10 Most Expensive Types of Koi Fish


10-Most-Expensive-Types-of-Koi-Fish

If you’ve ever visited a koi pond, you’ve likely experienced the peaceful nature of koi fish. You may have also discovered how friendly these fish are! However, unless you’ve created a backyard koi pond, you might not know that these creatures can be incredibly expensive.

The most expensive koi fish tend to be Kōhaku koi. Though juvenile specimens can sell for less than $100, many adult Kōhaku koi fish sell for thousands of dollars. The priciest ever sold is S Legend, a massive female koi from Hiroshima, Japan, which sold for $1.8 million in 2018.

There are more than 100 distinct types (also called breeds) of koi fish, but some are far costlier than others. So if you’re wondering which of these tranquil fish is the most expensive, you’ll want to check out this ranking.

Here Are the Top 10 Most Expensive Types of Koi Fish with Highest Selling Prices:

  1. Kōhaku – $1.8 million
  2. Sanke – $341,990
  3. Showa – $68,000
  4. Tancho Kōhaku – $17,000
  5. Doitsu – $16,000
  6. Kumonryu – $15,000
  7. Benigoi – $15,000
  8. Shiro Utsuri – $10,000
  9. Kujaku – $10,000
  10. Ogon – $8,000

10. Ogon – $8,000

Platinum-Ogon
photo source: koi.com

Most types of koi feature three distinct colors, but the Ogon breed is a solid-colored type of koi. This unique scale coloration makes the Ogon rarer than most multi-colored koi. Consequently, Ogon specimens tend to sell for jaw-dropping prices.

These koi fish also have scales with a metallic shine. While they can technically be any standard color (red, black, white), most Ogon koi are a reflective golden (standard Ogon) or silvery-white (Platinum Ogon) color.

In fact, the word Ogon is a Japanese term (spelled phonetically in English) that loosely translates to “golden colored” (Ōgonshoku). These fish sell for as little as $100, but prices can reach $8,000 per fish.

Why It’s Expensive

Having a koi pond filled with shimmering golden or platinum specimens is a surefire way to impress guests. After all, these colors are associated with some of the most precious metals on the planet.

But breeding solid-colored metallic koi can be a time-consuming process. As a result, Ogon koi are comparatively rare, but demand amongst the wealthiest buyers remains high. This relationship between supply and demand makes them pricier than other breeds.

9. Kujaku – $10,000

Kujaku
photo source: Marugen Koi Farm

The Kujaku breed is closely related to Ogon koi. Both are beloved for their highly reflective metallic scales. But while Ogon koi fish are solid-colored, Kujaku koi typically have white red-orange scales.

The most prized specimens also have a distinct net-like pattern of black-tipped scales along their backs. This gives the Kujaku koi breed a unique appearance that appeals to some buyers.

Kujaku koi with a higher percentage of black coloration tend to fetch the lowest prices, often selling for about $80. But specimens with white bodies, bright orange splotches, and the net-like black-tipped pattern along their spines can sell for up to $10,000.

Why It’s Expensive

The Kujaku koi’s specific scale color pattern is the primary reason they’re so expensive. After all, breeding koi to create this distinct pattern is challenging and is often labor-intensive, raising the final price of each fish.

8. Shiro Utsuri – $10,000

Shiro-Utsuri
photo source: Marugen Koi Farm

Have you ever wanted to own a koi fish that looks like a dairy cow or dalmatian? If so, you’ll want to check out the two-toned Shiro Utsuri koi!

This type of koi has splotches of black scales that wrap around its white body, giving it a contemporary look that will appeal to some buyers. Still, the lowest-priced specimens belonging to this variety tend to sell for more than $1,000, while the highest-priced fish sell for up to $10,000.

As such, this black-and-white fish is one of the priciest types of koi available.

Why It’s Expensive

The most expensive Shiro Utsuri koi fish have a balance of white and black scales. Unfortunately, producing fish with this ideal patterning isn’t easy, as scale patterns and colors vary slightly with each generation.

So, the bottom line is that breeding and producing these two-toned fish is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. These costs are passed onto the consumer via higher prices.

7. Benigoi – $15,000

Benigoi
photo source: Diapteron

The Benigoi koi almost resembles fancy goldfish. Like Ogon koi fish, these specimens exhibit solid-colored bodies. But unlike Ogon koi, Benigoi koi are non-metallic.

Additionally, this breed’s notable for its bright red-orange coloration. Still, a single specimen can sell for up to $15,000, making the Benigoi far pricier than your average pet store goldfish.

Why It’s Expensive

Benigoi koi fish with more significant, rounder bodies tend to sell for more than smaller, slimmer specimens. Many investors who purchase this koi breed appreciate its size and goldfish-like appearance.

Overall, aesthetic appeal is the primary reason this koi fish is costly.

6. Kumonryu – $15,000

Kumonryu
photo source: mpks.org

The Kumonryu koi fish is strikingly similar to the Shiro Utsuri breed. For example, both are known for their black-and-white scales.

However, while the Shiro Utsuri’s black scales tend to wrap around its body like a dark ribbon, Kumonryu koi have black scales that tend to fall in long lines along the length of their body.

These fish have black and white bodies, making them ideal for indoor aquariums inside sleek, contemporary homes with two-toned neutral decor. However, these aren’t the most affordable specimens. Many Kumonryu koi specimens sell for up to $15,000.

Why It’s Expensive

While the first koi carp kept by humans were entirely black, centuries of selective breeding resulted in fish showing various colors.

Still, the mixture of only black and white is quite rare. As such, Kumonryu koi tend to be more challenging to breed than koi with splotches of red or orange.

Notably, these black-and-white fish are examples of Doitsu (without scales) koi.

5. Doitsu – $16,000

Doitsu
photo source: Kodama Koi Farm

The Doitsu koi is an exceptional example of selective breeding, and it’s one of the most uncommon types of koi.

These specimens don’t have scales. Instead, they have smooth skin that can exhibit various colors. In fact, Doitsu is often used as a descriptor, as nearly any type of koi can be born without scales, making it a Doitsu koi.

Doitsu koi with Showa, Sanke, or Kōhaku patterns are more common than other varieties. Still, Doitsu with unique colorations can sell for up to $16,000 per fish.

Why It’s Expensive

The scale-free body of a Doitsu koi results from a specific genetic mutation that’s passed down through the generations. This mutation is relatively rare, making Doitsu koi pricier than other types.

4. Tancho Kōhaku – $17,000

Tancho-Kōhaku
photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Tancho Kōhaku koi resembles the Japanese flag, making it a national favorite. It has a bright white body and a bright red circle on the top of its head.

However, its distinct color pattern is also the result of centuries of careful breeding, making this fish a costly commodity. The lowest-priced Tancho Kōhaku costs about $1,800.

These comparatively low-cost specimens may be imperfect (i.e., having a slight orange coloration on their head outside the iconic red circle). On the other hand, flawless Tancho Kōhaku koi are far costlier, often costing up to $17,000 each.

Why It’s Expensive

Fish scale patterns vary slightly from generation to generation. Breeding fish that exhibit this precise combination of solid white bodies and bright orange-red head spots can be challenging. The labor that goes into producing the Tancho Kōhaku koi is one of the reasons behind its staggering price.

But this breed is also quite popular, as the fish is representative of the Japanese flag. For this reason, demand almost always exceeds supply, resulting in higher prices.

3. Showa – $68,000

Showa-Sold-in-Auction
photo source: flickr

The Showa koi is one of the most popular types of koi, in no small part due to its traditional appearance and long lineage. These specimens feature a mixture of white, black, and bright red-orange scales.

Unlike the Tancho Kōhaku, which has a particular scale pattern, Showa koi can exhibit various designs. Still, the hallmark of this breed is its higher-than-average percentage of black scales (also called sumi) which often range from its head to its tail.

Some of these koi sell for as little as $70, but the average price is about $500. Some of the most expensive (and largest) specimens sell for $28,000! A 40cm female Showa even sold for 7 million Yen ($68,000) in the Dainichi Koi Farm auction in 2014.

Why It’s Expensive

This breed’s popularity and lineage are the primary reasons it sells for such incredible prices. As with other koi breeds, Showa koi from Japan tend to fetch the highest prices due to their larger-than-average sizes and extensive lineage records.

2. Sanke – $341,990

Sanke-Koi-Sold-in-Auction
photo source: Marugen Koi Farm

This type of koi sports one of the earliest human-created koi patterns, and like the Showa breed, Sanke koi are highly prized due to their centuries-long lineage.

Like the Showa koi breed, the Sanke koi (also called Taisho Sanshoku koi) has a smattering of black scales reminiscent of the first ornamental koi ever bred in Japan.

The main characteristic differentiating these types is the color pattern on the fish’s head. For example, Sanke koi typically have white and red scales on their heads, while Showa can have white, red, and black scales. Sanke koi fish generally have a spot-like black pattern around the body while Showa Koi typically have the black pattern presented on the head or all three colors displayed on their head.

However, these koi fish also have white and red-orange scales. The percentage of these colors (and their patterns) differentiate the Sanke into several sub-types.

These fish sometimes sells for as low as $80, but prices can reach $40,000 for larger specimens.

Rare Snake koi can easily fetch more than $100,000 in an auction, a beautiful Taisho Sanke called “Shining Rose” sold for 21million Yen ($213,223) in Sakai Koi Auction 2013 and a Maruten Sanke sold for 41 million Yen ($341,990) in Sakai Koi Auction 2015.

Why It’s Expensive

The Sanke koi is highly prized due to its ancient origins and unique coloration. In addition, many koi enthusiasts and collectors view Sanke koi as the descendants of the first human-bred koi, making them historically significant.

The priciest Sanke koi tend large (over 12 inches), with bright red and white bodies marked with jet-black splotches. The Doitsu Sanke often sells for more than standard Sanke or Gin Rin Sanke specimens.

1. Kōhaku – $1.8 Million

Kōhaku-S-Legend
photo source: Marugen Koi Farm

The most expensive koi fish is the Kōhaku breed. This type of koi sells for between $50 and $1.8 million. Though this is a vast range, it does make this breed the most valuable of all koi types.

This type of koi is recognizable due to its white body and bright orange or red splotches. The priciest specimens tend to have mostly white bodies, with bands of white scales separating the splashes of orange and red scales.

The most expensive koi fish ever sold was S Legend, a massive specimen bred at the Saki Fish Farm in Hiroshima, Japan. This Kōhaku koi was more than three feet long. It sold to a Taiwanese buyer for 203 million Yen ($1.8 million) in 2018.

Why It’s Expensive

The Kōhaku breed is one of the priciest due to its iconic nature. When most people think of koi fish, they imagine a white-and-red fish that looks identical to this breed.

This association makes the Kōhaku one of the most recognizable and popular types of koi, increasing the demand for the fish.

What Makes Some Koi Fish So Expensive?

The average price for an adult koi fish is about $40, but some koi cost thousands (or even millions) of dollars. So, why are some koi fish far more expensive than others?

Typically, four factors influence koi fish price:

  • Size
  • Rarity
  • Origin
  • Transportation

Let’s take a moment to discuss these qualities in greater detail. That way, you’ll have a more comprehensive understanding of why some koi are incredibly pricey.

Size

Like the world’s most expensive goldfish, the priciest koi fish are often comparatively large. This means that they’re often one foot long or longer.

One of the reasons larger koi fish tend to be worth more is because they’re visually attractive. For example, having a koi pond filled with massive specimens is sure to impress.

However, size and health are closely related. Koi fish grow more prominent as they get older, and the healthiest specimens tend to reach the oldest ages and largest sizes.

Consequently, koi enthusiasts tend to gravitate toward larger fish, as the bulky size of these fish indicates superior health and longevity.

Rarity

Originally, koi fish were entirely black. But due to hundreds of years of selective breeding, these fish are now available in a wide range of colors and patterns.

Still, some scale colors and patterns are far rarer than others. So, like the most expensive betta fish, rare koi breeds tend to sell for much higher prices than ordinary varieties.

For example, solid-colored koi tend to be rarer than those with multi-colored patterns. Additionally, koi with specific patterns, such as the Tancho Sanke and Tancho Kōhaku, which have a large red circle on the top of their head, can also sell for thousands.

Origin

The place where a koi fish is born can also influence its value. For example, koi fish born in the United States are often far less valuable than fish bred in Japan.

The reason behind this discrepancy is relatively straightforward—lineage! Koi fish bred in Japan often come from lineages that date back hundreds of years. This makes their genetics easily traceable.

On the other hand, koi fish spawned in the United States (and other Western countries) may have much shorter or enigmatic lineages.

Notably, the world’s most expensive bonsai tree and the costliest koi fish ever sold come from Hiroshima, Japan.

Transportation

Many of the priciest koi fish come from Japan. So buyers living outside of Japan who’d like to purchase a top-notch specimen often have to pay exportation and importation fees.

Additionally, transporting a fish from one part of the world to another can be pretty costly, as these fish require water tanks to survive. As you can imagine, a heavy tank containing a massive koi fish is bound to weigh far more than a plastic bag with a tiny goldish inside!

What Is the Most Expensive Type of Koi Fish?

The most expensive type of koi fish is Kōhaku. While some Kōhaku koi sell for as low as $50, other specimens sell for thousands. In fact, the priciest koi fish ever sold was a Japanese Kōhaku from Hiroshima.

The Kōhaku koi is one of the most recognizable koi due to its white body and bright orange blotches. This type of koi can grow to impressive sizes, occasionally reaching lengths of more than three feet.

Would you like to learn more about the world’s most expensive animals? If so, be sure to check out these related articles!

Eric Lyons

Eric is a subject-matter expert on the world's most expensive luxuries and collectibles. He has explored thousands of luxuries and collectibles over the past few years and now brings them to readers around the world.

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