Learn about the three families of koi, history and identification - Aqua Whisper (2023)

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Sanke koi have an interesting history. So let's take a closer look at what makes this unique creature so attractive and memorable.

What is Sanke Koi?

Originally known as Taisho Sanshiro or Taisho Sanshiro, most koi enthusiasts today simply refer to them as Sanshiro. But in fact, they are related to amber. Black-spotted koi first appeared in koi spawns in the early 20th century.

What does sank mean?

The word "sanke" means "three colors" in Japanese. Sanke is a three-color koi that comes in white, red and black. It is a white koi with a red pattern and occasional black spots.

What is Wusanjia Koi?

Gosanke (goh-SAHN-keh) 是KeufischThe classification includes three subcategories: Red and White, Sanke, and Showa. This group remains popular among amateur anglers and is often one of the first koi fish to enter a pond or aquarium.

Sankoh Coy Farben

Learn about the three families of koi, history and identification - Aqua Whisper (1)

Sanke's main color is white or Shiroji (translucent Xingji). It starts from the snout and extends to the tail, including the fins. It should be clean, bright and free of discoloration.

collection origin

Eizburo Hoshino was keen to cross one of the female reds with a white koi (a white koi with black markings). The resulting juveniles showed great potential, with the distinctive trifamily colors appearing in roughly equal numbers, and a new species emerged.

Since the first Sanke koi were exhibited at the Tokyo Exposition in 1914, it has been a popular pet.

Since then, these beautiful koi have captured the hearts of breeders and occasional owners alike, and Trinidad koi are household names in shows and ponds around the world. The colors and markings of the three families make them uniquely different from other koi fish.

How big can Sanke koi grow?

Three-family koi can grow 2 to 3 feet long and weigh 35 to 40 pounds. They are hardy cold water fish that thrive in temperatures between 15 and 25°C.

The nature of the three subjects

Learn about the three families of koi, history and identification - Aqua Whisper (2)

Sanke koi are the first three-color (white, red, black) koi. It is the second of the "Big Three" (Hongbai, Sanke, and Showa) koi, also known as Wu Sanke. They are white koi with large "hi" (red) and smaller "mo" (black) markings evenly distributed across their bodies.

Whites should be pure white and glossy, like reds and whites, and red (Hi) markings should be rich in color and well defined. A cuttlefish should be a deep black color, but in juvenile koi it will often turn light blue or gray before it is fully developed.

To create an attractive pattern, the ink should be evenly distributed on the body. While ink can appear on hi (red) skin or white skin, Sanke very much wants ink to appear on white skin.

In Japanese, red on Sanke is called "hi" (he) or "beni" (ben-ny). Beni is more of an orange red than a true fire engine red. Sanke is characterized by large reddish-orange spots which are the basis of its color pattern, with a white base visible between beni spots.

Black or Sumi (sue-me) is Sanke's unique shade. Sankers usually have dark spots or inky markings, which are smaller compared to Great Penny's spots. Sumi is the accent color, while beni and shiroji are the main colors of the sanke.

Sanke's head often has only two colors: white and red, without ink. However, the face should be white, as this is where the main beni pattern begins.

There are many similarities between Sanke and Showa. In addition to the three colors, both are non-metallic members of the Gosanke group and are made of Doitsu and Ginrin scale variants.

Worse, they can look very similar at a young age, and it can take years to complete. So it's no surprise that most people have trouble distinguishing them, especially at first glance.

Learn about the three families of koi, history and identification - Aqua Whisper (3)

What is the difference between Showa Koi and Sanke Koi?

Ink on the head is the most obvious difference between Sanke and Showa. Sanke's head often has only two colors: white and red, without ink. On the other hand, the head of the Showa should be all three colors, including black. The eye-catching Showa pattern begins on the face.

Learn about the three families of koi, history and identification - Aqua Whisper (4)

This is a key difference between sangram and showa ink, which is usually much larger and reaches the waist. Trifamily pectoral fins usually have black stripes, but they should not have "motoguro" - the black patch at the base of the pectoral fin.

Learn about the three families of koi, history and identification - Aqua Whisper (5)

Here are some key differences:

  • Sanke is white with red and black elements. The Showa, on the other hand, is black with red and white accents.
  • Sanke lines generally appear on the back, while Showa lines surround the entire body.
  • Sank's face is usually red and white. Showa, meanwhile, typically includes all three shades.

Patterns found in the common triad

Small, rare, or single ink spots are characteristic of three families. To reinforce the Benny pattern, a single spherical black spot randomly appears above the lateral line of the koi's back. Individual dots of ink indicate the uniqueness of the Sanke.

The pectoral fins of Sanke are as clear and bright as the color of the base. The pectoral fins are predominantly white; however, some ink streaks may appear here and there to enhance the pattern. It is not uncommon for a Sumi to have only one pectoral fin, and it is suitable for a Sanke. Also note the black line on the left dorsal fin.

Doitsu Sanke's design is beautiful and completely out of scale. Notably, there are no black spots on the head. This produces exceptionally fine color fringing [Kiwa] which is very attractive.

The Gin Rin Sanke is a magnificent fish that looks almost too perfect to be true. The inks are arranged like stepping stones in an incredible design. Sanke should have a strong underlying amber pattern with an inky focus on the shoulders. Black should not appear below the borderline, confirmation is essential.

For Aka Sanke, it's a single, solid red design with no breaks. This three-subject style is becoming more and more popular.

Terms used by Sanke

Here are descriptions, words, and expressions commonly used to describe the three families of koi (source:pond expert)。

  • aka – (AH kah) Rot
  • Aka Sanke (AH khe SAHN keh) Sanke with a large area of ​​Hi (red) and no breaks in the pattern
  • 又名 hana – (AH kah HAH nah) Rote Nase
  • Bozu - (boh ZOO) no hello bald guy
  • Ginrin or Gin-Rin - (refined) refers to glistening scales
  • Hachi – (HAH chee) 头
  • Hara – (hah RAH) abdominal area
  • Hello – (HEE) red term
  • Ippon hi - (EE pohn HEE) solid red pattern from head to tail
  • Kasane sumi – (KAH saw neh SOO mee) black mark (sumi) on red pattern
  • Kuchibeni – (KOO chee BEN eee) Rote Lippen
  • Menkaburi - (MEHN kah BOO ree) Hi (red) to cover the entire face or head
  • Motoaka – (MOH toh AH kah) red markings on base of pectoral fins
  • Motoguro - (MOH toh GOO raw) Black markings on base of pectoral fins
  • Nezu – (NEH Zoo) light gray
  • Odome - (oh DOH meh) the last mark before the tail
  • Ojime - (oh my god) the gap between the last pattern mark and the tail
  • Sanke - (SAHN keh) white koi with hi (red) and sumi (black) patterns.
  • Shiro – (SHEE raw) white
  • Sumi – (SOO mee) 施瓦茨
  • Tancho sanke – (TAHN Choh) has a tall (red) spot on the head and a uniquely marked sanke on the body
  • Tsubo sumi – (TSOO boh SOO mee) Black patterns (sumi) on white skin.


While the Sankei koi has a simpler design than other koi species such as asagi or hikarimoyo, it is still quite attractive and can be seen in almost any koi broodstock tank. Additionally, the red, white, and black combination makes this koi an attractive and popular member of the koi family.


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