Language of Koi – Ki Utsuri

Published on January 1, 2011

The Ki Utsuri is a black-based koi with yellow and black markings wrapping the body in stripes or checkerboard style. It’s one of the more unique looking koi types, always attracting attention. The comment I hear most often from customers is ‘Wow, that koi looks like a bumblebee!”

The Ki Utsuri is one of the three primary Utsuri types: the Shiro Utsuri, which is black and white, and is the most refined of the three; the Hi Utsuri, which is black and orange, and then the Ki Utsuri which is actually the least refined of the Utsuri. It’s the least refined in that the lineage or gene pool hasn’t been moved forward in attempts at improving color quality and body quality like the Shiro Utsuri.

The Shiro Utsuri has been refined primarily by default as in the main refinement of Shiro Utsuri coming about as a byproduct of Showa breeding and refinement for koi show competition, and from this breeders have further refined Shiro Utsuri lines. This refinement has produced Shiro Utsuri with stunning lacquer black patterning and razor sharp lines between white and black. The Ki Utsuri and Hi Utsuri tend to have a more flat charcoal black, and it’s common for them to develop small black specks within the yellow or orange patterning. Because of the refinement of Shiro Utsuri it’s hard for Ki Utsuri to compete head to head with them in koi shows. The Ki Utsuri holds its own though in the pond as a uniquely beautiful Koi that always grabs attention.

The Ki Utsuri comes in two types: a standard skin yellow and black, and a metallic skin yellow and black, which is called a Kin Ki Utsuri (Picture A), Kin being the metallic skin, and Ki being the yellow, and Utsuri being the black base. Ki Utsuri and Kin Ki Utsuri are easy to sell when the colors are up and popping bright but the higher quality slower developing young Ki Utsuri can be very difficult to sell simply because they are drab looking, and because many new koi keepers simply don’t understand the process of color development and maturity in Koi.

The Ki Utsuri babies in this tub (Picture B) are among my highest quality, and command a higher price than standard quality Ki Utsuri. They are what I label ‘future fish’ or koi that develop their colors slowly over a few years. These koi will start looking good with the yellow and black coloration thickening and solidifying at 2 years old to 4 years old, and the colors will keep improving over many years. So when choosing Ki Utsuri to retail you’ll want to make the decision as to which type, metallic or non-metallic, and which quality range your customer base will buy, bright and colorful when young, or the more slow developing higher quality future fish.

The color yellow in koi does better without a lot of color enhancing feed. A Ki Utsuri that is fed foods high in color enhancers such as spirulina can develop orange spots within the yellow patterning, and the yellow color in general can be pushed more toward orange with foods high in color enhancers. The black color will show itself more vividly in ponds with harder water, higher pH, and with a higher silica content.

If you want to offer your koi and pond customers something unique and exciting, the Ki Utsuri may be just that koi. It’s always popular among beginning to intermediate koi keepers.

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