Koi fish

History of the Koi Fish

the history of the koi fish begins in a rice paddy
Rice paddy

The history of the koi fish, which now can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars each, had a very humble beginning. Although usually associated with Japan, the fish originated in the cold waters of central Europe and Asia (China) and were food.

There are several varieties of Carp, and the Koi is a member of the Amur carp species. The Amur carp is quite boney and is usually only eaten on stews.

It’s hard to get to a grocery store miles away when the snow is over your head. The story started in the 17th century when rice farmers in the Japanese village of Yamakoshi stocked their ponds with hardy carp fish. They wanted something to go with their rice during the harsh winters.

Koi Meaning

The meaning behind koi fish is a significant symbol in eastern culture and art. The Japanese word “koi” translates to “carp,” but the symbolic meaning of these vibrant creatures has become an icon of love, friendship, strength, and courage. The shining scales, flowing fins, and rich coloration etched into every Koi reflect an inner strength of agility, bravery, and goal orientation that resonates with humans worldwide. As a symbol, the Koi carries a strong message – no matter how dark our circumstances may be, we are free to choose the path in life we desire.

Color Variations Began to Appear

Koi fish in a pond, in Seattle city.

In the early 1800s, the farmers noticed color variations in their pond fish. White, red, and yellow colored fish began to appear, along with a black fish called the Magoi.

The white and redfish were interbred, producing the white and white color Koi, now known as the Kohaku. Further breeding led to the colors of what is known as the “Big Three” or “Gosanke,” which includes the Kohaku, Showa, and Sanke.

Needing financial help, the Mayor sent 27 koi to an exhibition in Tokyo in 1914. The fish won second prize, and thus began the koi industry that we know today. Breeding of fancy Koi remained restricted mainly to the Niigata region until the early 20th century.

There are over 100 different species of Koi carp, each possessing colors that range from black and white to brightly colored red and orange. While there is no definitive answer as to exactly how many colors a koi can possess, their wide varieties continue to captivate aquatics lovers everywhere. Many hobbyists spend years breeding and caring for particular lines of Koi, proudly exhibiting their prized accomplishments at competitions worldwide. Some specific species of Koi have been bred with great care over the centuries resulting in specimens so brightly colored they appear almost psychedelic.

Koi Fish Lifespan

Koi fish have a long lifespan, with reports of individuals reaching up to 200 years old. Koi are hardy and quite resilient in terms of age; they are symbols of good luck and perseverance. With proper care and diet, these beautiful fish can grow up to 4 feet long, making them a striking addition to any home or garden pond.

Even if kept in a smaller environment, such as an indoor aquarium, Koi can still reach incredible ages! With patience, one can observe their instincts and behaviors over time, making this type of fish a delightful companion.

How Did Koi Fish Get to the United States

Koi carp fish in a japanese gardenThe history of their presence in the United States is an interesting one, full of both intentional and accidental introductions. It is believed that the first Koi were brought to the US sometime in the late 1800s when knowledgeable Japanese immigrants began keeping them as pets.

These immigrants were likely attempting to retain elements of their culture despite having to leave their homes behind. More recently, Koi was accidentally introduced into the wild in some parts of the country when they either jumped out or were unintentionally released from people’s ponds. As a result, these fish can now be found populating many sources of freshwater across America.


Air travel made shipping fish from Japan to other parts of the world, and Koi started to gain worldwide popularity after World War II. From the cold Japanese rice ponds, the fabulous Koi are now found as prized pets in backyard ponds everywhere.

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Koi Can Be Both Hobby and Home Business

Originally posted 2020-09-24 08:36:57.

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