Red is a dominant color in the Koi hobby.  People search high and low, long and far looking for that perfect crimson red on a Kohaku.  But there is a question in regards to red that pops up often – should you use the terms “beni” or “hi” when referring to red color on Koi?

Long-time hobbyist Tim Nye posted an in depth summary of his knowledge of beni vs hi, and his thoughts are reproduced here, with his permission.

After spending several hours trying to unravel this mystery, scouring every forum and book, Tim concluded that this is an incredibly complex subject, and not one with an easy answer.

First, like many things Koi-related, you must understand that there are no hard and fast rules, and there are always exceptions.  Also, understand that terminology has and will continue to change.  The language used today can and will differ from the language of years gone by.

Part of this change in language can be attributed to the ever-increasing quality of Koi.  In general, the quality of Koi seen in the hobby today is superior to what was seen just 10 or 20 years ago, and vastly superior to what you may have seen 50 or 100 years previous.  As the Koi themselves evolve through selective breeding, so does the language used to describe them.

You must also understand that marketing does play a part in this.  A benigoi simply sounds better and is more likely to sell than an aka muji.  Part of the challenge for keepers and hobbyists is determining what is marketing speak and what is legitimate.

But what you must truly understand to get to the root of this question is the “atmosphere” of the Koi in question.  You must find the root nature of what you are looking at.  Is the Koi in question Gosanke or non-Gosanke?  That will guide you in determining the correct term, beni or hi, to use.  This is oftentimes very difficult for all but the most seasoned veterans without knowing the oya (parent Koi).

Generally speaking, beni, hi (and also aka) are used to describe different hues of the color red.  The context in which they are used provides further clues.

In years past, beni was referred to as a deeper, higher quality hue of red, hi was a general or average quality, and aka was a basic or lower quality red.  However the language has since shifted, and now the term beni is used to describe the nature of the red, even if it is not necessarily high quality.  Even more confusingly, we now use beni to describe the hue of the red.  For example, we have pink beni, yellow beni and so on, all of which describe the hue of the red.

If you’re rightfully confused, don’t get discouraged.  It takes a huge amount of time and experience to unravel what’s behind koi terminology, but that’s part of the fun for many keepers.  There is always something new to learn or expand your understanding of, keeping you on your toes with evolving knowledge.

We will close this article with input from another seasoned keeper.  This may be a bit of an oversimplification of the question at hand, but for those just starting out, this is a good base:

  • “Beni” is only used to refer to red color on Gosanke varieties (Kohaku, Sanke, Showa)
  • “Hi” is used when referring to Koi pattern on non-Gosanke, such as Hi Utsuri (black base Koi with red pattern)
  • “Aka” refers to Koi that are nearly or all red (Aka Muji, Aka Sanke and Aka Bekko)

Keep in mind that these are not strict rules and these words can be interchangeable.

But most of all, don’t get frustrated and don’t get discouraged.  Instead, constantly be on the lookout for new information and for more experienced keepers to learn from.  Not just about when to use “beni” or when to use “hi”, but about all things Koi related.  You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn!


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