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Koi Varieties


Sanke (sawn-kay), translated as “tri colour”, is a white koi with red (hi) pattern and black (sumi) markings on the upper half of the body.  Black stripes are occasionally seen on the pectoral fins or tail.  There is usually no black on the head.

Sanke as it is commonly named, is actually Taisho Sanke.  This prefix represents the Taisho era (1912 – 1926) when these “mutations” were first identified.  It is said that the first Sanke appeared in Kohaku spawnings when black markings appeared on some offspring and were refined to the Sanke we know today.  The body sumi appear as either tsubo sumi (black on white skin) or kasane sumi (black on hi markings). The tsubo sumi is much appreciated.

Appreciation of Sanke started with the basic description of an excellent Kohaku as described in the article on Kohaku. The generic requirement of all variations of Koi also apply to Sanke namely, good body conformation, high skin quality and good deportment.

The Sanke should have a pure white, unblemished skin. The hi should be solid, even, deep and bright.  Pattern should be balanced, well defined with kiwa and sashi the same as Kohaku.  Sanke with a separate head pattern has been a popular over the years as well as the U-shaped (kutsubera) head marking.  In recent years the “beret” pattern, which covers one side of the head, is now also popular.  With a “beret” pattern the sanke should have a clear eye, not stained with hi.  The rim of the eye of a sanke tends to be light blue. In fact one way of distinguishing Sanke from Kohaku fry is the light blue eye-rims.




           Beret_hi Light_blue_eye_rim Sanke_Tejima_only

               "Beret" Hi                                            Blue eye rims                                                      Tejima      

Sumi on the sanke appears as stepping-stones rather than deep wrappings and should preferably be above the lateral line.  It should be evenly spaced and not form dense clusters in a specific area, causing the sumi pattern to be unbalanced.  Kata sumi (sumi spot on the shoulder) is very popular but not essential.  The sumi markings on the sanke have been described as stepping-stones over snow and fire. 



       Kata_Sumi_Blue_eye Snow_and_fire

         Kata sumi on shoulder.                                                                           Excellent example of "Stepping stones over snow and fire"!

The sumi of sanke has improved over the years through crossbreeding with showa.  The sumi quality is a vital part of appreciation and should stand out from the white (shiroji) and the hi, like black printers ink, painted on.  It should be deep black, glossy and solid. Through the cross breeding, with showa, heavier sumi patterns were developed, causing confusion for koi keepers to distinguish between some sanke and showa.  The confusion is also worsened through the appearance of black markings on the head of some sanke.  Peter Waddington in his book Koi Kichi 2 describes that one of the myths in sanke appreciation is the belief that there should be no sumi on the head.  Sumi on the head is acceptable, provided it contributes to a pleasing overall picture and elegance.

Scattered sumi (jari or gravel sumi), where the sumi appears as numerous very small spots, is frowned upon.  One of the problems experienced with the sumi of a sanke is that it has a tendency to concentrate near the tail end of the fish, giving it an unbalanced appearance.  Sumi in the fins is acceptable and can actually enhance the elegance of the sanke, provided it is tejima (black stripes) and not too heavy.

Also popular is the red (aka) sanke with a continuous hi pattern from nose to tail.  Very little white is visible when viewed from above.  The down side is the lack of sumi against the white skin and the absence of other points of appreciation namely kiwa and sashi.

A really top class sanke is more difficult to “finish” than a kohaku, mainly because of the need to finish hi as well as sumi on one fish.  Many a good sanke lost to kohaku at shows because to finish hi and sumi at the same time, is difficult.

Some other facts about Sanke

  • Aizami   : Blue high quality sumi
  • Taisko Sanke : Hi patterns as for Kohaku
  • Aka Sanke  : Almost entire body covered by hi
  • Hi Patterns  : Same as Kohaku namely nidan, sandan, yondan and moruten 
  • Tsubu Sumi  : Black pattern on white skin
  • Kasane Sumi  : Black pattern on hi
  • Kata Sumi  : Sumi markings on shoulder
  • Tejima  : Sumi stripes on pectoral fins 
  • Tesumi   : Same as Tejima
  • Urushizumi  : Bluish dark glossy sumi
  • Kurozumi  : No blue, rich glossy black
  • Ato sumi  : Sumi appearing late
  • Jari sumi  : Undesirable small sumi spots
  • Kokeski  : Colourless scales within a pattern.

In light of the often very similar appearance of sanke and showa to newcomers to the hobby, a few differences should be pointed out.

Motoguru (Sumi markings where the pectoral fins join the body) is associated with showa, while tejima (stripes in the pectoral fins) is a trademark of sanke.

Showa have sumi markings that resemble mountain peaks rising from the abdomen when viewed from the side, while the sumi of a sanke resembles stepping-stones when viewed from the top, and normally appear only above the lateral line.

Sumi markings on the head of a sanke are rare, while it is a requirement for showa. If there is sumi inside the mouth, it is a showa.



                      Young_Sanke                  Sanke_Tejima

                      Tosai Sanke                                                                                                Nisai Sanke (Photo: Roy Pillay)





        Ernst_Sanke      Sakai_sanke_51cm

        Photos: Ernst van Dyk


The above are two serious specimens that represent the elegance associated with Sanke.






Last Updated on Friday, 20 December 2013 12:10