Different Types Of Koi
There are many different types of koi. Telling koi varieties apart can be confusing and sometimes even the experts argue about how to classify them.
To make matters more confusing all the terms used to describe koi fish are Japanese so learning to tell different varieties of koi apart is a bit like learning a new language.
Different Types Of Koi Keepers
Everyone approaches raising koi differently. Some koi enthusiasts get into breeding or showing them. Other koi keepers like the look of a certain breed they saw and want to identify and keep that variety.
I suspect that the vast majority of pond owners, after a sometimes long process of designing and building a koi pod, just want to stock it with koi fish that they find attractive. They may want to know the general type of koi in their pond but don’t need to differentiate like someone who breeds or shows koi.
Butterfly koi with their long flowing fins are very popular here in the US but are not considered a true koi variety by many serious breeders. Perhaps that perception will change over time.
Many koi fish are simply classed as garden koi. They are of no particular variety but are beautiful just the same and also considerably less expensive.
How Koi Varieties Are Classified
Without getting overly detailed the types of koi are classified by several factors, the first being whether they lack of scales or the type of scales they have. Doitsu is the term used for koi without scales. Some koi have reflective scales these are called KinGinRin. There are different names to describe shape, placement and coloration of the scales.
The main way that the different koi types are identified is by their coloring and markings. And this is where things can get a bit confusing because of the wide variety of combinations possible. Is the fish black with red and white markings or is it white with black and red markings? The first would be a Showa the second a Sanke.
The three main varieties of koi are Kohaku which are red and white, Sanke which are white with red and black markings and Showa which are black with white and red markings.
There are many other koi types and their colors and patterns can change over time. So you may buy a Sanke and wind up with a Showa. This is one reason why older koi bring a premium because they have stabilized.
Finally types of koi are differentiated by whether they a have a metallic or non metallic sheen. Generally the black and red varieties are non metallic.
My preferences are for Sanke but yours may be different. Spend some time looking at varieties and develop your own preferences. There are many different types of koi to choose from.
Personally I am less concerned about variety than about how an individual fish looks. After a while you will develop a feel for what makes a good fish regardless of what variety it is. Below is a chart that shows the different types of koi.