Judging Koi

What are the judges looking for at a koi show?

Each koi is judged on its merits the day of the competition and compared to the group of koi exhibited at that specific show. Judges review conformation, quality, pattern and overall impression. Koi appreciation takes into account all elements. It is important to know that judging criteria continues to evolve in the world of koi keeping.

Conformation is the shape or structure of something, particularly in reference to animals. Koi conformation evaluation includes:

  • the shape of the body,
  • the shape of the finnage,
  • the shape of the head,
  • relative proportions.

Quality is evident in the appearance and texture of the skin. The white areas (shiroji) exhibit no yellowing and have an appearance that can be describer as “lustrous”, “translucent”, “luminous”, “soft”, or “youthful”. Colored areas exhibit an even tone throughout the body. Forward pattern edges (sashi) demonstrate no more than two scales of blurred coloring. Trailing pattern edges (kiwa) should look sharply cut.

Pattern takes into the account of typical markings for a specific koi variety. The pattern should be pleasing and fit the koi based on its size and shape. Judges look for balance and refinement within koi patterns.

Overall impression includes the deportment of the koi. How is the koi behaving in the show tank – alert, swimming well, interest in surroundings.

Many koi shows will include a “judges tank walk” during the show where evaluation of koi appreciation points are discussed. You may also be able to ask judges some specific questions about your koi. Learning how koi are evaluated will enhance your abilities to appreciate koi beauty.