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How to Differentiate and Identify Bekko Koi

The unpredictable nature on the pattern and color changes in koi is what makes the Japanese carp rearing hobby interesting. In fact, apart from the appearance itself, the graceful movement of the fish as it swims around combined with the different varieties that can be produced from cross breeding will keep you entertained all the time. Breeding the fish is also full of surprises because sometimes when you are aiming to get a Sanke, it might turn out that as the fish matures and the red color patch disappears you will instead ended up getting a Bekko.

The article here will talk about how to differentiate and identify a Bekko because it is by far one of the most under appreciated koi that is often left out by hobbyist. Most novices will find it difficult trying to make out which one is a Bekko but with the guide here, it will try to explain and hopeful one will never get lost. First of all, the koi is different from the other big 3 koi varieties, aptly known as “Go Sanke” that is made up of the Kohaku, Sanke and Showa. To put it in layman’s term a Bekko is actually a solid white, red or yellow colored koi with small patches of black markings, often referred to as “tortoise configuration”. Basically for a koi to qualify in this group, it must not have combination of more than 3 colors which means that if a fish is solid white with the black marking, then it must not have any red patch present at all on any parts of the body. Similarly the same rule applies for a solid red Bekko which should have only the red and black pattern arrangement. As mentioned earlier, one of the unique trademarks of Bekko is that the blotch should be very sparse and a good specimen to qualify in competitions must have the head region completely clear of any black color marking and this is the standard that applies to all the koi fish that falls into this group.

Bekko Utsuri Showa KoiThis Japanese carp variety can also be sometimes easily confused with a Showa because people might think that with the appearance of white, black and some red patch, it should resemble a Bekko. However, this is incorrect because if you observe carefully, the Showa black color marking is far more intense with wider patch size while for Bekko, the black blotch is very sparse. Furthermore, as long as it comprises of 3 different colors the fish can never be a Bekko. At times, people might also mistakenly identify a Sanke to be similar but however, as mentioned earlier with the color appearance, again this will be out of the question. For a better visualization on what is done to try to explain here, let’s look at the picture above. On your far left, what you can see is actually an Utsuri. Reason is because the formation of black patches is very commanding. Thus experienced Japanese koi hobbyist will tell you that this is a black color fish with white marking. The one located in the middle is a Bekko but however, this is not a fine specimen as you can see that it has a yellowish head which is a common fault among all fish that falls into this variety. In fact, a highly prized Bekko should appear fully solid satin white and not the creamy white. Furthermore, the black color patches seem to spread closer to the head region and it is very wide. The one located far left is a Showa with all 3 different color combination but if you take out the red patch, it will become an Utsuri.

Finally, there are 3 types or sub-group of Bekko in which they are further divided into different categories. The most common is the Shiro Bekko which is a completely white colored koi with the presence of black marking as depicted in the picture above. The Aka Bekko (red with black) is also famous but however, it is quite difficult to come across one these days while the Ki Bekko is the rarest because it is supposed to be a yellow koi with the black speckle. As you see, keeping koi while may sound simple, in actual fact if you analyze every aspect up to the appreciation and defining which one belongs to which group, you will be amazed with so many things to learn and understand. Thus some would actually call and define the hobby as a work of art which requires perfection.

Further topics about pond management:
How to increase TDO and maintaining pond filtration system
Appreciating & learning about the unique Asagi and Shusui Koi Fish

Article contributed by Takuya from Hokkaido Japan

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About Me

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My fascination and interest towards aquarium fish has led me to devote my time towards caring and learning about this wonderful pet.

Aquarium fish keeping is a very challenging and exciting hobby. When I first started, I never knew much or have the necessary guidance back then because none of my family members were actually a keen hobbyist. And because of that, I’ve encountered numerous failures and the worst part is having to deal with dead fish every time when you started to grow fond and getting attached to my pets. However, I persevered and took steps to find out and search for information from other hobbyist, apart from the knowledge gained and learned from my own experience and research. The blog that I’ve created here is meant to share useful information and tips about aquarium fish keeping so that new hobbyist will not make the same mistakes that I’ve made in the past."

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