Koi Varieties: A Beginner’s Guide

Colour Guide

Many koi species, such as Ki Utsuri and Beni Kumonryu, refer to their scale colour within their name. This colour guide will help identify different koi varieties by name, but also by sight:

Sumi  Black Kin  Gold
Shiro  White  Gin  Silver
Hikari Metallic  Orenji  Orange 
Aka Red Ki  Yellow


Key Features 


Refers to koi that have no scales, except for enlarged scales on the lateral line and two lines running alongside the dorsal fin

Gin Rin

Refers to koi with reflective scales that create a glimmering sheen as the fish move


Refers to koi with a singular red marking on the head, akin to the red circle in the Japanese flag.


Refers to koi with a "crown" pattern on the head, similar to Tancho but with additional red patterns on the rest of the body.

Koi Variety Overview

Koi Carp Varieties

1. Hariwake and Kikusui

Very similar and often confused with Kohaku, Hariwake are defined by their bright white metallic base colour.  Unlike Kohaku, Hariwake can be defined with yellow or orange colours.  The Doitsu version of a Hariwake is referred to as Kikusui; the only variation of which is Tancho.  Hariwake are available in Tancho and Gin Rin varieties.

2. Goshiki

Translating to mean ‘5 Colours’, Goshiki have a solid base of white accentuated with blue and black edging.  A red and blue pattern will overlay the white, black and blue base.  Available in Gin Rin and Tancho varieties.

3. Goromo

Displaying similar patterns to Kohaku, Goromo differentiates themselves by showing a blue or black edge to their red scales. There are 3 distinctions to each Goromo: Ai Goromo which have a blue edging to the inside of the red scales, Budo Goromo which have a blue edge to the outside of the scales and Sumi goromo exhibit black edging to their scales.  Available in Tancho and Maruten morphs.

4. Soragoi

Much like Chagoi, Soragoi are a very docile species and will be the first to learn to hand feed in a pond.  They are identified by their solid silver or grey colour, enhanced by a netting throughout the body.

5. Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri

As with Shiro Utsuri, these Koi have a deep black skin with deep red or orange patterns overlain.  Red Utsuri are considered to be of higher quality than oranges, however, most juveniles will show an orange colouration. Ki Utsuri displays a striking yellow colour over the body.   Available in Gin Rin and Doitsu varieties.

6. Tancho Kohaku

Like other Kohaku, these koi exhibit a solid white base but are renowned for their singular red marking on top of their head.  These are a highly sought after specimen amongst hobbyists, and Tancho Kohaku with oval and heart shape markings are becoming increasingly popular.  These are also available in Gin Rin and Doitsu varieties.

7. Kujaku

Displaying a black net pattern on top of a solid white base and accentuated by splashes of red, yellow and orange, Kujaku can make a stunning individual.  The black edging creates the net pattern by being present on the edge of each individual scale.  Available in variations of Doitsu, Tancho and Maruten.

8. Shiro Utsuri

A stunning koi which have a black base overlain with patches of pure white.  As with Showa, the blacks should be a deep inky colour.  The head should exhibit an even split of blacks and whites.  The definition between black and white areas should be clean with no bleeding of colour.  Available in Gin Rin and Doitsu varieties.

9. Ochiba Shigure

Often referred to simply as Shigure, they combine the brown and silvers of Chagoi and Soragoi.  They will also exhibit similar traits to these species such as their willingness to feed and calm down other koi.  Their name also translates to ‘autumn leaves falling on water’.  Available in Gin Rin and Doitsu variations.

10. Ogon

There are 2 main distinctions of Ogon; Platinum and Yamabuki.  Platinum are a solid, metallic-white colour, and Yamabuki are a solid gold.  It is important in both variations that the colour is pure and unblemished throughout the body and head.  Varieties are to include Gin Rin and Doitsu.

11. Shusui

These are actually the scaleless or Doitsu variety of Asagi.  Instead of having the blue netting along their backs, this is replaced with a single row of deep blue scales along the dorsal line.  As with Asagi, the rest of the fish should display a solid red pattern throughout. Available in Gin Rin and Hi Shusui variations.

12. Taisho Sanke

Also known simply as Sanke, these koi have a red and black pattern over a solid white base.  The colour should not have any tint of yellow, and the red and blacks should be strong and defined.  It is not uncommon for the blacks to have a blue tinge on young specimens but should become an inky black as they mature. Available in Doitsu, Maruten, Gin Rin and Tancho varieties.

13. Kikokuryu and Kin Kikokuryu

A Doitsu variety of koi that have a white base with black areas inside the scales.  They can also exhibit black along the back row of scales and around the head, eyes and nose.  Kin Kikokuryu will also show flashes of orange and yellow patterns.

14. Showa Sanshoku

Not to be confused with Sanke, Showa are a black Koi with red and white markings.  Strong definition with no bleeding of colours is essential for a high quality Showa.  Like the Sanke, these are available in Doitsu, Maruten and Gin Rin variations.

15. Kohaku

Arguably the oldest and one of the most well-known varieties of koi.  Kohaku display a solid white base with a red pattern overlay.  Good quality Kohaku should have clear definition along the boundaries of the reds, and the reds should be deep and vibrant.  Kohaku can come with a number of variations; including 2 step (Nidan), 3 step (Sandan), 4 step (Yondan) and Inazuma which is a lighting ‘zig-zag’ pattern across the backs of the koi.  Other varieties include Doitsu, Gin Rin and Maruten.

16. Asagi

One of the most common varieties of Koi available on the market.  Asagi are recognised for their deep blue netted pattern on their backs.  This is then complemented by a display of red or orange on the belly, body, gill plates and head.  High-quality Asagi will not display any red or colour above the lateral line, used as a distinctive divide between the blue netting on the back and the red colouration of the body. Available in Gin Rin and Hi Asagi variations

17. Kumonryu and Beni Kumonryu

A very interesting specimen to have in any pond as Kumonryu will change their pattern various times throughout their lifespan. Both forms of Kumonryu are Doitsu will exhibit patterns of grey, white or black, the Beni variation will also show reds.  These patterns can change from complete black or white to a variation of all colours many times throughout their life.

18. Chagoi

Arguably an important form of Koi to have in any pond, famous for their ability to calm other varieties of koi and are often the first to train to hand feed – encouraging others to follow their example.  Chagoi exhibit a solid brown or bronze with a net-like pattern across their back or body.  Available in multiple variations including Gin Rin and Doitsu.

19. Matsuba

One of the few koi that only has 1 variation being Doitsu Matsuba.They show a solid metallic base with a black net pattern, primarily along the back but a good specimen will exhibit throughout the body.The colour of the base will vary, but must always be metallic in appearance.Gin Matsuba are white, Aka Matsuba are Red and Ki Matsuba are yellow.