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Koi Varieties – Metallic Koi

In today’s blog in our ‘Koi Varieties’ series we are looking at Metallic koi. Metallic koi are a little different to other varieties of koi as the term refers to a type of skin on a koi rather than a specific colour and/or pattern.

Doitsu Yamatoshiniki (Metallic Sanke) from breeder Aokiya

Metallic koi, as the name suggests, have a bright shine over the whole body which is usually referred to as a sheen. This gives the koi a reflective quality comparable to a mirror if the koi has a white base colour or a golden coin if the koi has a red or orange base colour. Any koi can have metallic skin but, as metallic koi are not as popular as Gin Rin koi and Doitsu koi, not all varieties have been developed to have a metallic version.

Unlike Gin Rin and Doitsu koi, the scale type is not used as a prefix before the variety name (e.g. Gin Rin Kohaku or Doitsu Showa), instead, the variety is usually given a different name for the metallic version. For example, a metallic Sanke is called a Yamatoshiniki; a metallic Ki Matsuba is called a Kin Matsuba and a metallic Kumonryu is called a Kikokuryu. Of course, this isn’t always the case as sometimes new metallic koi will be bred that don’t already have a specific name. In this case, the prefix ‘Kin’ meaning ‘golden’ is used, for example, with Kin Showa or Kin Ki Utsuri.

Kin Matsuba from breeder Dainichi

History of Metallic Koi

Metallic koi are still fairly new to the koi world with the first metallic koi being the Yamabuki Ogon, closely followed by the rest of the Ogon varieties. These Ogon koi were originally bred by a Japanese koi hobbyist called Sawata Aoki. Over 95 years ago, Aoki dreamed of one day creating a very special and unique koi that would be new and exciting and completely different to any koi that was available at the time. After a few unsuccessful attempts at breeding something new, Aoki heard that a young boy had found a wild carp in a river with beautiful golden stripes. Aoki was quite poor at the time but just knew that he needed this fish. So, he walked many, many miles and travelled a long way to see this golden carp and when he saw it, Aoki knew that this fish was important, that it would help him to finally achieve his dream.

The boy was unwilling to give up his very special find but eventually, Aoki was able to convince the boy to sell the fish to him. Aoki gave the boy almost all his life savings in exchange for the fish but he was happy, his dream was about to come true. Aoki began his long walk home with his new fish, his mind racing with all the ideas and plans he had for this stunning fish. He could hardly imagine what this one wild carp could begin.

Kin Hi Utsuri from breeder Maruhiro

Unfortunately, Aoki had little success initially and almost gave up on his dream. His dreams that the wild carp would quickly produce a special new koi variety were quickly falling apart. Fortunately, however, Aoki had plenty of patience and spent the next 25 years slowly selectively breeding his wild carp with koi crap. With each generation, he chose the brightest and shiniest offspring to keep and breed on with each new generation being a little bit shinier, a little bit brighter and a little bit more consistent than the previous.

It wasn’t until 1946 that Aoki finally decided he had created a new koi variety and his new metallic koi was shown at koi shows. He had one particular koi that was shinier and brighter than all his others and stunned all the koi lovers who saw it. It has beautiful yellow skin and a stunning golden shine that caught the light beautifully. This was the very first Yamabuki Ogon and also the very first metallic koi carp. In fact, every single metallic koi that is available to us today is a direct descendant of that first Yamabuki Ogon koi.

After his success with the Yamabuki Ogon, some people thought that Aoki, having finally achieved his dream, would settle down and enjoy his new metallic koi. Certainly not! He continued to develop the Yamabuki Ogon and bred the variety with lots of other koi varieties to further produce more Ogon koi varieties. Aoki also set up his own koi breeding farm, Aokiya, where he began expanding into other, non-metallic koi varieties. Aokiya is now one of the biggest koi farms in Japan and Aoki is considered to be the leading breeder for lots of koi varieties including Gosanke, Goshiki, Kujaku, Hariwake, Kikokuryu and more!

Kin Ki Utsuri from breeder Yamazaki

So, what should you look for when picking a Metallic koi?

The most important thing to consider when judging a metallic koi is the metallic sheen. Specifically, that the amount of sheen and the quality of the lustre is consistent over the whole body of the koi and the lustre should have the same quality all over. There should be no obvious areas of skin that have no reflective sheen and, ideally, no areas should be obviously more reflective than others. A koi with poor but consistent lustre is considered better than a koi with both good and bad areas of lustre. The sheen itself should be beautiful and shiny with careful consideration taken to the base colour. For a beautiful metallic koi, the skin should be shiny like a mirror and be bright and reflective on a white base colour. On a red or yellow base colour, there is much more of an acceptable range due to the range of shades in the base colours. So, the sheen can be slightly more muted and be comparable to the colours of a sunset or bright like a shiny gold coin.

That concludes today’s article all about the beautiful Metallic skin type. These can be truly stunning koi and a fantastic addition to any koi keeper's collection. Since there are so many different varieties with a metallic version, there is a metallic koi for everyone! Take a look at our current stock of metallic koi here:

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