Everything You Need to Know About Koi

Posted by Stacey Venzel

Not just for water gardens, koi are revered for their moral values.

Domesticated from the wild carp species like their goldfish cousins, koi are common ornamental species in home ponds. More than 20 types of koi exist, appearing in a wide variety of patterns and color hues. Similar to the goldfish, they can be trained to recognize people or learn tasks.

Native to Asia, koi are symbolic in Japanese culture. Different species stand for different virtues including love, wealth, prosperity, success, and luck.

Their average lifespan is 25 to 30 years, but some have lived to 100 years old! They survive winters in ponds by staying at the bottom where the water is warmer. Ideally, koi ponds are at least three feet deep.

These fish are omnivores eating other fish, algae, and even fruits. Feed them as much as they will eat in two minutes, twice a day.

Koi are social, traveling in schools. They can mate with goldfish but the hybrid babies cannot reproduce.

Because of their hardiness, koi can easily become an invasive species if released into the wild. For this reason, the state of Maine has made it illegal to keep koi as pets!

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Koi can reach a length of three feet. Their scales are sensitive to the sun and can be burned if no shade is available.


They can be monochromatic or a mixture of colors including orange, yellow, red, white, cream, black and even blue. Most species have spots.

Koi have whiskers, called barbels, like catfish and carp. Koi's whiskers have taste buds that allow the fish to cruise along tasting things without first ingesting it. They also help koi sense vibrations in the water for hunting and avoiding predators.

The lower placement and shape of a koi's mouth helps it feed off the bottom of its habitat.

Image via: S. Mundt via Weebly

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