No one's quite sure how long koi fish have been around, but considering the fossilized remains of its closest relative have been dated to over 20 million years old, it's probably a long time. Records seem to suggest that their domestication started in 4th century China, with the trend then taking off in Japan in the 19th century. Since then, they've gone global, becoming one of the most coveted and prized domestic fish in the world. They've also become hugely expensive, with some of the most popular varieties regularly fetching several thousand pounds. Here, we take a look at the 10 most expensive koi fish ever sold.
10. Kikokuryu - $2000
Distinguished by their metallic silver bodies and bright splashes of bright orange, the Kikokuryu koi is among the most attractive (and most expensive) koi varieties available. Not every specimen commands a premium (find a small one with dull scales and ill-defined coloration, and you might be able to get it for just a few hundred dollars) but those with a good size, good color, and good lineage can easily fetch over $2000.
9. Beni Kikokuryu - $2000
Beni Kikokuryu koi come in a wide variety of different colors, with white, black, blue, and silver being some of the most common. They're best known for their wonderfully lustrous bodies, which, in the very best specimens, have an almost metallic sheen. Another interesting feature is their ability to change color depending on environmental factors such as water temperature. Prices vary depending on skin luster, but as an average, koi enthusiasts should expect to pay around $2000 for a robust fish with a healthy sheen and attractive coloration.
8. Ogon - $2000
If you love gold in all its varieties, prepare to fall in love with the Ogon koi. Famous for their lustrous sheen, brilliant shade of gold, and distinctive black lining around each scale, they make an incredibly handsome addition to any koi pond they grace. Occasionally, you might come across a Platinum Ogon, which is more white than gold but still blessed with the same jewel-like luminescence. Other varieties include the Ginrin and Matsuba sub-varieties, both of which tend to be particularly desirable. Depending on age, size, lineage, and aesthetic, you can expect to pay upwards of $2000 per fish.
7. Utsuri - $3000
Known for their shimmering black bodies with their unique splashes of white, orange, or yellow, the Utsuri is a firm favorite with koi enthusiasts. Patterns vary considerably, and it's not unusual to see a Utsuri that has a completely different color on their lower half to their top half. Prices also vary, but don't be surprised if you see a large, well-colored specimen fetch around $3000.
6. Asagi - $3000
With its shimmering blue scales and brilliant luminescence, the Asagi koi is a stunning fish. While blue is the dominant color, they also boast patches and splashes of orange, white, and red. Their scales fall in an attractive diamond-like pattern, while their head will either be white (which tends to be the most desirable color), gray, or marked with a red circle. Prices vary hugely, with small specimens sometimes selling for as little as $100, and larger, older koi commanding prices north of $3000.
5. Doitsu - $3000
As pondinformer.com explains, the Doitsu koi were originally bred in Germany, which is how they get their name (“Doitsu” translates to "German” or “Germany" in Japanese). They were developed in the early 1900s, with breeders selectively breeding them to be as scaleless as possible. At the time, this was done to make the cooking process simpler (the fewer scales on the fish, the easier the prep work), but ever since people stopped eating koi and started admiring them instead, it's become a hugely desirable feature. Colors vary, but white, black and orange tend to be the most common varieties. Depending on coloration and body size, a Dotsu can easily fetch upwards of $3000.
4. Tancho - $3000
You can spot Tanchos by the single red-orange circle at the top of their heads, a feature that not only gives them their name (which translates to red sun) but their huge appeal among koi enthusiasts. Aside from the red marking on its head, the rest of the Tancho's body is completely flawless and unblemished. Available in three varieties, the Tancho is a very large, very impressive-looking fish that commands an equally large, impressive price tag. If you manage to get one for under $1000, consider it a steal - for the most part, most buyers will have to part with around $3000 to catch a decent specimen.
3. Sanke - $6000
If you've got $6000 gathering dust in a drawer, you might have just enough to invest in a Sanke koi. Visually, they're very similar to the Showa koi (more on which, coming up) with large, white, black, and red bodies. However, while the Showa will usually display the same three colors on their heads as their bodies, Sanke koi have just two colors on their heads - red and white. A very small, very unimpressive fish could go for as little as $200, but if you want an older, bigger, and more distinct-looking Sanke, don't expect to come home with any change from that $6000.
2. Showa - $16000
As insmoothwaters.com notes, if there was an aquatic equivalent of calico cats, it would be the Showa koi. Characterized by their three-tone coloration and unique patterns of swirls and patches, they're an incredible-looking fish. Although color patches vary in both size and placement, all Showa koi are a combination of black, white, and orange-red. The price of Showa koi varies considerably, depending on lineage, size, and coloring. If you don't mind scraping the bottom of the barrel, you might be able to find one for $200. If you want the best of the best, be prepared to part with around $16000.
1. Kohaku - $1.8 million
According to Business Insider, the most expensive koi fish ever sold went for a giant $1.8 million. The fish in question was a nine-year-old Kohaku koi named S Legend. With a body measuring over three feet in length, the white and orange S Legend is considered a perfect specimen. Originally bred by award-winning koi breeder Kentaro Sakai in Hiroshima, Japan. S Legend is now owned by a Taiwanese woman named Miss Yingying, who parted with her millions after the fish won the top prize at the All Japan Koi Show. Although $1.8 million is well above the average asking price for a Kohaku koi, it's not unheard of for people to pay over $16,000.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson