top of page
KOI 101
What to Look for in Kohaku

Kohaku is the japanese word for amber.
The Kohaku is the most popular variety of Nishikigoi. So much so that there is an expression, “Koi avocation begins and ends with Kohaku.” There are various tones of “red” color – red with thick crimson, light red, highly homogeneous red, blurred red, and so on.

There are all sorts of “Kiwa (the edge of the pattern)” – scale-wide Kiwa, razor-sharp Kiwa, and Kiwa resembling the edge of a torn blanket, etc.

Shades of white ground (skin) are quite diversified too – skin with soft shade of fresh-unshelled, hardboiled egg, skin with hard shade of porcelain, yellowish skin, and so forth.

What to Look for in Showa

Short for Showa Sanshoku or Showa Sanke, a black Koi with red and white patches named for its development in the Showa era.

Whereas Kohaku and Taisho Sanshoku have red and/ or black markings on the white ground, Showa Sanshoku have red markings on white patterns formed on the black background. We have discerned such different arrangement by observing the processes of fry development.

Kohaku and Taisho Sanshoku are almost completely white when freshly hatched. Young fry of Showa varieties (including Showa Sanshoku, Shiro Utsuri and Hi Utsuri, etc.), on the other hand, are almost completely black when just emerged from eggs.

As days go by, white patterns become visible against the black background, and red markings will soon appear on the white patterns. We should, therefore, say that Showa Sanshoku have black texture.

What to Look for in Sanke

As with Kohaku, all of the fins on Sanke should be void of hi, but sumi on the pectoral, dorsal, or caudal fins is a desirable characteristic. The sumi found on the fins is a way of identifying the koi as a Sanke. If the sumi forms stripes on the fins it is a Sanke, as opposed to motoguro (blocks of sumi at the base of the fin) which points to Showa.

Sanke with a separate patch of hi on the head accompanied by more on the body are known as Maruten Sanke. If the hi is only on the head the koi is judged as a Tancho Sanke. Furthermore, if there is no tsubo sumi(black on white) at all, the koi is considered either a Kawarimono or Koromo.

What to Look for in Tancho

Koi with a red head patch are called “Tancho.” Most common are “Tancho Kohaku (all- white Koi with Tancho),” “Tancho Sanshoku (white Koi with Sumi similar to Shiro Bekko, and with Tancho),” and “Tancho Showa (Showa Sanshoku without red markings except for Tancho),” etc. However, “Tancho Goshiki (Koi of five colors with Tancho),” and “Tancho Hariwake” are rare.

Tancho do not form a single, independent kind of Nishikigoi; they all can be bred from Kohaku, Taisho Sankshoku or Showa Sanshoku. Their red patch happen to show up only in the head region. Tancho, therefore, can not be produced in bulk even if you so wish.

The essential point for appreciation is the red patch in the head region, of course. The red head patch sitting right at the center of the head region is the best. The white skin is also important as it is the milky white color that sets the red head patch off to advantage. The Sumi of Tancho Sanshoku and Tancho Showa are the same as Bekko and Shiro Utsuri respectively.

What to Look for in Asagi

Asagi fit into the Asagi group. Asagi are one of the oldest groups of koi.

Asagi are fairly classical from a genealogical point of view, and constitute a very tasteful variety. They usually have blue on the entire back and Hi on the belly, pectoral fins and gill covers.

The scales on the back have whitish base and thus collectively give an appearance of meshes of a net.

The important viewing points are conspicuously vivid appearance of the meshes and light blue, spotless head region. However, as they age, black spots often appear in the head region and Hi on the belly tend to climb up reaching as far as the back.

What to Look for in Shiro Utsuri

The sumi should ideally be jet black and glossy, as in Showa. To be sure of the quality of the sumi, on inspection in good daylight, a Shiro Utsuri should maintain this deep black, for some can appear to have very dark, chocolate-brown markings, which is a fault.

Another fault is too much black on the fins. Rather than neat motoguro on the pectorals, low-grade Shiro Utsuri exhibit solid sumi at the ball joint, which radiates outward.

What to Look for in Hi Utsuri

Hi Utsuri are best viewed as a Showa without the white. Until recent years, the hi was rarely scarlet, but out crossings with Kohaku have greatly improved upon this variety.

Some breeders have also reintroduced Magoi genes into their strain of Hi Utsuri, which allows the koi to attain a greater size without any falloff in pattern or skin quality. the pectorals rarely show true motoguro: more often they are striped black and red, with a red leading edge.

What to Look for in Ki Utsuri

The yellow of this variety more often than not, tends to be pale and washed out, and both Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri are prone to developing shimis.

Curiously, Kin Ki Utsuri are quite common, while the nonmetallic equivalent has almost vanished from the hobby.

bottom of page