Where did Koi Carp come from originally?

Andrew HodgesKoi Carp FactsLeave a Comment


The origins of Koi Carp

Koi carp are not indigenous to Japan as many believe. So where did they begin the journey from wild carp to the beautiful fish displayed all around the world today in our ornamental ponds?

Did you know:

Carp (Cyprinus Carpio) fossils have been found in Southern China dating back 20 million years.

If not Japan, where do koi carp originate? Well, records show that they came from Eastern Asia, the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea and also China. The earliest written records come from China.

Records show that carp were reared in China for food as far back as five centuries BC.

It is believed that Koi Carp were introduced to Japan by the invading Chinese armies; at that time the fish were kept as a source of food. Carp are a very hardy fish and are able to survive the trauma of transportation by land and sea.

Breeding carp grew out of necessity.

In the 17th-century rice farmers on the North West coast of Japan, introduced carp into their irrigation ponds to supplement their diet of rice. The area of Yamakoshigo – Niigata, situated high in the mountains is almost impossible to access during winter months.

The residents of this region had to be self-sufficient which led to their devotion to successful carp breeding. At this time the carp were still only kept as a vital food source, not because of their beauty.

Niigata, remains to this day, the centre of the high-quality Koi Carp breeding universe!

All of the many varieties of Koi we see today descended from a black carp known as Magoi. The colour variants started to appear around two hundred years ago. By cross-breeding the various colour mutations, many of the varieties we see today were available by the end of the 19th century.

Keeping Koi as a hobby did not get fully established until around the 20th century. As soon as road, rail and air transportation, from these isolated regions became available.

So in summary, koi carp have had a long journey and originated in Eastern Asia. Koi spread across to the Far East more than 2,000 years ago. They arrived in Japan via China and Korea where they had been bred as a food staple.


“In Japan Carp represents strengt, Boys Day is celebrated with Carp streamers known as Koinobori.”

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