Types of Koi

Types of Koi

Of all the various types of fish that you can choose to populate your pond, koi continues to be one of the most popular options. And it makes sense - these fish are incredibly hardy, come in a variety of shapes and colors, and can live for many years!

Koi ponds are usually divided into four categories - General Mixed, Gosanke, Kujaku, and Hikarimoyo. Koi, with their distinctive and captivating patterns, can add a touch of tranquil beauty to any backyard pond.

But koi are still living creatures, and they require a careful understanding of their surroundings and specific needs to thrive. Here at Living Water Aeration, we speak with pond owners all the time who are struggling to decide what koi variety is best for their pond. Our answer? It depends! 

To give you a better understanding of the types of koi fish there are - and how best to care for them - we have compiled some helpful information that you can use to make an informed decision when selecting the perfect koi fish for your pond.

What Are Koi?

Koi, or Japanese carp, have been kept in ponds and aquariums for centuries. Originally found in Asia, they were first bred for their ornamental beauty and later went on to become popular in the United States and Europe. Since then, koi have been further developed, with many varieties now available worldwide.

Koi can be identified by their unique color patterns, ranging from simple black and white to very complex spotted or marbled varieties. There are several different types of koi, each with its own characteristics. Some popular varieties include:

  • Tancho (red-crowned)
  • Kohaku (white-and-red patterned)
  • Utsuri (black-and-white patterned)
  • Ochiba (shusui, or multi-colored scaled)

But color isn’t the only way to identify koi types! Other physical traits can be used to identify them, such as:

  • Size: Koi can range from about 6 inches to 4 feet in length.
  • Fin Form: Koi fins may be round or forked, and they come in a variety of sizes.
  • Body Shape: Koi have large, flat bodies with short heads and long tails.

While you can’t always tell which type of koi you’re looking at just by looking at it, knowing a few of these characteristics can help you identify the type of koi you’re seeing.

What Types of Koi Are There?

Choosing the right koi for your pond requires an understanding of the various types of koi and their characteristics, as well as how they interact in the pond ecosystem. Let’s break down the most common types and their unique characteristics:

Kohaku Koi

With an iconic white body and red markings, Kohaku koi are one of the most recognizable types of koi. They typically have a red marking on their head and either one or two stripes along their body, but the patterns can often vary. 

Kohaku are beloved historically as a “classic aesthetic” – and are often the koi featured in many traditional paintings and artworks. Like other koi, Kohaku require a specific environment and food to stay healthy.

Sanke (Taisho Sanke) 

While Kohaku koi are known for their white and red patterns, Sanke koi feature a white body with black and red markings. The red can range from light pink to deep orange, and they may have one or two stripes along their body.

Sanke are characterized by a strong sense of nobility – making them popular among hobbyists who want to introduce some unique color variety to their pond. Sanke are often referred to traditionally as “kohaku with sumi” or a “Taisho Sanke,” which translates to “Taisho-era black” – referring to the Taisho era (1912–1926) in Japan when this type of koi was first bred.


The third of the “big three” koi types, Showa koi often appear “paitned” with a blend of red, black, and white markings. Showa are considered the most unique of the three major types, as they possess both “sumi” (black) and “shiro” (white) characteristics but with added touches of color.

Showa koi often feature a dark background, large patches of deep red on their back and sides, along with highlights of white on their head and fins.

Other Popular Types of Koi

While the Showa, Sanke, and Taisho varieties are the most popular, there are many other varieties of koi. In fact, you might be surprised to see just how many types exist across the full spectrum of koi varieties!

Shusui: The Shusui is the scaleless (doitsu) version of the Asagi, possessing a sky-blue body with a line of red or orange along the dorsal line and on the sides. Their clear, un-scaled skin showcases a beautiful, smooth appearance - and offers a unique look that koi keepers often favor.

Bekko: Bekko koi are another popular variety of koi, and they come in three colors: white (Shiro Bekko), red (Aka Bekko), or yellow (Ki Bekko). Bekko koi often feature stark, contrasting black (sumi) marks scattered around their bodies. You’ll notice the contrast between the main color and the black markings on Bekko quickly.

Asagi: Asagi koi are beloved due to their beautiful blue scales and light red or orange bellies. But most of all, many claim that Asagi koi have a calming appearance due to their blue and green hues.

Goshiki: Goshiki means "five colors" in Japanese, and as the name suggests, these koi are a delightful blend of red, white, black, blue, and dark blue. The patterns on goshikis are a fusion of the hues, giving them a fantastic look.

Chagoi: Chagoi often come in green, brown, and gray hues. These koi are often called the "gentle giants" of the koi world due to their relaxed nature and peaceful colors. They can grow enormous, making them a favorite in ponds.

Ogon: Ogon koi are prized for their metallic sheen – and they come in various shades of yellow, orange, and red. These fish usually have a single color without any patterns or stripes.

Kumonryu: Often referred to as the “dragon fish,” Kumonryu koi come with really interesting patterns. While they have a characteristic black and white coloration, there are also variations with colors like blue, yellow, and red.

The Cultural Significance of Koi

While many look at the coloring and patterns of koi, it is their symbolic meaning that truly makes them special. 

In Japan, the different colors and types of koi are associated with various symbols – from strength and courage to luck and prosperity. And while owning a particular type of koi doesn’t automatically lead to good fortune, they can offer some insight into the personalities and values of their owners.

The Meaning Behind the Colors

Each koi color is said to have a different meaning, so it’s important to consider what you want your koi to represent before selecting one.

  • Red: This color is associated with good luck and fortune. It’s believed that red koi bring success in business, fame, and love.
  • Blue: Blue koi represent tranquility, relaxation, and intelligence.
  • Yellow: Yellow koi are said to symbolize wealth and prosperity. It also represents power and strength of character.
  • White: This color is associated with purity and inner peace. It’s associated with the fulfillment of goals and long-term success.
  • Black: Black koi represent strength, courage, and determination. They are believed to bring power and protection from evil spirits.
  • Orange: Orange koi symbolize creativity, enthusiasm, and joy. They also represent ambition and motivation.

Ultimately, it’s the addition of koi to a pond that brings the ultimate experience. Watching these colorful fish swim around in their natural environment is a truly mesmerizing sight, one that can bring peace and joy to anyone who takes the time to appreciate it. But you have to know how to care for them properly!

Creating an Optimal Habitat for Vibrant Koi

Koi require specific environmental conditions to thrive. By carefully controlling water quality, temperature, lighting, and more, you can create a healthy habitat where your koi will flourish.

Maintaining Pristine Water

  • Test water parameters frequently, including pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, using test kits. pH should be kept between 7-8.
  • Use a combination of mechanical filtration to remove debris and biological filtration with beneficial bacteria to process waste and prevent disease.
  • Change water regularly, up to 30% each week, depending on pond size and stocking density. This removes toxins and replaces essential minerals.
  • Employ sterilization systems like UV light filters or ozone generators to eliminate parasites and harmful bacteria.
  • Incorporate live plants like water hyacinth or water lettuce to absorb nitrates and produce oxygen.

Optimizing Temperature

  • Koi thrive in cool water between 65-75°F. Monitor conditions daily with a pond thermometer.
  • During summer heatwaves, use pond cooling systems like chillers, spray bars, or fountains to lower temperatures.
  • In winter, maintain at least 50°F using pond heaters and de-icers to prevent freezing. Gradual temperature changes are safest.

Providing Proper Lighting

  • Outdoor ponds benefit from full sunlight during the day for warmth and plant photosynthesis.
  • Supplement with broad spectrum LED pond lights for 12 hours daily. This stimulates fish growth and enhances colors.
  • Avoid direct overhead light, which can lead to excess algae. Angle lights to illuminate the water from the side.

Safeguarding Against Predators

  • Install pond netting or mesh fencing with small holes to keep animals out without obscuring sunlight.
  • Place scare deterrents like flashing lights, sprinklers, or decoys around the perimeter.
  • Keep vegetation trimmed and water surfaces clear so you can easily spot potential threats.

Aerating for Oxygen

  • Use water pumps, air stones, or surface agitators to maintain oxygen saturation above 6 ppm.
  • Strategically place air diffusers to circulate water and prevent stagnant spots.
  • Increase aeration during warm weather when oxygen levels decline. Proper airflow is vital to koi health.

Providing Proper Nutrition for Thriving Koi

Koi require a balanced omnivorous diet to support health and vibrant colors. Tailor feedings to your specific koi varieties.

High-quality pelleted food is essential for meeting koi's nutritional needs. Select a premium koi food with 36-42% minimum protein and the proper proportions of fat and carbohydrates. For baby koi, choose a powdered starter food that is easy to digest. Feed 2-3 times daily, only what they can consume in 5 minutes to prevent waste.

Nutrient-dense frozen and live foods help supplement pellets. Items like frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia provide added protein. Introduce vitamin-rich live foods like mosquito larvae and tubifex worms a few times a week. These foods encourage natural foraging behaviors and aid digestion.

Fresh aquatic plants are also an essential part of their diet. Include freshwater plants like duckweed, water hyacinth, and water lettuce right in the pond. The fiber aids digestion while the plants absorb fish waste. You can also give vegetable scraps like lettuce as occasional treats. Avoid land-based plants which can infect the water.

Make seasonal adjustments to their diet as needed. In summer, feed more protein-rich foods as metabolism increases with warmth. In winter, reduce feeding frequency since digestion slows - provide wheat germ-boosted foods. During spawning periods, increase high-protein items to meet energy needs.

Which Type of Koi Is Right For You?

Determining which koi type is right for you depends on a few factors:

1. Where do you live?

The type of koi you can have in your aquatic environment depends on the location. Different climates and conditions can affect the health of koi, so it’s vital to understand the environmental requirements of each variety before making a purchase.

2. What size do you want?

Koi come in various sizes, from small one-inch babies to giants measuring over three feet long! Consider how big your pond is and how much space you have for a koi before purchasing one. Knowing the various types of koi and their unique characteristics will help determine if your space is suitable for a particular variety.

3. What color do you like?

Here’s the fun part – Koi come in a range of colors, patterns, and sizes. You can choose to keep koi of the same type to give a consistent color scheme, or you can mix and match for a unique look. Many koi have vibrant colors that shimmer in the sunlight, so it’s a good idea to find out what type of koi will best suit your pond.

4. What are your long-term plans for your koi pond?

How will you take care of your koi in the long run? Will you use a pond aeration system, or is a filter enough to keep your koi healthy? You may also need to think about the impact of weather conditions on your pond. Do you live in an area with cold winters and hot summers? If so, what will you do to protect your koi during extreme temperatures? 

Maintain a Healthy Pond for All Koi Types with Living Water Aeration

Whether you are koi pond master – or just looking to get started with your own koi experience – having the best environment is key. At Living Water Aeration, we carry the pond products you need to ensure the perfect balance of oxygen and beneficial bacteria in your pond. 

Our products help keep your koi healthy, encourage natural biological filtration, reduce the need for chemicals, and eliminate fish waste build-up. With regular maintenance and our aeration systems, you will have a thriving koi pond that looks beautiful year-round.

Visit us online and get started protecting your koi today! Our products have been trusted by ponds around the world for years, and we are committed to making sure you have the best pond environment possible. 

Shop Online

You can see our products
See Products
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.