How to Breed Koi for Profit

It’s not as crazy as you might think to breed Koi fish for profit, as thousands around the world have done with great success. Knowing how to do it, though, is another matter altogether; let’s review exactly what you need to do in order to breed Koi fish for profit and turn a very unique source of income into a business and a successful and profitable endeavor.

 

What’s Your Breeding Stock Like?

First and foremost, it’s critical that you have a good Koi breeding stock to source from and begin breeding on your own, or else your job may be over before it begins. A good stock means working with a good supply of quality fish, and you may need to spend some money to ensure biological and genetic diversity as you get started breeding Koi.  A reasonable amount to spend on parents is around $1000 or more for a quality breeding pair of something like Kohaku.  You’ll want to make sure that they are at least 3 years old as that is when they begin to be sexually mature.  The value of your offspring will be largely dependent on the value of your parents, so choose wisely!

 

Get Your Breeding Ponds In Order

The next most important aspect of breeding Koi fish is having a high quality space for them to live and grow. Breeding ponds don’t have to be expensive, but you must ensure that they are safe and secure from predators and adequately cared for.  In addition, it’s critical that you use specialized filtration equipment to generate clean water levels that are healthy and sustainable.  Be prepared to spend some up-front capital on setting up your koi systems.  You will need space and resource to handle all the offspring produced.  Plan on devoting at least a couple hours a day to general feeding and maintenance.  You can easily spend several thousand dollars on the initial investment of tanks, filters, medications, food, chemicals, water etc. so keep that in mind as you financially plan for breeding.

 

Don’t forget proper nutrition!

When you finally spawn your first generation of newly-bred Koi fish, congratulations – now the fun part starts! You must feed them hatched brine shrimp and crushed Koi pellets to ensure that their skin and scales are bright orange, and that they are healthy and vibrant. Feeding isn’t cheap, but it will finally help you reach the culling process, which can be one of the most difficult parts of breeding Koi for profit.

 

Culling takes the right perspective

When it comes to culling Koi, well, you can’t have a queasy stomach about it.  Your koi parents will produce of 500,000 eggs at a time though not all will make it to the juvenile stage you can be certain that you will find yourself overwhelmed with little koi unless you have the space for them!  Koi are the gift that keeps on giving! Certain fish won’t look great and won’t be good to sell to breeders or homeowners and just need to be removed to ensure you maintain the genetic stock. Because of that, it’s important to cull out the ones you need to remove, and do it humanely and quickly.

 

Selling: The Endgame

For most breeders, selling Koi initially isn’t the easiest thing to do, as it takes time to build up a reputation and prove that you produce quality fish. But rest assured that with hard work and a transparent process that shows buyers what you have been able to accomplish, you can, over time, breed Koi successfully and make it so that they turn a profit with their breeding and more.  So what can you make selling koi?  Some companies produce and sell 20,000 to 30,000 fish a year with prices ranging from $15 to $5000 each -these kinds of companies may do $500,000 a year before expenses.  In fact, when it comes to value koi can command some seriously large amounts of cash!  One particular Showa specimen went for over $258,000.  Oftentimes highly prized koi act as a status symbol for those wealthy enough to afford them.  Similar to owning a rare historical artifact, these prized competition fish are a source of national pride for wealthy Asians as Asia is where koi breeding first started.  Just as in horse racing, these fish are often bred by world renowned breeders for the explicit purpose of breeding a champion.  

 

Probably the four most common varieties that one will see in  a koi competition are Showa, Sanke, Kohaku and Shusui.  For the breeder at home interested in getting into breeding for profit these are 4 good varieties to start with.  

To be sure, if you do it right and have quality fish you can easily get 10X the value out of your investment from  breeding koi.  The other good news besides all the eggs koi constantly produce is that they live a long time.  A life span of 50 years is not unheard of and there are even stories of koi living to well over 100!  

When it comes time to sell some or all of your koi the best way to sell them is to make sure you have some good, clear photos of them.  Preferably put the koi in a royal blue container, with no glare, reflection or ripples in the water. Be sure to get the whole fish in the frame from straight above, not an angle shot. You may have to take a dozen or so photos to get one usable image. Then post those photos on whatever site or sites you would like to sell them on.   Be patient, and be ready to invest some money to get started, but it is possible to breed Koi in this manner and make a profit!

For a more in-depth look at breeding koi for profit please check out this book. And for those interested in a good source to buy koi to start you off, see the guys over at Blackwater Koi Farm.

33 Responses to How to Breed Koi for Profit

  1. shane brown says:

    I want to start a koi farm.Who can help me ?

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      Well a good start is a book called “Koi Breeding For Fun And Profit” on Amazon. Its really a series of articles but its a good start. You could also subscribe to something like Koi Carp Magazine where you could pick up a lot of useful information.

  2. SHANE says:

    thank you, i just got the book.I live in south Ga and have lots of room to start .I also have A small sand beach looking pond that has some small fish in it. I think it will be better to keep the kio inside ,what do you think ?

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      Well, if you have the room to have them inside its certainly easier to
      control for temperature and many other variables. You could always
      put culled fish in the outdoor pond if you didn’t necessarily want to
      euthanize them.

  3. Gale Jones says:

    Can an above swimming pool 8500 gallon be converted into a koi pond

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      your pool can certainly be converted. In fact, many in ground koi ponds that are built are essentially the same thing-just set in the ground. I think you’ll want to look into pumps and filters designed specifically for koi ponds -they will often have UV filtration which is important for keeping certain mircobes down. You will want to have a bio-ball system that can deal with the nitrogenous waste that koi produce as well.

  4. Kristin says:

    What temperatures are ideal for breeding koi and then keeping them healthy? How much sunlight is ideal? I am specifically interested in Butterfly Koi. Thank you!

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      Although koi can handle 35 to 85, 65 to 75 is ideal. As far as sunlight goes, you will want to create a pond environment where they can receive plenty of sunshine yet still have plenty of pond plants to provide cover.

  5. abraham Lim says:

    I have a simple pond at home for 7 years.last year have borned many fish from the egg.now are still have thousends babies fishes.several days ago.there are born again eggs,so many,now become babies fish,so many.do some one have any sugestions for me? I’ll very apreciate and thank alot for…my whatup no;+.62816762955.

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      A couple weeks after hatching you should begin feeding your koi fry. For about a month, feed your koi fry liquid food or powdered food-and a good choice is egg yolk due to its nutritional content. It is critical that you keep your water quality in check. You need to make sure your water is sufficiently oxygenated.

      Later you can use recently hatched brine shrimp (commonly known as “artemia” ) for the food source. Its also helps a great deal to have a separate, dedicated fry tank or pond.

  6. Mark says:

    Interesting article! I went to the pet store last fall for gold fish, and they gave me Koi by mistake. Didn’t think they would survive in the frozen over frog pond I built, but they did just fine, all survived and are growing really Fast! Beautiful fish.

  7. annierose says:

    i have koi eggs that did not hatch?what do u think is the cause for not hatching?

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      That is not uncommon. There could be lots of reasons they didn’t hatch but the most likely is that they simply didn’t get fertilized by the male. Between natural mortality, not hatching, culling etc. most of the offspring/eggs won’t make it -only a very small percentage.

  8. roger says:

    I have a 1/4 acre farm pond that I can drain to remove native fish and start a koi farm. Is this a good way to start farming kois or does this cause problems?

    • roger says:

      And what about predators like raccoon, haron etc?

      • Koi-Care staff says:

        So for raccoons keep in mind that they, unlike koi, don’t love to swim so if you make your shorelines deep drop-offs that will help but a probably better way to defend against coons is to do a wire mesh across the entire surface of your pond but in your situation that wouldn’t be plausible so the next best thing is to install mesh fencing around 2 feet wide that extends from the shore and over the water (horizontally just above the water). Coons will not want to step on that for the same reasons cows won’t step onto metal bar grates (just one of those things). For the herons you can use a scarecrow style deterrent such as an owl (though a large blue heron scarecrow works best as they prefer to hunt alone) or a motion activated sprinkler (though that is probably best suited for small ponds). I suspect that the horizontal mesh fence will actually do a lot to deter herons though.

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      This method would work but while you have the pond drained you may as well dig the pond deeper to a depth of at least 4 feet. The other reason you will want to remove muck is to get rid of any critters embedded in the muck as well as fish eggs from the previous fish that existed in the pond. Try to have plenty of cover and places to take shelter especially if you’re area receives a lot of sun exposure. See my article on koi breeding for more information.

  9. Zach stout says:

    Ok so I built a 4000 gallon pond last week. And I was wondering if you could buy fish that are only last years babies and still make a profit off their babies down the road? I am in no rush to make any money off the fish but I want to know I can if I decide to take that direction.

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      If I am understanding the question correctly then yes you should still be able to turn a profit but really it comes down to the individual fish; what is the coloration, condition, size, type etc. These are all considerations that buyers will take into account when purchasing fish.
      Good luck

  10. Jake says:

    I received three Koi last fall, all survived the very cold winter. Now very active and two against one. Will the males wear out the apparent female to the point of bad health?> Should the be separated at some point?

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      yes, the female can sustain injuries so really if you are looking to breed these fish its better to put them in a holding pen ;one female, one male.

  11. Will i be able to get Gov’t Grants to start such a business as a koi farm. Can you suggest a website to apply for grants.

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      Well there are certainly opportunities for fed. Money for certain farms beyond terrestrial dairy farms etc. And those include a lot of operations for commercially important marine species ( and prob. some commercially important freshwater species) however koi are really considered ornamental here and gov. Agencies have put a lot of dollars into trying to curb the spread of carp. I’m not sure koi would fall into a category of commercial importance although in other countries where its eaten a lot more i’m sure there is a lot of gov. support for those kinds of farms. So the first group I would contact with this question is Blackwater koi farms out of central florida- they will have some good info. The route I would take is contacting a university researcher whose studies focus on US aquaculture and mariculture or perhaps a researcher that studies the nuances of farming the US. They should be able to at least get you pointed in the right direction.

  12. Gabe jones says:

    I am 16 and wanting to get into the koi breeding business and was wondering what size pond should I make to breed a decent amount of koi and have enough fish and room to sell quite a few 3 to 5 inch koi and raise some koi to bigger sizes to sell later I also live in michigan and was wondering because we have very cold winters how deep should I make the pond. I was also wondering if you also had any tips on how to find people and places to sell these fish to and the average going prices for various size butterfly koi. And thank you for this wonderful article. And thank you for your time
    Sincerely,
    Gabe

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      Gabe, I am not sure how much space you have to start raising koi but folks with large operations have acres and acres of ponds. Obviously they all didn’t start big so really you could do a lot with a small operation to start with. Koi produce a lot of fry so if you had the facilities to house and raise the baby koi you could start to make some money. As far as the depth is concerned I would recommend a depth of at least 3 feet but four feet would be better and make your depth changes gradually slope down to the deepest depth. In Michigan you will want to have some sort of de-icer floating on the surface-there are a lot of koi pond supply places that have them. As far as pricing goes check out these guys in florida -they are a pretty well known koi producer. Prices can vary and it will depend on quality and coloration, fin length etc. (http://www.koisale.com/KoiStore/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=108_67&products_id=219). Who will buy them? If I were you I would focus on building a relationship with companies that are going to buy a lot and move a lot -for example Petco sells butterfly koi and you could conceivably become a supplier for them. If you want to figure out how to sell koi first pretend that you want to buy koi. Where would you go to buy koi, ask people where they buy theirs etc. If you approach the problem from the other side you will then figure out how to sell koi. Right off the bat your local feed store may be willing to carry them (people that have horses and farms will often have koi ponds as well so it may work out well). The other thing you will need to do is develop a reputation for quality fish and that will happen through customer reviews that you publish on your website and entering koi competitions.
      good luck

  13. Trish says:

    Can someone answer a question that I have//?
    Do Koi parents eat their young??
    Thank – you for someone to reply to this question

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      Typically breeders will have a separate grow tank or pond just for eggs/fry because adult koi will pick off eggs that are stuck to spawning brushes and suck up small fry as well.

  14. koster says:

    why not just sell the “genetically inferior” as feeder fish or give them away?
    I at one point had every fish eaten by herons and raccoons so all my koi are young 1-3 years and I just built a cover with chicken wire, pvc pipe, and zip ties. I couldn’t use a motion activated sprayer since i have dogs.

    I have goldfish that seem to breed fine amongst the koi, I see two or three new pop up every year, does that mean koi fry will be able to survive just as well?
    Will I be able to produce decent fish if i have koi ranging from sanke and ogon to scaleless utsuri? Im not really intending to sell

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      Certainly you should give away fish that you would otherwise cull -its a great idea. Your koi breeding won’t do as well if the eggs end up in the main pond with your goldfish as they love to eat koi eggs but certainly some will make it through predation pressure and reach adulthood. I think you will have successful koi breeding as long as you control your breeding situation such as two select males with the females in a breeding tank with breeding material for the eggs to attach to and you keep them safe from predation like goldfish.

  15. Imaran says:

    I have 4 koi that probably measure around 20cm. My question is what tipe of food should I give them and how old are they? Also One of the koi i bought was black at the time and now is turning grey. Is that a problema with the care or is it normal?

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      Koi growth is very dependent on several factors like how much you feed them, quality of food, water temperature, amount of stress they have etc. An estimate of a 20cm fish is around 10 months. Type of food given can also affect a koi’s color. I recommend “Sho Koi”. Remember, pink birds like flamingoes are pink due to their diet of crustaceans which have a lot of pink in them so certainly you can have a fish turn grey due to food.

  16. Tom says:

    Hi Koi-Care staff,
    I have simple question for you.
    I have private pond in my property and I release some Koi’s years ago.
    Now, I have full of Koi’s in my pond I think it’s more than thousand of thousand Koi’s live now.
    My pond size is almost 5 Acres.
    How can I sell this Koi’s for profit?
    I’m in WA state.
    Thanks

    • Koi-Care staff says:

      wow, that’s a big pond with a lot of fish! usually when you want to breed koi to sell you are culling out the ones you don’t want and keeping only those with the color traits that you want and that are worth the most. You have a couple options here:
      1) do a search for koi keeping clubs in your local area and contact the main person for that and see if you can get in touch with their members to see if there is any interest in buying some or all of your fish.
      2) contact a breeder in your area as they may want to come look at your fish and hand pick the ones they want or maybe they want them all?
      3) contact local pet shops that sell fish and local farm stores/feed stores where pond supplies are sold-they may help you sell them to local pond owners.

      Most likely any given fish isn’t worth a whole lot but there may be a few in there that have the coloration a buyer is looking for.
      -good luck

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