The Dramatic Beauty of Doitsu Koi

Published on February 24, 2022

Doitsu Showa is a real eye-catcher, “the twins” strut their stuff.

Doitsu koi are gaining in popularity with backyard pond owners. These koi without scales truly are a beautiful addition to any koi pond or collection. They stand out brilliantly in pond water due to the absence of scales, bright colors and a dramatic overall appearance. Metallic-variety Doitsu koi usually have dazzling iridescent skin, which can be mesmerizing. Many large Doitsu koi also display a sense of power, making them even more outstanding. 

What is Doitsu?

By definition, Doitsu refers to koi with no scales other than enlarged scales along the lateral and dorsal lines. 

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In the early 1900s, Japanese koi were crossed with German mirror carp, a common food source. German mirror carp have large, shiny scales and stout bodies. Some of their traits became apparent in a percentage of the offspring. Those koi with non-traditional and alternative scalation quickly became known as Doitsu, the Japanese word for “Deutsch,” or German. Since that time, koi have evolved and been crossbred to produce Doitsu versions of all koi varieties. 

Several types of Doitsu scalation have evolved as the result of breeders’ attention to scale development. All are commonly referred to as Doitsu, (DOYT-zoo). 


These young koi of multiple varieties have several things in common — Doitsu scales and iridescent metallic skin.

There are three types of Doitsu recognized today. Kawagoi refers to leather-back carp, with no scales along the lateral line (flank) and only very small scales on the dorsal line (back). Kamamigoi, or mirror carp, have large, symmetrical scales along both the lateral and dorsal lines. Finally, scales of Yorogoi may appear on the dorsal line, with the addition of scales elsewhere, often appearing random or jumbled — reminiscent of a warrior’s armor.

There are many koi varieties, and all can be produced with Doitsu scales — even butterfly koi. Doitsu koi are the scaleless equivalent of all other koi varieties. Often the Doitsu koi appear remarkably bright, with very sharp patterns and crisp definition between their colors. These effects are achieved because the pigments are not blurred by traditional scales lying overtop the colors. 

When a koi has Doitsu scalation rather than traditional “all-over” scales, the word Doitsu becomes part of the koi’s variety name as a prefix (e.g., Doitsu Kohaku, Doitsu Yamabuki Ogon, Doitsu Shiro Utsuri). The exception to the rule is when it becomes a separate variety altogether, as in the case of Shusui or Kumonryu. 

Some varieties are always Doitsu, such as Kikusui, Shusui, Kumonryu, Kikokuryu, Beni Kikokuryu and Heisei Nishiki. Shusui is the only Doitsu variety to have a separate classification for judging purposes. Most all other Doitsu koi fall into the general Doitsu class unless they’re a member of the Kawarigoi class. So in most cases, Doitsu koi will compete against fully-scaled koi of the same variety. 

What To Look For

Doitsu koi of many varieties, including butterfly, are bred at Klou-bec Koi Farm.

First and foremost, buy a koi that you like or are drawn to. If you decide to scrutinize the fish to decide among several koi for a potential purchase, follow these steps.

First, look at the scales. (Yes, you need to evaluate the scales on a scaleless fish!) Look closely at the scales that are present. Uniformity is the key. Look for well lined-up or symmetrical scales on the dorsal and lateral lines. Scales should be neat, balanced and orderly. Ideally there should be no random or misplaced scales. Doitsu scales are sometimes called a zipper due to the visual similarity. 

Next, assess the colors and patterns on the fish, just as you would with all other varieties, especially if you intend to enter your Doitsu in a koi show. Colors and markings should be well defined. Look closely at the depth and consistency of each color. Patterns should be interesting and may be judged using the same method as you would traditional scaled koi. 

Evaluate the skin quality and shine. If the Doitsu koi is a metallic variety, vibrancy of the skin is very important. Don’t forget to check out the fins and face of the fish. 

Finally, consider the conformation or body shape, disregarding any fish with obvious flaws, defects or damage. Remember that generally the Doitsu types have a thicker or chunkier body than their fully scaled koi cousins. 

There are many very beautiful koi, and just like snowflakes, each one is different. You should purchase what pleases you. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder — and thank goodness for that!

Japanese Koi Kodama

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