A beautiful koi fish swimming in water

Can the Beautiful Koi Fish Be Eaten? Why Not?

Many still wonder whether the colorful koi fish are edible or can be eaten. The curiosity may stem from concern about whether anyone would eat these beautiful fish. It would also not be surprising that people would want to eat koi fish because food enthusiasts are always looking for something new to try. Sometimes, someone may catch koi fish as trash or rough fish and wonder what to do with it. Understanding whether koi fish are edible can help make a better decision or satisfy one’s curiosity.

What is Koi Fish?

Koi fish are a type of Amur carp (Cyprinus rubrofuscus). In Japan, they are known as Nishikigoi, which means living jewels. The Japanese keep these fish in koi ponds and water gardens. The most popular koi varieties are Kohaku, Showa, and sanke.

Koi fish have a shiny or metallic appearance and distinct color schemes that make them look appealing. As a result, most people rear them for sale as ornamental or pet fish.

Rice farmers in Japan began ornamental koi farming about 200 years ago and have, during this period, mastered the art of breeding and raising koi fish.

Currently, Japanese koi breeders rear the best and most beautiful koi worldwide. Their colored koi fish is a product of many years of selective breeding of the wild carp. They hold competitions each year to showcase their best koi fish and bring hobbyists together.

Why Would You Not Want to Eat Koi Fish?

Koi fish are exclusively for decorative purposes.

One cannot eat colored koi fish because koi farms breed and raise them primarily for ornamental purposes. They also regularly cull them based on the uniqueness of their colors, skin, and patterns and only leave the best breeds.

Culling usually occurs at different stages. It ensures only the koi fish that fit the living jewel tag reach adulthood. Breeders then sell them to dealers, hobbyists, or individuals who want to keep them in outdoor koi ponds, gardens, or aquariums.

Koi farmers use a lot of chemicals to raise koi fish

The colorful koi fish cannot be eaten because koi breeders use many chemicals to keep them disease and parasite-free. The chemicals also help create the right conditions for optimal growth.

For instance, koi farms use herbicides and algaecides to manage weeds and algae in and around koi ponds.

Algaecides cause cyanobacteria cells to break open and increase cyanotoxin concentrations in fish raised in koi fish ponds. As a result, koi fish can adversely affect human health if eaten.

Herbicides can further accumulate in fish tissue if applied regularly and improperly, making koi fish unfit for consumption. Using unapproved herbicides in and around koi ponds also increases the risk of contamination and may render koi fish inedible.

Koi fish have spiritual and symbolic meanings.

The Japanese believe that the beautiful koi fish bring good fortune or luck. They also associate these fish with wealth, prosperity, determination, and persistence.

A beautiful white and orange koi fish

Buddhists further consider koi fish as a symbol of courage. Therefore, people do not eat colorful koi fish, considering their symbolic and spiritual meaning.

Koi fish are expensive.

People will not eat koi fish because they are expensive pets. For koi breeders, they are a sign of prestige and a source of livelihood. They can sell them for a few bucks or over a million dollars, depending on their body shape, skin quality, colors, and patterns. For instance, the Saki Fish Farm sold the most expensive koi fish in history at a whopping $1.8 million. No one in their right mind would want to eat their pet. It is even less likely to happen if it is an expensive pet.

Although beautiful koi fish cannot be eaten, some people rear specific breeds or types of koi fish for eating or consumption. It means that koi fish can be edible because they are a type of carp. In fact, restaurants in certain areas of Japan serve koi fish as sashimi. They also fry the koi fish or serve it in soup.

If you are a seafood enthusiast, you might also enjoy reading The Most Interesting Facts About Gooseneck Barnacles and The Most Interesting Facts About Geoduck (Gooey Duck).