Sanke – Showa – Kohaku-- Do I have any in my pond?
Sanke, Showa, Kohaku, what on earth do these names mean? Well, let me tell you, they are color patterns, and these three color patterns are the cornerstone of koi keeping. They are almost always found in any serious koi keepers pond. So how do you know which is which? Let’s start by identifying some terms of what we want to look for.
Quick Definitions of Colors
Shiroji White, the cleaner and more pure the white, the more desirable the fish will be.
Hi (or Beni) The red spots, bright, deep red spots are preferred over orange-red.
Sumi Black spots, the deeper and more solid black, the more desirable the fish will be.
Sanke The Sanke and Showa both are koi that are red, black and white, but which is which? A sanke will have white base color for the body. This white body begins at the nose and goes all the way to the tail, including the fins. It should be clear and white with no discolorations. The hi on a sanke tends to be a bit more orange than fire-engine red, and should be a nice prominent pattern down the body with patches of shiroji in between. The sumi on a sanke should be less than the hi, mainly a few accenting small black patches on the body. No sumi should be present on the face, or in front of the eyes, only hi or shiroji on the head of the fish.
Showa So how is a Showa different? This fish will have a black base color for its body, and will have red and white accents. What defines a black base color is black will be somewhere on the head. Beni and sumi are dominant, where the shiroji is more of an accent here. Showa will always have some sumi on their heads or in front of their eyes. The patterns seem to wrap around the fish more than a sanke, showing more sumi and hi than shiroji. There are also classic showa vs modern showa. The classic showa has more hi and shiroji, and the hi tends to be more orange in color. A modern showa has only a little shiroji, and the hi is definitely a deeper red.
Kohaku The easiest to tell between these three, a kohaku has only two colors, white and red. There are other fish which look similar to a kohaku (kujaku, hariwake, kikusui and goromo), and we can discuss them in a future post. The best looking kohaku will have a bright and blemish free white background with a nice red pattern laid on top. The three basic varieties of kohaku are Nidan (two red patches), Sandan (three red patches) and Yondan (4 red patches). There are many other varieties as well, but these are the basics.
Conclusion We hope this helps you to identify which fish are in the pond in the backyard. For us, part of the fun was searching for specific patterns that we liked, always looking for that perfect specimen. For others, just having a variety of colors and types in their pond is what they want, meanwhile some pond keepers like to be able to tell their friends what each fish is called.