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Guide to Keeping Kohaku Koi

21st Nov 2019

Kohaku Koi

With any special-interest hobby, starting out as a newbie can be a daunting prospect. The wealth of information available at the click of a button is enough to overwhelm anyone who’s looking to find out about even the most obscure of pastimes! The array of forums, blogs, advice sites and publications clamouring to be heard can make it difficult for the beginner to gain a toehold.

Koi carp keeping is no different; the sheer number of varieties alone can make it hard to know where to start, add to that, varying advice on Koi keeping, the pond, what constitutes a ‘better quality’ Koi and you’ve got yourself a lot to consider.

In Koi keeping, it’s widely agreed that a great place to begin your obsession is with Kohaku (see this article on Koi varieties for more detail).The simple beauty of their white and red colouring can really bring vibrancy to your pond, while their distinctive and variable markings can help you develop an eye for, and an understanding of, what marks one Koi out from another. Beginners can dismiss Kohaku due to their simplistic colours, however as the Koi appreciation grows, Kohaku often become the staple in many ponds; here’s the low-down on what to look out for.

Gin-Rin Kohaku Koi

Kohaku can be plain, Gin-Rin (reflective scales) and Doitsu (scaleless). Generally a Doitsu Kohaku will boast the best red colouration, as the smooth skin doesn't detract from the colour. Gin-Rin tend to appear to have a weaker colour, only because the reflective scales throw slightly different shades of red when observed from different angles and in different light.

Doitsu Kohaku Koi

The first thing a Koi connoisseur will look for is a white nose and white on the very end of the tail. Preferably the red of a Kohaku will not go beyond the nostrils, although some Kohaku have a lip-stick pattern, also called Kuchi-Beni, which is highly sought after and quite rare to find.

Kuchi Beni Kohaku Koi

The white should be snowy white, and the head should also be white, not yellowish. A Yellowish head on a Koi can be caused by water quality and an excess of protein in the diet, which can often be corrected. Kohaku can also develop 'shimmies' which are small black dots, usually caused by hard water, these are harmless and there is evidence that they can be reversed with time and a reduction in the hardness of the water.

The red should be a good, deep red, with the entire pattern in the same shade. The edge of the red should be crisp and defined (called Kiwa), unless the Koi is young, when the red can be shadowy at the edges where more has still to develop.

The body should have a balanced pattern on both sides, with a 70:30 red to white ratio considered ideal. As the Koi grows, the red will be sufficient to retain a good pattern, too little pattern when the Koi is small can mean it won’t be particularly strong as a bigger fish.

Inazuma Kohaku Koi

The pattern on the body is like a fingerprint, unique to every Koi, however some characteristics in the pattern have their own names; a zig-zag pattern from head to tail is called Inazuma, or lightning strike. There is also a two-step (Nidan) pattern, three-step (Sandan), four-step (Yondan) and five step (Godan) pattern. The most common of these are two and three step.