Top quality hand selected
Japanese Koi Carp at sensible prices

Dormer Cottage, Spurgrove Lane, Little Frieth,

Nr. Henley on Thames, Bucks, RG9 6NU

Phone/Fax: 01494 882600

Order Hotline: 07814 011357

Koi Carp from Koi Water Garden Ltd.

We offer high grade Japanese Koi Carp only.

We offer high grade Japanese Koi Carp only. Find out how to choose your perfect Koi from the hundreds on offer.


last updated 22nd October

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How to Choose a great Koi Carp


The first and most important thing when choosing a good Koi is to remember that any decision on what is good or bad is very much subjective. Always buy only what you like, and not what someone else tells you is a good Koi or the best one.


We all have differing views and differing opinions and every Koi is unique, so when judging or choosing Koi – remember that you are the only judge that matters as the Koi will be yours!


However in general terms there are several pointers that we can give which will assist generally in ensuring whatever you choose will be of good quality.


Body shape.


Firstly look for a good uniform body shape. Koi should be shaped like laser guided bombs – not fat and not thin, with a rounded nose and slim elliptical body which flows from head to tail in one graceful line. Avoid any which are rugby ball shape and any that are very thin so that the head appears overlarge and the body carrot shaped. Also ensure that with the Koi in a bowl that the body shape is uniform on both sides, with no lumps, bumps or protrusions and no obvious deformities.


Ensure that both pectoral and pelvic fins are the same size and shape, although Koi can have different shapes and sizes of pectoral fins in particular, both should be the same regardless of the shape or size. Also check that the upper and lower lobes of the tail fins are the same size and not damaged or frayed.


Skin quality.


The next important issue is skin quality. When viewed in a bowl, the skin of a good Koi will be bright and lustrous. It should appear almost like fine porcelain. On scaled fish, the edges of scales should be barely discernable. Skin quality can be a difficult thing to determine for novices, as there are five different types of skin on a Koi – Scaled, Doitsu (no scales), metallic scaled skin, Gin Rin (metallic) scaled and metallic Doitsu. Metallic scaled and Gin Rin scaled skin should be very bright and even across the body, remembering that Gin Rin scales only normally extend across the top of the body, not the sides. Scales should also be in even straight lines, not ragged or twisted. In Gin Rin scalation, the Gin Rin should be very bright, each scale is effectively a small mirror, and it should be even from the head to the tail and down both sides of the dorsal fin.


Doitsu fish are easier to judge as the skin should simply be clean, bright and very even with no discolouration regardless of the Koi’s colour or pattern.


Skin quality should be determined regardless of the colour of a Koi or its pattern, which are separate issues.




Next most important is colouration. Regardless of the colour or pattern chosen, any good Koi should possess strong and even colouration, with no patchiness when mature. The colours should be pure and deep. If you are choosing a Yamabuki Ogon, a metallic yellow Koi, the Yellow should be the same shade right across the top of the body, and will only fade down towards the lateral line. The head should be the same colour, with no blemishes. Fins may be yellow or white, or a combination of both colours, but again ensure that there is a balance, so that for example both pectoral fins are the same colours.


If you are choosing Kohaku, a red and white Koi, the Red should be rich red – note not necessarily crimson red – rich red is more important, the white should be pure white not dirty yellow or cream coloured.  In mature Koi the transition between colours should be clear and sharp, but in young fish or Tategoi (Koi that will improve), transition between colours can be blurred. The front edge of the pattern, or Sashi will clearly show the transition between colours and a blurred edge indicates the depth of colour, so that you may see the red on a red scale fade away as the scale slips under a white scale. This is a good sign of the depth of red or Hi. On the rear scale edge, or Kiwa the pattern should be sharp as the coloured scale sits over the top of the base colour so you should only see the clearly defined scale edge.


Things can get even more complicated when you add a third colour, such as black or Sumi. Some colours will not be distinct or clear in young or Tategoi fish, and black is a prime example. So when choosing a Showa, a black Koi with red and white markings, the black will be unfinished, blurred or missing in several places when compared to the finished adult Koi. In such cases you need to know the age of the Koi, its sex, and something of its bloodline to help you determine how the Koi will finish. You can rarely look at a multi coloured Koi and determine from first viewing if the Koi will be good or bad. Here it is definitely a case of what you see is NOT what you might get.


However there are several simple rules to help guide the buyer through the maize.


  • Black is a predominant colour.  It nearly always comes – not goes – so a blurred , indistinct, small black pattern will probably grow in size, depth and clarity.
  • Red patterns normally do not increase in size, although the colour will get more dense and darker in good quality Koi.
  • White will normally improve as a Koi grows, and the depth of the skin increases, this can be especially noticeable on the head of Koi, where white can look cream or even yellow when young.
  • Male Koi often exhibit stronger colours at a younger age, so much so that breeders can often determine the sex of a Koi simply by looking at the depth of colours regardless of age.
  • Male Koi tend to finish younger, so black patterns can be much more distinct, whites clearer and reds deeper and often whites will be more creamy when young.
  • Generally single coloured Koi will not significantly change throughout their lives and therefore choosing these varieties is much simpler.
  • Choosing adult Koi of three years and older is a much simpler process as the colours and patterns will be more stable and less likely to be affected by further growth or environmental conditions.
  • Koi are always changing throughout their lives, with most significant changes taking place in the first two years, so choosing a near perfect Koi at one year old is not a good idea as by the time the Koi is three or four, it will probably be past its best and will certainly have changed considerably – so again choosing very good Koi very young is much more difficult as you need to be able to see into the future to see how the Koi will develop – pretty much impossible.
  • When choosing any variety of Koi, do a little research so you know what an adult version of the variety should look like, and whilst nothing you see will look like the text book version, you can then ensure that the Koi you have your eye on at least exhibits all the basic traits required for the variety in question. Then make allowances for the age, sex, and of course price of the Koi before you make your mind up.


Doitsu Showa Tategoi

Above: This fabulous two year old Doitsu Showa was imported in October 2019 - and very much still Tategoi.

Doitsu Showa

Above: The same Showa only 6 months later - see how the red (Hi) has increased in depth and the black (Sumi) has developed across the body




Pattern is a completely subjective issue when choosing Koi so here the rules are very simple and we come full circle. Only buy what you like. Everyone’s ideas on the perfect pattern are different so be guided by your own judgment, not by anyone else’s. Certain patterns on certain varieties are always more in demand, but that does not mean you have to like them. Also accept that your ideas of what makes a perfect Koi will change, so next time you choose a Koi, your ideals may have shifted.




Lastly of course, before you decide on your purchase watch your target Koi swimming in the pond. It should be swimming normally with the rest of the Koi with dorsal fin erect and pectoral fins splayed wide. Watch it swim to ensure it moves gracefully and does not exhibit unusual or exaggerated body movements. It should look alert and interested in its surroundings. When the dealer catches the Koi it should try to evade capture and display agility in its efforts to avoid the net.


When the Koi is bowled (or bagged) ensure that you are able to inspect the whole body so that you can see there are no obvious signs of damage or injury. Koi can and do jump and take scales off or even cut and injure themselves. If your chosen purchase has some minor injury ask the dealer to keep the Koi at his premises for two or three weeks so that the damage can heal before collection.  


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