Koi fish are also called jinli or Nishikigoi, and the name literally translates to brocaded crp. They are the colored types of koi, and the species is Cyprinus rubrofuscus. These fish are commonly seen in outdoor water gardens or in koi ponds to add pops of color and movement. The Japanese have identified multiple types of koi. The varieties get distinguished based on their scales, coloration, and patterns. You’ll typically find them in shades of red, white, blue, black, cream, or yellow coloration.
It is widely believed that types of koi were originally from China, and the Japanese used them as a food source. During the mid 1800s, the Japanese started breeding koi purely for the aesthetic appeal. Koir are a very smart type of fish, and you can train them to eat out of your hand. They’re omnivores that feed on pond plants, and they can live for a very long time. In fact, the average lifespan for koi is 50 years, and they can get up to three-feet long.
Koi are a very large fish that you find in ponds around the world, but they’re massively popular in Japan in Zen Gardens. Koi by Wendy Lefkowich / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
To date, there are over 100 types of koi fish recognized. It’s one of the biggest parts of many aquariums, and for a very good reason. The patterns and colors add welcome pops of interest to any pond or aquarium you introduce them to. If you love these vibrant fish, you may be interested in knowing what the popular types of koi are, and we’ve put together a list of 15 great options for you.
1. Asagi Koi
First up on the types of koi list is Asagi koi, and they’re gorgeous creatures. They have a net-like, blue-colored pattern on the top of their bodies, and the fins, belly, body, and gill plates on the bottom have a reddish-orange coloring. As the fish starts to age, the red color will spread upwards on their body.
The type of koi in this category that have more red on their bodies when they’re younger is the Hi Asagi. Another Asagi koi that is very popular is the Taki Asagi. This fish offers the usual blue-colored net pattern on it with the reddish-orange bottom, but it also has a white-colored scale line that runs between the blue and red areas. The head of this koi usually has no markings and is clear, and it is typically a pale blue or white color.
2. Bekko Koi
If you look at the literal meaning of this type of koi’s name, it translates into tortoise shell. It’s common to confuse the Utsuri and Bekko koi, but there is one standout feature that distinguishes the two. The Utsuri koi has a black base with red, white, or yellow markings. The Bekko has a red, yellow, or white-colored base with black-colored (Sumi) markings. The head of this fish will always be devoid of any markings, and it can make a striking addition to your pond idea.
The known varieties of this type of koi include the Aka Bekko (red body), Shiro Bekko (white body), and the Ki Becco (yellow body). There are also several common variants of this fish, and one of the biggest characteristics of this fish is that it won’t have any markings on the head. However, Sumi markings will spread throughout the red, yellow, or white-colored body.
3. Butterfly Koi
The Butterfly type of koi is arguably one of the most beautiful and popular koi varieties available. However, the Japanese consider it to be a fake breed. This is why it’s more well-known and famous in the United States than in other parts of the world.
This koi descends from the common Goldfish, and it has one of the fanciest traits that make goldfish so popular. It’ll have flowing and long fins on it. However, despite looking like one of the most ornamental and graceful fish, it won’t do well in colder conditions because it deviates from more traditional characteristics that koi display.
4. Doitsu Koi
Doitsu koi is one type of koi that is a newer addition to the Koi family. It’s a crossbreed of the European Caprinus Carpio Carpio and the Wagoi, and it has very little or no scales. You can divide this group further down into two additional carp types, including:
- Leather Carp – They have very little or no scales on the body
- Mirror Carp – They have a neat row of bigger scales on the lateral line system and dual lines running right along the fish’s dorsal fin.
Additionally, you can divide the types of scales this type of koi has into three types, including:
- Kagami Goi
- Kawi Goi
- Yoroi Goi
Pro Tip: When it comes to this type of koi in competitions, they usually get beat by scaled koi types.
5. Gin Rin Koi
Kin Gin Rin or Gin Rin are a reference to scale type, and it means silver scales. So, this type of koi comes with glittery scales that look like floating diamonds when you put them into water ponds. The scale color will heavily depend on the base color of the fish itself. For example, when they have a red color base, they’ll have golden coloration. If they have black or white skin, they’ll have a silver look.
This koi type differs from the metallic and Hikarimono koi variety because these are metallic scales and the metallic and Hikarimono variety have a very lustrous, shiny coat. You can get four types of Gin Rin Koi, including:
- Beta Gin – This is a less common variety, and the skin’s surface sparkles like a mirror.
- Diamond Gin Rin – This variety is the most common, and it has an appearance that looks like crackled glass.
- Kado Gin Rin – This is the least popular koi type in this category.
- Pearl Gin – Finally, this is the most unusual type as it has raised shiny deposits located right in the middle of the scales.
When most people think of koi fish, they think of white fish with reddish-orange blotches. However, they come in a huge range of colors and sizes. Koi by Ian Brown / CC BY 2.0
6. Goshiki Koi
Translated, Goshiki literally means five colors. So, this type of koi comes with a white-colored, solid body that has an Asagi-like bluish-black netted pattern that spreads throughout the body length. You get this fish as a result of breeding the Kohaku and Asagi koi fish.
There is a reddish-colored plate that comes directly from the Kohaku koi, and it spreads over the net-like pattern that the Asagi contributes. It gets the Goshiki name because it has several colors. The base is white, the hi-plate is reddish-orange, and the net-like pattern is bluish-black.
As this koi ages, the reddish-colored hi-plate will get dense and thick to the point that it’ll look like an external sticker over your fish’s body. The net-like pattern will also slowly start to disappear until only the thick reddish-colored plate remains. If you take care of this fish properly and the colors develop as they should, you’ll get a very stunning site as it moves through your pond plants. The following five are very popular varieties in this category:
- Hageshiro – This option is very similar to the Hajiro variety, but it comes with a white coloring on the head and face instead of having white tips on the tail and fins.
- Hajiro – If you pick out this type of koi, it’ll have a black or sumi body with a white-coloring called shiroji on the tips of the tail and fins.
- Kawarimono or Kawarigoi – This is a whole koi fish family that has large-sized and fast-growing fish. The most well-known koi that fall into this category include:
- Kumonryu – Better known as the dragon fish, this is a koi that comes with a Sumi Doitsu body and swirling white-colored markings on the head and body. The pattern also isn’t fixed, and it’ll change as the seasons change.
- Ochiba Shigure – The name translates to fallen leaves, and it gets the name due to the pattern that lays over a bluish-grey or sora body. The pattern resembles fallen leaves on water.
Additionally, the Kawarimono family aso encompasses koi fish with one color. Some of the more populars ones include:
- Benigoi – Dark red
- Chagoi – Greenish-brown or brown
- Kigoi – Yellow
- Midorigoi – Green
- Shiro Muji – White
- Soragoi – Blueish-grey
7. Hikari Moyo Koi
The Kin, Matsuba, and Ogon fall into the Hikari Muji category, but all of the HIkari or metallic koi fish that have one or two colors end up in the Hikari Moyo category. Several types of koi fall under this category, and they are a direct result of breeding different types of Hikari Mono fish. This is an extremely beautiful koi fish family. They offer striking patterns with shimmering skin and bright coloring that makes them a fantastic site to look at.
8. Hikari Muji Koi
Hikari Mono or Hikari Muji are a koi fish class that have a single color, and they have shiny skin. Hikari means metallic or shiny. Because they have a very pretty shimmering look, they are usually the first to get sold in retail settings. They don’t come with any patterns on their bodies, and this allows the shiny appearance to take center stage if you have the correct pond setup to keep the water clean. There are several types in this category, and some of the most popular are:
- Aka Matsuba – This fish comes with black centers in the red scales, and the scales give the fish a pinecone look.
- Gin Matsuba – This is a silver-colored fish that is a version of the Kin Matsuba.
- Kin Matsuba – This fish is a yellow-gold coloring with a metallic sheen that has a very similar pattern to the Aka Matsuba.
- Orenji Ogon – You’ll get a koi fish with a deep orange coloring.
- Yamabuki Ogon – You’ll see a metallic-looking, yellow-colored fish.
9. Kohaku Koi
This type of koi is considered to be the king of koi. This is the first koi fish variety that developed dual coloring, and it makes a majestic and beautiful addition to your pond. You get a stunning white coloring on the body, and it has red blotches scattered around that adds color points without a uniform look. Most of these fish come with a yellow nose. The red blotches are called hi, and you can get two types. They include:
- Reddish-Orange with Purple – The first type has a purple tint with a reddish-orange coloring. The markings are thicker in appearance, but the markings fade as the fish gets older. This removes the crisp margins. The color is also relatively easy to maintain, and it’s a nice pick for inexperienced koi owners.
- Reddish-Orange – The second marking type is much more popular, and it’s a deep reddish-orange coloring that is challenging to keep. The markings come with a very crisp margin that is very visible between the red and white. Koi with these markings are best for experienced koi owners.
The markings on this koi’s body make them really stand out. Most of these fish will come with a red-colored mark on their head, and it’s usually completely separate from the other markings on their bodies. However, the markings can rarely go to your fish’s head, and this is called bhongir. If they have no markings on their head, they’re called boze.
10. Koromo Koi
Goromo or Koromo is another stunning type of koi. It’s a hybrid fish that is mix between an Asagi and Kohaku koi fish. It comes with the characteristic red and white coloring the Kohaku offers with the pretty net pattern the Asagi koi bring. So, the body is usually white-colored with a reddish-orange pattern across the body just like you’ll get on a traditional Kohaku fish.
However, the part that sets it out is the net-like, blue-colored pattern you’ll see on the scales and the red-colored scaly patches that spread across the fish’s body. There are three different varieties of fish in this type, and they include:
- Aigoromo – On the edge of the scales, you’ll see a pretty indigo-blue coloring called the ai. The inner color is a reddish-orange, and this is called the hi.
- Budogoromo – You’ll get an overlaid reddish-colored pattern (hi) that goes over a black-colored pattern (sumi). This gives the hi pattern on this fish a grape-like coloring called a budo.
- Sumigoromo – You’ll get a black coloring on the scales’ edges called the sumi inside the red-colored pattern.
It’s common to have swarms of koi fish in a single pond, and you can train them to come and eat out of your hand. Koi by Indraneel Biswas / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
11. Showa Koi
This type of koi is also known as Showa Sanke or Showa Sanshoku. Sanshoku translates into three colors. Showa gets the name because it has black, red, and white colors on the fish’s body. It’s very similar to Sanke. However, the biggest difference that sets them apart is the black-colored body (Karasu) on the Showa. Showa also comes with red and white-colored markings over a black base or body.
Unlike the Sanke, this type of koi usually has a black pattern that you see through their bodies. Sanke koi will only have a black pattern on the upper portion of their bodies. Showa come with black patterns on the heads, and this isn’t the case when you look at Sanke koi. The red, white, and black markings get evenly distributed throughout the fish’s body, and there are very clear margins between each color.
12. Shusui Koi
This is another version of Asagi koi, but the difference between this type of koi is that it’s the scale-less version. Since it doesn’t have any scales on the top of the body, you won’t get the classic blue net-like pattern on it. The scales that this fish does have forms a single row along the fish’s dorsal line.
The Shusui’s head color is white or pale blue, and it won’t have any spots or markings on it. The presence of extended, red-colored cheeks is a very common thing in this type of koi. There are no strict specifications regarding the fish’s markings on the body, but it does have to have one row of scales that is uniform and neatly going along the length of your fish’s back.
13. Taisho Sanke Koi
This type of koi is also called Sanke or Taisho Sanshoku, and Sanshoku translates into three colors. The name is in reference to the three colors you’ll find on this fish’s body, including black, red, and white. This koi is very similar to the Kohaku koi because it comes with a white body and reddish-orange markings. The biggest difference between the two types of koi is the black markings. Additionally, this particular koi fish is regarded as being one of the “Big Three” in the koi world.
The head of this fish usually has dual colors that are usually red and white, and it doesn’t have any Sumi markings. Another difference between the Sanke koi and the Kohaku is that the red markings start from the top of your fish’s head, and the face is usually clear. The pectoral fins have a white coloring with a few Sumi markings.
14. Tancho Koi
This type of koi gets the name for Japan’s national bird, the Tancho Crane. This bird has a very eye-catching red spot on its head. Tancho is a very sleek and simple koi type that has a red spot that stands out on its head. Tancho Kohaku is one of the most picturesque koi in this category. It has a snow-white body with a bright crimson red spot on the head that makes it stand out in backyard ponds.
The spot is traditionally round, but you can find it in symmetrical shapes too. To be considered under this umbrella, the spot has to be symmetrical. It can be oval, circular, diamond-shaped, or heart-shaped. The spot should also be a larger size without any speckles. This is the defining feature of this koi. Two other popular koi in this category are Tancho Sanke and Tancho Showa.
15. Utsuri Koi
The final type of koi on the list isn’t a single fish type. Instead, it refers to the Utsurimono category. This includes three Utsuri koi, including Hi Utsuri, Ki Utsuri, and Shiro Utsuri. If you translate Utsurimono, you’ll find that it means reflection. The koi fish in this category have a black coloring on the body called Karasu, and white, red, or yellow markings. This category gets the name to indicate that they have overlapping yellow, white, or red patterns that suggest a reflection of the koi fish’s body.
The sumi pattern on the fish’s head is very similar to what you’d get on the Showa, and it divides the fish’s face in half. The Sumi pattern that you see on this fish is also very similar to a Showa. You’ll get a prominent, large, and reflective Sumi pattern all over the fish’s body. It wraps around your fish’s body right below the lateral line. The markings extend from the nose to the tail, and they balance throughout the length of the body and on both sides.
Once you start to notice the different colors and patterns on the fish, you’ll be able to start telling them apart at a glance. Koi by Nikita / CC BY 2.0
The Most Popular Types of Koi Fish For Shows
Although virtually any koi fish can win competitions, there are specific groups of koi that are much more popular for show purposes than others, and they include:
The Gosanke type of koi is one of the most popular for shows. However, there are a few other popular classes when it comes to competitions, including the Bekko, Hikari Mono, Hikari Muji, Hikari Utsuri, Kawarigoi, Kin Gin Rin, Koromo, Shusui, Tancho, and Utsuri. Additionally, there are some shows that welcome the Doitsu Koi.
Types of Koi – Frequently Asked Questions
Koi by g – s – h / CC BY-NC 2.0 Even though this is a beautiful fish, it’s common to have questions about them. This is especially true if you’re new to the world of keeping this fish. We’ve answered a few common questions for you below.
1. What is considered to be the “Big Three” varieties of koi fish?
The most popular koi fish or the “big three” refer to the Showa Sanshoku, Kohaku, and Taisho Sanshoku. Out of the hundreds of varieties of koi, these three are widely considered to be the highest-rated for their quality, popularity, and overall excellence.
2. How many types of koi fish are there currently?
Currently, there are more than 100 types of koi fish known. Each variety of fish has very distinctive features that set them apart from other varieties. The most prominent features people focus on are the patterns, colors, and body conformation.
3. How can you tell male and female koi apart?
When you’re trying to tell the difference between a male and female koi fish in a fish swarm, you have to note that the male koi fish have more slender bodies. A female koi will have a more rounded body, especially when she has eggs. The male’s pectoral fins are solid in color and pointed, and the female fish have rounder finds.
The breeding season also brings out changes to koi. You’ll look for small white growths on the pectoral fins and head of the male called Tubercles. Female fish won’t develop these things.
4. What is the rarest koi fish?
To date, the rarest type of koi is the Ki Utsuri, and it falls into the Utsurimono category. It has a lacquer, black body with yellow patterns.
5. What color koi fish has the highest price tag?
The red and white fish called the Kohaku Koi has the highest price tag attached, and it sold for 2.2 million US dollars when it went for sale in China.
6. Which koi fish gets the biggest?
Koi can be huge fish. However, some types of koi can grow to be even bigger than you expect. In 2007, a koi with the name Big Girl took the title as the world’s biggest koi fish. It weighed in at an impressive 90 pounds, and it was 3.9-feet long. No other koi has quite reached this level yet.
7. Do Koi fish grow faster than traditional goldfish?
Koi are very voracious eaters and very hardy. They also live much longer than a standard goldfish, and their immune system is healthier. They also grow at a very quick rate, and they can double what a goldfish grows in a year.
We’ve outlined 15 gorgeous types of koi for you to consider for additions to your backyard pond. They’ll all offer stunning patterns with pops of color that look fantastic moving lazily through the water.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.