In our newest ‘Koi Varieties’ blog post, we are continuing with the single-coloured koi varieties, such as the blue-grey Soragoi koi from the last blog post, by looking at the Benigoi koi, which is a red, single-coloured koi.
Benigoi (BEN-ee-GOY) koi are non-metallic, solid red or orange koi fish. The name Benigoi literally translates as ‘red koi’. You may have noticed that in the koi keeping hobby, there are a few different Japanese terms meaning ‘red’, the most common of which is ‘hi’. This koi variety is called ‘Benigoi’ rather than ‘Higoi’ because the ideal colour of the koi is an orange-red which is associated with the word ‘beni’, rather than the deep, fiery red associated with the word ‘hi’, such as on a Kohaku koi.
The Benigoi koi variety was one of the original koi varieties, first popularised in the early 1920s. The variety began with the Magoi carp which was a black wild carp common in Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries. Around the beginning of the 19th century, wild carp started to become pets rather than purely food and koi keeping started to become a hobby. Many of the early koi varieties came about as a variation or a mutation of the wild carp and the Benigoi is no exception. In fact, the very first variation of the wild carp seen by the carp farmers was the red-bellied Magoi. By selectively breeding pairs of wild Magoi that each have small amounts of red colouration on their underside, farmers were able to produce a Magoi with a purely red belly – the appropriately named red-bellied Magoi! This red-bellied Magoi was then bred with the Kohaku koi (a white koi with a red pattern) to produce a pure red fish, the Benigoi.
A true Benigoi koi will have red or orange colouration over the whole body of the fish including the fins and tail, but some Benigoi fish have white tips to their fins and tail. This is a rare subvariety of the Benigoi variety called Benigoi Hajiro (BEN-ee-GOY hah-GEE-row) and is very high in demand making it a very valuable koi variety! The name ‘Hajiro’ refers to a black koi with white tips on its tail and fins so the name ‘Benigoi Hajiro’ describes the fish as a combination of the red colouration of the Benigoi koi with the white pattern of the Hajiro koi. This subvariety is very rare because, although it is common to see a Benigoi with white tips to the fins or a white tip to the tail, it is very difficult to reliably breed a koi with both of these and to have all of the white be perfectly positioned. In fact, many breeders avoid even trying to produce Benigoi Hajiro koi because they are so difficult to breed and because poor Benigoi Hajiro koi are also poor Benigoi koi so there are a lot of culls required for very few good quality fish. For many breeders, it makes more sense to breed good quality Benigoi than even try to breed Benigoi Hajiro koi.
Pongoi (Best Quality) Benigoi Koi
When judging a Benigoi koi, or indeed any single-coloured koi, the most important consideration is the quality and consistency of the colour. While other varieties may have brighter colours, interesting patterns or even differences in their fins or scales, the Benigoi is a much simpler koi with just the one colour and no pattern. This, however, means that this colour is the first thing people see and must be perfect in any Pongoi Benigoi.
Just like most other single-coloured koi, a few different shades of red are acceptable with each koi keeper having their own personal preference. As with many koi, but especially single-coloured koi, the consistency of the colour determines the best koi. This is because, in single-coloured koi, there are no bright patterns or contrasting colours to draw the eye, instead there is just the one colour which should be perfect all over including the body, head, fins and tail, and, in general, the more consistent the colour of the fish, the better the quality of the koi. Any deviation in shade is considered an imperfection in the fish. Of course, for a Benigoi koi, the shade of the beni is important too. Generally, any shade of deep orange or red is acceptable, but the best shade is considered to be a deep orange-red, just dark enough to be clearly red instead of orange but light enough to still have a hint of orange colouration.
As with many single-coloured koi varieties, Benigoi koi have a slight reticulation pattern in their scales called fukurin (FOO-koo-REEN) which is visible as a slightly darker tint at the top of each scale. This tint continues over the whole scale but with a gradient effect so that the darker colour is not covering the bottom of the scale.
With the variety, the fukurin pattern is a darker red colour, so the pattern gives the fish the appearance of having darker red scales, outlined with a lighter orange-red. Of course, some fish will show this much better than others with many only having a hint of fukurin that is very hard to see and others not displaying the pattern at all.
If the Benigoi does have a visible fukurin pattern in its scales, it should be as even and consistent as possible. Each scale should be arranged neatly and in even rows while the thickness of the reticulation should be equal across all of the scales. The colour of the fukurin pattern is less important as different koi keepers prefer different shades, a darker fukurin colour will give each scale a very distinct outline while a lighter colour will give a more subtle effect. Again, however, consistency is key. Every scale should be the same colour and shade as any scales with a different fukurin colour will be immediately obvious.
Benigoi koi are a great addition to any pond - with their vibrant red colouration,