You’ve probably heard of koi fish or maybe seen them in a decorative pond. But what is a koi fish, and where do they originate from?

What Exactly Are Koi Fish?

Koi fish are colorful; decorative fish deliberately developed from common carp in eastern Asia. They are available in several hues, including orange, red, yellow, black, white, and blue. Koi are huge, long-lived, social fish that are highly valued by people all around the world. In many Asian civilizations, they also have significant symbolic importance.

There are several koi types, each with its own set of colors, patterns, and forms. All of them are variations of the original Japanese Nishikigoi.

Classification of Koi and Scientific Name

Cyprinus rubrofuscus “koi” is the scientific name for the koi fish. Cyprinus is derived from the Greek kyprnos, which means “carp,” and rubrofuscus, which means “reddish dark brown” in Latin and characterizes the animal’s color. As a result, the scientific name for the fish is “reddish dark brown carp, koi variant.”

Where Do Koi Fish Originate?

koi fish

The koi fish we know today originated in Japan; however, the origins of koi fish are thought to date back to the 5th century in China. The Amur carp (Cyprinus rubrofuscus) was domesticated as a food source during this period in ancient China.

These were resilient cold-water fish, allowing them to survive in various environments. Domestication extended to other locations, such as Japan, due to its resilience and value as a food source.

Carp were bred for color mutations for the first time over a thousand years ago in China, where the breeding resulted in the formation of goldfish.

It wasn’t until they arrived in Japan that they were grown for their decorative qualities rather than sustenance. While most of these early common carp were drab black, genetic changes resulted in a tiny number of fish with greater coloring. These fish were selectively bred to produce the koi we have today.

These colorful ornamental carp were initially bred in Niigata Prefecture, Honshu, Japan, in the early 1800s. Originally known as “Nishikigoi,” these fish were eventually dubbed “koi.” However, it wasn’t until 1914 that these fish were exposed to the rest of the world during an annual exposition in Tokyo.

The term “Nishikigoi” was originally used more than 200 years ago in a town in Japan’s Niigata prefecture.

Farmers created the first Nishikigoi by breeding black carp (or Magoi) as a food source to endure harsh winter weather conditions; the outcome was a vibrantly colored carp with an admirable figure that stood out from the crowd with its uncommon beauty. As public awareness developed, many people began to see Nishikigoi as a piece of art in its own right.

In Japanese, koi is a homophone for another term that signifies “affection” or “love”; koi symbolize love and friendship, among other things.

The unique name for this koi fish, known as the “floating (or living) jewel,” originates from the Japanese term “Nishiki,” which typically signifies lovely or exquisite things.

There were four riches in ancient Japan: Kin (gold), Gin (silver), Sango (coral), and Aya Nishiki (figured brocade), and it is thought that the word “Nishiki-goi” is derived from “Aya-Nishiki.”

Nishikigoi is also frequently compared to the multi-colored brocade patterns of the Japanese traditional woven silk fabric, “kimono,” which is recognized for its vibrant but delicate hues and remarkable beauty.

Why are Koi Fish so popular?

School Of Koi Fish

For a multitude of reasons, koi are a popular decorative fish.

As previously said, they are a readily adapted cold-hardy fish. As a result, they can be kept in a wide range of temperatures and circumstances. Smaller koi can be housed in an aquarium, while larger koi can be kept in outdoor ponds. They may even be kept in an iced-over outdoor pond if properly cared for throughout the winter.

These outdoor ponds, known as “koi ponds,” are a sight to behold in and of themselves. However, they become the focal point of any garden when adorned with magnificent ornamental stone, plants, and other décor.

People spend tens of thousands of dollars to build and maintain their koi ponds. They range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of gallons. The koi pond, I suppose, is part of the charm and one of the reasons koi fish are so popular.

While a lovely koi pond compliments its koi, the stars are the koi.

Their vibrant colors, patterns, and large size make them a delight to behold. The most valuable and expensive koi are the result of meticulous breeding.

What is the most expensive koi fish ever sold? True to their historical heritage, Japanese breeders have the best and most expensive koi. One Japanese koi was auctioned off for a whopping 1.8 million dollars!

Aside from the beauty of koi or koi ponds, koi fish have wonderful personalities. They are naturally friendly and social. Their calm nature and beautiful swimming make them a treat to watch. They may also be taught to eat directly from their owner’s hands.

The color of the koi fish varies depending on the type. White, black, red, yellow, blue, and cream are some of the primary colors.

While the number of conceivable hues is practically infinite, breeders have discovered and labeled several distinct groupings. The most renowned type is Gosanke, which includes the variations Kohaku, Taisho Sanshoku, and Showa Sanshoku.

Colors have an effect.

koi fish

Each koi has a different meaning in Japanese culture depending on its color:

  • For example, gold Koi means “wealth, prosperity, and expansion.”
  • Kohaku: The prevalent color combination of red and white represents professional achievement. It can also refer to feelings of love and compassion.
  • Ogon: A platinum koi represents commercial success and material fortune in one’s career.
  • Ochiba: This one-of-a-kind blue and yellow koi symbolize the change of seasons and transition.
  • Butterfly koi: This graceful koi represents elegance, beauty, and harmony.

Naturally, any uniform you pick is unique and tailored to your preferences. Whether you embellish it with colors, shine, animals, or stripes, it will always capture a patient’s eye. Perhaps your favorite animal is a tiger. Thus your tiger stripe scrubs symbolize more than just your work uniform.

Many patterns have meaning and symbolism that might represent your view on life and possibly your personality – not to mention your physical appearance.

Koi fish can have a variety of symbolic connotations, the most common of which are good fortune and conquering adversity. The Koi fish’s significance stems from the mythology that a Koi fish who swims upstream and up the Yellow River falls would be rewarded by being transformed into a dragon.

The Koi’s Behavior

Even though these fish are frequently seen swimming smoothly around the tops of ponds, their normal foraging activity sends them to the pond’s depths. These schooling fish spend their days blowing mouthfuls of dirt in pursuit of bug larvae, algae, or delectable tidbits.

Can Koi coexist with other types of fish?

Koi are peaceful, gregarious fish that live in couples or groups. When deciding whether to add a new fish to an existing habitat, always ensure that their environmental and nutritional needs are the same as the present fish, and, in the instance of adding a koi fish to an existing pond, ensure that the pond is large enough to accommodate a full-grown koi.

Koi are very friendly and will not eat or fight with other fish. Before adding koi to a pond with mixed species, check sure the same can be true for the other varieties of fish.

Koi are not only friendly to other fish but may also rise to the surface to greet their owner or when it’s time to feed. In addition, some koi enjoy being pets and will come to the surface for a stroke on the head.


Most koi have a lifespan of between 20 to 30 years, while some have been recorded to survive for more than 200 years (which may be a longer-term investment than you meant to take on).

To maximize the chances of your koi living for decades, keep it healthy with properly filtered water and quality nourishment. In addition, maintain a stress-free atmosphere for them by keeping their habitat free of parasites and hazardous substances.


It takes around a year for eggs to fully mature within female koi. Eggs in the first year’s spring will be laid next year’s spring. The eggs deposited by the female are infertile. After the mother has dropped the eggs, the male of the species discharges sperm upon them. New eggs will begin to develop once the spawning has occurred.

These eggs will be released during the spawning season the following year.

The female of the species’ egg production peaks between the ages of four and six. Males are sexually mature when they are three to five years old. While both older and younger fish can spawn, fish between these ages tend to reproduce more effectively.

Is It Possible to Eat Koi?

Koi were initially grown for eating by Chinese farmers, and it wasn’t until the 1800s that the fish was kept as a pet due to its unusual and stunning colors. Though they are not harmful to eat, it is recommended that koi be maintained as pets in water gardens or home ponds and not be eaten.


Koi fish are in a class by themselves that no other farmed fish can equal. Their beauty, size, history, and personality set them apart from the rest of the fish world.