If you’re a fan of ornamental fish, you’ve likely heard of koi fish. Koi fish are renowned for their striking beauty, mesmerizing patterns, and their ability to live up to 200-plus years. But what you may not know is that some koi fish can be worth a fortune. The most expensive koi ever sold was for a jaw-dropping $1.8 million! There’s a wide range when it comes to how much koi fish costs. Some can cost as little as $10, while most will go up to tens of thousands of dollars.
But what distinguishes these fish, and what are the most expensive types of koi fish? Come along on a thrilling expedition as we uncover the secrets behind these exquisite fish and discover the most luxurious varieties that money can buy. Get ready to be dazzled!
1. Kōhaku – up to $1.8 million
Let’s start with the most expensive koi fish ever. The Kohaku koi is a highly valued ornamental fish known for its striking appearance. Its body is a pristine white, adorned with vibrant red patterns distributed across its entirety. Although symmetry is not required, the markings must be evenly spread without overlapping white scales. Otherwise, it will be considered a serious fault.
Contrary to popular belief, koi fish are not simply oversized goldfish. While they share a common ancestry with carp, they are a distinct species and have unique characteristics that set them apart from goldfish.
Originally bred in Japan, Kohaku koi are now found globally and are popular additions to landscape water installations. These fish can grow up to 50 inches long. They are available for purchase through online importers or even local pet shops in some cases.
Kohaku koi are relatively easy to care for. They are omnivorous and enjoy a diverse diet, with algae being a preferred food source. Since these fish grow to accommodate their surroundings, it is crucial to provide an adequately sized pond for them to flourish. To avoid breeding, it is advised to separate male and female fish into different ponds from May through June.
With proper maintenance, a Kohaku koi can live for over four decades.
The cost of a Kohaku koi can range from $50 to a staggering $1.8 million. In 2018, the most expensive koi fish ever sold was over three feet long and purchased by a Taiwanese buyer for $1.8 million.
2. Sanke – up to $341,990
The Sanke koi fish traces its origins back to Japan in the early 20th century. These fish are appreciated not only for their beauty but also for the symbolism they represent in Japanese culture, strength, perseverance, and courage.
Sanke koi are easily recognizable by their distinct colors and patterns. They have predominantly white bodies with red and black markings. The black coloration may not appear until the fish is fully grown.
As a type of large koi, Sanke koi can grow up to 36 inches in length. They are bred by top Japanese breeders and are commonly found in outdoor ponds and water gardens.
Feeding Sanke koi is an easy job, as they consume a wide variety of foods. A well-rounded diet consisting of pellets, flakes, and live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia is recommended. Avoid overfeeding to prevent health issues.
Sanke koi have a lifespan of 25 to 35 years in captivity and flourish in tanks or ponds containing at least 200 gallons of freshwater. They prefer warmer water temperatures and a small amount of mud.
The price range for Sanke koi varies significantly, from as low as $80 to as high as $40,000 for larger specimens. Exceptionally rare Sanke koi have been known to fetch over $100,000 at auctions, as demonstrated by a Maruten Sanke that sold for $341,990 at the Sakai Koi Auction in 2015.
3. Showa – up to $68,000
Showa koi fish, developed by Jukichi Hoshino around 1927, are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts due to their stunning appearance and value. They are considered among the most remarkable and prized koi fish worldwide.
Showa koi are recognized for their intricate and unique blend of black, red, and white patterns. The black patterning is most prominent, displaying large patches or stripes on the fish’s body. On the other hand, the white coloration generally appears as smaller, irregular patches, while red coloration highlights particular areas, such as the head and fins.
The combination of black, white, and red hues is a key distinguishing feature of Showa koi. They are considered large koi fishes and can grow over 20 inches in length.
They do not have a natural habitat, as these koi fish are specifically bred by Japanese breeders. Showa koi fish be found in ponds and pet stores and can even be bought online. Being omnivorous, their diet includes algae, plants, animal matter, flies, and insects.
Showa koi are known for their hardiness and resilience, allowing them to thrive for many years under optimal conditions.
Proper care for Showa koi involves a spacious, well-maintained pond with adequate filtration and aeration. These active fish need ample room to swim and explore. In addition, a balanced diet rich in protein and vitamins is necessary, and they should be fed multiple times daily.
Showa koi prices can vary significantly, with some selling for as low as $70, while larger and more valuable specimens can command prices over $28,000. In 2014, a female Showa was sold for an impressive $68,000.
4. Doitsu – up to $16,000
The Doitsu koi is a popular variety of koi that originated about a century ago. What is intriguing about this type of koi is that its ancestry can be traced back to just seven German koi that made their way to Japan during the early 1900s. These scaleless fish were initially consumed as they were easier to prepare, but the unique characteristics of the Doitsu koi’s smooth skin without scales soon captured people’s attention, turning them into a beloved and prized pet fish specimen.
The absence of scales on the Doitsu koi’s body is attributed to a rare genetic mutation that is passed down through successive generations. As a result, Doitsu koi can be born in various colors.
To maintain its vibrant coloration, colorful Doitsu koi are often fed diets that contain color enhancers, such as spirulina or krill. These diets are also high in protein to promote healthy growth.
Since Doitsu koi do not have scales, they are more susceptible to infections, parasites, and sunburn. They generally show visual signs of illness, such as changes in skin color, white spots turning yellow, and swimming differently. So, if you notice any of these symptoms, make sure to get that checked out immediately.
Although Doitsu koi are not as widespread as other ornamental fish, they can still be found in pet stores and breeding centers, with some varieties being more common than others. Doitsu koi with Showa, Sanke, or Kōhaku patterns are frequently encountered. However, Doitsu koi with unique colorations can fetch a premium price of up to $16,000 per fish. At the same time, these scaleless koi can be purchased for as low as $59.
5. Kumonryu – up to $15,000
The Kumonryu koi is an eye-catching fish that originated from Karasugoi. It is also known as the flying dragon of koi. This type of koi can transform its color throughout the year, going from being entirely black to completely white!
Kumonryu koi is similar in appearance to the Shiro Utsuri breed, and both types are famous for their black and white scales. However, while the Shiro Utsuri koi have black scales that wrap around their bodies like a dark ribbon, Kumonryu koi have black scales that tend to align in long lines along their length.
These fish thrive best in outdoor ponds and water gardens, even though they can survive in aquariums. Kumonryu koi are primarily vegetarians, with rice and corn being among their favorite foods, but they will also eat live shrimp and their young, known as fry before the latter’s coloration emerges.
Their black and white bodies make them perfect for indoor aquariums in modern homes with neutral, two-toned decor. To take care of Kumonryu koi, it is crucial to maintain excellent water quality, provide appropriate filtration and aeration, and offer a well-balanced diet of high-quality pellets, flakes, and live or frozen food. Just like any other koi, do not overfeed them, as this can lead to health issues down the line.
When selecting a Kumonryu for your pond, focus on finding a koi with good body confirmation. Good body confirmation is generally considered desirable in koi, as it can be an indicator of good health, vitality, and breeding potential. Kumonryu koi are not the most affordable fish. They can sell for up to $15,000 per specimen. Depending on the fish, the average low price can be around $100.
6. Ogon – up to $8,000
Ogon koi are highly sought-after fish known for their single, solid metallic appearance. Unlike many other koi varieties, Ogon koi lack reticulated scales, making them a popular choice, especially for newcomers to koi keeping. These fish come in a variety of attractive colors, with bright yellow and platinum being the most popular choices. Although cream specimens are rare, their simplicity and beauty make them stand out as well.
Despite lacking the decorative patterns of other koi breeds, Ogon koi remain striking specimens, and their popularity has led to their being bred in large numbers. There are strict criteria for judging these fish at shows where competition is fierce. But if you’re not interested in competition, adding Ogon koi to your collection can be an excellent choice. They can balance the complexity of other fish patterns and add contrast to the pond environment.
Ogon koi are easy to care for and are gentle and intelligent fish. They are omnivores and can thrive on a diet of pellets, flakes, fruits, and vegetables. These fish can live for over 35 years and grow up to 24 inches in length. To keep them happy and healthy, they need a minimum tank size of 1,000 gallons and a fine gravel substrate with plenty of small rocks and live plants. Ogon koi are highly compatible with other fish and are non-aggressive towards larger fish.
Ogon koi can sell for as low as $100, but their price can go up to $8,000 per fish due to the time-consuming process of breeding solid-colored metallic koi. Consequently, they are comparatively rare, but their popularity among wealthy buyers ensures high demand, making them pricier than other koi breeds.
Bonus: What Are the Least Expensive Types of Koi Fish
If you are considering constructing a koi pond in your backyard – you may not be interested in the most rare, expensive types – regular koi are beautiful too! Grade-A domestic koi can be purchased from $8 – $20. Color and pattern determine the value of koi – with the bright red-orange, dark black, and shining white fish tending to be the most popular. Affordable, domestic koi are 12 – 15 inches in length while the most expensive fish can be as long as 36 inches.
Some expensive koi like the types listed in this article can trace their ancestry back for generations. The domestic koi available at most pet stores may be mutts – but they are beautiful fish that can thrive in a backyard pond for many years.
Summary of the Top 6 Most Expensive Types of Koi Fish
Here is a summary of the six most expensive types of Koi fish with the highest cost for the ultimate specimens shown. Koi can be purchased for much less if they are not rare.
|Rank||Koi Fish||Cost per Fish|
|1||Kōhaku||Up to $1.8 million|
|2||Sanke||Up to $341,990|
|3||Showa||Up to $68,000|
|4||Doitsu||Up to $16,000|
|5||Kumonryu||Up to $15,000|
|6||Ogon||Up to $8,000|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © PokkO/Shutterstock.com
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