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Koi Information

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Koi are the national fish of Japan, and are called Nishikigoi. Nishiki is the Japanese word used to describe a highly colored cloth. Goior Koi is the Japanese name for carp. So Nishikigoi means "colored carp".

Considered the "living jewels of the pond," enthusiasts treasure Koi for their striking appearance, the good fortune and perseverance that they symbolize, and the friendly bond they often form with their owners.

Koi are different from Goldfish. Goldfish share a common ancestry wtih the Crucian Carp and were developed in China. Koi have two pairs of barbels on the upper lip, while Goldfish don't have any. The head shape of a goldfish is also different. The goldfish's head is more pointed and their mouth is pointing straight out. A Koi, on the other hand, is more of a shovel shape or broader, and the mouth points down because they are bottom scavengers.

Goldfish can come in similar colors as the Koi but goldfish will only grow to a maximum of 8 to 10 inches, where as a Koi can grow to over three feet long. If you only have room for a small pond then it is best to only keep goldfish as Koi can become quite large very quickly.

A Koi is unlike any other fish you will meet. They are very long living and can become quite large (24 inches or more). Koi have Japanese names for the subcategories of skin type and markings and they have various levels of quality. Tategoi means "unfinished future Koi", a fish with potential to become a very high-class fish, this is the most misused term in the Koi industry. The thing about true tategoi is that they can take years to finish, be very expensive, or never develop the way everyone thought they would. That is the risk when buying high-class Koi. To download a pdf on the Koi Fish Varieties with pictures, then click here. For Our Koi Fish Meaning page click here.

To keep Koi healthy your pond needs to be built properly. You can learn the right way to Build your Koi pond by clicking here. Another important aspect of keeping Koi is your Water Quality. Remember, Koi can't "swim away" when the water quality is bad so you have to know when the water conditions change.

Koi are friendly and social and will do best in a pond with other Koi. There are stories of Koi "helping" or showing concern for other pond mates. The stories speak of how one Koi will literally steer a sick "friend" to the edge of the pond where the owner stands.

When adding Koi or pond fish to your pond it is a delicate process and not something done right away. To have healthy Koi your pond has to cycle properly, to read more about Pond Stocking click here. When your pond has cycled properly and you begin to add your Koi and Pond Fish remember not to overstock your pond. Koi will become very large so only add 1 or 2 at a time, this way you can also make sure your not overloading your pump and fiter. It is in our nature to want to build up our collection quickly, but patience early on will be rewarded by having healthier fish in the long run.

The Koi is one of the most popular freshwater ornamental fish today. Their beauty and color, adaptability to almost all types of pond environments with minimum maintenance requirement make them a favorite among pond owners.

Koi are bottom dwelling, fresh water domesticated carp. Their natural habitat is the temperate regions but they thrive in almost any condition, so wherever you are you can have a thriving Koi pond.

koi pictures

The enduring appeal of Koi is that no two are alike. As a beginner, you may find learning to recognize the many varieties of Koi and their Japanese names a challenge. The Koi Pond Guide provides you with a wealth of knowledge, whether it's caring for your Koi or identifying your next Koi. This website will provide you valuable information in Koi familiarizations, history of Koi, along with articles on keeping your Koi healthy and the medicines you need to treat Diseases.


There is no secret to keeping Koi in good health, it is down to vigilance and common sense. Poor water qualtiy is at the root of 90 percent of health problems, and water clarity alone is no indicator that it is safe for fish. Above all, fish require a stable environment, with a pH between 7.2 and 8.5, zero ammonia and nitrite, dissolved oxygen levels of 8ppm minimum, and nitrate below 25ppm.

A heated pond is increasingly seen as obligatory, both to maintain an ambient temperatures high enough to permit year-round feeding and to avoid sudden fluctuations associated with unpredictable autumn and spring weather. Above 55°F (13°C), their immune system will continue to function, below 50°F (10°C) it will not. If you are using a temperature sensitive medication it will be effective in warmer water.

A good practice for keeping your fish healthy is to know their normal behavior. Watch them daily while they are feeding or just swimming past. If you know their daily routine you will be able to tell when something is wrong. Netting causes undue stress, try and avoid that. If an otherwise healthy Koi has a small, uninfected abrasion, and the water is warm and of good quality, it will usually heal itself without any intervention from you.

How to Pick the Best Fish

Quality Koi Pictures

Picking a fine Koi takes years of studying, going to shows, looking at books, and joining Koi clubs. It's not an easy task and the more Koi you can see the easier it will be.

The key to picking a good fish is to pick not only just for today, but for future potential of the fish. You want to pick a fish that's going to improve, not go downhill. You want to pick a fish that has a good future, and that might actually improve over two, three, four, five years, and get better and better over time. That's called choosing the potential of the fish.

In general, it comes down to body shape. The fish needs to be robust, with a large body shape, not fat, not skinny, but more like a submarine, a real tubular type Koi. But big and muscular. The pattern of the fish, of course, has to be pretty.

There are actually show quality patterns that you could look for that really fit the fish nicely, that the head fits the head nicely. It looks like a little cap or a face, and the pattern on the body is old, powerful, yet artistic, and as the pattern flows on to the tail, it becomes more dainty, and the pattern, in general, fits to the body of the fish. It's evenly balanced with the white body and the pattern itself. There's not too much of any one color.

And then, the quality of the color, itself, is really the key to determining whether the fish is a true quality fish that will maintain that color over many years. The thickness of the color is very important. The color should appear to be many coats of paint.

If you look at the fish and it only looks like there's one coat of paint, you know, you can see thin spots through the red pattern, you can see white areas beneath, at it doesn't seem to be thick, that fish may not hold its color for a long time. As the fish grows, it may lose that color.

There's other ways to determine the quality of the color, and that is by looking at how the color of the scale, let's say a red scale pattern, penetrates the white part of the body, and you will see that a red scale goes in underneath a white scale, in the front edge of the pattern.

It's called insertion. Red is inserted into the white, and it makes the red look a little bit pink, and that's what they call in Japanese, sashi, It's very important to have that sashi or insertion because it tells you that the color is deep and thick within the body of the Koi, and that it's not a surface layer. And, on the rear end of the pattern, you have actually a red color that overlaps the white color. So the red sits on top of the white. It's just the way the scales are laid down on the fish. So that red pattern on the back part of the pattern is very distinct and crisp and clear. It's got a very sharp edge. In Japanese, it's called kiwa.

That edge needs to be sharp, distinct and almost three-dimensional. Those types of things, whether you're looking at the red color or black colors, or yellow colors, are what determine the quality of the color, how long that color is going to last on the fish, and that takes a lot of looking at fish.

Resources: Koi Care Secrets by: William Coleman


Any healthy Koi can be a joy to keep in your pond. A fish does not have to have perfect color or proportion to be a great pet. However, if you want a show-quality Koi to enter into competitions, you may want to become more familiar with the way the fish are judged before you purchase your Koi.

When looking at young Koi, keep in mind that colors and patterns may change drastically while the fish enters adulthood. It is often impossible to identify the variety of a juvenile fish. It may look like one variety, but as it grows, its colors may change, and markings may spread. Wait to identify your Koi's variety until it is at least 2 years old. Koi that have champion parents are more likely to be champions themselves, so you may want to purchase a younger fish (older show-quality Koi can get expensive) from champion parents and wait to see what variety it becomes.

When considering if your Koi can compete, view it from above (this is how they are judged at shows). Look for a good body shape (plump but not fat) that is proportional and bilaterally symmetric. They should be alert and healthy, have all their barbels, have good skin and have erect, undamaged fins. Swimming should be smooth and fluid, and colors should be intense. Color patterns should be evenly distributed and not just on one side of the body, and color edges should be distinct. Also, females often have a better shape than male specimens. This is why champions are more often female. Larger specimens also tend to win more often.

Common Terms

Dagoi: Poor quality Koi

Gosanke: Refers collectively to the “big three” of koi keeping: kohaku, sanke and showa

Heisei Period: Contemporary Japanese era that started in 1989 and continues to present. (Periods are dated and named for the Emperor of Japan and the time he serves as Emperor.)

Hi: Red markings (literally means “fire”)

Iroagari: The degree of color intensity

Kawarigoi: Koi that do not fall into any mainstream koi classification

Kinginrin: Koi that has sparkling scales. Literally “gold and silver scales.”

Oyugu Hoseki: “Living jewels,” an affectionate name for koi

Sansai: Between 2 and 3 years old, referring to koi age

Shitsu: Quality or nature of skin, including shiroji, hi, sumi, etc.

Showa: Koi with black, red and white markings

Taisho Period: Japanese era from 1912 through 1926

Tosai: The age of a koi up to 1 year old

Yonsai: 4-year-old koi

ZNA: Zen Nippon Airinkai. An international association for amateur koikeepers.

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