Black Koi Fish

What types of Koi Fish have black coloring?

Photo of black koi with one albino koi
School of koi fish - one white Albino fish with Black Koi

Japanese Koi fish are a beautiful type of domesticated carp. This type of pond fish has come a long way from their days in Japanese rice fields, swimming their way right into our hearts.

If you’re a pond hobbyist like me, you probably spend your fair share of free time looking up photos of the remarkable Koi variety. 

Recently, I find myself becoming more interested in the black Koi variant. I’m no expert, but my research findings show some beautiful discoveries on our backyard pond friends. Below, you can find information on the Karasu Koi and a few other black-colored Koi variants. 

Photo of a variety of koi - some with black markings
One type of koi is all black - most koi - like many of these have black markings and additional colors

Karasu Koi Fish

The Karasu Koi fish is the only Koi that is almost entirely black. From above, these fish appear to have a monochromatic, jet-black body. They almost look like shadows of the other Koi around them. Turn a Karasu over, and you will reveal their stomachs’ red, orange, or white color. 

If you are into symbolism, you might find it interesting that the Japanese associate the black Koi with prosperity and good wealth. The black coloring is thought to be good at absorbing any negative energy from the pond, making for a more peaceful ecosystem. 

In Japanese, the word Karasu translates to crow in English. Depending on who you ask, this translation can also relay symbolism of a free spirit or good luck and fortune. 

There is some debate about where the breeding of the Karasu Koi began. Some share stories of the Karasu being a post-World War II phenomenon, while others will say they are much older than that. We may never get to the bottom of when this Koi variety came about, but regardless of the answer, we’re glad they’re here. 

How to Identify a Karasu Koi

Believe it or not, identifying a Karasu Koi is not always easy. You will want to have an eye for detail when approaching this task. When examining a baby Koi fish, the shade of the body is critical. You are going to be looking for a blemish-free, deep black body. When it comes to the stomach, coloring should be minimal. 

I suggest triple-checking that the Koi you are choosing is black. Sometimes confusing a Magoi for a Karasu can happen due to the deep brown coloring of the Magoi. One way to ensure a black color is by comparing the fish to a completely black background. 

Black Colored Koi Fish

While the Karasu Koi is the only all-black Koi fish, several fish of the Koi variety have black in them. Some honorable mentions of black-colored Koi include the Sanke Koi, the red Koi, the Utsuri Koi, and the Matsuba Koi. Let’s take a look at some of their unique markings. 

Phot of a black and white koi
Many koi have two colors - this koi has a white base with black markings

Sanke Koi Fish 

If you have ever seen a Koi pond, you have likely seen a Sanke Koi. Identifying a Koi fish as a Sanke is light work. They have a pearly white base with bright red and black markings. The red-orange or purple-red coloring will be the first markings to develop on the young Koi. When maturing, a Sanke develops deep black markings, which separates a Sanke from a Kohaku.

Red Koi Fish

The term red Koi fish is relatively broad. There are a few Koi fish that can classify as red and black Koi. One is the Bekko. 

Bekko Koi can be either white, yellow, or red at the base, all with a black pattern covering them. The Goshiki Koi is slightly different, with its base coloring being a deep black shade. These Koi have red, white, blue, and brown accents covering their body. Lastly, the Showa Koi presents itself with a black base color and a bold red and white pattern. 

Utsuri Koi Fish

The Utsuri Koi are another popular Koi fish. The intricate design covering the Utsuri draws your eyes directly to them when looking into a pond. 

Utsurimono has a black base that intertwines with one more color, creating a checkerboard effect on the skin. A Utsuri Koi with a non-metallic red coloring is a Hi Utsuri. The ones with a non-metallic white coloring are the Shiro Utsuri, and the ones with a non-metallic yellow color are the Ki Utsuri.

Matsuba Koi Fish

Lastly, we come to the Matsuba Koi. These Koi fish are famous for their metallic base color and black netting pattern covering the base. The most common variants of the Matsuba Koi include:

  • The Aka Matsuba-  Red and black
  • The Gin Matsuba- Black and white
  • The Ki Matsuba- Yellow and black
  • The Orenji Matsuba- Orange and black


Photo of two koi with black markings
Some koi like these have small splotches of black markings

There are many types of koi that contain black coloring or markings. The Karasu koi is the only koi which is a completely black koi fish.

There are other members of the koi carp family who have black markings as part of their overall pattern - inlcuding the Matsuba, Utsuri, Red Koi, and Sanke.

Photo of two koi fish - both with black markings
Many koi have splotches of black like these two

Frank Salvatore

In 2015 our family moved into a house south of Denver, Colorado with a  koi pond.  Since that time I've learned to really enjoy the koi fish and the pond. This blog is dedicated to providing helpful hints and information for koi pond hobbyists - as well as those of you who just inherited a koi pond and are thinking NOW WHAT?

About Me

Hey there - I'm Frank Salvatore. In 2015 our family moved into a house south of Denver, Colorado that had a Koi pond. The problem was I knew absolutely NOTHING about koi ponds.

This blog is dedicated to providing helpful hints and information for koi pond hobbyists - as well as those of you who just inherited a koi pond and are thinking NOW WHAT?
Learn More About Me

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