Valley of the Sun Koi Club, Inc.
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history of koi

The term Nishikigoi is used as a formal name. Nishikigoi is used to describe them in written text or describing the fish formally to Japanese people who do not have working knowledge of the fish. Many people in Japan recognize the term Nishikigoi but may not be familiar with the term Koi. The name Nishikigoi was given to these "colored Koi carp" during World War-II. Today colored carp are simply called Koi and the term has evolved into the common name for them worldwide.

Koi in their many beautiful varieties seen today, are descendents of a black fish known as Magoi, better known as common carp (Cyprinus Carpio). They date back almost twenty five hundred years originating from eastern Asia in the Black, Azov, Caspian and Aral seas and from China. Contrary to common belief Koi did not originate in Japan. Koi were introduced to Japan with the invading Chinese approximately 200 BC.

Image of: Japan, Niigata prefecture in redFrom this time the history of Koi moves forward to the 17th century, when rice farmers of Yamakoshigo, a village in the Niigata prefecture on the northwestern coast of the main island of Japan, introduced carp into their irrigation ponds to supplement their diet of rice.

Color mutations began to appear in 1804 to 1830 with red, white, and light yellow (the latter developing into the first single - colored Kawarimono) and later the tortoiseshell - patterned Koi. These were all from the black Common Carp, known as Magoi. By the late 1880s modern day color patterns were fixed and the hobby of Koi breeding and collecting began in earnest. Cross-breeding of red and white carp produced what could be described as the first Kohaku. Early Koi varieties such as Asagi, Higoi and Bekko, were cross-bred later in the century, fixing many of the varieties we know today. Certain varieties slowly reached high standards over several generations and in this way lineages became established. Around the same period, in central Europe a Carp mutation arose, only having a few large glossy scales along the dorsal line - the "mirror carp", or having no scales at all - the "leather carp". These fish which became known as "doitsu" (the Japanese pronunciation of "Deutch) from their mid european origins, were originally bred for food. Some of these "doitsu" carp were introduced to Japan in the early 1900s, which later led to the Shusui variety (doitsu Asagi).

Koi keeping began to flourish outside of Japan in the mid-1970s with dramatic increases occurring in the 1980s. Today Koi are bred all over the world with the Japanese still producing the best quality available. As we look at the Koi hobby today, we see that there are over 100 color varieties. Every Koi is unique, and the patterns that are seen on a specific Koi will never be exactly repeated. The judging of Koi has become a refined art, which requires many years of understanding the relationship between color, pattern, size and shape, presentation, and a number of other key traits. Collecting Koi has truly become a significant hobby enjoyed by millions of families around the world.

Koi hatched and grown in Japan are known as Japanese koi and have definitive standards. They are known as "standard" koi. Standard koi do not have the long flowing fins. If you see koi with long flowing fins, they are know as Long Fin, Butterfly, or Dragon Koi and originated in Thailand. While long fin koi are gaining acceptance in Japan, initially they were not. Long fin are very popular in the United States. All Koi hatched in the US are known as domestically grown. We have some domestic breeders of standard and long fin koi. Some US companies import Japanese bred fish for sale. Judging standards for long fin koi are developing along the color and patern of standard koi.

Koi keeping is no fleeting proposition. Japan's koi often outlive owners and are passed down generations. The geriatric record is held by a specimen from Japan that died a few years ago at 226 years of age. In the United States, life-spans are shortened to an average 25 to 70 years due to water treatment; nevertheless, it's a long-term responsibility. As a sidebar, it is said that you really do not keep koi, you keep the water -- the fish take care of themselves.

Koi are prolific breeders. One female fish can produce 250,000 eggs per spawning season, although most hatchlings (approximately three-eigths of an inch) don't survive. The small fry will grow as large as their environment will allow -- upwards to thirty-six inches.


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