You can buy goldish for mere cents, and certain types of fancier home fish for a few dollars. But koi fish or different. They might cost you five or so dollars at the local pet store, but can be hundreds, thousands, or millions of dollars from the best breeders in the world. Why are some koi fish so expensive? And, is it worthwhile to get your hands on one that the pet store wouldn’t offer?

The Most Expensive Koi Fish

Just how expensive are koi fish? In 2018, a koi fish named S Legend broke all previous records for cost, by selling for 203 million Yen, or almost two million USD. Unlike the backyard variety of koi, this beauty is very large, at 3 feet, 3 inches long. It is a Kohashu koi, or one with bright red concentrated spots on pristine white.

S Legend is far from the only fish that had a hefty price tag, though. In total, Japan exports roughly 30 million dollars of koi fish per year.

Why Koi Fish Are So Expensive

Koi fish are from Japan, where they have been bred for hundreds of years. Many people dedicate their lives to breeding koi fish that are more beautiful, graceful and healthy than the last. Although, that doesn’t explain everything about their pricing. After all, many people dedicate their lives to breeding golden retrievers, but a golden retriever has never earned a sale price of a million dollars.

Koi are also so popular and valuable in Japan because they have cultural significance. In particular, the red and white varieties of koi, called Kohaku koi, symbolize purity and joy in Japanese culture. They have become a status symbol and collector’s items.

Also, consider that koi are relatively simple for breeders to change. Selecting specific qualities is easy because koi produce so many offspring. In a single year, S Legend, a female koi, will produce half a million eggs. Only 5,000 will be high-quality enough for the owner to sell. A single offspring may be beautiful enough to one day unseat its mother as the champion koi.

Should I Buy More Expensive Koi?

Of course, you’re probably not about to dip your feet into the champion koi-breeding game. It would take millions. But, for slightly more money per fish, you can get a higher quality koi fish than is offered through the typical pet store. These fish might be healthier, but mostly their benefit is beauty, size, and grace in the water. There are many varieties to choose from that may delight you.

Here in Los Angeles, you have a few options if you want to get some higher quality koi, including:

  • Andrew’s Koi International: This company ships koi from Japan, and also handles the quarantine process and health testing for you. They have many varieties available that you cannot purchase from pet shops, including the most popular variety, Kohaku.
  • Toyoma Koi International: These are highly selective koi importers who typically only have thirty or so fish on hand at a time. These will be significantly more expensive than pet store koi, but if you love koi, you may feel it’s worth it.