Complete Guide to Asagi Koi 2021


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Guide to Asagi Koi Varieties, Care, Size, Diet & Costs 2021 [Updated]

asagi koi and common carp
All koi, including the Asagi, are descendants of the common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Bottom image by randychiu / CC BY-SA 2.0

Although just gaining worldwide popularity over the last few decades, koi have been around for thousands of years! Sometime around the 4th century, modern-day data collection found that China and Japan began selectively breeding carp to eventually (around the 6th century) obtain the colorful and widely varied koi breeds that are around today. Indeed, mtDNA sequencing supports the commonly held belief that koi are descendants of the common carp (Cyprinus carpio). The sequencing found that the common carp originated in East Asia (an idea that was often argued), meaning this is technically the origin of koi, too!

As aforementioned, around the 6th century, some of our current koi breeds began to originate. Since there, there has been a massive boom in the number of breeds, patterns, and colorations of koi available. Eventually coming to be known as “koi”, these colorful, specially bred carp were most often presented to those with political and economic power as a gesture of goodwill and peace. This is how koi initially made their way to Europe and, eventually, the Americas, becoming the beloved pets we know today rather than symbols of power and wealth.

One of the oldest koi varieties, Asagi are often thought of as the first truly “ornamental” koi, with their unique, reticulated patterning of blue-grey scales (sometimes metallic) laid overtop light blue or white scales. This gives their bodies net-like patterning, which can be accentuated by vibrant reds and stark white on the head, tail, and fins. Their coloring is often muted, making them somewhat more of an acquired taste in the aquaculture and koi worlds, though crossbreeding with other varieties has resulted in quite a variation in color hue and intensity.

Asagi are direct ancestors of the “magoi,” which translates approximately to “true carp.” In fact, the Asagi of today were selectively bred from Asagi magoi, a native variety of magoi with a genetic mutation that resulted in unique reticulation and a bluish hue. This heritage lends them their more subdued coloration, somewhat more reminiscent of a wild carp than other koi. According to a study that focused on compiling data from historical documents as well as other studies and genetics work, it is believed that Asagi have been around since approximately the 1700s, with breeding to “improve the Asagi line as ornamental” commencing in 1868. Asagi have provided the base for many popular koi breeds, including the beloved and classic Kohaku.

What Does Asagi Mean?

There is some confusion on the exact meaning behind “Asagi.” Some sources claim it to be a derivative of the Japanese word for “indigo” or “light blue,” while others say it stems from the Japanese words for “setting sun” or “mist.” Online translation services are of little help. While we can’t help clear this up for you, it does seem that any of these are rather apt possibilities given Asagi coloration and patterning.

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Asagi Varieties & How to Identify Them 

Asagi koi are most easily identified by their reticulated patterning, which resembles a lighter colored net lying overtop their scales. Though exact coloration of Asagi koi can vary depending on the particular variety, their characteristic pattern is created by having colored scales that are outlined in light blue, light grey, or white. This pattern starts at the base of the head and extends to the base of the tail, but does not include the head, fins, or tail. Classic Asagi are pale blue or blue-grey along their body, with light blue or white reticulation, and a white head, fins, and tail with red or red-orange markings (known as Hi). They generally have Hi on their abdomen, as well. All Asagi should have lighter-colored reticulation present. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather showcases many of the more common or sought-after varieties.

1) Konjo Asagi

 

Konjo Asagi is one of two primary Asagi varieties. Konjos are Asagi with dark blue or nearly black scales.


The second primary Asagi variety, Narumi have light to medium-blue scales. The remaining Asagi varieties are sub-varieties of Konjo and Narumi.


3) Hi Asagi

 

Hi Asagi are simply Asagi that have a greater than usual amount or red or orange. The Hi exists outside of the head, fins, and tail and extends upward from the abdomen past the lateral line. Some Hi Asagi may be entirely red. 


4) Gin Rin Asagi

 

Gin Rin Asagi are Asagi with silvery-metallic scales. Their scales are typically of the Konjo coloration, with silver-white reticulation. Any of the other listed Asagi varieties here can be Gin Rin.


5) Akebi Asagi

Also sometimes known as Mizu Asagi or Mizu Asaki, Akebi Asagi possess the lightest blue coloration of any Asagi variety. Their scales are typically light blue or light grey-blue.


6) Taki Asagi

 

Taki Asagi most often possess Konjo coloration, but have a horizontal line of white running between their dark back and typically red abdomen.


7) Asagi Sanke

Asagi Sanke, much like Sanke (or Taisho Sanshoku) koi, will have a combination of Hi, Shiro (white), and Sumi (black), coloration. The Hi and Sumi markings should overlay white or light blue/light grey scales. Reticulation will, of course, still be present. Asagi Sanke can be virtually any variety that is present in typical Sanke koi, including Tancho, Yondan, and Maruten. Most often, however, Asagi Sanke have light blue backs, a white lower abdomen, and Hi present on the head and upper abdomen.


How to Appreciate & Judge Asagi Koi 

asagi koi how to judge asagi koi
Asagi koi should have consistent reticulation and fairly symmetrical Hi where present. Photo by KoiQuestion / CC BY-SA 2.0

Before entering your Asagi koi into competitions, there are a number of things that you should familiarize yourself with. First and foremost, know that every competition is different and entirely dependent on the judges themselves – what may be considered appealing to one judge may not be to another. In Japan, judges also value fish based on their monetary value – a fish that costs more may result in an automatic bias in that fish’s favor, while if judged elsewhere patterning and proportions may come more into play. Try to know your audience beforehand.

General Guidelines for Judging Koi

The fish should not have any abnormalities, such as missing fins, misshapen mouth, or bruises (unless they were accidentally caused during transportation). Asagi should also not have any parasites, ulcers, or other forms of illness.

Symmetry is also of great importance. If present, the way that the Sumi are arranged from front to back and side to side should be balanced and fairly symmetrical (not strictly symmetrical). If present, patterns that are unique are also favored. The fish should also have a proportional, symmetrical head with proportional, symmetrical fins, and a torpedo-shaped body.


Asagi Specific Judging Guidelines

Ginrin asagi koi
GinRin Asagi are often the most expensive and highly judged Asagis in competitions. Photo by KoiQuestion / CC BY-SA 2.0

Asagi are very unique koi due to their coloring and reticulation. As such, this reticulation is judged very critically; it should be balanced and consistent, with each scale having a darker center (preferably dark blue) and lighter reticulation (white or light blue) along the edges. Reticulation should extend from the back of the head uniformly down the entire body of the fish without breaks or inconsistencies. For all Asagi, the head should be a white or light color, never dark no matter the size, age, or specific variety. In general, it is preferred to have at least some Hi present on the fins and cheeks.

After checking the general guidelines, like symmetrical fins and a proportional body, and then checking on the symmetry and consistency of the reticulation, judges will then move onto other criteria specific to Asagi koi. For example, most Asagi should not have any Hi markings that extend above the lateral line, with the exception of Hi Asagi and Asagi Sanke. For these two, the balance and symmetry of the Hi on the rest of the body will be judged carefully. As Hi tends to spread as Asagi age, young Asagi will be judged more favorably if their Hi is low on the belly. If it’s already higher up, there is a greater chance of it extending beyond the lateral line. Ideally, Hi should exist low, rather than high, on the fins, and more toward the base of the tail, as well.

One of the most unique things about Asagi is that, when young, the skin and scales on their head are see-through, allowing their skull to be visible. This always goes away, but when judging Asagi this young, judges will look for a clear or white nose without markings, as this is a good indicator that the Asagi will grow to have no or very few blemishes on the head. As adults, most Asagi will be judged on having a blemish-free, light bluish-grey head with no markings except possibly Hi on the cheeks or forehead, depending on the variety.

To learn more about judging criteria for specific koi varieties, check out our other koi guides here!


Keeping Asagi – Health, Growth & Diet

1) Asagi Water Quality

Brightly colored Asagi, as with any more vibrant koi, will show some obvious signs if water quality is off. We say “obviously” because you will be able to visually tell by looking at your Asagi if your parameters are off. For example, a diet too high in color enhancers, like spirulina, will cause any white portions on the Asagi to take on more of a yellow tint. It can also cause off-color orange spotting in Asagi with significant Hi coloration, such as Hi Asagi or Asagi Sanke. Water that has a higher KH (water hardness) and pH often results in Asagi with darker, inkier-looking scales, though this may be a desired effect for some.

Like most koi, Asagi needs are best met when water temperature is 50° F to 78° F (10° C-25° C), pH is between 7.5 & 8.5, dissolved oxygen is above 7 parts per million (ppm), salinity is kept very low between .05 & .15 parts per trillion (ppt), and there are only 75 to 100 ppm of total dissolved solids (TTDS), such as metals, minerals, salts, and sulfates.


2) Price of Asagi

Asagi koi can be quite variable in price, depending on size on variety. Small (less than six inches) Asagi can be purchased for under $50, while more mature (greater than 12 inches) Asagi may go for several hundred or even thousands of dollars depending on the variety. Gin Rin Asagi are among the most expensive, as their reticulation combined with metallic scales gives them a rather diamond-like appearance. Asagi with perfect symmetry of both reticulation and coloring (Hi not extending beyond lateral line, some Hi on fins, dark scale centers, clear and bright head, etc.) can also go for well over $1,000. Hi Asagi are often on the slightly cheaper end, as they are sometimes not seen as true Asagi by enthusiasts.


3) Asagi Temperature

Some argue that water temperature plays a role in the appearance of any koi, including Asagi. Apparently, colder water lends to darker red or blue coloration, while warmer waters lend to less vibrant hues, though these findings can also be influenced by diet. One study found total skin carotenoids in koi to be highest when water temperatures were between 21 and 24 degrees Celsius. This could be related to changes in fish metabolism as temperatures shift, and resultantly how they absorb nutrients that impact coloration. One theory is that colder water slows the metabolism, so those nutrients stay in the fish’s system longer even though feeding occurs less frequently.

As mentioned previously, Asagi prefer water temperatures between 50° F to 78° F, or 10° C to 25° C. Additionally, make sure that your pond has varying depths to allow for your Asagi, and any other koi, to swim to different depths to help naturally regulate their body temperature as needed.


4) Asagi Diet

Asagi are direct descendants of Magoi carp, lending them fairly tough dispositions and immune systems provided inbreeding hasn’t been an issue. Asagi possess dietary needs that are the same as most other koi, but if coloration or showing your Asagi is of concern to you, you may consider color enhancers. Foods with supplemented astaxanthin, spirulina, and/or guanine may be more useful for Asagi, as these have been found to particularly amplify blue and purple coloration. Keep in mind that feeding too many color enhancers, as mentioned above, may cause white portions of the koi to appear more yellow.


How to Breed Asagi Koi

If you’re looking to breed your Asagi for the purpose of obtaining a specific variety or pattern, do keep in mind that this can be tricky. Simply due to the nature of genetics, and the incredible amount of chance and nuance involved in coloration alone, it is very difficult to obtain exactly what you’re looking for with any koi breed, unless you’re a professional with an established line of Asagi.

As Asagi are one of the foundational koi varieties from which many others are bred, and they are direct descendants of the Asagi magoi, they can be somewhat easier to breed than other koi varieties. However, there is a great deal of nuance involved in genetics, and it takes considerable time, selectivity, and chance even for professional breeders to obtain exact Asagi varieties.


What is the Cost of Asagi & Where to Buy Them?

kanoko asagi koi price
Asagi koi can be quite variable in price. Striking and rare Kanoko Asagis like this one are typically well over $1,000. Photo by KoiQuestion / CC BY-SA 2.0

As mentioned previously, Asagi can be quite variable in price depending on their age/size, and variety. Juvenile Asagi, like most juvenile koi, are generally quite affordable, usually below $50, while adult Asagi, just as with any adult koi, will always be pricier and generally around a couple of hundred dollars. Hi Asagi will tend to be on the lower end of the price range, as it’s not generally desired for Asagi to have Hi extending past their lateral line, while highly sought-after and more difficult to breed types like Gin Rin Asagi can be several thousand dollars for an adult, and a few hundred for a juvenile.

As with any koi, these prices are quite variable and depend on the seller and location. We encourage you to check with your local breeder or a reputable online breeder for more exact information. Be sure to purchase Asagi, or koi of any type for that matter, only from reputable breeders. A reputable breeder should display their credentials on their site. You can also determine whether or not a breeder is ethical and trustworthy by checking out koi forums – word-of-mouth travels fast, and koi owners are happy to provide info on both good and bad breeders.

Oftentimes, cheaper koi come from large fish farms or shady operations that don’t prioritize the health and wellbeing of the fish. Koi from non-reputable sources could be mistreated or have illnesses or parasites from being stocked with too many other fish or not being cared for properly.

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