Choosing Koi for Your Pond

Choosing koi carp can be a daunting exercise, given the sheer volume in the variation of breeds available to pick from.

Koi can offer so much to your garden, their elegance and beauty bring a serenity to any koi pond, and they’ll also help encourage the growth of pond plants as well as attracting birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

Before we delve into the different types of koi, let’s cover some of the basics in picking a healthy fish.

Koi Carp at the surface of the water

Body Shape – A healthy koi should be almost missile-shaped; neither fat nor thin, with a rounded, slimline shape, rounded nose and a smooth, uniform body. 

Colouration – Regardless of their natural colouration and pattern, koi carp should exhibit a strong, even colour. Though there are intricacies in each breed, this is a good general rule to follow.

Quality of Skin – The skin of a koi in good health should be bright and glossy in appearance, while the scales should be barely visible.

General Health – It’s important to watch your potential choice of koi swimming naturally before you purchase. It should be swimming upright with a natural, graceful movement, while the dorsal fin should be erect and the pectoral fins spread wide.

With that covered, the next stage of picking your brand new koi carp will be down to personal preference, it’s now time to consider the markings and colouration of the fish.

Markings and Colouration:

3 Koi Carps at the surface of the water

Black (Sumi) – Dark black markings on the koi, these can often be prone to fading in old age and can often make your fish harder to view while in the water. These are both things to consider when choosing your fish.

White base (Shiroji) – A white base colour will make your fish easier to spot while in the pond, however it may not develop as well as some other colours.

Red (Beni or Hi) – The beni provides striking markings on a koi, one way of picking out a fish that will mature with a deep shade of longer lasting red colouration is to look out for a diamond of dark red situated in the middle of the scales.

Now that you know the basics of colouration, it’s time to familiarise yourself with the different breeds of koi. While there are hundreds of breeds available in different variants, we’ve broken koi fish down into thirteen different categories.

Breeds of Koi:

Large group of koi

  • Asagi – One of the plainer variations of koi, they are void of bright colouration and missing the metallic finish apparent in many other breeds. They are mainly a greyish-blue hue with red colouration along the sides of the body, cheeks and pectoral fins.
  • Bekko – Matt in appearance, they possess a striking set of sumi markings along the a body of white, red or yellow.
  • Goshiki – Holding the literal meaning ‘Five Colours’, the Goshiki comprises of a white, red, black, blue and dark blue colouring.
  • Hikari Muji – ‘Hikari’ translates directly as ‘shiny’, while ‘muji’ means ‘single colour’, making this a single coloured variant of koi carp with a glossy sheen to the scales.
  • Hikari-Moyomono – Fully metallic in colour with patterns of two or more colour variations.
  • Hikari-Utsurimono – A metallic variant of the Showa and Utsurimono breeds.
  • Kinginrin – A breed of koi that features shiny scales along the sides of the body or length of the back.
  • Kohaku – Kohaku is the most well known breed of koi, and also the oldest. They comprise of a white base colour with patterns of red contrasting on top of the white colouration.
  • Kawarimono – A completely non-metallic koi that do no not fit into any other categories of breed.
  • Tancho – Deriving from the Tancho Crane (the national bird of Japan), the Tancho has a red spot on its head which resembles the Japanese flag – this makes them a very popular breed of koi.
  • Sanke – Predominantly white and red in colour, overlaid with black patterning. Sanke are essentially a sub-breed of the Kohaku with added sumi markings, making them a popular alternative.
  • Showa – Black bodied koi fish with large red and white markings.
  • Utsurimono – Commonly shortened to ‘Utsuri’, the full name is a literal translation of ‘reflective ones’. There are three variations of the black bodied Utsuri, with either red, white or yellow markings.

You’re now covered to go out and pick out the right koi for you! Don’t forget that caring for your koi fish is incredibly important in ensuring their well being and longevity. We recommend using a pond testing kit and pond treatment to ready the environment for your koi, while you’ll also want to stock up on plenty of specialist koi fish food too.

Have you found out handy guide helpful? Is there anything else you’d like to know?

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