April 20

Sarah Robertson

Butterfly Koi: Origins, Care, Lifespan & More!

The long-finned koi fish is one of the world's most familiar varieties of koi. The long-fin koi, dragon carp, or butterfly koi is a specific variety of the popular long-finned koi.

The fins of butterfly koi are distinct from those of normal koi. Rather than having genes that tell their fins to cease growing at a specific age, like regular koi, butterfly koi fins continue to grow longer throughout their lifetimes. The bodies of butterfly koi are somewhat slender than traditional koi, and their barbels – the whisker-like growths on their faces – develop somewhat longer.

Butterfly Koi Fish are pleasant, docile, and hardy. All they need is clean water and a nutritious diet consisting of plenty of nutrients. However, if you're new to koi keeping, you're probably unaware of this unique cross between long fin and shortfin Koi that has taken the fishkeeping world by storm.

What Are Butterfly Koi?

Butterfly Koi is known by the scientific term Cynprinus carpio. Although the term "Koi" is a Japanese word for carp, Butterfly Koi are not true breeds. As a result, they are excluded from Japan's Koi competitions because they are not seen as an original koi type. They are koi in every way that matters to a casual koi keeper: size, longevity, behavior, hue, diet, and appearance.

History & Origin

The Butterfly koi is originated in Indonesia, a cross between traditional koi and wild Indonesian longfin river carp. Originally, this crossbreeding was intended to improve the hardiness of typical koi.

Because of this crossbreeding, however, the Butterfly koi is no longer considered a "true" koi and, as such, is commonly referred to as a "mutt" in the koi community.

Breeders began selling butterfly koi commercially in the mid 20th century. Beyond these basic facts, the precise history of the butterfly koi is a bit of a toss-up.

  • According to reports, in the early 1980s, a group of common brown and gray carp with long fins was observed in a series of canals and ditches in Indonesia. A company in New York expressed interest and bought the fish into the United States and sold a few. Because most fish enthusiasts found them repulsive, they did not sell well. However, the breeders at Blue Ridge Fish Hatchery took a chance and placed an order for a dozen of these fish to discover what they were. Later, they discovered that Koi fish are unattractive, with long fins.

The breeders decided to breed the strange fish with their greatest, known-fin Koi and made several discoveries as a result of it:

-Longfin genes are dominant, so breeding the fish back to color would not eliminate the long-fin gene.

-The Longfin Koi is a disease-resistant, hardy species.

-The fish may be bred back to their original color, and Blue Ridge Fish Hatchery has developed a number of bright longfin Koi strains.

  • The founding of the butterfly koi is said to have taken place in July of 1977, according to another famous story. Crown Prince Akihito, who came to the Saitama Prefectural Fisheries Experiment Station this year, remarked that a carp with a long fin may be found in Indonesia. He went on to say that this species should be crossed with the Japanese pond smelt. In 1980, the Saitama Prefectural Fisheries Experiment Station began producing long-finned koi in response to this. According to these articles, the first butterfly koi was born in 1982.


Keep in mind that it's always preferable to keep your Butterfly Koi in ponds rather than aquariums. This is due to their propensity for exponential growth. They are also ravenous eaters and may require additional treats and plant foods to satisfy their hunger.

One of the most appealing reasons to keep them in ponds is that they are more attractive from above than from their sides, making them an excellent addition to your garden ponds.

However, because your butterfly Koi needs at least 1000 gallons of water to thrive and survive healthfully, you should make sure there's enough room for them.

Types of Butterfly Koi

Butterfly koi come in a variety of hues and patterns, just like standard koi. Some of the most popular long-finned koi carp varieties include:

  • Showa
  • Sanke
  • Kohaku
  • Utsurimono
  • Asagi
  • Shusui
  • Yamabuki Ogon
  • Goshiki
  • Kumonryu
  • Saragoi

A lot of koi fish breeders can transform the butterfly fins into almost every kind of koi fish. Some types are more uncommon than others, however, all have the distinct attractiveness of the long-finned butterflies.


The Showa butterfly koi is a Gosanke family of koi. The body of the Showa variety of butterfly koi is mostly black with white patches and red patterning covering the black. The Showa koi was developed in 1927 and is the result of cross-breeding a Ki Utsuri with a Kohaku koi.


The Sanke butterfly koi, also known as the Taisho Sanshoku, is a Goasanke family of koi. The icing on the cake is a white body with red and black markings covering the white. Today, most Sanke koi fish in the worldwide koi fish market are thought to be descendants of the Torazo bloodline.


The Kohaku butterfly koi is a white, red-patterned koi fish. Kohaku is said to be one of the first types of koi fish ever created, and it remains one of the most popular today. This variety originated in Japan between 1804 and 1829.


The Utsurimono butterfly koi comes in three distinct hues: red, yellow, and white. This type of koi is recognized for its outstanding beauty.


The Asagi butterfly koi is blue and has a reticulated pattern that extends across its back. The gills, belly, tail, pectoral fins, and occasionally the dorsal fin are highlighted with red.


The Shusui butterfly koi fish is a German koi that has blue scaleless skin instead of the Asagi koi fish's netted design. They have a single row of scales down their back. The Shusui is also known for red spots that may span the fish's back and appear above the lateral line.


The Yamabuki Ogon butterfly koi is the most common and readily available Butterfly Koi. Its bright yellow hue and gleaming coloration make it a must-have for almost every koi pond.

Traditional Koi Vs Butterfly Koi

Traditional Koi Vs Butterfly Koi

The fins of the Butterfly koi are significantly larger in proportion to their bodies than those of typical koi.

In reality, the name "Butterfly koi" comes from the long, flowing fins of this fish, which resemble butterfly wings.

Traditional koi breeds have a 1:5 fin to body ratio, whereas the Butterfly koi has a 1:3 ratio.

Color of the Butterfly Koi 

The Butterfly koi comes in a variety of hues and designs. The Butterfly Kois' most distinctive feature is its fins, which distinguish it from other koi breeds.

The colors and patterns of the Butterfly koi, while they undoubtedly enhance its value, are less important than the fish's length and fin form.

Butterfly Koi Care 

If you are an experienced koi fish owner, you'll undoubtedly be aware that caring for a butterfly koi fish is similar to caring for other varieties of koi. You can also offer your butterfly koi the same food as you would a regular koi.

 Furthermore, just as caring for typical koi fish, you should maintain your water aerated and provide your butterfly koi with shade from the sun and predators. Most importantly, because of their calm disposition comparable to other koi types, butterfly koi may live side by side with goldfish, catfish, and different kinds of koi.

Basic Care Instructions for Butterfly Koi

There are a series of steps that you can follow to care for your new butterfly koi. These directions are almost identical to the basic care instructions for a typical koi. Here are the steps that you need to follow:


Step 1 - Your butterfly koi should be kept in a pond with at least 1,000 gallons of water. The pond should also have a depth of more than a meter. Small butterfly koi may be maintained in a big aquarium, but it isn't their natural habitat. Remember that all types of koi fish, from tiny butterfly koi to big standard koi, require a lot of swimming room.


Step 2 - It's best if you add some robust-rooted plants to your pond. This is due to the fact that koi fish will consume plant roots. To minimize the damage, always surround your plants with stones. Water hyacinth, water smartweed, water lotus, scouring rush, water lily, water lettuce, and eelgrass are some of the most recommended pond plants.


Step 3 - Maintaining your butterfly koi's water quality will be essential to their enjoyment and long-term health. For the greatest effects, keep your pond's pH at a neutral 6.8 to 7.2 range. If you build a concrete pond, keep in mind that the chemicals used in the concrete will cause your pond's pH levels to rise naturally. To minimize the impact, we strongly suggest applying a top coat of concrete.


Step 4 - In terms of feeding your butterfly koi, you should only give them high-quality pellet food with less than 30% protein. It's fine to give your shrimp a little treat now and then, but make sure it's just a tiny one. Still, butterfly koi need a nutritious diet that includes pellets. In terms of frequency, your butterfly koi should be fed no more than two times a day during the summer months and once every other day during the winter.
Overfeeding koi fish is a mistake that many amateurs make, which should be avoided at all costs. This is because overfeeding your butterfly koi will alter the pond's balance over time. If your butterfly koi can't consume the food you provide in a timely manner, you're feeding them too much.


Step 5 - You should think about adding a heater to your butterfly koi pond. Butterfly koi are cold-water fish, but too much of a shock can be fatal to them. Koi fish can live in temperatures ranging from 33 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. A heater can keep your butterfly koi from freezing to death if the temperature drops below 33 degrees in your region. This is an important stage in caring for your butterfly koi.


Step 6 - You'll also want to take precautions to keep your butterfly koi safe from predators. One of the most effective methods is to build a string net above the surface of the koi pond. This can keep your fish safe from predators, which is something that must be addressed. It's vital to note that the bright hues on a butterfly koi's body may attract undesirable attention for animals seeking food.


Step 7 - It's critical that you don't overstock your koi pond. When they're crammed, koi fish panic and fight to obtain oxygen and food. Additionally, the more room your butterfly koi have to swim freely, the better. It's usually preferable to add fewer butterfly koi to your pond than too many since it gives them more room to swim about.

In general, there are three main guidelines to follow when determining how many koi fish your pond can hold.

  • The first rule is that there should be 6 inches of fish for every hundred gallons of water.
  • The second guideline is that there should be 1 inch of fish for every 10 gallons (for well-filtered and aerated ponds).
  • Third, there should be one inch of fish for each square foot of pond surface area.

The following are basic guidelines for determining how many koi fish your pond can accommodate:


1 smaller fish


1-2 smaller fish


1-2 koi fish


1-2 koi fish


2-4 koi fish


3-5 koi fish


6-10 koi fish

Temperament and Activity Level

Temperament and Activity Level

Personality may play a significant role in whether or not your butterfly koi are aggressive. Assume you notice that your butterfly koi is naturally fierce for no apparent reason.

If that's the case, you could simply have a more aggressive koi. Fish with more aggressive personalities may chase other fish throughout the pond, compete for food, or try to be the first on top of the pond when food is offered.

Good Tank Mates

Choosing tankmates for Butterfly Koi might be difficult because they are coldwater fish, and even though they are friendly, some may become aggressive with other species.

As a result, be sure your fish are non-aggressive before selecting tank mates for your butterfly Koi. Also, anti-social fish should not be kept with Koi because it may create conflict.

In addition, if you want to keep Butterfly Koi in the tank, tropical fish are a perfect option since their temperature can be regulated and maintained.

Here are some fish that can cohabit happily with Butterfly Koi.

  • Pond Goldfish
  • Barbels

  • Barbs

  • Catfish (tropical fish that can be kept as Koi tank mate)

  • Golden Orfe

  • Tench

  • Pleco (tropical fish that gets along with butterfly Koi well)

Fish to Avoid 

Because of various reasons, you should avoid keeping the following fish in the same aquarium or pond as Butterfly Koi.

  • Cichlid (aggressive)
  • Guppies (easy prey for Koi due to their small size)
  • Danios (too small)
  • Fancy goldfish (slow-paced)

Feeding Butterfly Koi

A butterfly koi diet is simple to maintain since most of it consists of high-quality pellet food. These pellets will ensure that the Butterfly Koi has a balanced diet and gets enough nutrients to stay healthy and develop.

Butterflies Koi also enjoy live foods and can eat anything a human can, including oranges, lettuce, peas, and watermelon, as well as shrimp and algae.

A Butterfly Koi should be fed once to twice a day on days when the weather is warm. Butterfly Koi should be fed less frequently in the winter because of their low physical activity levels and inclination to hibernate. It's also a good idea not to offer Butterfly Koi after lightning or heavy rain, as they require oxygen to digest their food, and water oxygen levels drop during extreme weather.

What Do They Eat? 

The diet of a Butterfly Koi is not difficult. You can feed anything to a normal Koi that you would give it. It's best to feed your butterfly Koi high-quality pellet food with protein levels of no more than 30%, however. Pellet Koi Food provides your koi with the optimal diet to keep them healthy and strong.

The koi butterfly is a lover of live foods. They are enormous eaters, and they can consume everything that a human would. From oranges, lettuce, peas, and watermelon to shrimps and algae — you name it. From oranges, lettuce, peas, and watermelon to shrimps and algae - there's nothing off-limits.

How Much and How Often to Feed 

It's essential to feed a Koi butterfly once or twice a day during the summer. During the winter, you should serve it less because the physical activity level is low, and Koi go into hiding.

Pond Size Requirements

Pond Size Requirements 

Koi butterfly grows to be huge, reaching up to 40 inches in length as it matures. It is essential to have a pond with a capacity of at least 1000 gallons. To thrive to their full potential, butterfly Koi require additional swimming space. They are elegant swimmers and need more room to swim freely in order to reach their optimal condition.

Water Quality 

Maintain the recommended pond water quality if you want your Butterfly Koi to be healthy with lustrous gleaming skin. The ideal temperature for a Koi is between 33 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Even though they are coldwater fish, Koi must be kept cool. When the weather is severe, it's critical to maintain the temperature at bay. If temperatures drop below 33°F, you should either install a pond de-icer or make your pond deeper (3 feet at least) in order for your Koi to go dormant securely.

Finally, warmer water can aggravate other illnesses due to less dissolved oxygen and more Ammonia, which is poisonous to your butterfly Koi.

It's important to maintain a watch on the water quality and temperatures, which should be kept between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pond Maintenance 

Water quality is critical for your fish's general health. As a result, pond upkeep is a duty that must be fulfilled.

Being a responsible Koi owner, your role is to conduct a water test on your fish pond at least once a month to ensure that it meets the necessary standards for your Koi. There are many indicator tests for determining water quality, which can be used to effortlessly keep the pond.

If you don't have the time, you can also hire a professional to do it for you. The internet is a great resource for finding reliable and trustworthy services in your area.

These tests aren't as accurate as of the ones at a laboratory. They are, however, cost-effective and can provide an indication of what may be enhanced.

Here are some of the most essential tests you should do:

Ammonia Testing 

Ammonia is a deadly poison for your koi butterfly. Ammonia should not be detected in any readings in a clean and well-maintained pond.

To prevent Ammonia from forming in your Butterfly Koi ponds, change the water as needed and conduct the checks every week. New ponds should be tested for ammonia on a daily basis.

Oxygen Testing (Dissolved)

A thermometer may be used to keep a track of the water temperature in your fishpond - it's critical during the summer months.

Furthermore, dissolved oxygen testing is important in the summer. Because hot temperatures tend to deplete the oxygen levels, this test is especially important. Your Koi shouldn't be seen coming up for air on the surface of the pond.

As a result, it's critical to install air pumps and a waterfall to keep the level of 6.00 ppm or higher.

pH Test

The ideal pH level for healthy water readings is 7.5 to 7.8.

The readings will vary in a new pond throughout the day and night. As a result, you should take your readings at night or in the morning to ensure accuracy.

Nitrite Test

The pond should have a reading of zero for excellent water quality if you keep track of the readings. If the readings are high, stop giving nourishment and change the water right away to avoid diseases.

Health and Disease

How to Set Up a Pond for Butter Fly Koi 

All you need to do before starting up a Butterfly Koi pond is to ensure that the water quality and aeration are adequate. Koi prefer well-aerated ponds with aquatic plants. However, excessive vegetation might cause your Koi to suffocate due to a lack of oxygen.

Here are some key factors to consider while building a pond for butterfly Koi.

  • Feeding the Koi twice a day, and carefully monitoring their food intake, is critical.
  • Remove any remaining food to maintain the pond's pH steady.
  • To protect your Koi from predators, it is advised to cover the pond with nets.

Health and Disease

Butterfly Koi are extremely robust and can endure almost any circumstance as long as the water and pond upkeep is excellent. If you're feeding your Koi nutritious food with adequate protein, you shouldn't worry about their health.

However, koi often develop illnesses over time that are hazardous and fatal.

Signs of Poor Health

If you detect any of the following symptoms, your Koi is suffering from a health issue:

  • Less of appetite
  • Have discoloration.
  • Clamped fins
  • Ulcers or open wounds
  • White spots
  • Self-isolation
  • Restless and lethargic
  • Gasp at the surface

Common Health Issues and Treatment

There are a number of typical health concerns that you don't need to be concerned about, but the treatment is necessary to avoid additional problems.

The following are some of the most prevalent problems in Butterfly Koi, along with their suggested cures:

a. Bacterial Infections 

To cure bacterial diseases, maintain your Koi in a quarantine tank to prevent spreading and seek expert assistance.

b. Parasites 

You should manually remove the parasite with the tweezer and make sure that the entire body comes out to cure the parasites.

c. Viruses 

Treatment for the virus is similar to that for bacteria and parasites.

What Do Butterfly Koi Look Like? 

The Koi butterfly is the result of crossbreeding wild carp with traditional Koi. Because they are hybrids, they inherit outstanding characteristics from both parents: the carp's long fins and the Koi's bright color.

Furthermore, their bodies are thinner and have long barbels on their faces than Japanese Koi. The distinctive feature of this breed of Koi is its large, flowing, long and delicate fins that are proportionately larger than the average body size. They resemble butterfly wings while moving.

How Long Does a Butterfly Koi Live?

Butterfly koi will have a similar lifespan as regular koi. On average, it can live up to 30 years in ideal situations. The oldest known living traditional koi was 226 years old, according to reports. While that may or may not be the case, the same cannot yet be said about butterfly koi.

How Big Do Butterfly Koi Get? 

The Butterfly Koi isn't as large as other traditional koi types.

The body type of the Butterfly koi is generally more slender than other breeds, which tend to be more oval, and it may reach a length of up to 40 inches in a pond with enough food. Butterfly koi may grow to be as long as 2 feet and perhaps even 3 feet or more! It takes anywhere from 2 to 4 years for this variety to reach these sizes under ideal circumstances.

While the Butterfly koi is a robust breed, its fins are quite delicate, so they must be handled and transported with care.

Are Butterfly Koi More Expensive?

Larger butterfly koi with great finnage are extremely uncommon and command the highest prices.

The cost of a butterfly koi is determined by a variety of criteria, including size, quality, and rarity. In general, prices range from $40 to $200. Some of the bigger, more high-quality or rare specimens may be worth up to $1000 or more.

Are Butterfly Koi Real Koi?

Butterfly Koi are a hybrid of long-finned carp and traditional Japanese koi. Because they aren't real koi, Butterfly koi aren't technically what we think of as "koi." However, while they have features of both, they are neither one nor the other.

Are Butterfly Koi Hard to Keep?

Butterfly koi were produced only a few decades ago, whereas traditional koi have been developed in Japan in the 19th century. These fish can reach a length of up to 36 inches and are quite simple to look after if you have the appropriate tools. The same care and maintenance are required for Butterfly Koi as for traditional koi.

What Is the Butterfly Koi Called?

The Butterfly koi is also known as a dragon carp or longfin koi. They are ornamental fish with elongated finnage that is distinctive. The fish are a variety of common carp, Cyprinus carpio, which includes several wild and domesticated koi.

Male and a Female Butterfly Koi

How Can You Tell the Difference Between a Male and a Female Butterfly Koi? 

The most obvious sign is the fin shape and color. Male koi have smaller, more pointed fins that are opaque and usually brightly colored. Female koi, on the other hand, have huge, rounded fins that are partly or completely translucent or even transparent.

How Many Gallons Does a Butterfly Koi Fish Need? 

Koi butterflies may grow up to 40 inches long after they reach maturity. It's essential to have a pond with at least 1000 gallons of capacity. However, butterfly Koi need more swimming areas to reach their full potential, as they are elegant swimmers.

How Fast Do Butterfly Koi Grow?

The growth rate of a Butterfly koi is 4 to 6 inches every year for the first few years of its life. After that, their development slows down. They generally stop growing at the age of 10 to 12 years. Some may continue to grow even after that.

It takes roughly three to four years of daily work to transform an 8-10" Butterfly koi into a mature show koi. You've got about four years after that where they'll be the champion size 6 or 7, roughly. They continue to grow as they become older, but growth might slow down by an inch a year or so.

Will Butterfly Koi Breed With Regular Koi? 

Absolutely not. Koi and goldfish can breed freely since they are closely related. However, the resulting progeny are generally odd-looking and sterile. The origin of the butterfly koi is a cross between standard fin koi and a long-finned Indonesian carp.

Will Butterfly Koi Eat Other Fish?

Although you might not consider koi as being predatory fish, they are omnivores that will consume any suitable plants or animals that come their way. So they are also known to eat other fish, even their own offspring.

What Fish Can Live With a Butterfly Koi in a Tank? 

The following are the top butterfly koi pond mates:

  • Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
  • Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
  • Suckermouth catfish (Hypostomus plecostomus)
  • Redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus)
  • Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
  • Chinese high-fin banded shark (Myxocyprinus asiaticus)
  • Orfe (Leuciscus idus)

Final Thoughts 

If you're looking for a beautiful addition to your pond or aquarium, the butterfly koi is an excellent choice. With their long fins and bright colors, they are sure to add a touch of elegance to any setting.

While they are not true koi, they are still members of the carp family and share many similar characteristics. They are hardy fish that are relatively easy to care for, making them a good choice for both beginner and experienced aquarists alike.

So, if you're looking for a stunning fish that is sure to add some flair to your pond or aquarium, the butterfly koi is a great option.

Sarah Robertson

I am a passionate blogger who also happens to be a fish keeping enthusiast. Writing about my hobby is something that I absolutely love to do, and it's no secret that my chosen topic is always centered around fish keeping.

Sarah Robertson

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