Koi Varieties

Records of common carp date back about 2500 years. Color mutations from the basic black carp (known as Magoi) started to be developed only about 200 years ago, with most of the beautiful varieties that we know today as nishikigoi being established around the beginning of this century.

Here is a very brief guide to the different varieties.


white koi with red (hi, pronounced 'he' ) markings. Probably the most common variety. The hi should be deep red with well defined edges (kiwa) where it meets the white which should be pure and bright. A tancho kohaku is a white koi with a red spot on its head. An inazuma kohaku has a continuous red marking from the head to the tail, but with variation (inazuma means 'lightning strike'). A nidan (two) kohaku has two red markings, a sandan (three) kohaku has three red markings, and a yondan (four) kohaku has four red markings.


sanke (known as sanke), hi (red) and sumi (black) on a white background. A maruten sanke has a separate red spot on the head with normal markings on the body. A tancho sanke has a red spot on the head and a white body with black markings.


sanshoku (known as showa), red and white markings on a black background. A hi showa is a predominantly red showa. A kindai showa has a predominantly white pattern. A tancho showa has a red spot on the head and a black body with white markings.


are white, red or yellow koi with black (sumi) markings. Shiro bekko is a white koi with black markings. Aka bekko is a red koi with black markings (aka is another word for red). Ki bekko is a yellow koi with black markings (rare variety).


are often confused with bekko but are mostly black with white, red or yellow markings. Shiro utsuri is a black koi with white markings. Hi utsuri is black with red markings. Ki utsuri is black with yellow markings (rare variety).


are blue-grey koi with red along the sides and belly and in the fins.


are doitsu koi (koi with scales along dorsal and lateral lines only). They are blue-grey with dark blue scales along the dorsal and lateral lines and red on the sides and fins.


literally means 'robed'. This describes the hi pattern, outlined in a darker colour, which varies with the variety. Ai goromo is a kohaku whose scales have blue borders. Sumi goromo have solid black on the hi markings. Budo goromo have sumi overlaying the hi giving a purple/maroon colour.


accomodates all non-metallic koi that do not fall into the above groups : Karasugoi is a black koi with white or orange belly. Hajiro is a black koi with white tips to its tail and pectoral fins. Hageshiro is a black koi with white tips to its fins and white head and nose. Kumonryu is a doitsu koi which is black with white markings on its head, fins and body. Aka matsuba is a red koi with black centres to its scales, creating a pine cone effect. Ki matsuba as above but yellow. Shiro matsuba as above but white. Goshiki are white, red, black, blue and dark blue, giving a purplish appear ance. Kigoi is a yellow koi. Chagoi is a light brown/olive koi. Soragoi is a blue-grey koi. Midorigoi is a green koi. Benigoi is a deep red koi. Shiro muji is a white koi, aka muji is a red koi.

Koi are being developed into new and interesting colors every year. We should look forward to seeing what varieties may come, as long as they do not deter from the overall health or koi basics.