Rene Schoenmaker explains the finer points of selecting young Kohaku



ZNA Local Certified Judge

This is the first article in a series about selecting young koi. The first variety that will be discussed is kohaku.

There is a saying in the koi world that collections start and finish with Kohaku.

Kohaku is a very simple but very elegant variety. The simplicity of this variety is also its most enthralling aspect. When looking for a small kohaku, a few rules need to be followed in order to have this Koi grow into something special.


The base colour of kohaku is white while red is its secondary colour. When I select a young kohaku the first ones must have as pure white skin as possible.



When selecting, I watch them carefully for a couple of minutes while they are swimming in the blue bowl where they are placed after netting. Often the white turns slightly pinkish because of the stress they experience when taken out of their pond and put into the bowl. I take these out and put them back in the pond. The thickness of the white is not thick enough and easily shows signs of stress. This tends to become coarse as the Koi grows. When the fish are small (12-15cm) I like to see that the pectoral fins are as translucent as possible as it gives the Kohaku a young look and they will become whiter in time, preferably when they are 25cm plus. Only then do I look at the hi (red) pattern.

Pattern is not as important as long as we understand that the Kohaku grows from its belly, i.e. the hi (red) has to go over the lateral line, as this gives the Kohaku room to grow into its pattern.

The head pattern is important, as it is the first impression the Kohaku gives when we look at it. It used to be important to have a horseshoe pattern on the head but that has changed in that all different patterns are appreciated as long as it complements the rest of the pattern. Preferably no red in the eyes, but again if the rest of the pattern complements it, it is accepted these days.


When purchasing a young Kohaku, the hi (red) should be even from the front to the back and have a nice thick feel to it, i.e. you should not have the feeling that if you scratch it with your fingernail that it will peel off. If you are looking for a young Kohaku with a promising future, the hi should be a thick orange/red colour. A blood red colour tends to fade easily and the white around it also doesn't get as white as with an orange/red colour which I mentioned before.

Remember, I am talking about buying a Kohaku for the future - not just for its present beauty. You can however enter these koi into competitions and probably still do very well as most of the points mentioned are also used when judging Kohaku. As for body shape, a cigar shaped fish is the one to look for when selecting young koi. When the body shape is too finished the koi doesn't tend to change much anymore. Be careful when selecting young koi that it doesn't have a small "pinch" just behind the gills as they tend not to grow out of this. A lot of Koi that are brought into the country have been starved before shipping and are on the thin side, but this is easily rectified by proper feeding and should not stop you from purchasing that particular koi, but keep in mind the above mentioned "pinching". Buying young koi is very much a trial and error ride but it gives you a lot of satisfaction if you do get it right. Always ask others for help but remember it is you who has to like/ love this koi and to feed and grow it. Try and purchase one or two from the same batch as this also gives you insight into how that particular bloodline will develop. Make notes and take photos of the koi and keep doing this as this will help you when selecting new ones. Hopefully the above will help you when selecting Kohaku.

Next I will discuss Selecting Sanke.