Varieties of Koi

Koi varieties are distinguished by coloration, patterning, and scalation. Some of the major colors are white, black, red, yellow, blue, and cream. While the possible colors are virtually 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.

The major named varieties include:

Kōhaku is 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).

Taishō Sanshoku (or Taisho Sanke) is very similar to the kohaku, except for the addition of small black markings called sumi.

Shōwa Sanshoku (or Showa Sanke) is a black koi with red and white  markings.

Tanchō is any koi with a solitary red patch on its head.

Chagoi, “tea-colored,” this koi can range in color from pale olive-drab green or brown to copper or bronze and more recently, darker, subdued orange shades. Famous for its docile, friendly personality and large size, it is considered a sign of good luck among koi keepers.

Asagi koi is light blue above and usually red below, but also occasionally pale yellow or cream, generally below the lateral line and on the cheeks.

Utsurimono is a black koi with a white, red, or yellow markings, in a zebra colour pattern.

Bekko is a white-, red-, or yellow-skinned koi with black markings sumi . The Japanese name means “tortoise shell.

Goshiki is a dark koi with red (Kohaku style) hi pattern. The Japanese name means “five colours.” The base color can range from nearly black to very pale, sky blue.

Shūsui means “autumn green”; the Shūsui 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 is a koi with metallic (glittering, metal-flake-appearing) scales. The name translates into English as “gold and silver scales.”

Kawarimono is a “catch-all” term for koi that cannot be put into one of the other categories. This is a competition category, and many new varieties of koi compete in this one category. It is also known as kawarigoi .

Ōgon is a metallic koi of one color only. The most commonly encountered colors are gold, platinum, and orange. Cream specimens are very rare.

Kumonryū(literally “nine tattooed dragons”) is a black doitsu-scaled 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.

Ochiba is a light blue/gray koi with copper, bronze, or yellow (Kohaku-style) pattern, reminiscent of autumn leaves on water. The Japanese name means “fallen leaves”.

Koromo is a white fish with a Kohaku-style pattern with blue or black-edged scales only over the hi pattern.

Hikari-moyomono is a koi with coloured markings over a metallic base or in two metallic colours.

Kikokuryū( literally “sparkle” or “glitter black dragon”)is a metallic-skinned version of the Kumonryu.

Kin-Kikokuryū (literally “gold sparkle black dragon” or “gold glitter black dragon”)is a metallic-skinned version of the Kumonryu with a Kohaku-style hi pattern.

Ghost koi, a hybrid of Ogon and wild carp with metallic scales, is considered by some to be not nishikigoi.

Butterfly koi is a hybrid of koi and Asian carp with long flowing fins. Various colorations depend on the koi stock used to cross. It also is considered by some to not be nishikigoi.

Doitsu-goi originated by crossbreeding numerous different established varieties with “scaleless” German carp (generally, fish with only a single line of scales along each side of the dorsal fin).