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Description
Taisho Sanke
(Cyprinus carpio haematopterus)
Quick Care FactsCare Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Maximum Size: 28 - 40"
Minimum Pond Size: 500 gallons
Water Conditions: 55-79° F, 34-85° F temporary water conditions
Diet: Omnivore
Origin: Japan, selectively bred carp
Family: Cyprinidae
Species: Koi, Nishikigoi/錦鯉 (Japanese)
Aquarium Type: Pond
Taisho Sanke Coloration and Characteristics
Taisho Sanke (Taishō Sanshoku) (大正三色) is very similar to the kohaku, except for the addition of small black markings called sumi (墨). 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". Taisho Sanke is one of the "Big Three" of the Koi world, which consists of Kohaku, Sanke, and Showa.
There are many similarities between Sanke and Showa. Aside from the fact that both share three colors, both are also non-metallic members of the Gosanke group, produced with Doitsu and Ginrin scale variations. To muddy the waters even more, they can look very much alike at a young age and can take several years to fully finish. So it’s no wonder that most people have a difficult time telling them apart, especially at first glance. This following characteristics will provide helpful tips in telling Sanke from Showa and make it easier to correctly identify each variety when choosing juvenile fish for purchase.
Taisho Sanke (White and red with black accents) are bred to have the following characteristics:
  • White, or shiroji (sheer-row-gee), is the base color on Sanke. It begins at the nose and continues to the tail, including the fins. It should be clean, bright and not discolored in any way.
  • The red on Sanke is called hi (he) or beni (ben-ny) in Japanese. Beni tends to be more of an orange shade rather than a true, fire engine red. Sanke usually have large, reddish-orange patches that form the foundation of their color pattern, with the white base generally visible between the patches of beni.
  • Black, or sumi (sue-me), is the rarest color on Sanke. Generally, Sanke will have black spots, or sumi markings, that are relatively small when compared to the prominent beni patches. Sumi can be thought of as an accent color, while beni and shiroji are the primary colors on Sanke.
  • Sanke patterns usually lie on the back of the koi and are confined above the lateral line. However, beni patches may occasionally extend downward, slightly below the lateral line.
  • Small, infrequent or isolated sumi spots are indicative of Sanke. The lone, round black spots will appear randomly on the koi’s back above the lateral line to accent the beni pattern. Individual blotches of sumi are one clue to identifying Sanke.
  • Generally, Sanke will have only two colors on its head — white and red, with no sumi present. The face should be white, as this is the point where the important beni pattern begins.
  • Generally, the pectoral fins on Sanke will have the same clean, bright, shiroji color as its base. White is the dominant color of the pectoral fins; however, a few sumi stripes may show up here and there to accentuate the pattern. Sumi appearing on only one pectoral fin is not uncommon and perfectly acceptable on Sanke.
Koi Care & Pond Design
Caring for and keeping Koi is tightly tied to the pond in which they live, as the keys to successful Koi keeping revolve around water quality, proper filtration & aeration, quality food and protection from predators. First things first when keeping Koi and that is simply that they get big and need a pond to match. Depending on the number of Koi one plans to keep they need to build a pond that is up to the task of keeping a group of 24" to 30" on average fish that can reach a body mass nearing 30 lbs! While bigger is better, a few rules that will provide a good minimum starting point for an adequate Koi pond include the pond being at least 4 times the length of an adult Koi and 3 times the width, with a depth of around 3 feet. While modern filtration can keep fish alive in very small amounts of water, some reasonable swimming space is required for such large fish and they need some depth to be able to regulate their temperature by swimming closer or further from the surface of the water depending on temperature.
Koi like their common carp anscestors are a cold water fish capable of living in temperatures ranging from the mid 35° F to 84° F they are considered a hardy fish species. However, Koi do not do well if kept at extremely warm or cold water temperatures for long periods of time. They prefer water temperatures raning from 50° F to 78° F (10° C - 25° C), where they are in ponds that are deep enough for them to regulate their body temperature as they see fit by swimming higher or lower within the pond. The exact ideal depth for a pond depends greatly on the climate where the pond is built, warmer climates can have ponds as shallow as 3 feet in depth, where colder climates will need at least 5 feet deep areas to allow the fish to survice cold winters.
While Koi are fairly hardy fish in general they are selectively bred over hundreds of years for color and pattern, which has made them less hardy than their native carp cousins. Koi are especially sensitive to low oxygen levels and high levels of nitrate in the water. Therefore, proper pond filtration is critical to maintaining high quality water which is crucial to Koi health and longevity. Proper Koi pond filtration should provide high levels of dissolved oxygen, excellent mechanical, biological and chemical filtration and provide parasite control via a UV sterilizer. Partial water changes or the use of plants as a vegetable filter should be used in order to export or remove nitrate from building up in the water.
Second only to the pond design and water quality, Koi need high quality foods that provide them a mix of meaty and plant based food items that will provide a balanced and nutritional diet. Koi should be fed different foods or not at all based on the water temperature and time of year. In the Spring and Fall where water temperatures are between 55° F - 68° F (12° C - 20° C) Koi should be fed foods lower in protein and more easily digestible. When water temperatures are above 68° F or 20° C, then can be fed higher protein foods.
The pond design is also critical in terms of protecting Koi from predators and harsh water temperatures. Ponds that have gradual sloping sides and are shallow in depth allow predators to easily wade into the pond and feed on the Koi within. Also shallow ponds, especially those without shade provided by pond structures or overhead vegetation make it difficult for Koi to avoid the intense sun and high water temperatures during summer months. Koi ponds should have sheer edges that drop down quickly to 2 to 3 feet in depth to deture predators and should have areas of the pond that are deep enough to avoid predators and excessive winter or summer water temperature extremes.
Feeding
Koi being bred from Carp are an omnivorous fish species, who with their downturned mouths typically eat food items that they scavenge for on the bottom of their natural pond, lake or river homes. However, as Koi are selectively bred in captivity and raised in well maintained ponds, they have adapted to eating food from the surface of the water and will readily consume a wide variety of commercial floating foods designed for Koi.
Many Koi keepers prefer to feed their fish at the surface of the water as it allows them to bond with the fish by training them to hand feed and gives them a chance to inspect the fish for any signs of disease or any wounds brought on from pond predators like raccoons, herons or foxes.
Koi will readily consume a wide variety of natural foods in addition to balanced commercial Koi foods, these include: lettuce, watermelon, peas, oranges, squash and fresh seafoods like prawns, shrimp, scallops, squid, chopped fish, mussels, etc. as long as it is fresh and not pre-cooked or preserved in any way.
Koi should be fed different foods or not at all based on the water temperature and time of year. In the Spring and Fall where water temperatures are between 55°F - 68°F (12°C - 20°C) Koi should be fed foods lower in protein and more easily digestible. When water temperatures are above 68°F or 20°C, then can be fed higher protein foods. In the Winter when water temperatures are below 50°F or 10°C, the digestive system of the Koi will slow nearly to a halt and they should not be fed directly, they may nibble a little on plants and algae, but won't need direct feeding.
Feeding Koi when the water temperature is below 50°F or 10°C runs the risk that any food eaten may not be fully digested and will rot inside the gut of the fish causing illness and possbly cause the Koi to die.
Breeding
Koi, just like standard Carp when bred natuarally will spawn in the Spring and early Summer. Spawning is initiated by the male who will begin following the female about the pond, swimming right up behind her and nudging her repeatedly. After the female Koi is stimulated and releases her eggs, they will sink to vegetation, spawning mobs or even rocks or gravel on the bottom of the pond. The male will release sperm into the water and the eggs will become fertilized and begin developing. Although the female produces large numbers of eggs, many of the fry do not survive due to being eaten by other Koi or because they are not properly fertilized. On average if the egg survives it will hatch in around 4-7 days.
Most pond keepers looking to spawn their Koi will use mop heads or specialized Koi breeding mops in order to be able to control where the eggs are hatched. Since Koi will produce thousands of offspring, of which only a small percentage will carry the proper coloration and pattern necessary to be considered Nishikigoi or Koi. The rest of the offspring will be brown, black, grey or mottled in color and have little to no real color pattern. Professional Koi breeders will cull these undesireable offspring and only raise up the fish that show the desired coloration and pattern.
Nurturing and culling the resulting offspring or "fry" as they are known is a time consuming and tedious job, typically only done by professional Koi breeders or farms. The difficulty in raising quality Koi is in the continual process of feeding, sorting and culling the fry for months on end, while also needing to continually move desireable fish to new and larger holding ponds as they are grown out. Koi breeding at a minimum requires maintaining multiple grow out ponds, having many different types of foods on hand (including live or frozen foods) and performing sorting and culling duties every few weeks for the first year or up to about 6 inches in size. The resulting "Tosai" or yearling Koi will vary in quality from lower pond grade all the way to varying levels of high quality Koi.
While quality parent fish, high quality water conditions and foods provide reproductive advantages for Koi breeders, the semi-randomized results of the Koi reproductive process means that it is possible to get a favorable result even for novice breeders. Additionally the variability in the reproductive process allows for new varieties of Koi to be developed within a relatively few number of generations.
Additional Photos