Carter’s Garden Blog

Koi – The Three Most Popular Varieties | Carters Nursery, Pond & Patio | Jackson, TN

I have been fostering and collecting Koi fish for decades now. I really LOVE these fish. They are truly special creatures. I sell Koi at my business – Carters Nursery, Pond & Patio & we take time to make sure they are healthy, happy & well fed.

I also try to learn more about Koi every chance I get! Seminars, shows, wet labs, you name it – I want to go 🙂 So with education in mind I want to share some basic information on Koi with you. I want to make Wednesdays ‘Koi Day’ on my blog here! Today I want to introduce you to the 3 most popular varieties of Koi – The ‘Big Three’ if you will – aka: The Gosanke’.


Kohaku is a variety of ornamental koi. The Kohaku has a white body, with red markings, or ‘hi’, across the body. The Kohaku is one of the gosanke; the ‘Big Three’, consisting of Kohaku, Sanke, and Showa.

#1 –  Kohaku

Kohaku is the oldest and probably the most well known of Koi varieties, A Kohaku has a solid white base with red patterns overlaid on the white. Elite, high quality Kohaku will display a bright white base, blemish free with deep red tones overlaid. The patterns should be evenly distributed along the body. There are many variations of the Kohaku, to include – Doitsu Kohaku, Gin Rin Kohaku, Maruten Kohaku & Tancho Kohaku.


In the early 1900’s, a new variety of Koi was developed by the addition of sumi (black) markings to the basic Kohaku patterns of red and white. This new variety was named Taisho Sanke and is usually referred to as simply Sanke.

#2 – Taisho Sanke

Sanke for short, have a solid white (Shiro) base that is overlaid with both red (Hi) & black (sumi) patterns. They say the best Sanke start with a solid Kohaku pattern – the black (Sumi) compliments the pattern. There are of course several variations of Sanke – Doitsu Sanke, Maruten Sanke, Tancho Sanke & Gin Rin Sanke.


Showa is a variety of ornamental koi. The Showa is also known as the Showa Sanshoku. The Showa has a black body, with red and white markings across the body. The Showa is one of the gosanke; the ‘Big Three’, consisting of Kohaku, Sanke, and Showa.

#3 – Showa Sanshoku 

Showa for short, have a black (Karasu) base color, with white (Shiro), red (Hi) &/or orange (Orenji) overlaid patterns. Showa & Sanke are easily confused… On a Showa the black (Karasu) will be consistant all the way around the body instead of just appearing on the top half only. A Showa will also have black patterns on the head and a Sanke won’t. The colors should be consistent and balanced around the body with clean edges between colors. There are many variations of Showa – Tancho Showa, Maruten Showa, Gin Rin Showa, Doitsu Showa & Kin Showa.

Well there you have it – The Gosanke’ Koi varieties 101 🙂 Until next Wednesday –

On to Spring!

Happy Pondering!

Mark Carter
Carter’s Nursery, Pond & Patio
2846 Old Medina Rd.
Jackson, Tn. 38305
Ph# 731-424-2206

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