Language of Koi: Asagi and Shusui (the Blue Koi)

1_blue_koi_asagi_babiesAre your customers requesting blue Koi?

Are you asking yourself, ”Do they make a fish that’s blue?”

Asagi (ah-saw-geeē) or Shusui (shoo-se-eeē) are blue koi and your answer to fulfilling the customer’s desire for blue koi.

Features of Asagi

Asagi are one of the original types of koi developed from the ancestral Magoi approximately 200 years ago. They are fairly plain koi when compared to other varieties. They are simple non-metallic, fully scaled koi, mostly blue in color with hi (red) accents. Asagi lack the spectacular patterns and vibrant colors of fish in the other koi classifications. Due to the lack of pattern Asagi are sometimes considered dull, or not beautiful. But rest assured, a top-notch Asagi demands your attention.

What to Look For in Asagi

Head: The head should be a uniform color, ranging from white to slight blue. A good Asagi should have no gray shadows, black smudges, or spots on the head. A clean and clear white head is often what separates a Champion Asagi from the rest.

Body: The Asagi scalation should be impeccable. Five to six rows of even blue scales is ideal. These scales should have blue centers with a very light blue-to-white rim, which makes a net-like pattern over the entire body. This net-like pattern is commonly referred to as reticulation. Having a clearly defined contrast between the two colors is what to look for. Watch for even coloration of scales and complete reticulation throughout.

Hi Accents: Hi on Asagi generally appears more orange than red, but the redder the better. The hishould also be free of dark spots and should be symmetrical at each position. The hi on Asagi should be visible in three locations; the cheeks, along the sides of the body and the fin joints. Hi on the cheeks may reach up and around the eyes but should not go higher on the head. Hi on the sides of the koi should extend from the lateral line downward and may connect with the hi on the cheeks or jaws. Asagi should still retain a white abdomen. A good Asagi will have hi in the fin joints, and is most desired in the pectoral joints (moto-aka).

If you see all of these attributes, white head, consistent blue color, distinct reticulation, symmetrical hi, as well as great conformation, then you are looking at an outstanding Asagi!

Features of Shusui

Shusui are non-metallic blue colored koi with hi accents much like Asagi. Shusui were developed in the early 1900’s by breeding Asagi with Doitsugoi, German scaled carp. They are the Doitsu version of Asagi although the two look completely different. Shusui have scales only down the middle of their back and along the lateral line rather than being covered completely with scales. The lack of scales reveals light blue skin on their back and is the reason they are sometimes referred to as ‘blue-backs.’

What to Look For in Shusui

Head: As in Asagi, the head of Shusui should be a clean and clear uniform color ranging from white to slight blue and free of discoloration or dark spots. Shusui may occasionally exhibit hi pattern on the head or face.

Body: Shusui are not fully scaled. They have large scales on the dorsal line from the base of the head to the tail, and also along the lateral line. The scales should be very neatly aligned and deep blue-to-gray in color. Occasionally you can find clumps of scales at the base of the head. The contrast between the dark scales and light colored skin is very attractive and dramatic. Symmetry is key when evaluating doitsu scales. Try to find Shusui without missing scales, or bare spots, in their row of doitsu scales.

Hi Accents: The hi of Shusui is generally redder than the hi on Asagi, but placement is similar. It should be present on the cheeks, sides and the fin joints. The cheeks or jaws should display hi and it may extend onto the head. An interesting pattern is preferred when hi appears on the head. Hi placed above the lateral line on the back is perfectly acceptable, actually expected. Most importantly hi should be apparent on the pectoral fins. Tight hi markings at the fin joint are preferred over hi stripes. Many times you can also see hi in the tail and dorsal joints on Shusui.

Overall you have two options when it comes to finding blue koi for your customers, Asagi or Shusui.

Selling Asagi

When selling Asagi, there are key features that set them apart from most other koi. The most prominent is the detail of the scalation. Asagi scales benefit from close examination.

When showing a customer an Asagi, bowl the koi, then gently gather the koi in your hands, holding gently but securely, and bring it to the front edge of the bowl where you can control it comfortably. Hold the koi and gently bring it to the surface bringing the back up out of the water. In this position you can point out the blue color and the lighter edging present on the edges of each scale clearly. Comment on the degree of uniformity of the markings on the scales. The more even the scalation the better. You may want to compare the scalation between two Asagi, to detect and draw out your customer’s preferences, and build a desire for a particular favorite.

The blue on the scales can range from rather bright to grey or black in color. Asagi tend to darken as they mature.

Note the red that begins at the lateral line and covers the belly. Ideally the red markings should be symmetrical. Note the red on the base of the pectoral fins and on the cheeks, and how it balances out the red on the belly. Usually koi vary and some will have better scalation than others, better red than others, cleaner heads than others. Use these traits to impress upon your client the unique, one of a kind nature of the koi you have for sale. Pointing out these traits will help your customer feel good about choosing one over another, and come to a buying decision.

Customers having learned something new and interesting about the koi, can now tell their friends when they show the koi off in their pond.

3 Responses to Language of Koi: Asagi and Shusui (the Blue Koi)

  1. Mary January 25, 2017 at 11:46 PM #

    A local store has low quality koi sold for lily ponds. Recently I’ve noticed scaleless baby blue koi with no Hi at all. They had no idea what kind of koi they were. Seaching the web I found pictures of similar Koi listed as Shusui with the notation they would normally be culled. Is this something you have encountered? They are very pretty to me.

  2. Lora Lee Gelles January 26, 2017 at 10:43 AM #

    From the author, Ellen Kloubec:
    It is difficult to correctly identify any koi without a photograph, however, it sure sounds like you are describing a Shusui that is missing the Hi on its sides. Some are very blue when young. Ideally they should have some red (Hi) below the lateral line on and on the edges of their face. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” If you like it, you should buy it.

  3. Jan Griffiths August 19, 2018 at 12:54 PM #

    Asagi are my favorite Koi. We have a rectangular above-ground pool that we converted to a Koi pond. We have at least 10 Asagi, as well as several Tancho, which is another favorite of mine. We also have other beautiful Koi that I can’t think of the names right now. I love going out in the yard to feed and admire them. Our fish were bought as babies, and it’s been fun seeing them grow and change through the years.

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