Welcome to another blog in our series of ‘Koi Varieties’ where today we will be looking at one of the oldest varieties of koi, the Asagi koi.
Asagi (ah-SAH-gee) are grey-blue koi with reticulation in their scales and red colouration along the sides of the fish, and the fins. These koi are typically quite subdued, and calm compared to other varieties of koi, and it is because of this, as well as the fact that they are such an old, established variety, that the Asagi variety is very commonly seen in many ponds.
Many koi keepers argue that Asagi is the greatest variety of koi because it was the first recognized ornamental carp, that is, the first koi variety. The ancestor fish of koi carp is the Magoi (mah-GOY) wild carp which was a staple food in many Japanese diets for hundreds of years before the first koi came to be. The Magoi black carp was first brought to Japan in roughly 200BC by an invading force from China.
It was not until about 160 years ago when Magoi farmers decided to breed the fish as ornamental fish. At that point, they had been farming Magoi for over 2000 years since it was introduced to Japan. Before then, the occasional Magoi had been born with mutations causing colour changes in the skin and scales, but the farmers considered these to be defects. Therefore, the fish were removed from the gene pool so that these defects would not continue to be present. However, some farmers decided to keep these fish as trophies and as "collectors’ fish" since they looked different and more interesting than the standard Magoi. This then led to local farmers sharing their "defective" Magois and competing with each other over who has the best fish. As you can imagine, the farmers then decided to start breeding these Magoi so as to get more mutations that could be shown off. These farmers were in fact the first koi breeders.
It did not take many generations of these mutated Magois
before the typical pattern that is associated with modern Asagi started to crop up. Once this pattern started to become popular, so did the practice of keeping these fish as pets. More and more people wanted them, and not all farmers. Thus begin the market for Asagi fish and with it came the hobby of koi keeping.
So, Asagi was the first koi, and it was the fish that started the whole hobby. But why are they not in the Gosanke trio then? Mostly because many breeders and koi keepers believe them to be too plain and boring and too alike the wild carp to be part of the trio of the "best" koi. It is the belief of many that that title should go to more exciting and colourful koi, but many also appreciate the simplicity of a beautiful Asagi and respect its amazing history. Without the Asagi, we would not have the many koi varieties we have today.
But what makes a good Asagi koi?
The name Asagi literally translates as “setting sun” so the best examples will live up to this name with a beautiful combination of blue-black scales and red-orange patterns. There are 3 main things to consider in an Asagi koi, a clean face, the amime and the hi pattern. We will look at each of these in turn:
One of the most prominent parts of a koi is its head and especially so on a koi such as Asagi where the pattern is very different. An Asagi will have a reticulated pattern running down its back that ends at the base of the head. Since the head is one of the only parts of the body that has none of this reticulation, it stands out. The best Asagi will have either a grey or a white head with no other colours. A clean head means that there are no splotches or marks, just the grey or white colour. It should also be noted that the grey head is more standard for an Asagi, but the white head is more ideal and will give more value to an Asagi.
As mentioned above, one of the most striking parts of an Asagi pattern is the beautiful net-like reticulation in the scales all over the fish’s back. This is called amime (ah-ME-meh) and is present on many different varieties of koi and the standards are the same each time. The best amime will be consistent and even over the whole back of the fish, extending 5-6 rows on each side of the dorsal fin with no scale out of place. Each scale should be a blue/indigo colour with a light blue tint at the bottom of the scale, fading into a darker blue to give an ombre effect.
Asagi are quite unique in that the pattern on the side of the fish is very important to have. The hi (red) colouration that you can see on the cheeks is called yakko (YAH-cow) and is very important for an Asagi koi. Many breeders say that the yakko is the most important part of the hi pattern as a koi is born with the yakko they will have for their lifetime but other parts of the hi pattern will change more. In addition to this, an Asagi koi should have a large amount of hi colouration on each side of the body resembling a sunset. Note that if you are looking at young koi, the hi shouldn’t be too strong otherwise, as the fish ages, the hi could start to overpower the reticulation on the back.
One of the things that makes Asagi koi quite different from other koi is that they are unlikely to change over their lifetime much. A lot of koi, such as Showa and Sanke koi, will be very hard to judge at a young age because a lot of change is to be expected. However, an Asagi fry looks very similar to its full-grown version. It is for this reason that they are a good choice for koi keepers on a budget, as the fry are still reasonably priced, but they are easier to judge than other varieties making it a safer choice.
To see our current stock of Asagi koi, click here: