category, but that is anything but true. The fact that they defy standard classification adds a certain uniqueness to this group of koi, and indeed have quite a few interesting varieties that add color and grace to many ponds.
What to Look For
As the Kawarimono class represents a wide group of koi, with numerous patterns and colors, similar criteria for what is generally accepted as the best qualities for other types of koi still apply. Any colors should be deep and solid. Spotting, blurring or fading are signs of inferior quality Kawarimono types. Additionally, the hue and shading of the colors should remain consistent across the entire koi. The same description for preferred patterning on a Kawarimono koi applies. There should be balance across the entire koi, with the pattern extending to both sides and ends of the koi.
Koromo koi fish are sure to stand out in a Japanese koi pond or water garden because of its unusual colors. The Koromo are white koi fish with a Kohaku pattern of Hi and blue or black edging on just the red scales. Koromo which literally means ‘robed’ in Japanese. A well balanced Kohaku pattern is ideal on a high quality koi fish for sale of this variety. Koromo are said to have been produced by crossing Kohaku with Asagi. Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku and Showa Sanshoku, which have indigo tinge over-laying the red patterns, are called Ai-goromo (blue garment), Koromo Sanshoku, and Koromo Showa respectively.
What to Look For
Koromo usually have blue crescent markings on the edges of scales within the red patches. Koi with distinct, blue crescents arranged in an orderly manner are highly valued. High quality Koromo such as this are tastefully charming the kind favored by Koi experts. The blue color of Koromo seems to gradually grow darker as the Koi grow older. Accordingly, the blue color of a seemingly right tone in small Koi often becomes too dark when the Koi grow big. Blue color showing the right tone on large Koi, were in many cases a light tone when the Koi were small. This fact, therefore, should be taken into careful consideration when buying Koromo.
ASAGI & SHUSUI
These varieties of koi are the yin and yang of scaled and Doitsu blue koi. Asagi have blue, net-like reticulated pattern across the back. They will have areas of red (hi) on the gill plates, pectoral fins, belly, tail, and possibly around the dorsal fin.
Shusui are Doitsu (German) koi where the blue scaleless skin replaces the Asagi’s scaled net pattern. They have a single row of scales running down the back (dorsal line). The Shusui will also exhibit red (hi) in similar spots, but it can extend above the lateral line and onto the back.
The Bekko is a solid colored non-metallic koi fish with black (sumi) spots on the body. Bekko koi are produced in three colors; white, red and yellow. The white variety is called a Shiro Bekko. It is a clean white koi fish with the addition of black spots. The Aka Bekko is a red or orange koi with black spots, and the Ki Bekko is a yellow koi fish with black spots. The Ki Bekko or yellow version is the rarest.
Sumi placement is important when evaluating a Bekko koi fish. The sumi patches on a Bekko should appear uniformly on the Koi's back. They should be only located above the lateral line, and never ahead of the shoulder region. The Bekko head should be free of any black pigment, spots or pattern. Its fins, however, are generally white and may have intermittent sumi stripes which often help to maintain balance of the sumi pattern.
The Bekko is generally one of the first varieties that a beginner koi hobbyist learns to recognize and is a very popular fish for Japanese koi ponds and water gardens. As a breeder of Japanese koi, the Bekko and Butterfly koi are produced at the Kloubec Koi Farm.