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World’s Most Expensive Koi Fish Sells for Millions of Dollars

Nicole Cosgrove

When you think of the most money that anyone has paid for an animal, species such as prize racing horses or champion dogs may come to your mind. We’d wager that most people won’t put fish on that shortlist. Surprisingly, one of the priciest animals isn’t one you could pet or ride. It’s the koi. The most expensive koi fish in the world fetched about $1.8 million in October 2018!

S Legend is the name of this costly, 3-foot koi. If you’re wondering what’s in it for the new owner, consider these facts. These fish can lay up to 500,000 eggs, of which only 1% or about 5,000 can match the quality of this famous fish. The chances are that Miss Yingying—the successful bidder—from Taiwan will recoup her investment.

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Why Koi Cost So Much

koi betta fish male
Image Credit: Ron Kuenitz, Shutterstock

The first question you probably have is, why can a mere fish garner such a high price tag? It’s helpful to put the matter in context. The koi is revered in its native Japan. Just to clarify, goldfish come from China. People have been raising and selectively breeding the koi or Nishikigoi since the 1820s. That’s a vital fact to keep in mind. It goes a long way toward explaining the expensive prices that enthusiasts pay for them.

Initally, the Japanese bred them for food and then their ornamental properties for ponds. However, it soon escalated from there. Now, breeders show their fish, not unlike people who take their dogs on the championship circuit. There’s even a professional society called the Koi Organisation International that promotes the beauty and proper care of these aquatic beauties.

Varieties of Koi

There are 73 breeds of purebred cats and 339 of dogs. Koi varieties top 120. Of course, some are more popular than others, just like it is with our pets. In the piscine circles, the Kohaku variety took the top honors with S Legend. This one has a pure white background with orange on top and no yellowing. This variety has some cred as the first one recognized with colors that are sacred.

Speaking of S Legend, this koi also stands out because of its ranking in the fish world. It has the prestige of coming from a 100-year-old fish farm. It was a previous winner of the All Japan Koi Show. The other factor lies with selective breeding. We mentioned the number of eggs a female can produce. As you may expect, that makes that whole process much more risky and time-consuming.

Fortunately, koi are relatively long-lived. Raising them is straightforward, particularly if you pay attention to the significance of the water temperature on metabolism and overall health. Of course, it’s also about the colors. The right food will do wonders for enhancing them and earning praise in the show circuit. The types and conditions of the color cells are of paramount importance.

Tancho koi
Image Credit: ClickMood, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Unless you’re into the hobby, it may be hard to appreciate the price some enthusiasts will pay for koi. Few fish, other than goldfish and bettas, has the same ardor as these people have for their charges. That devotion helps to explain the exorbitant prices they get on the auction block. However, we can understand their passion. Koi are gorgeous fish.

It’s probably safe to say that $1.8 million isn’t the highest price we’ll see anyone dishing out to get the koi. As with most things, the market is the primary driver. The depth of emotions of these hobbyists will set the bar.


Featured Image Credit: Gatot Adri, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.