In 2018, a female koi carp was sold at an unthinkable 1.8 million USD in Japan. This was not the first time a koi fish selling price touched the million-dollar mark. In fact, koi fishes are often sold at a thousand dollars in Japan and worldwide.

So, why is koi so expensive? What is the cost of koi fish?

These questions come naturally to fish keepers and breeders. Firstly, the coloration and breeding lineage makes koi fish so expensive that often overwhelm our wildest dream. However, there are other reasons for koi fish being expensive. It includes extreme expertise to breed the koi, high bio-security, etc.

We will discuss all these reasons today. Also, our discussion will include the average cost of a standard koi carp. It will benefit those who plan to set up a koi aquarium newly.

An Overview of Koi Fish

Koi is a developed breed of Amur carp. Amur carp were bred to the koi fish for coloration. In the early 19th century, koi breeding flourished in Niigata, Japan. The farmers there bred koi fish for commercial purposes.

Nonetheless, the earliest mention of the koi fish is found in ancient Chinese scripture. The variation of the koi is measured upon its coloration, scales, and patterns. The highest priced koi fishes are mostly of white and red color combination.

However, you will see the koi fish in vibrant yellow, black, blue, cream, and orange color apart from the red and white combination. Also, Gosanke is the most popular koi fish category at present.

Cost of Koi Fish: (Why is Koi fish so expensive?)

Average Cost of Koi Fish

Yes, a koi is indeed a wealthy investment. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a koi in your pond or aquarium as a regular breeder or aquarist.  To be honest, the koi fish price has two different sections. These categories are –

  • Pond-quality koi:


The pond-quality koi are commonly found and used to breed for regular aquariums and ponds. This type of koi is easily gettable in between $20 to $300. The pricing varies mostly because of the size. Also, color variation plays a vital role.

The pond-quality koi is colorful too. But the color quality and variation aren’t sufficient to grab competition judges and professionals’ attraction. Nonetheless, this koi is still bright enough to attract your friends and neighbors with WOW appreciation.

  • Show-quality koi:

The show-quality koi price sits right on the opposite spectrum of the regular pond-quality koi fishes. These koi fishes are mainly bred for competitions and enjoy breeders’ certification. The certification ensures stable, long, and trustworthy bloodiness of the genes. Thus, it promises to pass on its attractive color variation to the next generation, at least to some extent.

These koi varieties can be priced anywhere from $1000 to $10000. What’s more, a good breeding koi with a white and red color combo may easily raise the price bar to 10X times or more. Isn’t it surprising, or not?

Additional Read:

The Most Expensive Koi Ever:

Are you wondering about the most expensive koi price after seeing the extensive pricing of it? Well, we have already told that the most expensive koi recorded ever was sold at $1.8 million. It had the name S Legend.

S Legend sized at 3 feet and 3 inches, which is definitely an enlarged koi breed. Miss Yingying, a Taiwanese woman, brought the koi from a farm in Hiroshima. She got the koi after a heated and outrageous bidding war.

The koi had a color combination of white and red and aged nine years at the auction time. Also, it is the only koi that has won two times the All Japan Grand Champion.

Reasons Why Koi Fish Are So Expensive?

When you see such staggering and wild selling price of the koi fish, it is easy to wonder about the reasons for such out of the world costs.

But never mind.

We have prepared an extensive guideline on the actual causes of the high-expensiveness of the show-quality koi fish. Let’s begin it.

Not everyone can breed a show-quality koi

Almost everyone can breed a general pond-quality koi. Nonetheless, when it comes to fostering a show-quality koi, the table turns upside down quickly. Not everyone can breed the high-quality, super attractive, and vibrant colored koi fishes.

A breeder needs years of experience and breeding knowledge to breed the show-quality koi. Honestly speaking, only a few breeders can successfully develop such koi fishes on their farm. Thanks to such challenging breeding and color development, quality koi fish is found rarely in the market. Such rarity of the show-quality koi has helped its price go high- higher than one can imagine.

Rarity and retention of genes and bloodiness:

Almost every one of us knows that bloodiness and genes authenticity is highly regarded among dogs and cows. But only a handful of people know that genes and blood lineage are equally crucial for koi breeding.

It happens because some of the most priced and attractive koi fishes have been carefully developed through decades of professional and selective breeding.  During selective breeding, breeders mix the colors and ensure the genes’ genuineness to create the koi into a more attractive one. It might take several generations of the koi breeding for a farmer to reach such show-quality koi.

Color variations:

You can see six color variations, mostly in the koi. These standard colors are metallic, white, blue, yellow, red, and black. However, not all of these colors are highly attractive among koi owners. The colors are available in the koi cells, and their variations contribute to the koi fish pricing.

Generally, koi skin accommodates the color cells in different depths. You will see some color patches in deep skin while other color patches sit on the surface. The depth of the color cells will determine the brightness of the koi.

As a standard rule, brighter koi with more color variations are priced higher. You will see as many as 120 koi fish variations, but not all of them are tagged with an extensive price. Breeders selectively choose the colors and develop them into a brighter appearance for a heftier price tag.

For example, the $1.8 million koi had red color patches on a white body. For this, you will have to choose a white-bodied koi with beautiful red cells. But that’s not easy to get.

Hence, such rarity in the colors and difficulty to develop them increases the koi price tag.

Only a few koi fries are raised to adulthood:

This information might surprise you, but it is a fact. Breeders will only raise a very few numbers of koi fish to adulthood for color development and competition.

A 1kg koi will lay as much as 100,000 eggs at a time. What’s more, the hatching rate is equally high, which ensures that a breeder gets nearly 80000 koi fries every season. When the koi fry reaches 1-inch size, and the color pattern is visible, breeders will select them for the next stage.

A breeder will only select those koi fries that show signs of good color patches and patterns. As they grow bigger, breeders will leave out another portion of the koi fish and select a handful of them for the actual color development. In fact, a breeder will only raise 3% to 5% koi fishes into their adulthood.

For example, the breeder of $1.8 million priced koi started with 3 million koi juveniles. But in the 2nd year, he had only 1000 koi fishes on his farm. The rest were either sold in the restaurant as a delicacy or in the fish stores for regular aquariums.

Quality of food and its expensiveness:

Koi fish is exceptionally demanding. They need the best quality food and commercial pellets to grow big and enhance the right color and appearance. So, show-quality koi developers feed the koi with high-quality and selective food items from their fry stage to their adulthood.

Koi are omnivorous and eat anything they get. So, farmers ensure an ample supply of natural food items in the pond to ensure their growth. They also control the food quality so that the koi have the best colors on it.

Such extensive food quality maintenance costs a vast amount. Ultimately, it adds to the overall costing of the koi.

A large pond for koi:

Some common commercial aquarium fish species such as guppies, goldfishes, and neon tetras are bred and reared in a densely populated pond. When it comes to koi fostering up, the scenario changes dramatically.

Since the color quality and koi variations depend primarily on the water quality, breeders always rear them in big ponds. In fact, koi breeders select only a handful of koi fishes and transfer them in large ponds to raise them perfectly.

Also, they keep the population as low as possible in the pond to grow freely in the tank. It is essential because the size of the koi also contributes to its overall price tag.  A koi breeding farm needs a considerable space with sufficient ventilation, which adds to its costing.

Koi breeding needs time:

While guppies, bettas, and neon tetras are reared and sold within six to eight months of their birth, koi is in a different league. A breeder will have to nourish the show-quality koi for several years until he can sell it in the market.

For example, just look at S Legend, the million-dollar koi. Its owner had to wait for nine years until he took the koi for sale in an auction. Other breeders will need to rear the koi for three to five years before they can sell it.

Naturally, koi fish price rises abnormally due to such an extended rearing time.

Expensive bio-security maintenance:

Japanese koi breeders are insane when it comes to maintaining the bio-security of the koi farms. It starts with the hatchery, where owners keep the bio-security with the most strictness.  Similarly, ponds are maintained severely to ensure bio-security.

And these maintenances will last for several years which definitely consume colossal money. Naturally, koi price skyrockets.

Most koi fishes are imported:

All the countries will export show-quality koi fishes from Japan. It, thus, adds up the air freight costs to the price of the koi. Furthermore, koi importing and exporting are controlled by only a handful of influential breeders.

Such importing cost and market control contribute to the insane price.

People’s insanity and love for koi:

Let’s admit it; koi are expensive. But what does make the koi fishes sell at $10000 or $100,000? The answer is pretty straightforward-people have an abnormal affection for koi. In most regions, owning a koi fish is a prestige issue for rich men these days.

Many people like to show off their wealth by owning a brightly colored koi. Also, Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, and some other Asian people consider as their lucky charm. So, they ran madly after the beautiful fish.

Moreover, many people want to win the prestigious koi competitions, including the famous All Japan Grand Champion. So, they want the best-colored koi anyway. So, it is no wonder as to why koi fish is so expensive- madly priced.

Final Words

We all know that koi is one of the most beautiful and sought after aquarium fish. It was developed from the regular carp with a black color to its vibrant and attractive colors of now. As the coloration kept increasing and its demand in the market soared high, koi became expensive.

Hopefully, you now thoroughly understand why is koi fish so expensive.  So, if you plan to get a koi for your pond or aquarium, get ready to break your bank account. But it will be worthy of investment since the koi will surely charm you with its presence.

When you see such a lovely fish swimming elegantly in your pond, your heart will be content. You will feel lucky too.

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