Lucky is the pond owner who enjoys having a beautiful Kohaku koi swimming among the lily pads in their very own back yard pond. The Kohaku is the oldest and most well-known variety of koi, and is often the most popular among koi lovers.
Kohaku is a bright white koi, patterned with red. There are two types of Kohaku – one has the red pattern all over its body, which is the most common. The second type of Kohaku only has a red spot in the middle of its forehead. This is an extra-special type called Tancho Kohaku, and is a highly prized specimen because of its rarity.
A Model of the Japanese Flag
The red spot on the forehead makes the Tancho Kohaku a living, breathing model of the Japanese flag, which represents a red sun in the middle of a pure white field.
Kohaku is the most common fish to win “Grand Champion” in Japanese shows, because it is the most popular fish in Japan and therefore, the breeders of koi spend the most time producing the finest specimens of this type.
Judging Kohaku Koi
Judging good quality koi such as Kohaku is not an easy task! There are certain “pattern” basics that you can learn to apply when buying fish, but forecasting the way that pattern will look later as the koi matures is a special talent. Also, body shape and conformation are important features, and few Americans appreciate the complexities of this characteristic. Finally, the way the red, called Hi (pronounced “hee”), breaks into kiwa (the trailing edge of the Hi) or out of the white (sashi) is important. The more crisp the transition from red to white, the better.
The details concerning pattern intricacies of Kohaku during championship judging can seem tedious, so here’s a simplified method of Kohaku appreciation that, although likely inadequate in choosing show-quality koi, is effective enough to choose fish which most folks will value.
Patterns to Look For
When you see a Kohaku with a uniform pattern of a single, red blossom in the center of each scale, and the pattern is pleasing to the eye, it is called Kanoko (fawn). Some of these fish are thought to make a good investment, but rumor has it that Kanoko Kohaku are “going away” and the red dots won’t survive many years in the pattern, which leaves you with nothing but an expensive white fish.
The pattern of the fish can be solid (ippon), lightning strike or zig-zag (inazuma), or it may occur in spots. The appearance of two spots is called “Two-Step” Kohaku or Nidan, and three spots is referred to as “Three Step” Kohaku or Sandan. They even have names for Four Step and Five Step patterns, but they’re generally not as precious as the two and three step koi.
The body of Kohaku ought to be rather fat, rounded off, and sort of voluptuous or “Rubenesque.” The head should have fat “cheeks” in the more mature fish. The base of the tail, where the caudal fin emerges, should be fat and round instead of streamlining into the tail. The fan-shaped pectoral fins behind the head should also be big and round. The rounder and whiter, the better. Thin almond-shaped pectoral fins are a disappointment. The body of the fish should be wider than the head, which would suggest that the fish is a female, which is a good thing.
A Final Thought
Understanding the characteristics of different types of koi helps you make an educated selection when shopping for your finned friends. Keep in mind that unless you’re planning on entering your fish in competitions, it really only matters that you like the coloration and markings of the fish in your pond. Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, after all!
OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
KEEPING KOI & POND FISH: 3 BASIC RULES
KOI AND POND FISH ANATOMY: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
HEALTHY PONDS HAVE FILTRATION