Photo by Melody
It's time now to VOTE in our 14th annual photo contest! Voting ends November 7, so be sure to cast your votes for your favorites in each category here. Good luck to all contestants!

Understanding Koi Varieties

By Susanne Talbert (art_n_gardenMay 26, 2009
bookmark

Water gardeners often love their pond plants and animal inhabitants equally. Hobby koi keepers and water gardeners are interested in anything that adds color and life to their ponds. If you've had a hard time understanding koi varieties and jargon, maybe this basic guide can be of help.

Gardening picture

Understanding koi varieties can sometimes be difficult.  There are so many different variables of color and markings, and on top of that these variables can be combined to create distinct koi varieties.  For the purposes of this article, we will treat the koi types in their most basic form for ease of understanding. 

Image
DG member BeaHive feeding her koi

 

Koi is the shortened version of nishikigoi, the Japanese word for Cyprinus carpio which is bred and kept in water gardens around the world.  The easiest way to identify a koi is by looking for 2 sets of barbels near the koi's mouth which look like whiskers.  You can also identify the variety of koi by the color formation.

Image

Main koi color and scale variations

When you read about koi, their colors will be identified by their Japanese names.  It can be very confusing unless you know what each word means and how it is used.  As body color or color shapes, the four main colors are referred to as the following:

HiHee Red
KiKeeYellow 
SumiSOO-mee Black 
ShiroSHE-roWhite

Koi Varieties

Kohaku

koh-HAW-koo

ImageKohaku are arguably the most common and recognizable of all koi types.  Their markings are only hi (red) on shiro (white) which can come in a variety of different formations and shapes.   

Ogon

O-gahn

Image

Ogon refers to a solid color koi that can be regular or metallic. The most popular ogon varieties are platinum and yellow (Yamabuki).

Tancho

TAHN-cho

Image Tancho koi have a round hi (red) marking well-placed on their head.  This is a significant marking in Japanese koi breeding because of its resemblance to the national flag of Japan. Tancho markings can be combined with other markings such as Bekko.

Asagi

ah-SAH-gee

ImageAsagi koi look like they have a net or pinecone as scales.  Their bluish scales are surrounded by white and the fins should be hi (red).   

Shusui

SHOE-swee

ImageShusui koi are distinguishable by their blue-tinted doitsu scales which look like a zipper down the back.  The side markings can be hi(red), ki (yellow), or shiro (white).  Shusui is the closely related, scaless version of Asagi.

Showa

SHOW-a

ImageShowa is a black koi with hi (red) and shiro (white) markings with crisp edges between the three colors.  Sanke in another type of koi that is easy to get confused with Showa.  Sanke are white fish with red and black markings.

Bekko

BAY-co

ImageBekko koi have black markings on top of another single color such as shiro, ki, and hi.  Bekko should not be confused with Utsuri, which are koi with black bodies with colored markings on top.  It can be hard to differentiate which color is the body color and which color marking is on top, though with practice the distinction can become more apparent. 

Gin Rin (Geen-Reen)

Gin Rin refers to any koi with a shimmery appearance to their scales; stemming from Gin meaning silver or metallic and Rin meaning shiny scales.  Any koi variety can have Gin Rin scales, such as the Gin Rin Kohaku below.

Image
Gin Rin Kohaku

Doitsu (DOYT-zoo)

Doitsu refers to koi with large scales down their back and no other scales on their body.  This feature was bred into Japanese koi from German carp. Any type of koi can have Doitsu scales, such as a Doitsu Kohaku.  In the photo below, you can see the large "zipper" scales down the koi's back and the fish is otherwise scale-less.

Image
Doitsu Koi

 

Long Fin Koi

Long fin koi, also known as butterfly koi and formerly dragon carp, are an interesting addition to koi breeding and hobby keeping.  Their long flowing fins are striking in the water garden and add a whole new dimension to hobby koi keeping.  With recent advances in their color breeding, long fin koi are available in a variety of color types such as Kohaku, Showa, and Bekko.  If you want to read more about how long fin koi came into popularity this link has an interesting firsthand breeder's account.

For an excellent illustration on different koi types, check this link.

Image
DG member BeaHive's water garden oasis
 

 

Can you pick out all the koi varieties in this video?

 

Koi typing has a massive amount of gray area especially in the hobby portion of the field.  Sometimes it is nearly impossible to identify a non-show quality fish, which most water gardeners have, in a specific category.  Of course that doesn't make these fish any less valuable or beautiful in the home water garden.  Mutts are just as beautiful to water gardeners!

 

Image
Platinum Ogon Koi

So long as you enjoy your koi, it doesn't matter what they look like or which category they fall under.  Enjoy your koi and your water garden this season!  

Image

 

 

:::::: 

Photo credits:

Photo of hand fed koi and BeaHive's water garden: Bernadette Ducasse

Gin Rin Kohaku and Showa: DG member and koi breeder Laserkoi

Tancho: DG member themir

Kohaku: Ian John of backyardpuddle.com 

Bekko, Asagi, Shusui, Hi Bekko, and Platinum Ogon: Free use images from Wikipedia Commons

All other images belong to the author

Sources: 

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/a.antonio/antoniokoi_007.htm

http://www.vskc.net/koi.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ddeo1ckdS6o

http://inlandkoi.com/

www.backyardpuddle.com


  About Susanne Talbert  
Susanne TalbertI garden in beautiful Colorado Springs, half a mile from Garden of the Gods. Since we bought our first house two years ago, I have been busy revamping my 1/4 acre of ignored decomposed granite. My garden passions include water gardening, vines, super-hardy perennials, and native xerics. By day, I am a high school ceramics teacher as well as a ceramicist and painter.

  Helpful links  
Share on Facebook Share on Stumbleupon

[ Mail this article | Print this article ]

» Read articles about: Ponds And Water Gardens, Koi Fish

» Read more articles written by Susanne Talbert

« Check out our past articles!



Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
You are so fortunate Philjarrah 3 17 Oct 27, 2009 11:20 PM
WILL KOI DAMAGE MY DAM?? mollyrose64 1 11 Jun 25, 2009 2:39 PM
Dave's Garden is like finding money you forgot you hide. sylviab123 0 9 Jun 3, 2009 12:43 AM
Nice BeaHive 4 16 Jun 2, 2009 12:45 PM
Fantasic Article!!! jeri11 5 39 Jun 1, 2009 3:10 PM
Ahhhh, well... Sharran 1 19 May 28, 2009 3:58 PM
You cannot post until you login.


We recommend Firefox
Overwhelmed? There's a lot to see here. Try starting at our homepage.

[ Home | About | Advertise | Media Kit | Mission | Featured Companies | Submit an Article | Terms of Use | Tour | Rules | Privacy Policy | Contact Us ]

Back to the top

Copyright © 2000-2014 Dave's Garden, an Internet Brands company. All Rights Reserved.
 

Hope for America