What You Should Know About Kōhaku Koi Varieties

What You Should Know About Kōhaku Koi Varieties

What You Should Know About Kōhaku Koi Varieties

When you think of koi fish, you probably imagine brilliant, colorful fish that look absolutely majestic as they swim through a well-maintained pond.

While this is true, there is a bit more to the koi fish species.

There are actually a host of different koi fish subspecies and colorations created through selective breeding practices.

One of these is the Kōhaku or Kohaku koi, a red and white variety that is probably one of the most well know coloration varieties.

Let’s learn a little more about Kōhaku Koi varieties and see if we can better understand what makes these koi so special.

What Exactly is a Kōhaku Koi

Kohaku koi are a subspecies of ornamental koi carp that are identified by a specific coloration and set of characteristics that sets them apart from other koi carp subspecies. 

This species is believed to be one of the first specifically bred for ornamental purposes. 

Its first breeding is said to have happened when a man named Kunizo Hiroi bred his red-headed female koi with a different male koi with coloration presence similar to that of a cherry blossom tree, creating the first Gosuke koi. 

This became the bloodline that all Kohaku koi are derived from.

What are the Characteristics of a Kohaku Koi

There are several different characteristics that define Kohaku koi. 

The most important, arguably, is the presence of an even but not necessarily symmetrical hi or red patterning on the body that is uninterrupted by any white scales. 

The edges of the hi should be of good quality, appearing crisp and clear.

High-quality Kohaku koi also should not have red extending past their lateral line, though this is not strictly followed, nor is the antiquated rule that states the hi should not pass onto the head past the eyes or onto the fins of the fish. 

There also must be some presence of hi on the head in order for the koi to be considered a prize, high-quality fish.

Kohaku Koi Varieties

What Kohaku Koi Varieties are There

While there are specific rules that must be followed for a koi to be considered a quality Kohaku, there are still quite a few differences from fish to fish that make the subspecies unique and diverse despite the overall controlled specifications. 

Let’s take a closer look at the different titled Kohaku Koi varieties to better understand the differences between each.


This is the most common subspecies of Kohaku koi. 

Featuring a fully red body, this koi occurs normally in the breeding of Kohaku and was widely culled until it increased in popularity in the early 1990s, resulting in the subspecies becoming a popular pet. 

An additional subset of Akamuji also exists, known as Aka Hajiro that presents itself with white tips on its fins.


One of the most valued subspecies, Dangara koi have patterning that resembles the stepping stones typically found in a pond. 

A single solid stripe Dangara is not considered particularly valuable unless it is an Inazuma or stair-stepped stripe. 

The key to a Dangara koi being valuable is good separation between the markings and a good definition of the individual pieces of the overall pattern.

Koi with two, three, and four individual patches down their backs all qualify as Dangara koi. 

Double patch presence is known as Nidan. 

Three patches are called Sandan. Four are referred to as Yondan. 

All of these are valuable but koi with more than four are typically not valuable and fall under different subspecies known as Komoyo.


Pinned to the Dangara koi subspecies, the Komoyo carries a lot of similarities but is not considered to be as valuable or desirable. 

The marking size is small and generally broken up or not particularly clear, making for a pretty pet but not a show quality koi fish.


While not particularly valuable, this fish is named for the Japanese word for “lipstick” due to its red markings spreading down onto its lips.


Another less desired or valued subspecies, Makibara fish have a red hi that wraps around their belly, passing the lateral line.


This pattern is identified by a break or stop in the hi of the koi. 

This interruption should be less than two centimeters in size and occur where the tailbone joins the body, creating a singular and neat break in the hi where the shiroji breaks through.


This is a species where the koi’s hi forms large sections that total at least a quarter of the length of the koi’s entire body size without breaking the lateral line, resulting in a very appealing and valuable fish. 

This is due to the fact that as the koi ages, the patterns will break apart, creating interesting designs and patterning.


This is a coloration variety of Kohaku that is entirely white. 

This is common in Kohaku breeding and not considered valuable, much like the Akamuji.


This is another less than desirable coloration that means “trousers”. 

This refers to the fact that the hi wraps around to the bottom of the tail, breaking the lateral line. 

If the hi wraps around the upper body and breaks the lateral line, it is referred to as “bongiri”, meaning shirt.

Kohaku Koi Varieties

Kōhaku Interest

Kohaku koi are one of the oldest varieties available, offering tons of interesting red and white patterns that are absolutely stunning in variation. 

While not all Kohaku Koi varieties are valuable, they all make for fantastic pond pets and will look gorgeous within your pond set-up. 

These fish are truly bred as part of an art style, with each new batch carefully curated from the data collected from previous successful mating pairs. 

Regardless of the final pattern, each Kohaku is a piece of koi keeping history, tracing back directly to the start of the breeding art and offering an interesting and beautiful look into the past unlike any other. 

Count yourself lucky if you manage to get some of these popular, stunning fish! They’re a real treat to own!