The Tantalizing Tancho Koi
The Tancho is one of the most popular koi varieties in the world. A vision of simplicity, this sleek white koi is known for its trademark red pigmentation on the head. Striking and subtle, the Tancho is a vision of the Japanese flag – a white backdrop with a red centered sun. Tancho koi are also named after the Japanese Crane, or Red Crowned Crane, because of their shared red-spotted head.
The most picturesque Tancho is the Tancho Kohaku. This koi is a snow white hue with crimson red pigmentation, or hi, on the head. The spot is crucial to a Tancho koi because of its prominence. While traditionally required to be perfectly round, other symmetrical shapes of hi are also now considered under the Tancho umbrella. So long as they are vertically symmetrical, the red hi can vary from circular to oval and even diamond to heart-shaped. The red hi must be of a dominating size. It cannot be speckled; one spot is required for Tancho qualifications. And a hi cannot be accompanied by red lips, which would qualify the koi as Kuchibeni.
A perfect Tancho koi is very expensive because of its rarity; this variety cannot be bred. Tancho are typically the offspring of two Tancho adults or two Kohaku adults. Even when a Tancho hatches, chances are very slim that the hi will meet the standards of the perfect Tancho. Many times, the koi fry produced by the mating adults will be classified as a Shiro Muji, which is a nonmetallic white-scaled koi absent or any hi.
While the hi is the most characteristic part of this koi, it is not in all cases permanent. To the owner’s dismay, hi can disappear from stress and poor aquatic conditions. This red pigmentation does not return once it fades away.
In addition to the Tancho Kohaku, there are other well-known varieties as well. The Tancho Showa has a white base, a hi on the forehead, and is spotted with black sumi throughout the body. Sometimes the sumi can wander into the hi. There is also the Tancho Sanke, which is very similar to Tancho Sumi. The difference between these two varieties is that the sumi does not emerge on the head at all. It only appears on the body.
Because perfect examples of Tancho koi, no matter the variety, are so rare, koi keepers have been turning to science to fix what nature did not create. Sometimes scales are bleached or removed to fix symmetry in the hi. Some koi keepers have even turned to tattooing their Tancho koi to perfection. These “perfected” Tancho koi can then sell for a very high price.
Are you a Tancho koi keeper? Send us photos of your fish via the contact form!