How is koi fish price determined?

a large orange and white fish in a blue container.

To novice koi owners, the price of koi fish can be hard to understand. There are many factors that are considered when determining the price of a koi fish. Learn how koi fish price is determined and what makes one koi a champion compared to dozens of others. Looking for more general information on koi? Check out our Standard of Care for Koi.

The Most Expensive Koi Fish Sold to Date

The recent record for the price of one koi was recorded at $1.8 million USD in late 2017/2018. The koi, called S Legend, is a 3′ 3″ female with a very traditional kohaku color pattern. Kohaku koi are the most coveted color pattern, featuring “steps” of red across a vibrant white background. Considered “living art,” many expensive koi fish live long, pampered lives and can be bred to result in thousands of offspring.

Factors Determining Koi Fish Price

Coloration – Pattern

There are many pattern variations in the koi world. Some have very specific requirements, such as a showa vs. sanke, while others are more loose. When determining which pattern a fish may fit into, some fish may not fit any predetermined category! When it comes to determining a koi fish price, official koi show judges may be consulted to classify a fish. Depending on the judge, a koi fish’s price may go higher or lower; it can be a matter of personal preference.

Here is some more information about the various types of koi pattern varieties.

Coloration – Vibrancy

Once the color pattern has been established, the vibrancy of that pattern is evaluated. Most patterns show be rich, deep colors with little “bleed” across scales. Some fish scales are actually removed prior to shows in hopes of keeping the color patterns more defined! For the gosanke (kohaku, sanke and showa), the red and/or black color bands should be in “steps” along the dorsal ridge. The more steps in a fish’s pattern, the more valuable it is. Again, some of this differentiation can be highly subjective, which can greatly alter a koi fish price.

Body Shape

The most expensive koi fish are almost always females. Why is this? Female koi tend to have wider bodies due to their enormous egg mass. This gives them a more preferable, “torpedo” shape. Koi fish are expected to be widest at their pectoral fins, then slowly taper off to the tail. Male koi tend to be more slender, and are therefore not as valuable.

Koi fish price
Princess (lower) and Lovey (upper). Two of our kohaku patients and Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion (second place) at the ZNA NorCal Koi Show in April 2018.

Where can I see these expensive koi?

The best place to see the areas most expensive koi is at your local koi show. Yes, there are beauty pageants for koi just like dog or cat shows. In these competitions, color and size variations are pitted against each other and the biggest fish face off for Grand Champion. Typically, Grand Champions have to be either a showa, sanke or kohaku, or a member of the “gosanke.” Non-gosanke winners are typically “B” awards.

You can find a show near you through your local koi club or koi vendor. These shows are typically free to the public. You can find a listing of koi shows in the US through the American Koi Judges Association.

A “B”-level champion Ogon (yellow) and Kohaku (right)

How much are my koi worth?

When it comes to pet koi, most fish are worth more in sentimental value than show fish currency. At our practice, most of the koi fish we see are not show quality, but we do have a few clients with very expensive fish. If you are interested in getting your fish appraised, you may want to contact a trained judge.

No matter how much your fish cost, we will treat them just the same. As long as you love your fish, that’s all that matters.

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