March 13

Complete Guide to Butterfly Koi Fish: A Popular Variety

Have you ever been mesmerized by the vibrant colors of a koi fish? 

If so, you’ll love the butterfly koi fish, a stunning subspecies of koi fish that is sure to make your aquarium shine.

What Is A Butterfly Koi?

butterfly koi fishes with vibrant colors


Butterfly koi are also known as long fin koi, and they’re considered the most colorful type of Koi on the market. They feature flowing fins that can span over 6 inches and come in various beautiful colors, including orange, yellow, red, black, white, and blue. These colorful fish are sure to make a statement in any aquarium!

Butterfly koi are native to the Far Eastern countries, and while they can survive in many different water environments, they’re most comfortable in warm water. It’s essential to create an ideal habitat for them to thrive, so make sure you have a good filter, an adequate water heater, and plenty of food available.

These fish may look intimidating, but they’re actually quite docile and peaceful. They can coexist with other fish and do best in shoals of 3 or more. They’re omnivores, so they’ll eat practically anything, including flakes, pellets, and live food.

Butterfly koi are a perfect choice if you’re looking to add some color to your aquarium. Not only are they beautiful, but they’re also relatively easy to care for, making them an excellent option for novice fish keepers. Plus, you can expect them to live for up to 25-30 years if you take proper care of them!

Are There Different Varieties of Butterfly Koi?

Yes, there are many different Butterfly Koi types/varieties. 

Let’s discuss them all.

Yamabuki Ogon

This butterfly koi is the most common and widely available of all the several varieties of butterfly koi. Because of its metallic sheen and brilliant yellow coloration, it is an integral part of practically every koi pond.

The Shusui 

One of the only two blue varieties of koi, the Shusui was the first type of Koi to be developed. They are a variant of the Asagi known as Doitsu, which means they scale less.


The body of an Asagi can be either blue or indigo, and they have a red base to their pectoral fins. This particular strain is one of the more ancient forms of koi fish.


The Kohaku is a kind of koi fish that is entirely white in color and has red patterns that are superimposed over the white. It is widely held that the Kohaku variety of koi fish was one of the earliest types of koi fish ever to be formed, and they continue to be one of the most well-liked types even now.


Showa is a stunning kind of butterfly Koi that have the colors white, crimson, and black painted all over its body. 


In the 1920s, during the Taisho era, Sanke, also known as Taisho Sanke, was produced from the Kohaku region. This happened almost eighty years ago. Three colors make up the Taisho Sanke pattern. These colors are white, red/crimson, and black.


    Three distinct color variants may be found in Utsurimono butterfly koi: red/crimson, yellow, and white. It is generally accepted that this particular koi type is among the most stunning looking.

    The History Of The Butterfly Koi

    history of butterfly koi

    The butterfly koi is an ornamental fish that has been bred primarily to have long and flowing fins. The butterfly koi was first bred in Japan in the late 1950s. It was initially created as a variation of the Nishikigoi, or Japanese ornamental carp, which is itself a type of common domesticated carp. In the 1960s, the butterfly koi was further developed in the United States when a few long-finned koi were brought over from Japan.

    In terms of coloration, the butterfly koi usually has a range of vibrant colors, including black, white, red, orange, yellow, blue, and cream. It also has the potential to have color patterns, such as the Kohaku, Sanke, Showa, and Utsuri.

    The butterfly koi is a popular fish in the ornamental fish industry and is a popular choice for those who want to add beauty and elegance to their aquariums. They are also popular for their graceful swimming motions and the peaceful atmosphere they create.

    Caring For Butterfly Koi Fish

    Basic Care Instructions For Butterfly Koi

    These vibrant fish can be a great addition to any aquarium, but they require special care and attention to ensure they remain healthy.

    Are There Differences Between Caring For A Butterfly Koi and Standard Koi?

    Absolutely! Butterfly Koi require more regular maintenance and care than standard Koi.

    • First and foremost, Butterfly Koi Fish need a larger pond than usual. While a standard Koi requires a pond that holds at least 500 gallons, a pond for Butterfly Koi must hold at least 1000 gallons of water. This is to provide the Butterfly Koi with enough space, as they can grow up to 16-18 inches long, compared to the standard Koi’s 14 inches.
    • Additionally, Butterfly Koi need to be fed more often than standard Koi. Since they have larger and more complex bodies, they require more energy to maintain their quality. Butterfly Koi do best when fed a high-protein diet and should be given food twice a day, while standard Koi only need to be fed once a day.
    • The water you use in your pond should also be treated differently for Butterfly Koi. The pH level should be kept between 6.5 and 7.5, slightly lower than what is recommended for standard Koi. Additionally, the water temperature should be kept between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 5 to 10 degrees cooler than what is recommended for standard Koi.
    • Finally, Butterfly Koi require more frequent water changes than standard Koi. The pond should be completely emptied and refilled every two to three weeks, while standard Koi only need a partial water change once a month. This is because Butterfly Koi produce more waste, so their water needs to be changed more often to maintain a clean and healthy environment.

    Basic Care Instructions For Butterfly Koi

    To provide the best care for their koi fish, aquarists should be aware of the following tips:

    1. Provide a large tank with plenty of swimming space. Butterfly koi can grow up to 18 inches in length and should be housed in tanks at least 55 gallons in size.
    2. Ensure proper water quality. Butterfly koi are very sensitive to poor water quality and require an ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite-free environment. Test your water regularly and perform weekly water changes to maintain the ideal conditions.
    3. Provide a varied, high-quality diet. Unlike traditional koi, butterfly koi need a higher-protein diet to support their long fins. Feed them various foods, including flakes, pellets, and frozen or live food, and supplement them with vegetables like spinach and zucchini.
    4. Monitor water temperature and pH. Butterfly koi prefer water temperatures between 70-80°F and a pH of 6.5-7.5.

    By following these tips and providing the best care for their butterfly koi, aquarists can enjoy the beauty and personality of these fish for years to come.

    Butterfly Koi Fish Lifespan

    Butterfly koi can live up to 25-30 years with proper care. These fish can be kept in outdoor ponds, but they should be brought indoors during winter months to protect them from extreme cold. A few factors, including diet, water quality, and overall environment, influence the longevity of these fish.

    A healthy diet is essential for the longevity of butterfly koi. They need a high-protein diet that is supplemented with vegetables like spinach and zucchini. Feed them several times a day and provide a variety of food sources to ensure they get the nutrients they need.

    Maintaining good water quality is also crucial for the health and lifespan of butterfly koi. Ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels should be kept at zero, and pH should remain between 6.5 and 7.5. Test the water regularly and perform weekly water changes to keep the water clean and safe.

    Butterfly koi also need an environment that is free from predators and disease. Keep their tank clean, avoid overcrowding, and provide plenty of swimming space. These fish also need plenty of sunlight, so if they are kept in an indoor tank, ensure they provide them with ultraviolet light.

    How Big Do Butterfly Koi Get?

    Butterfly koi are a long-finned variety of the ever-popular koi fish. They have slightly longer whiskers than their traditional cousins and a body shape that is different from standard koi. On average, these fish grow to be between 12 and 15 inches long, but some have been known to reach 18 inches in length. This makes them slightly longer than standard koi and much thinner in comparison.

    The fins of a butterfly koi will continue to grow throughout their lifetime, unlike traditional koi, which makes them a popular choice among pond owners who want to enjoy the beautiful sight of their fish swimming with flowing fins.

    Are Butterfly Koi Hard To Keep?

    While they can be challenging to keep, butterfly koi are not inherently more difficult to care for than regular koi. Since they have longer fins and more intricate patterns, they require more attention to prevent damage and ensure their fins stay healthy.

    Additionally, they need plenty of space for swimming and food, as their larger size and greater energy demand can make them quite hungry. They also need larger filters to keep their water clean, as their size and waste production can quickly contaminate a smaller tank. Finally, their more varied color patterns may require special lighting and water conditions to remain vibrant and healthy.

    Water Parameters & Water Quality

    Keeping the right water parameters and quality is essential for butterfly koi health. The ideal water temperature for these fish is 72-75°F, the pH should range between 6.5-7.5, and the water hardness should range between 6-25dH.

    It’s also essential to ensure that the water is well-filtered and circulated and that the tank has plenty of oxygen. Regular water changes are also significant, as butterfly koi are particularly sensitive to ammonia and nitrite levels. Finally, be sure to regularly check the ammonia and nitrite levels in the tank, as even small changes can significantly impact your Koi’s health.

    Tank Size

    When it comes to the Butterfly Koi fish tank size, the 75-gallon tank is optimal for them.


    Butterfly koi are omnivores and should be fed a balanced diet that combines plant and animal-based foods. A good diet for a butterfly koi should consist of high-quality fish food pellets, live or frozen meat-based foods like bloodworms or shrimp, and blanched vegetables like lettuce and spinach.

    Additionally, it’s important to give them a variety of foods rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need to stay healthy. Lastly, be sure to feed them small amounts several times a day, as overfeeding can cause serious health issues.

    Are Butterfly Koi Fish Aggressive?

    Aggressive Koi Fishes

    Butterfly koi are generally peaceful and not known to be aggressive. However, they can become territorial if they are kept in a tank that is too small. In a larger tank, however, they will usually get along with other fish species and may even form schools.

    It’s also important to avoid keeping overly aggressive fish species, such as cichlids, with butterfly koi, as they may bully the Koi or even attack them. Lastly, you should also ensure that there are plenty of hiding spots in the tank to give the Koi somewhere to retreat if necessary.

    Breeding and Spawning

    Breeding and spawning butterfly koi are relatively easy if their water conditions are kept optimal and the tank is correctly set up. In order to breed butterfly koi, the tank should be at least 75 gallons, the water should be kept at a temperature of 72-78, and the pH should be between 6.5-7.5.

    It’s essential to provide plenty of hiding spots in the tank and to add a few pieces of driftwood or artificial plants for the Koi to lay their eggs on. Spawning usually occurs between late spring and early summer, and the Koi will lay between 250-400 eggs, hatching in about 5-6 days.

    General Temperament

    Butterfly koi generally have a peaceful temperament and will rarely become aggressive. They are also very active and will spend most of their time swimming around the tank. Unlike other fish species, they are not picky eaters and will eat nearly anything they can fit in their mouths, including fish flakes, live foods, and frozen foods. Due to their peaceful nature, they are a popular choice for community tanks and make good tank mates with other non-aggressive fish species.

    Lack of Space and Overstocking

    One of the biggest mistakes aquarium hobbyists make when keeping butterfly koi is not providing enough space. When kept in too small aquariums, butterfly koi can become stressed and display signs of aggressive behavior. Additionally, it’s important to avoid overstocking the tank; if there are too many fish in the same space, it can lead to overcrowding and can cause the water quality to deteriorate. To prevent these issues, it’s essential to provide each fish with at least 10 gallons of space.

    Injury or Illness

    Like all fish, butterfly koi can become injured or ill from time to time. When this occurs, taking the proper steps to identify and treat the issue is essential. Common signs of injury or illness in butterfly koi include loss of appetite, weight loss, pale or discolored scales, cloudy eyes, white patches, and difficulty swimming.

    If any of these symptoms are present, taking the fish to a veterinarian for a checkup is essential. Also, it’s vital to ensure the tank is kept clean and that the water parameters are within the appropriate range.

    Poor Quality Food

    Feeding butterfly koi with poor-quality food can have a negative effect on their health and growth. Poor-quality food may contain lower levels of essential vitamins and minerals, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies in the fish.

    Also, poor-quality food may contain harmful ingredients that can cause digestive issues and other health problems. To avoid these issues, it’s essential to feed the high-quality fish food that is specifically formulated for Koi. It’s also necessary to provide the fish in moderation and to avoid overfeeding.

    Poor Water Quality

    Poor water quality can significantly impact the health and well-being of butterfly koi. It can cause the fish to become stressed, weakening their immune system and increasing susceptibility to disease.

    Poor water quality can also cause the fish to become poisoned, leading to respiratory distress, skin irritation, and death. To avoid these issues, keeping the tank clean, maintaining the appropriate water parameters, and performing regular water changes are essential.

    High-Stress Levels

    Stress might not only make your butterfly koi fish more prone to sickness, but it can also cause them to behave more aggressively toward one another. By providing the best possible care for them, you can ensure that your koi fish have the least amount of anxiety possible.

    Can Butterfly Koi Live With Regular Koi?

    Yes, butterfly koi can live with regular koi. These fish are very social creatures and actually do better when kept in groups. While it is possible to keep butterfly koi and regular koi together, there are a few points to keep in mind.

    First, it is essential to ensure that the water parameters are suitable for both types of fish. Butterfly koi are more sensitive to changes in water temperature, and quality, so regular water testing and maintenance are essential for both varieties. Second, it is important to provide plenty of space for the fish to swim, as larger fish need more room. Finally, it is essential to keep the tank well-aerated to ensure that there is enough oxygen for the fish to breathe.

    Can Butterfly Koi Live Without An Air Pump?

    Yes, they can live for a short time without an air pump. In general, keeping butterfly koi in a tank without an air pump or other aeration device is not recommended. While they can survive brief periods without oxygen, fish need oxygen to breathe. An aquarium fish can last up to two days without oxygen, but any more than this can have adverse effects on their health and water quality.

    Additionally, fish growth can be stunted or deformed if oxygen levels are consistently low for an extended period, and fish become more susceptible to illness and disease. Therefore, it is essential to have an air pump to keep the oxygen levels in the tank high and keep the fish healthy.

    How To Choose A Butterfly Koi For Your Collection?

    When it comes to selecting a butterfly Koi for your collection, there are a few key factors to consider. The first is size. Butterfly koi can reach sizes up to three feet in length and need plenty of space to thrive. Make sure the tank you are planning to keep the fish in is large enough to accommodate the fish’s growth.

    Second, you should consider color when selecting a butterfly koi. These fish come in various colors and patterns, so think about what will look the best in your aquarium tank.

    Finally, you should also consider the fish’s temperament. Butterfly koi are generally peaceful and non-aggressive, but if you plan to keep them with other fish, make sure to do your research to ensure compatibility.

    How Much Do Butterfly Koi Fish Cost?

    Butterfly koi fish prices vary depending on the fish’s size, color, and age. Generally, smaller koi fish cost less than larger ones, ranging from $12 to $20, while the larger butterfly koi fish can cost around $100 to $300.


    Are Butterfly Koi More Expensive?

    Yes, butterfly koi are generally more costly than traditional koi. This is because they have more intricate and varied colors and patterns, making them rare and valuable. Additionally, they require more care and attention than regular koi, as their longer fins can be easily damaged. Koi fish also have different prices depending on their breed, source, and demand so top-quality butterfly koi can be extremely expensive compared to other pond fish.

    What’s The Difference Between Koi and Butterfly Koi?

    The main difference between koi and butterfly koi is their body structure. Traditional koi have single-tailed fins, while butterfly koi have split or double-tailed fins. Butterfly koi have longer bodies than traditional koi, making them more graceful and agile in the water.

    Another major difference between koi and butterfly koi is the amount of care they require. Butterfly koi need more care and attention than regular koi, as they are prone to diseases like fungal infections and water-borne parasites. They also require more space than traditional koi, so if you want to keep butterfly koi, make sure the tank is large enough.

    Finally, the colors and patterns of koi and butterfly koi can differ significantly. While traditional koi tend to stick to more generic colors, butterfly koi have more intricate patterns and a wider variety of colors. This makes them more visually appealing but also makes them more expensive.

    Can You Keep Butterfly Koi Fish in a Tank?

    Yes, it is possible to keep butterfly koi in a tank, just like regular koi. However, the tank must be large enough to accommodate the size and activity level of the Koi. Butterfly koi can grow to be quite large, from 16 to 18 inches, so the tank should be at least 75 gallons.

    Additionally, the tank should have proper filtration and be carefully monitored for any changes in water quality. Finally, the tank should be equipped with plenty of hiding spots to reduce stress levels, and a strong pump should be used to generate a current.


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