We are often asked why is this koi €20 and that one €2000? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to the question of “how much is a Koi?” As a start, there is a huge variety of different types of Koi available to buy, beginning with around 22 main types of Koi of different colours, shapes and styles. While some Koi are sold for €20 – €100, others are sold for thousands of Euros, with top level specimens from Japan costing in excess of €300,000.00!
A new record auction price of ¥203,000,000 (€1,545,951.75) was set in October of 2018 for a 101cm Kohaku from Sakai Fish Farm.
The previous auction record was ¥41,000,000 (€344,000.00) and was set in Ocotber of 2015 for a 71cm Maruten Sanke from Sakai Fish Farm.
Many believe that the price of a koi is determined simply by the size of the koi. This is totally wrong. Size is probably one of the least important aspects when pricing koi.
Things which determine the price of a koi are:
- Overheads & Bio-Security
There are koi measuring 70cm that are sold for €100 and then there are 70cm koi that are sold for €300,000.00+ as seen above.
In 2014 a Momotaro Nisai Showa of 57cm sold for ¥26,000,000 (€177,000.00)
Koi Judging Criteria
It is difficult to sum up what makes a koi valuable, but the best place to start is the koi show judging standards as these will dictate the value of a koi. Koi shows are similar to dog or horse shows. It’s a competition were the koi are viewed and judged by a group of experts. Numerous winners are chosen in each category then in turn the Grand Champion. Just like in other animal shows, the judges use a very specific, even rigid, set of standards to judge the koi.
There are typically 3 Main categories in determining koi quality.
1. BODY CONFORMATION (40 Points)
2. COLOUR (20 Points)
3. PATTERN (20 Points)
Body confirmation, colour and pattern are objective elements. A remaining 20 points are awarded for subjective elements such as deportment, dignity & elegance and even behaviour.
CONFORMATION OR BODY SHAPE
High quality begins with the overall shape and condition of the koi, or its conformation. High quality koi should have no defects in body shape. The body must be balanced, symmetrical and torpedo-shaped. The fins should be in proportion to the body and even.
The symmetry of the head, shoulders, mid-section, tail, and pectoral fins are taken into account, as well as the integrity of the eyes and mouth. An ideal koi has an absolutely straight line from the snout to the tail. The proper proportion should be maintained between the body, head, and the fins. The distance between the dorsal fin and the tail should be 1/3 the distance between the head and the first ray of the dorsal fin. The head should be smooth, with no pits or indentations.
Breeders and judges look for intensity and purity of colour – whether the Koi are all white, all black, or richly patterned. Borders between colours should be well-marked and distinct. The saturation of colour, its consistency and how well the colours are separated determine the quality of the colour. Without good colour, the pattern of the fish is not as appealing and the value of the fish is lessened. The skin should be free from any blemish and be lustrous. Black markings should be dark and defined, as if they were painted with a fine brush. White areas should be pure silky and free from speckles. The edges of the colours should be crisp and not show fading. Colours that bleed together are not desired in most koi. On certain varieties of koi, such as Kohaku, the edges of the red coloration come under high scrutiny by show judges.
When koi only have one colour, there cannot be a judgment given for pattern so the 20 points are applied elsewhere such as the intensity of the colour.
Koi patterns are rich and varied. Judges and breeders look for fish with sharp, distinct pattern edges. When viewed from above, the pattern must be interesting, attractive and distinct. The ideal is to have the pattern bilaterally symmetrical.
In addition to the 3 main categories mentioned above, the price is also influenced to a certain degree by the bloodline of the koi.
While Koi are often produced for the pet trade without much attention paid to selective breeding, Koi breeding is a serious business for some people, who seek to produce specific traits among their fish or develop particular bloodlines. Just as is the case with pedigree dogs and cats, top quality Koi and Koi from desirable bloodlines or show winning stock will cost exponentially more to buy than a random Koi from a pet shop or garden centre that is considered to be simply a common fish.
SIZE OF A KOI
When looking at the size of a koi in determining price, this must be made in conjunction with the judging categories mentioned above but also the age of a koi. You have koi who at 1 year old (tosai) are over 35cm and then you have 3-4 year old koi at 35cm. This is where the bloodline or genes of the koi come in to play and why it is important to know where the koi comes from. For this reason, more expensive koi will come with their own certificate of bloodline just like pedigree dogs.
Shipping, Overheads & Bio-Security
Another factor which influences the final price of a specific koi are the shipping costs, overheads of the dealer and cost for bio-security.
Shipping koi from Japan to Cyprus is rather pricey and quite often a risky situation. On average the koi will spend 30 hours in a plastic bag. In many instances some do not survive the long journey. The cost of lost koi is usually added to the surviving koi.
Once the koi arrive and unpacked, they do require a minimum of 30 days in quarantine. This involves heat ramping and numerous treatments due to the stress of the long journey. The costs of treatments and heat ramping are added to the final price of the koi.
In addition, agents in Japan do not sell koi individually. A minimum order amount is generally required. As Cyprus is a small market, the dealer needs to take into account the costs of maintaining the large quantity of koi (food, water, electricity, treatments) until the koi are sold.
As you can see, all of the above add up to determine the final price of a koi.
Deciding what kind of koi you wish to buy, and how concerned you are with bloodline, colour, pattern and overall quality, will dictate where you will need to shop to find your perfect koi! If you just want to buy a pretty fish of a relatively small size and young age that will grow to maturity under your care, you should find it fairly easy to shop for them at aquatic centres, pet shops and water garden centres with prices generally ranging from €2-€100.
However, if you intend to keep high quality koi you will need to find a good and reputable specialist koi dealer.
What your decision really comes down to, though, is what you like best and how much you are willing to spend!