Why Are Koi Fish So Special? The Answer May Surprise You.

The koi fish hobby can range from the cheapest casual novice who simply wants an outdoor pond with fish to look at to the upper echelon of collectors who will pay up to $20,000 dollars for one koi fish.

Starting The Koi Hobby: A Step By Step Guide…

What! $20,000! That’s insane some of you may think. But really for that price why are koi fish so special?

Koi fish are so special because they originated from a very bland colored common carp that was bred for food and mutated over time into a beautiful fish with very beautiful and unique colors. Also, they live for a really long time, are very hardy and resistant to temperature changes and water conditions can be trained to eat from your hand, can be trained to let you completely lift them out of the water and have a calming serenity for people who simply just wish to watch them sim around their pond.

First let me explain the koi’s amazing transformation from an ordinary fish into a colorful one and then I will explain the other fascinating facts that will have you craving your own koi pond before we are done.

Where Did Koi Fish Come From?

Koi Fish got there start in Europe and Asia where they were a source of food. They began being transported through China and Korea to Japan where they were greatly desired as a main dish to go with Japanese rice.

The backbone of the Japanese diet is rice and fish. The koi fish, which at this time was known as the common carp, is a very hardy fish. They can withstand harsh conditions that many other fish would die from. This is what made them transportable over long distances.

The koi fish began appearing in Japan in large numbers about a thousand years ago to become part of the Japanese diet, not for their cult novelty status that they are known for today. They were kept in mud ponds by Japanese farmers and became a diet staple of Japan to accompany their diet of fish and vegetables.

Rice is grown in water covered paddies, so it was easy to raise the koi fish in the same paddy or right next to the rice.

Okay, Koi Started Out as Food so What Happened?

Common Carp

When you keep animals, that are meant to be in their wild natural environment, in a breeding culture, mutations or spinoffs from their normal appearance popup. The normal bland carp begin developing color changes over hundreds of years. These color changes started of subtle and began spreading more rampantly.

I guess you could call these the X-fish or mutants like the X-men comics. These specially colored fish became prized by the farmers and were set aside inside of eaten. The farmers wanted to breed them separate because of their colors and see what happened.

These colored carp slowly developed into a huge hobby in Japan and now are bred worldwide for hobby collectors.

Okay, now that we know where they came from and their color makes them so special, lets explore more interesting details about these beautiful koi fish.

Interacting with Your Koi Fish

As stated above, you can actually get to the point where you can feed your koi by hand and even pick them up out of the water. To get to this point you have to earn the trust of your koi.

To build trust with your koi you will have to feed them separately and not with the other fish in your pond. You can observe feeding as an interactive moment for your koi fish. They enjoy activities just as we do so if you feed your koi separately they will learn to recognize you and associate it with a good time. This will create a connection between you and your koi.

When you give your koi fish they learn over time that you are helping them, and they come to depend on you for their food. They will memorize the time of day that you feed them and will get to the point when they eagerly anticipate your appearance at the side of their pond.

If you keep this up over time, the koi will eventually allow you to feed the from your hand.” If you keep at it they will also eventually let you lift them up out of the water. This is because koi are very intelligent fish and will recognize you.

This takes a lot of time and patience but koi live for a very long time so you will have plenty of time to do this if you really want to. Just go to the same spot by your pond every day where you are going to feed them.

The fact that koi live for such a long time is another reason for why they are so special.

How Long Do Koi Fish Live

Some day you can get to the point where your koi fish is very tame, and you can actually become quite attached to your koi fish. The good news is that some koi fish actually live for 100 years!

Yes, you heard me right! Although not typical it is possible. Normally, if you take good care of your koi fish it will live anywhere between 20 – 30 years. That is still great for a pet that you are attached to!

Also, if you have one of these older koi fish that live for a long time, they can keep getting bigger. Although you will not want to let go of your precious pet, these older fish can fetch a price in the thousands of dollars.

I’m not saying to sell your pet, but this is just another reason why koi fish are so special.

Koi Meaning

Although common carp originated from elsewhere, as stated above the first colored carp that became known as ‘Koi’ originated in Japan. The word koi came from a longer word – Nishikigoi. Nishikigoi came from a cloth called Nishiki.

Nishiki is a red clot that ended up in Japan from India. Somewhere along the way they were called koi from all this word babble because of their red and white colors mainly referring to the red cloth.

Another Japanese word that means red is Irogoi. This led to koi being called ‘goi’ which sounds like koi. You can see that koi originated from Japanese terminology related to their red color. The red color eventually led to other color variations.

Koi Colors Make Them Special

As you can see, koi actually got their name because of there freakish or mutative color that set them aside from the original bland color of common carp. In essence, you could say the color of the koi is what makes them so special because if not for the color mutation, koi would have never existed. They would still be boring carp raised for food.

Because of more color spin offs and mutations, koi actually have 13 different color categories today based on their colors. These also originated in Japan, so all of the groups are named for a Japanese word. This in turn led to subgroups based on the type of skin and the pattern of the colors.

These different color patterns are so desired that today there are actually koi shows just like a dog show. Owners can take their classified koi to these shows to compete for prizes. That’s how powerful the color of the koi has become.


Today koi owners range from someone who simply want a koi pond in their backyard for relaxation to people at he next level that take their koi to these koi shows to the highest level of owners that purchase only the highest proceed koi that are still called nishikigoi.

I think we can all agree that their color is what made them so special in the first place. If it weren’t for their original color mutation, people wouldn’t have started keeping them for pets and discovered their other great pet traits which are longevity and amazing interaction between a person and their fish. Enjoy!

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