Showing Koi

Q: I want to exhibit my koi but don’t know where to start?

I have been a koi keeper for about five years now and have a number of quality koi that I think are worthy of entering into a koi show. The trouble is I have no idea how to go about it.

I attend shows every year and comparing my koi to some I’ve seen entered, I think I stand a chance. I have a two-year-old Sanke that is 44cm in length and a two-year-old Kohaku which is about 40cm in length. I’d definitely want to enter both and possibly a few others.

Can you give me some advice/information on the koi shows. Is there a fee to enter the fish, and how exactly are the koi categorised

Thank you in advance

A:It sounds as though you have two very nice koi that you cannot wait to show and compete against other koi in their class and variety. The koi keeping calendar is punctuated with shows of all over the country that will allow you to realise your ambition. However, you’re quite right to seek guidance before showing koi as there are numerous pitfalls that for your koi’s sake you should avoid when exhibiting, especially for the first time. There are also a number of different types of show, and ways of showing fish that you should consider before taking the plunge and walking away with your first trophy.

Most koi clubs and societies will hold their own show each year (details can often be found in the pages of Koi Carp). Generally held outdoors in marquees or an outdoor arena, a koi show represents a koi club’s high point, where many members will work hard to provide your koi with the best water conditions.

Become a member of your local koi club or society.

Probably the best thing you could do before exhibiting your treasured koi is join your local koi club or society. This will enable you to tap into the many years of koi showing experience that your fellow members will be willing to share. They will more than likely offer you assistance on the morning of the show, netting and bagging up your prized specimens with you. Furthermore, your membership will entitle you to show your koi in your own society show, irrespective of whether it is an open or closed show.

An open show means that anyone who wishes to, can approach the society hosting the show to show their koi. A closed show is restricted to society members who wish to show their own koi. Consequently open shows tend to be more competitive and on a bigger scale than closed shows as entrants can quite literally travel from all over the country to show their fish. A quieter, closed show is an ideal setting in which to show koi for the first time, something that you can only benefit from if you are a club member.

Photographic shows.

A completely risk-free way of submitting your koi to competition is through a photographic show. Your koi will be photographed in a bowl at your own pond and the photographs entered into the same classes as they would in a normal koi show. Your koi will be judged against other photographs table at your next club or society meeting. This is an ideal way to introduce yourself to the criteria against which your koi will be judged in a real koi show.

How a koi show works.

Before exhibiting your koi at a koi show, you will have to apply to show your koi weeks in advance with the show organisers. This will help them to determine how many show vats are likely to be required. You will pay your fee at this stage, which will be determined by the number of koi you wish to enter or the number of vats you will require, depending on how the club decides to charge.

English or Japanese style koi shows?

Koi shows will take one of two forms, which will then effect how your koi are exhibited on the day. The most common is the English style, where all the koi owned by one koi keeper are held in the same vat, irrespective of their size or class. This reduces the risk of cross-infection with any other koi, but can make it more difficult for your koi to be compared to others in their class. In a Japanese style show, all koi of the same variety and class are exhibited in the same vat to allow easy comparison. Winners of each class will then be moved to other vats when major prizes, including Grand Champion can be judged and awarded.


Benching is procedure by which all koi that are to be entered into the show, are checked prior to going on display. The benching team will measure each koi, checking it for obvious signs of disease or damage, finally photographing it as a record. Each koi will then be entered into a specific size and class. Benching may take place on the day before the show, or in smaller shows on the morning of the show itself.


Your koi will be judged on their physical attributes by a panel of judges who are meticulous in carrying out this demanding role. Factors such as body shape, skin quality, colour, pattern, deportment and elegance will be judged to give your koi it’s position in its size and class. The top two in each variety from each size will then be judged against the top two koi of other varieties and sizes until the Supreme Champion from sizes 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6 are awarded. These champions then fight it out to become the Grand Champion. So at every stage, there is an opportunity to win a prize. Besides the standard awards such as Best in Class, Best in Size, Champion Baby, Champion Mature, Champion Jumbo and Grand Champion, there may well be other awards available to you, such as Best Beginner or Best Novice for those who have not shown or won a prize before.

How koi are classified in a show.

Your koi will be classified at benching under one of the following varieties.







Asagi / Shusui




Hikari – Utsuri



Your koi will also be classified into one of the following 7 size classes


Size (inches)

Size (cm)

Baby Koi 1

Up to 8


Baby Koi 2

8 – 12

20 – 30

Adult Koi 3

12 – 16

30 – 40

Adult Koi 4

16 – 20

40 – 50

Mature Koi 5

20 – 24

50 – 60

Mature Koi 6

24 – 28

60 – 70

Mature Koi 7



So from the description of your two koi, they will be classified as Kohaku Size 4, and Sanke Size 4.

Preparing your koi for a show.

You should start to prepare your koi at least three months before the show, as you will need to work on your koi and pond environment over this period to bring your koi into show condition. Only koi in their healthiest condition will stand a chance of winning a prize and if your koi is judged to be ‘off-colour’ by the benching team, it may not be entered into the show. Your pond should provide your koi with the best possible conditions. Feed them a high quality colour enhancing diet (but don’t overdo the colour enhancers). Vary the diet with some fresh and moist food such as lettuce, mussels, and even prawns.

A few weeks before the show, start adding a high quality clay more frequently, giving your koi the benefits of a finer clay suspension just as they would experience in a mud pond. This will help to boost the mineral content of your water and improve skin quality and lustre.

A few days before the show date, stop feeding your koi altogether. This will give them sufficient time to empty their digestive system, helping to maintain a good water quality while in transit and in the show vat.

Also check that you have sufficient heavy-duty bags, (your koi should be double-bagged in transit) and boxes as well as an oxygen cylinder for filling up the bags prior to the journey. Bagging koi is a two-man job so ask the help of a fellow club member and remember that a split fin or rubbed nose at this stage could cost your a prize and could even prevent your koi from being entered.

Showing koi allows you to take koi keeping beyond the confines of your back garden. It stretches your abilities as a koi keeper and enables your koi to be compared objectively against others. Some koi keepers love their koi too much to risk showing them, while others love them equally as much but still want to show them off to other koi keepers. You obviously belong to the latter group and I wish you every as much but still want to show them off to other koi keepers. You obviously belong to the latter group and I wish you every success.

Kill blanketweed and string algae.