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Terminology and Pronounciation

The original Japanese word koi simply means "carp," including both the dull grey fish and the brightly colored varieties. A homonym of koi means 'love, affection' and koi are therefore symbols of love and friendship in Japan: a good example is the short story Koi-san by Mukoda Kuniko.

(錦鯉: "brocaded carp," pronounced IPA: [niɕikigoi]) is a more specific term for the ornamental carp. This article is about nishikigoi and uses the English word koi to refer to the colorful fish. Wikisource has an original article from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica about: Brocade Brocade is a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics, often made in coloured silks and with or without gold and silver threads. ... For information on how to read IPA transcriptions of English words see here. ...

While a Chinese book of the Western Jin Dynasty (4th century) mentions carp with various colors, koi breeding became popular in the 19th century in the Niigata prefecture of Japan. Farmers working the rice fields would notice that some carp were more brightly colored than others, capture them, and raise them. (Normally the brighter colors would doom the fish to be more likely eaten by birds and other predators.)

By the 20th century, a number of color patterns had been established, most notably the red-and-white Kohaku. The outside world did not become aware of the degree of development until 1914, when the Niigata koi were exhibited in the annual exposition in Tokyo. Some of them were also presented to Crown Prince Hirohito. At that point, interest in koi exploded throughout Japan. The hobby of keeping koi spread worldwide after plastic bags and shipping of koi became both fast and safe for the fish. These factors enabled koi to be shipped worldwide with low mortality rates. Koi are now commonly sold in most pet stores, with higher-quality fish available from specialist dealers. Year 1914 (MCMXIV) was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... Hirohito (Japanese: ) (April 29, 1901 – January 7, 1989) was the 124th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 1926 to 1989. ...
Koi varieties are distinguished by coloration, patterning, and scalation. Ghost koi, developed in the 1980s are metallic hybrids of wild carp and Ogon koi and are not considered true Nishikigoi. Butterfly koi, Longfin koi, or Dragon Carp were also developed in the 1980s and are notable for their long and flowing fins. They are actually hybrids with Asian carp and, like Ghost koi, are not considered true Nishikigoi

The major named varieties include:

  • Kohaku - a white-skinned Koi, with a red pattern
  • Taisho Sanshoku (Sanke) - a white-skinned Koi with a red and black pattern
  • Showa Sanshoku (Showa) - a black-skinned Koi with a red and white pattern
  • Tancho - Any koi with the only red being in a circle on its forehead. The fish can be a Tancho Showa, Tancho Sanke, or even Tancho Goshiki.
  • Asagi - a Koi with light blue scales on its top and red scales on its bottom
  • Shusui - the partially scaled version of an Asagi
  • Bekko - a white, red, or yellow-skinned Koi with a black pattern
  • Utsurimono - a black Koi with a red, white, or yellow pattern
  • Goshiki - a mostly black Koi with red, white, brown, and blue accents
  • Ogon - a Koi that is one solid color, can be regular or metallic; known colors - red, orange, platinum, yellow and cream
  • KinGinRin - Koi with shiny scales "Gold Silver Scales" There is also Gin rin versions of almost any other type of koi. For example, You could have a showa with glittery scales.
  • Kawarimono (kawarigoi) - Miscellaneous types of Koi
  • Doitsu-goi - German Carp
  • Koromo - Koi with areas of blue-edged scales (align neatly)
  • Hikari-Moyomono - Koi with coloured patterns over a metallic base, and koi in two metallic colours
  • Ghost koi - "Hybrid" of Ogon and wild carp. Not Nishikigoi.
Butterfly koi - Long-finned version of all others. Not Nishikigoi.

red eye
Kigoi are koi that are Solid Yellow.
The most prized Kigoi have RED EYEs.

[a-kah] Matsuba [Basic Red]
Red koi with a Black Net Pine Cone Pattern in the scales along the back.
Pattern should be equal all over the koi.
The Hi [RED] should be very deep.( a-kah)


A grey-blue fully scaled koi with hi along the lateral lines, cheeks and in the fins


Ai Goromo

Basically a kohaku whose red scales have blue semicircular borders, giving the koi a reticulated pattern.


BeniKumonryu with Deep Red [Beni]

( ben-ee-goy)
Red Koi
Beni Goi or Higoi are Koi that are Solid RED
Always look for Solid hi [ RED].


 Mat white,red or yellow koi with black markings.

Beni Kujaku

 An orange-red Kujaku with red markings all over the body.

Budo Goromo

 A koi with a purplish, grape like pattern on its white body


A non metallic light brown koi

Doitsu Kikisui
( dough-ee-tsue)
German- scaleless, or row down the back bone of the koi. Should be one scale on top of another with no scales missing in the pattern.


Doitsu Kujaku

A platinum koi with red markings over its body
and black markings in the scales along the dorsal
and lateral lines only.





Flowery Kohaku

many, small areas of hi. No recognizable step pattern


Gin rin
( gin-rin)
gold diamond scales


[Five Step Hi [RED] Pattern] (go-dan)
five step pattern



A five coloured koi,on which white, red, black, and light and dark blue are mixed to give a purplish appearance. Scale reticulation on the red and white,or on the white only.



( he-kah-ree)

shadow undeveloped black

( kah-no-koh)
dappled red markings

( kee)

( kin)

( key-wah)
edge of pattern

red on the mouth like lipstick

( ma-tsue-bah)
net like pattern on scales ( reticulation)

( men-wah-ray)
Lightning-Like Sumi Pattern on the head.
Formally know as the Showa Sanshoku, this black, red and white koi.

( moe-toe-goo-roe)
black at base of pectoral fins

( nee-dawn)
two step pattern

( nee-sigh)
two year old koi

( oh-do-may)
tail stop - the white area between last color on the body tail

( oh-moy-oh)
a large pattern

( oh-sue)

( san-dan)
three step

( san-sigh)
three year old koi

( sash-ee)
white scales overlapping red on the leading edge of pattern

( she-me)
small black spot

( sheer-oh)

( sue-me)

( tah-tay-goy)
a koi with potential for further development

( toe-sigh)
koi of less than one year old

( yon-dawn)
four step pattern on Kohaku

( yon-sigh)
four year old koi

  • Taisho Sanshoku (Taisho Sanshoku are Kohaku added with Sumi (black marking).
  • Taisho Sanshoku have a more varied patterns than Kohaku due to the highly variable Sumi. 
  • Inspection of Taisho Sanshoku
  • Observe the red patterns.  Sumi have different quality according to Koi's ancestry.
  • Taisho Sanshoku of the Sadazo lineage appear to have more Sumi of round shape with deep insertion of patterns. 
  • The hidden black markings appering on the bluish skin will become glossy, fine Sumi. Taisho Sanshoku of the Torazo lineage have angular, solid Sumi with few variations.  Taisho Sanshoku of Jinbei lineage have massive Sumi of good quality.  However, this Sumi may get cracked or break into pieces (pebble Sumi) when the Koi get older.

More Termenology:

Hikari means Metallic
Hikari Utsurimono:...Metallic Utsuri and Showa.
Hikarimono:...Shining ones, the metallic groups.
Hikarimoyo:...Multicoloured 'white-based' metallic koi.
Hikari-moyomono:...A classification including all metallic koi with two or more colours, except metallic Utsuri and Showa.
Hikarimuji:...Single-coloured metallic koi, with or without scale reticulation.
Himozumi:...String-like, thin sumi pattern.
Hachiware:...Lightning stripe head pattern.
Hachizumi:...A black pattern that runs diagonally across the head.
Hageru:...No blurring on the head (relates to metallic varieties particularly).
Hageshiro:...A black koi with white on the head and on the tail and pectoral fin tips.
Hajiro:...A black koi with white on the tail and pectoral fin tips.
Haka Shita:...Sagging abdomen.
Hanatsuki:...Head hi extends down the nose.
Hanazumi:...A black pattern (or spot) around the mouth and nose area.
Hi:...General term for red.
Hiagari:...Intensity of the red colour.
Hiban:...Red pattern element or red area.
Hariwake:...Koi with two colours, one of which is platinum, the other metallic orange or yellow, double metallic cross breeding.
Hoaka:...Hi over the gill plate
Inazuma:...Lighting-stripe pattern (zig-zag).
Ippon hi:...Straight hi, renzokumoyo, continuous from head to tail.
Junidaira Showa:...Very old Showa line.