15+ Types of Japanese Koi Fish

If one mentions colorful fish, what is the first association coming to mind? Exactly, koi fish are certainly towards the very top. In fact, these are actually the very species which has set modern selective breeding standards.

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What started as an unintentional genetic color modification, turned later into a multi-million-dollar business. Not just are koi fish believed to bring good luck, prosperity and perseverance across some cultures, but they are often described as the most beautiful fish in the world. And who would not like to have a garden pond filled with these amazing splashes of color?

Hundreds of color and pattern morphs are available today, and they are not planning on stopping soon. 

Japanese Koi Carp Types

Here are over 15 types of koi fish types, which basically gather all of the possible morphs.

1. Kohaku

Let us begin with timeless simplicity which will always be in style: the kohaku morph. This is actually the first pattern to have even been obtained in koi fish, and it has remained popular until today. More is less, as they say.

The kohaku variation of koi fish provides that the fish has a full white body color with irregular hi markings in a vibrant red color. What a classic! The markings are basically divided into two zones, so you may notice them above the head and then towards the tail.

Those which are located above the head are usually darker. Although kohaku koi fish are quite easy to breed, they can be rather difficult to find sometimes, and for a simple reason. The demand for these original beauties is just too high.

2. Taisho Sanshoku


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Moving forward, the taisho sanshoku koi is another of the first color varieties ever, and it gets the name from the Emperor who ordered to breed them, back around the 1870’s.

This version resembles very much to the original kohaku pattern, with the addition of blackish hi markings. Indeed, over a pure white body core, you may see beautiful irregular patterns of red (to orange) and black. Generally, the word sanshoku in the name symbolizes the presence of three different colors.

3. Showa Sanshoku


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Showa morphs indicate another extremely popular pattern combination, again getting the name from the Emperor who promoted them. As the presence of the sanshoku suggests, this is another type of koi which feature three different colorations. These are once again a white body base with amazing patterns of deep orange or red, along with bold black splashes.

What makes the showa koi fish special is having well-balanced and almost proportional hi markings across their bodies. Furthermore, the edges of the different color patterns are quite sharp, which adds to the neat looks of this amazingly decorative fish. Indeed, showa koi fish are today one of the first choices for outdoor ponds.

4. Bekko


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For minimalism lovers of pure white and black color combinations, the bekko koi fish may just be the perfect pet choice. This purely white type of fish feature amazing smaller patches in black colors all over their bodies, excluding the head. Indeed, the head should remain absolutely white in order to be classified as a pure and high-graded bekko fish.

This variation is also available in two more different color variations, so you may sometimes find them in red coloration as the base and then featuring black spots on top of it. More rarely, you may also stumble upon yellow koi fish with black spots.

5. Utsurimono


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The utsurimono is another super-popular type of pattern distribution starting from a pure white core body. Depending on the type of the patterns and their predispositions on the koi bodies, there are three main sub-groups here: the shiro utsuri, the hi utsuri and the ki utsuri. And among these three, the last one is certainly the rarest one to find.

These beautiful fish usually feature black patches which cover most of their head as well as their pectoral fins, and then display a vibrant addition of large orange patterns.

6. Asagi


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Asagi koi fish have been the very imperative among koi fish enthusiasts for many years now. And, indeed, they provide true pattern perfection to the eye of the observer.

They feature a blue diamond scale pattern all over their main body, which is extremely neat and super-easy to recognize. On top of those, they also have some red to orange hi markings, to add some decent amount of color to these real beauties.

Therefore, you may notice some splashes of red across their bellies, tails and fins. Most of them have only the pectoral fins colored, but they may sometimes develop such coloration even on the top of their dorsal fins over time. A real and high-graded asagi koi fish needs to have a completely white top of the head.

7. Shusui


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When an asagi was bred with a mirror carp, the result was the shusui koi fish- a truly spectacular fish with mesmerizing color and pattern combinations. And one certainly can not get enough of observing these true beauties.

What is left from the asagi is the typical blue diamond scale pattern, but it is now limited only to a narrow part of the central back. And such reduced scale certainly adds to the lush looks of these fish. When irregular red markings are added to the sides of the head and the body core, the result is simply amazing. Indeed, a fish like this can never swim by unnoticed.

8. Koromo


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Koromo koi patterns consist of red patches on top of a white body core. Now, the peculiarity of such amazing patches stands in featuring black scale patterns on their inner side.

Depending on the position and intensity of such patterns and patches, there are three main sub-categories of the koromo type: the ai koromo, the budo koromo and the sumi koromo koi fish.

9. Kawarimono


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Kawarimono is a special type of group, which basically gathers all those variations which do not belong to any other group. They include a large variety of colors, patterns, and their distribution.

Fish which belong to the kawarimono group are immensely different between each other, and the reason for being here is mostly because of the not large enough number of bred fish. Therefore, we could probably define such group as a gathering of the rarest koi fish on the planet. And obviously, the rarer a fish is, the higher is its value.

10. Goshiki


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Koi fish classified as goshiki were just until recently part of the kawarimono type. However, thanks to their immense popularity among koi enthusiasts, they have been awarded with a group of their own.

These colorful beauties feature blue scale patterns on the upper parts of their bodies, heading from the tail up to the mouth, covering their heads, as opposed to the asagi where the head is excepted.

The scale color can vary anywhere from super-dark to pale grey, and sometimes a few of them may even appear on the red markings. And the markings are simply fascinating, as they are massive and usually well-distributed. The tail and the fins are mostly white and free of any red color.

11. Hikari-mujimono


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The name hikari indicates beautiful varieties with metallic skin and shimmering lucidity all over the koi bodies. This certainly makes them a super-popular choice for modern koi enthusiasts. Can you even imagine how amazing these fish look while swimming under sun rays?

In particular, the mujimono type does not have any special markings or patterns across the fish body, leaving the elegantly uniformed colors to shine at full capacity. There are different color choices between this group. Therefore, you may find them in yellow, platinum or orange colors.

Additionally, they may further include either golden or silvery pine needles variations, which appear as raised markings.

12. Hikari-moyomono


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Koi fish belonging to this group feature two colors on top of a metallic white or platinum core base. The color combinations are basically endless here, and you may easily choose your favorite.

What makes them extremely beautiful is having a dark ridge which usually passes between the nose and the eyes, causing a truly fascinating view as the fish turns its head.

13. Hikari-utsurimono

Last of the hikari group, utsurimono koi fish feature strong and intense coloration all over their bodies, which makes them extremely easy to distinguish from the others.

The main aspect of these morphs is having an intense base color, either golden or red. These are uniformly displayed everywhere, including the thinnest parts of their fins.

On top of such great base colors, these koi fish have large black patches which are placed irregularly across their bodies. This also includes a decent part of their heads and fins. Tails can sometimes become completely black.

14. Kinginrin 1


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Kingirin is used to describe a combination of golden (kin) and/or silver (gin) scales on top of the koi fish body.

Such scales should be positioned into two or more lines along both sides of the spine in order to be classified under number 1.

15. Kinginrin 2

All other kinginrin koi fish that are not lined enough to be grouped under number 1, will be classified here, under number 2.

16. Tancho


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We have saved the most precious fish among Japanese ponds for last. The tancho variation of koi fish is really something special, not just because it resembles to the Japanese flag, but also because of its purity and unique design.

Tancho fish have a snowy white core body, and they have one single mark on them. Such mark is in the shape of a circle and located right on the upper part of their heads. And the color is, obviously, an intense red. What a magnificent fish!

The larger the circle is, the higher will such fish be graded. Indeed, this should ideally head towards the eyes but without touching them. Also, it should be positioned centrally on the top of the head. It should not spread to any other body parts and it should have no color impurities on its inner side.

Wrapping Up

Koi fish are well-known around our planet for being quite spectacular fish. Even though they have been kept as a gourmet delicacy at first, people have recognized their bodies as breeding canvases very soon, and they are nowadays selectively bred to obtain living works of art.

Indeed, their unique patterns and brilliant color combinations really do remind us of masterpieces. In other cultures, they are considered to be good luck and prosperity charms.

There are 16 main groups of koi fish varieties today, but the different matches of those lead to more than a hundred beautiful types. From those which are special thanks to their unique hi markings to others which feature fantastic color choices- these fish have it all.


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