How Much Are Koi Fish Worth? (Koi Price Chart & Comparison)


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How Much Are Koi Fish Worth? (Koi Price Chart & Pricing Comparison)

A group of koi fish at the water's surface
The value of koi is based on many factors such as color, body shape, size, and more. Mark Doliner / CC BY-SA 2.0

A few years ago, the world of koi was shaken by a phenomenal record sale. A perfect Kohaku koi sold for $1.8 million! It was a large, 9-year-old specimen with bright, red-orange splotches over a flawless white bodice. This female fish was so enchanting that Japanese artists decided to immortalize her in a beautiful illustration, which was displayed during the historical auction.

If you have been dreaming of acquiring your own koi, fret not, for not every koi costs a million dollars. In fact, that wrinkled old 20-dollar bill that has been sitting in your wallet might just get you a decent fish from a reputable pet store. Though not every koi is valued the same, you can be certain that each one has sprung from a rich cultural history and can bring far greater aesthetic value to your pond.

Symbolic of prosperity and longevity, koi are relatively expensive compared to other pond fish. There are many factors that affect their value. These include, but are not limited to, color, genetics, body shape, age, and sex. The more attractive and larger the fish, the more expensive the price. Breeding plays a large role in defining the value of koi. While most domesticated varieties in the US and Europe are accessibly priced, those bred by experts in Japan can easily be worth more than a car!


KOI PRICE CHART

ShopSourcePriceKoi Features/Type
PetcoUS fish farms$10 – $17Domestic grade-A type
LiveaquariaStandard-quality East Asian farms$8 – $202 – 5 inches, imported grade-A type
Next Day KoiIsrael$35 – $650Large butterfly koi
Kloubec KoiAdvanced koi quarantine facilities (US)$350 – $2500Large to extra-large koi with rare patterns
Kodama Koi FarmJapan-based facilitiesBids up to $16000Grade-AAA koi, large to jumbo-sized koi with breeding certification
Sakai Fish Farm (auction-based)JapanBids up to $200,000Grade-AAA koi, large to jumbo-sized; Grand Champion contenders

Local pet store chains with online sale platforms, such as Petco and Liveaquaria, usually carry locally-bred or imported grade-A koi with regular fin types. These are the cheapest options for koi, but selected individuals can grow to be quite attractive. Unlike the large to jumbo varieties bred by top-quality farms, these grade-A types rarely exceed a maximum length of 15 inches (38 cm).

The most expensive koi are those of rare genetic lineages. These are exclusively bred in top-quality facilities in Japan and are sold via online or live auctions. The highest-priced individuals tend to be large or jumbo-sized upon sale, which means they have been cared for by the source facilities for many years. Some of these facilities produce fish that become contenders in a prestigious annual event, the All Japan Koi Show, that showcases some of the most highly-valued nishikigoi (Japanese for “living jewels”) in the world.


Factors That Affect the Value of Koi

1) Color & pattern

Tancho Kohaku koi
Koi that resemble the Japanese flag (Tancho Kohaku, pictured) are highly sought after in Japan. KoiQuestion / CC BY-SA 2.0

Centuries of koi breeding have generated fish with stunning colors and patterns. Some koi can appear to have been painted by oriental artists wielding vivid pigments and supremely soft brushes. Neon red-orange, stark black, and a glowing white base is a highly sought-after combination of colors. A solid metallic yellow, shiny grey, or pure white fish are also valued.

Koi that resemble the Japanese flag (‘Tancho Kohaku’) are regarded as highly auspicious and are sought after in Japan. These fish have pure white bodies and a single large bright red spot on their heads. Koi breeders tend to select for sexually mature koi that are more likely to produce offspring with their desired colors. This artificial form of selection is partly what has isolated highly valuable traits in just a handful of expensive koi breeds.


2) Genetics

Taisho Shanshoku koi
A perfect Sanke koi (pictured) must have a perfect white base without a single hint of yellow. KoiQuestion / CC BY-SA 2.0

The most expensive koi fish, and those that become champion fish in international shows, have genetic lineages that can be traced back over several generations. Gosanke is the most valued koi breed, and it includes the following main varieties: Sanke (Taisho Sanshoku), Showa (Showa Sanshoku), and Kohaku. Many of the most advanced and traditional Japanese farms exclusively breed these highly popular varieties in the race to produce koi that are no less than perfect.

Koi competitions and auctions observe strict rules when it comes to placing a value on these breeds. For example, a perfect Sanke koi must have a solid white base completely devoid of any hints of yellow. A Kohaku, on the other hand, must have red markings that are not just vibrant but are well-defined along the edges. These varieties themselves are classified further based on tiny details of patterns and where they occur along the fish’s body. Usually, the rarer the features, the more expensive the fish.

The cheaper domestic varieties that can easily be acquired through your local pet store or through non-specialized online fish shops can be more difficult to classify under a specific breed. These koi generally have mixed parentage and have been reared for private pond or tank use rather than for show. However, some domestic koi are nonetheless beautiful and can grow to be stunning individuals.


3) Body shape & fin type

Butterfly koi in a pond
Some koi traditionalists do not consider koi with longer fins as “true koi”. Amy / CC BY 2.0

There’s some controversy behind this factor for pricing in the world of koi enthusiasts. Some traditionalists, especially those in Japan, value the regular fin types as longer fins are considered mutations. If you have a look at Kodama Koi Farm’s roster of koi, you may be hard-pressed to find fish that don’t display the neat, short fins that are characteristic of the most prized breeds.

In the US, however, some breeders favor long-finned koi. They refer to these fish as butterfly koi as their lengthy fins can resemble delicate wings. These fish look dragon-like as even their barbels tend to grow quite long. Those that have attractive colors and patterns are highly valued, but might just be scoffed at by koi purists in Japan. This factor has truly caused some divisiveness, with some purists even doubting the legitimacy of the butterfly-finned varieties as true koi!


4) Size & age

Jumbo koi swimming
Jumbo koi are highly valued & can live considerably long lives with proper care. KoiQuestion / CC BY-SA 2.0

The size of koi, which can be a function of age, considerably affects the price. The Kohaku koi that sold for almost $2M was a behemoth that measured 101 cm (39.8 inches). Unlike pet stores that carry domestic koi, top-quality breeders wait a few years before selling their most prized individuals.

Large and jumbo varieties can be sold at prices that are high enough to outweigh the cost of upkeep for the first few years. They raise the koi for at least 2 – 4 years or until they have reached at least 15 inches (38 cm) long. This is a good way of ensuring customers that the koi are bred from bloodlines that grow quite large, as cheaper varieties rarely reach this length. Moreover, highly valued breeds live considerably long lives (up to 50 years under proper care) as fish, so even a 10-year-old does not become diminished in value.


5) Sex

Female Sanke koi
Female koi tend to grow larger in size & have more rounded fins than males. KoiQuestion / CC BY-SA 2.0

Sexually mature females of highly-valued koi breeds are usually more expensive than males (as demonstrated by Kodama Koi Farm’s fixed-price catalog). They tend to grow larger in size and have rounded fins. Moreover, robust females can produce thousands of viable eggs to ensure their bloodline’s succession. Breeders are extremely picky in their search for the most beautiful and healthy females. It’s no wonder why the most expensive koi ever sold was a jumbo-sized Kohaku female.

The males of top koi breeds are also very expensive, but are generally easier to acquire. When it comes to domestic koi, however, the price of either sex is relatively close. Oftentimes, pet stores will even sell unsexed koi as they can be tricky to sex before they reach maturity.


How Expensive Are Koi Compared to Other Pond Fish?

Top-quality koi are extremely expensive compared to other pond fish. In fact, they are some of the most expensive aquatic animals in the world. The mere fact that collectors are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a single fish goes to show that they are highly valuable. Another reason why koi are so expensive is their supply is very limited relative to the existing demand.

In shops like Petco and Liveaquaria, grade-A koi are offered at a more balanced price compared to other freshwater fish. If what you’re after are the large beauties that are capable of impressing anyone, you will definitely have to look to specialized breeders and dig deeper into your pockets!

11 thoughts on “How Much Are Koi Fish Worth? (Koi Price Chart & Comparison)”

  1. Hi, i have owned Koi for 30 years. I have the following koi ‘ mostly female, that i’m interested in selling. Two are about 2 feet in length and another 3 are about 15 inches in length. Can i ask your advice on the process to sell these. Thanks, Tony D

    Reply
  2. I have 3 Koi, too large for my pond. The largest is about 18 inches, the other two are a little smaller. They are about 3 years old. I don’t know the gender. I’m in the San Franciso Bay Area. How can I go about selling these critters?
    Any idea about their worth…….ball park?

    thanks

    Reply
  3. My cousin lives in china and wanted to know, if he came to U.S.A what would 12 female koi and 5 male koi be worth? anybody know? they are all around 3 years old, he found them in the wild.

    Reply
    • Hi Madie,

      This would vary depending on the exact location in the U.S. and the buyer/seller, as well as the age, size, and condition of the koi. Many koi are sold via online “auctions,” and so prices can significantly vary.

      Reply
  4. I have 2 large koi about 18” and two medium about 12” that are too big for my pond. I don’t know the gender. I’m interested in selling them.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Hi
    Martin here.
    I have a king koi golden yellow. And black. About 28” in length. 5” wide. It’s about 35years old.

    How can I tell the sex? And just generally it’s worth?
    Thanks

    Reply
  6. I bought a home with 5 large ponds on the property in these ponds I found a hand full of massive koi fish they are at least 36 inches long and weigh as much as a person they are very friendly swimming to the side to be petted what are they worth I don’t know the breed but at this size I don’t think it matters..I will sell them to best offer

    Reply
  7. My dad passed away and unfortunately we have to sell his house, he has 4 koi that are currently in his huge pond, I’m looking for places in Lancashire, England that would be willing to buy them and give them a good home

    Reply

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