Showa Koi

You have decided that you want some koi to fill your backyard pond feature that you put up. Koi are an ornamental version of carp. Good choice. What type of koi do you want? Maybe you decided Kohaku were too plain because they only have two colors to their body. Then maybe you want a Showa koi.

Showa are a three-colored fish that have a main black color along with white and red markings going down their scales. This post gives a little about the history of this particular type of koi and some things to check for to know how valuable the Showa you are thinking of purchasing is. Is it of good enough quality to buy at that price point the vendor is adamant on?
Showa koi image

What Are Showa Koi Fish?

Showa is one of the Big 3 koi types. In Japanese, the Big 3 translates to Gosanke. Each one of these classes of koi has their own specific looks about them. Colors and the markings of the fish determines where they are classified as. These three types in the Big 3 are the:

  • Kohaku
  • Taisho Sanke
  • Yours truly, the Showa

The Showa koi fish was first introduced in 1927 by Jukichi Hoshino, but they didn’t reach maximum perfection in their coloring until 1965. To create them, Hoshino breeded Kohaku Koi and Ki-Utsuir. The original Showa had weak reds and a dull black. Thirty-plus years passed since their beginning, and a breeder named Tomiji Kobayashi finally came up with a koi that set the modern standards for today’s Showa koi fish line. Crossing a female Showa and a male Kohaku brought about these changes that made the bright red pattern Kobayashi was looking to create.


When trying to determine what class of the Big 3 a koi fits into; Showa are often mistaken for Sanke and vice versa because they share the same three colors. This is when you look at the markings and see where the colors fall on the fish. You determine the type of koi by looking at the ground. The ground is the main color of the koi distinct from the markings

Sanke and Showa each have white, red, and black coloring on their scales or bodies. The Sanke has a white ground color with red(beni) and black(sumi) markings, while the Showa has a black ground color with red and white markings.

What you want to see in your Showa is the white markings to set a vivid contrast with the black ground and red markings. The more dramatic the change in this transition of color the higher the koi fish’s value could potentially be. If you’re in the business of buying and selling koi this is one of the main factors of determining and two other things to note.

  • You want an orange-red coloring, but this coloring can be difficult to acquire
  • Many times, the color shows up as a purple-red instead, which can be an easier color to maintain and is found by many to also be an attractive color.

To each their own.


As you learned above, the way the colors fit into the pattern is the determining factor as to what type of koi you have. Pattern and markings are the same things so I interchange them often. There are things to check for to determine if you have a high-quality koi or more of a mutt.

The Best Showa in Show

In a high-quality Showa, you will notice a stark contrast in color going from the three different colors. The colors need to be as consistent as possible in the patterns where they dwell. These are some show-stopping koi you can travel with to shows. You might have a thousand-dollar fish there, and everyone likes that, even the amateur hobbyists.

Otherwise: If the reds are purplish is some areas and lighter in others this isn’t a high-quality fish. Don’t take it to shows with you.

Where Showa Leave Their Mark: What To Look For In Showa

The white-colored marking needs to have nice, clean edges that go straight to red or to black ground. The black body color will usually wrap around the whole fish as this is another of their characteristics.

Breeders Want More Variety

In an effort to breed new modern varieties of Showa, breeders are cross-breeding with Sanke and Kohaku to create different koi with better eye-catching qualities. In doing this cross-breeding we are seeing better coloring and the transitions between these colors are more contrasting and vivid.

Showa Koi Fish Picture

Pros for Showa

  • There are good Showa options available on the market for the pond hobbyist and the seasoned show veteran alike.
  • There are affordable Showa varieties for the person just looking to stock their garden pond
  • For the showman who only wants the best show-worthy Showa, then they can invest more money and get high-quality Tategoi Showa. This is a crowd pleaser of a koi.
  • Koi can live a while. They usually live 20 years
  • They like neighbors. The large goldfish can intermingle with koi due to their gentle demeanor.

Cons for Showa

  • One of the cons to owning Showa, at least from a buyer’s and breeder’s viewpoint, is it’s harder to tell how they will turn out after they develop completely. Harder than it is with Kohaku or Taisho Sanke types.
  • Perfect Showa has been found to be difficult to breed. The more colors you add to the natural paint job of a koi the more things can go wrong in the development of an attractive pattern. The black color especially can contrast over time.
  • Showa fry(baby Showa) only have two colors on their skin to start out. This is a dull grayish color and pale yellow. At this stage,  you can never tell how they are going to turn out.

To Rekap!

In this post, I wrote about the characteristics in the Showa koi fish’s pattern. Look for a dominant black color that wraps around the body along with bright white and red markings to it.

There was a brief history lesson going from their origins to the time when the first show-quality Showa were developed that brought about the modern standards pertaining to what modern show judges look for in quality Showa koi carp.

6 thoughts on “Showa Koi”

  1. I love Koi, they are so beautiful. What I didn’t know was that there were 3 main types and they each had different colors and patterns. The way they swim and interact is so tranquil to watch. I want a large koi Pons and moat when I get back to successful times. I would love to be able to watch them from any porch or open window and see the pure livelihood of one of nature’s most beautiful wonders.

    • There’s so many different varieties of koi that I promise it would make your head spin. It still does make mine. The Showa type that are just pond-dwellers are a pretty popular choice amongst the koi community. I look forward to hearing of you getting back up on your feet. I think a koi pond is an awesome retreat that can cause great bouts of relaxation and peace. They actually represent peace and prosperity in the Japanese tradition, so it’s no surprise of them being such a tranquil fish.

  2. Heloo thanks for this information and educating article. I have actually seen or heard about the showa koi once also in an article like this but the major challenge of shows koi is the breeding.But honestly I love the showa koi fish. They are very beautiful and the colours oh are attractive. Am Looking forward to getting some of these.

    • Hey Sheddy

      Thanks for reading this article of mine. I’m glad to hear you already knew about this koi species here and that you have an interest towards the Showa koi variety. Finding the perfect blend of colors in their coat and clean lines demarcating the shift between color to color is a hard find. If you happen to actually come across once that fits the bill you will expect it to fetch a serious price. I’m honestly more into just having koi to add to the pond. That’s a great starting point for the budding koi enthusiast anyway. Thanks for reading.

  3. Oh boy! These are beautiful! I just couldn’t stop watching them in the video. I would really like one. The white and black with the red markings makes it so impressive. I really like how big these Showa are. Had never seen ones as big as these. I’m just ecstatic. Orange-red coloring would be cool to see too but I’m so pleased with these ones that I think they’re just perfect.

    Thanks for putting this together.

    • Hey Ann

      I’m so happy that you enjoyed these fellows showing off their tremendous koi stock. Showa show the best qualities for me as they offer my favorite colors all in one fish. You should also check out Sanke as they are colored up exactly the same with the one clear difference which I described in the article. Someday, you will have one. I have faith that you will.


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