Koi Fish Varieties: Identification & Differences

Koi fish (Cyprinus rubrofuscus) come in over ten primary categories and over one hundred subcategories. They are colorful fish whose origin can be traced back to 200 B.C. Although the Japanese originally ate koi fish, they also bred colorful ones to produce the numerous koi varieties we have today.

The Koi varieties are differentiated by their key features and color as they derive their specific names from this metric.

Here are the main koi varieties and their key features

Koi Variety Main Features 
AsagiHave a net-like pattern of blue or gray scales.
BekkoBlack spots on the primary color.
ChagoiThick, solid brown body, a broad head, and a fat tail.
DoitsuNo scales or scales only along its dorsal and lateral lines.
Goromo They have unusual white and non-metallic colors, and their scales have a blue reticulation.
GoshikiKohaku-like body with colors ranging from white, red, black, dark blue, and gray.
Kohaku Snowy white, with beautifully patterned red or orange marks across their bodies.
ShowaShiny, and the black color runs along their length. However, the black declines in intensity and contrast as you get close to the fins.
TanchoReddish or orange mark at the center of its head.
UtsurimonoDeep, dark black base color. Another bright and contrasting color also occurs on top of the black one.
MatsubaHave a black pattern of a net on its back.
ShusuiBlue or black scales run on both sides of the dorsal fin.
Hikari MoyoMetallic skin with sparkling platinum colors and pattern variations.
Hikari Muji Single-colored koi fish without any markings.
Taisho SankeCome in Sumi (black), red (Hi), and white with no black mark on the head.

Tip: If you love this fish, I’d suggest you start with varieties that can learn hand-feeding quickly, like Chagoi and Soragoi. They will also encourage their timid tankmates to hand feed. Alternatively, you can pick a koi whose color matches your interior decor.

Koi Varieties

How to differentiate koi fish varieties

As I discussed, there are two ways to differentiate koi fish varieties. That is by looking at their key features and color. Let’s take an in-depth look at the two:

Key features

Koi fish are pretty large, and they occur in many color combinations. Unlike other fish, a well-fed mature koi fish with adequate swimming space can reach 20 inches long.

However, the size feature alone won’t help identify the Doitsu, Gin Rin, Tancho, and Maruten varieties of koi.

  • Doitsu has scales only along its lateral line. You can also notice two lines on both sides of Doitsu’s dorsal fin. 
  • On the other hand, Gin Rin koi have reflective scales that glitter as the fish moves.
  • You will know a Tancho by a red circular or heart-shaped marking on the head. It resembles the Japanese flag at its head. 
  • And finally, Maruten koi fish have a “crown” pattern on its head. But unlike Tancho, Maruten has numerous red patterns throughout its body.

Doitsu, Gin Rin, Tancho, and Maruten koi also occur in many colors. In other words, combining the koi fish’s key features and the koi fish’s color gives a clearer picture of the fish.


Koi fish occur in various color combinations, including black, red, white, and yellow. Others also come in golden, blue, or cream. While color is essential for identifying a koi fish, it is also a crucial health indicator. A sick koi or one exposed to excess sunlight will turn color.

To enhance your koi fish colors, feed them high-quality fish food with essential carotenoids such as astaxanthin and canthaxanthin. Also, add enough aquarium plants to give koi fish sufficient shade and protect them from sunburn. 

The main koi varieties

Here are the 15 main koi varieties to choose from:

1. Asagi

Asagi koi are pretty easy to identify. A bird’s view of its back reveals a net-like blue or gray scales pattern. If there is any color on the head, it should be on the cheek or nose area. In other words, Asagi’s forehead has no markings. The forehead can only be pale blue or white. 

When choosing Asagi koi, pick the one with the highest contrast. These are usually healthy and high-quality and can live for over 10 years in a koi fish pond

2. Bekko

Bekko koi fish can occur in Shiro (white), Ki (yellow), or Sumi (black) varieties. Thus, you can call them Shiro Bekko, Ki Bekko, and Sumi Bekko, respectively. 

On top of their primary colors, i.e., white, yellow, black, or red, are black spots that simplify Bekko koi identification. The black marks are above the lateral line but not on the head.

The yellow variety is the rarest, followed by the red variety (Aka Bekko). However, you can find Shiro Bekko or Sumi Bekko in your nearest fish store or online.

3. Chagoi

Chagoi koi has a thick, solid brown body, a broad head, and a fat tail. They are famous for their friendliness and acceptance. A Chagoi koi will swim to meet and greet anyone near the pond. Besides, they are usually the first to accept hand feeding.

Therefore, Chagoi koi will encourage and train shy tankmates to accept hand feeding. When purchasing a Chagoi, ensure that it is not slender or streamlined. The dorsal fin should also be continuous without splits. Otherwise, it might be more susceptible to fish diseases.

4. Doitsu

Doitsu comes from the German word “Deutsche.” That is because Doitsu koi were first developed in Germany over 100 years ago to make the fish easy to cook (yes, you can eat koi fish). Germany then exported most of the fish to Japan, where it found its common name, Doitsu.

Doitsu koi may have scales only along its dorsal and lateral lines. However, sometimes they have no scales at all. Some breeders call them the “scaleless version of scaled koi fish.” You will also notice two lines on both sides of Doitsu’s dorsal fin.

5. Goromo

Goromo koi are also called Koromo koi fish. It is one of the most diverse koi varieties. They have an unusual white and non-metallic color, and their scales have a blue reticulation. A Goromo koi with a blue tint is called Ai Goromo. There is also Sumi Goromo and Budo Goromo. 

A closer look reveals a beautiful and colorful mesh-like pattern on the Goromo koi fish. When looking for a Gorromo Koi, its body and fins should be snowy white. Also, ensure the edges between the colors are sharp and not fading.

6. Goshiki

Goshiki is a Japanese word meaning “five colors.” Goshiki Koi is a crossbreed between Kohaku koi and Asagi, resulting in a koi fish with five distinct colors. The fish has a Kohaku-like body with colors ranging from white, red, black, dark blue, and gray. 

The easiest way to identify a Goshiki koi is by the black fishnet pattern that overlays every white region in its back. The pattern runs from the koi’s head to the tail. To improve the lifespan of Goshiki koi fish, keep it in a tank of at least 100 gallons or more. 

7. Kohaku

Kohaku koi are ranked in the top three most common koi fish varieties. You will find them not just in Japan but all over the world. They are snowy white, with beautifully patterned red or orange marks across their bodies. They will look like living pieces of art in your fish pond.

Although some Kohaku koi fish varieties will grow 50 inches, most reach only 24 inches. They include Sandan Hi Kohaku and Nidan Hi Kohaku. If you want them to grow larger, keep them in a clear pond or fish tank between 100 and 300 gallons. 

8. Showa

Showa koi, Kohaku koi, and Taisho Sanke are the Big3 koi fish. In other words, Showa koi are larger than other koi fish like Goromo or Goshiki. The simplest way to describe a Showa koi is that if you remove all the black patches in it, you get a Kohaku.

The two Showa varieties are Showa Sanshoku and Taisho Sanshoku. The best Showa koi is active, disease-free, and has large pectoral fins. They are shiny, and the black color runs along their length. However, the black declines in intensity and contrast as you get close to the fins. 

9. Tancho

The Japanese named the Tancho koi fish after the red-crowned crane. Therefore, you will know a Tancho koi by the reddish or orange mark at the center of its head. However, the mark can sometimes be asymmetrical to the fish’s forehead. 

Unlike the Kohaku koi, Tancho koi are rare because the latter is much more challenging to breed than the former. There are also several subcategories under the Tancho koi category.

For instance, a Tancho Kohaku koi is white everywhere except for the red splotch on its forehead.

10. Utsurimono

Another koi fish variety is Utsurimono, pronounced as oot-SOO-ree-MOH-noh. Fish keepers simply call it Utsuri. This koi fish has a deep, dark black base color. Another bright and contrasting color also occurs on top of the black one.

Utsurimono koi were developed in the late 19th century as a single variety. However, breeders made the red version and brought variety to Utsurimono koi. The red variety is called hi Utsuri, and the yellow variety is called ki Utsuri. 

11. Matsuba

Matsuba koi fish can occur in metallic or non-metallic varieties. Metallic versions of the Matsuba koi are Kin Matsuba and Gin Matsuba. On the other hand, Shiro Matsuba and Ki Matsuba are non-metallic varieties of the Matsuba koi.

On top of that, you will know a Matsuba koi by the black pattern of a net on its back. The maximum size of Matsuba koi fish is 3 inches. To keep its color shiny and glittering, ensure the fish’s water temperature is between 36ºF and 90ºF.

12. Shusui

Shusui koi was bred by Yoshigoro Akiyama in the early 1900s. The fish is a crossbreed between Asagi koi (scale-less) and a German scale fish called Duitsugio. Like the Doitsu koi, Shusui has visible blue or black scales on both sides of the dorsal fin. 

The scales form two or four rows at the back of the fish but meet in a single row in the tail. The subcategories of Sushi koi include Hana Shusui, Hi Shusui, Ki Shusui, Tancho Shusui, and Butterfly Shusui. Don’t buy it if the Shusui koi is not symmetrical from front to back.

13. Hikari Moyo

Hikari-Moyo koi are beautiful and would look amazing at home or office aquariums. Hikari-Moyo varieties include Hariwake, Kujaku Ogon, and Yamato-Nishiki. They have metallic skin and are popular due to their sparkling platinum colors and pattern variations.

Unlike the scale-less Shusui koi, Hikari Moyo is fully scaled. Nevertheless, you can find some Hikari Moyo fish in the Doitsu or butterfly variety. Doitsu koi have no scales, and the butterfly Hikari Moyo has more extended fins than the original Hikari Moyo. 

14. Hikari Muji

The name comes from the Japanese words Hikari and Muji, which means “shining” and “plain,” respectively. In other words, Hikarimuji is a single-colored koi fish without any markings. 

In this category, you will find Hikari Muji Ogon and Hikari Muji Matsuba. They have vibrant skin, and their uniform color is immediately noticeable in a multi-colored koi fish aquarium. 

15. Taisho Sanke

Also known as Taisho Sanshoku. You can also call it Sanke. This koi variety was bred some 80 years ago, and it comes in three colors: Sumi (black), red (Hi), and white. 

Identifying the Taisho Sanke koi can be challenging because the overall position of the Sumi on the fish’s body is critical. Whereas Showa koi have a black marks on their heads, Sanke does not.


There are more koi varieties, with some still in development. Pick the one you like most and give it good care, whether in a pond or aquarium. They’re majestic fish that will easily spice up your life.


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