Does Koi Mean Carp?

Koi fish are a popular ornamental fish that are often kept in outdoor ponds or indoor aquariums. These fish are known for their vibrant colors and graceful swimming patterns, making them a favorite among hobbyists and enthusiasts alike.

However, there is some confusion when it comes to the origins of the name “koi”. Does it really mean carp, or is there more to the story?

What is a Koi?

Before we delve into the meaning behind the name “koi”, it’s important to understand what these fish are and where they come from. Koi fish are actually a domesticated version of the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), which is native to Asia and Europe. Over time, selective breeding has resulted in a variety of different color patterns and variations that we now recognize as koi.

Does Koi Mean Carp?

The short answer is yes, koi does mean carp in Japanese. The word “koi” is actually derived from the Japanese word for carp, “nishikigoi”. However, it’s important to note that not all carp are considered koi.

In Japan, there are two types of carp: wild carp (or “magoi”) and colored carp (or “nishiki”). Nishikigoi refers specifically to colored carp that have been selectively bred for their beautiful patterns and colors.

So while all koi are technically a type of carp, not all carp can be considered koi. It’s only when specific traits like coloration and pattern have been bred into the fish that they can be truly considered as such.

The Symbolism of Koi

Koi have been kept as ornamental fish for centuries, particularly in Japan where they hold special cultural significance. In Japanese culture, koi are seen as symbols of perseverance and good fortune due to their ability to swim upstream against strong currents.

In fact, there is even a traditional Japanese legend about a koi fish that swam upstream to reach the top of a waterfall, where it transformed into a dragon. This story has led to koi being associated with prosperity, success, and transformation – all positive attributes that are highly valued in Japanese culture.

The Beauty of Koi

Beyond their cultural significance and symbolic meaning, koi are simply stunning fish to behold. Their vibrant colors and intricate patterns make them popular subjects for artists and photographers alike.

If you’re considering adding koi to your pond or aquarium, it’s important to research the specific care requirements for these fish. While they can be hardy and long-lived when properly cared for, they do have specific needs when it comes to water quality, temperature, and diet.


So while it’s true that koi technically mean carp in Japanese, there’s much more to these beautiful fish than just their name. From their cultural significance to their stunning beauty, koi are truly a special type of fish that have captured the hearts of people around the world.

Photo of author

Daniel Bennet