Garden Pond

Pond Koi Grades

Have you ever wondered what makes some fancy Koi so expensive, or why there can be so much variability in Koi price ranges? 

Many varieties of Koi originate from selective breeding that began in Niigata, Japan in the early 19th century. This has led to the development of a multitude of named varieties, with strict requirements and standards on what colors and/or pattern a fish must exhibit to be sold with that name. Though selectively bred for generations, most Koi varieties do not breed “true”. Of the thousands of offspring produced from a single spawn many do not exhibit the same colors and patterns as the adults, or have the characteristics to meet the named standard. This has resulted in the creation of different grading processes that allows Koi breeders to sell the wide range of offspring they produce at different price points based on quality and rarity. 

We have recently updated our Koi grade nomenclature here in the store to better align with what is used by major Koi producers.

Decorative Koi – This grade makes up over 50% of the typical harvest. They are healthy Koi with a variety of colors. Colors tend to be more muted, and not as crisp as in the higher grades.

Choice Koi – This grade makes up about 25% of the harvest. They are healthy Koi with a great assortment of colors. They have a bright, well defined color distribution.  Some recognizable named Koi varieties can be found in these batches. These fish are sometimes referred to as “Select” Koi.

Elite Koi – Only approximately 5% of a typical Koi harvest consists of Elite grade Koi. These are healthy Koi of the highest standards. They exhibit the most conformity and even color distribution, and the highest level of fin conformity. Their colors are crisp and have the highest level of saturation and contrast between colors. Most named koi come from this grade. These fish are sometimes referred to as “Premium” Koi. 

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