In the world of breeding show quality koi, there are so many absolutely stunning, flawless fish that it almost seems an impossible request to ask the judges to choose just one champion fish at each competition.
These show koi are treated like royalty and bread for their unique colors, strong patterns, and overall health.
They are essentially the image you get when you imagine a koi fish: colorful and brilliant.
What makes a koi fish worthy of being called a champion, though?
Let’s take a look at the shusui variety of koi and what defines a shusui champion to better understand the level of work and quality that goes into creating a champion koi.
What is a Shusui Koi?
Shusui koi are a more modern variety of the fish that resulted from a trial crossbreeding in 1910 involving an Asagi koi and its cousin the Mirror Carp.
Asagi koi are a highly sought out variety that has a coloration different than most other koi varieties.
They are typically blue in a netted pattern created by contrasting light and dark blue scale lines accented by red markings.
Mirror carp, however, are a lot less popular and feature thick bands of scales and leathery, tough skin, making them more equipped for life in the wild.
This crossbreeding had an interesting and very appealing result, creating a fish with the color contrasts of an Asagi koi and the thick scale texture of the Mirror Carp.
Even stranger, the Shusui koi only has scales in a thick band down its back in a single line.
The rest of its body is scaleless, creating a really strange but overall very complex and desirable overall appearance that has made collectors and professional breeders seek out the mixed-species final product and even landed it as a category in most koi showcases.
To define a Shusui, there are very few rules since their appearance is already extremely distinctive.
The only requirements of the species is that it must have large back scales in a single line that are blue-black and regularly spaced.
You also ideally want matching markings on the koi and an overall sense of symmetry and well-spaced lines.
The fish should look clean and well maintained, as well, in order to be considered worthy of competing.
It is also expected that the koi’s head be free of spots and generally white or a very light blue in color, similar to that of the Asagi koi.
Fun fact: Shusui koi are one of only two types of blue koi fish and was the first Doitsu koi, meaning it was the first recognized scaleless variety of the fish!
What to Look for in a Shusui
If you are wanting a Shusui, especially one for show or even a future Shusui koi champion, there are some things to consider when purchasing your fish for raising or breeding purposes.
Koi are a bit fickle in appearance and can change over time so how you care for them and their own genetics will play a role in their value and overall potential at becoming a champion level fish at any level of the showcase, be it a smaller localized one or one of the master level shows.
In general, with a Shusui, you should look for a color distribution that is roughly the same as that of an Asagi.
This means a white or light blue head that is free of blemishes and a crisp white or light blue body.
The koi should make you think of the rising sun; light blue in the sky on the top of the fish and red rising from the bottom.
Use this imagery to help you find a symmetrical and well-formed Shusui koi.
Another thing you should consider is the back scale placement of the koi.
You want the row of scales to be neat, orderly, and symmetrical.
Ideally, it will split over the spine into two rows, giving way to a peep of the blue beneath before joining back into a solid line just before the base of the tail.
While not all Shusui have this trait, it does help with placement and showcase viability.
There are, of course, many other factors that go into finding a quality Shusui but these base guides will give you a good idea of where to start and help you begin your journey to Shusui ownership or showmanship.
Alternative Types of Shusui
Aside from the typical, stunning Shusui that is seen at most showcases, there are also additional variations that, while not always fit for showing or potential champion status, are very visually appealing and make for fantastic pond pets.
Hana Shusui, for example, have more red on their overall patterning.
Hana means “flower” in Japanese, referring to the flower-like pattern that appears on some of the more sought after and perfected varieties of Hana Shushi.
These are rare koi and can still be valuable, especially to an enthusiast who likes less common varieties of koi or specifically carries an interest in specialized Shusui.
A truly beautiful fish, this floral koi is absolutely amazing and often overlooked.
Similarly, the Ki Shusui is even rarer and features a replacement of the red tones with yellow.
These koi are extremely hard to find and can be very costly since they have such a unique and desirable coloration for collectors or those who adore unique patterns.
While technically not Shusui, the Midorigoi is a similar type of koi that features heavily green-based colorations that look stunning and offer something entirely different.
Shusui champions are often very symmetrical, neat, and appear to almost be painted.
They favor a sort of rising sun appearance, showcases brilliant light and dark blues on their top half, and red below their lateral line.
These fish are almost unbelievable in their unique coloration and scale texture, offering a unique variance on the traditional koi subspecies that we often see.
If you want to try and breed something interesting and new, the Shusui koi is a fantastic place to start.
Who knows, you just might end up with the next Shusui koi champion!