The full name of the Taisho Sanshoku Koi comes from three distinct elements. The first word, Taisho, is the emperor’s name who reigned during the period when the Taisho Sanshoku were first bred. San means “three,” and shoku means “colors”– a reference to the fish’s red, white, and black coloration.
Variations of Sanke include:
- Doitsu Sanke
- Maruten Sanke
- Tancho Sanke
- Gin Rin Sanke
Taisho Sanke Characteristics
Taisho Sanke were the first tricolour (white, red, and black) koi variety to be developed. It is the second in the group of koi known as the ‘Big Three’ (Kohaku, Sanke, and Showa) also known as Gosanke. They are white koi with large patterns of hi (red) and smaller sumi (black marking) evenly distributed on the body.
As with Kohaku, the white should be snow-white and lustrous, and the red markings (hi) should be deep in colour with the edges of the pattern well-defined. The sumi should be deep black, though it usually appears as light blue or grey in young koi fish before it fully develops. The sumi should also be distributed evenly throughout the body to provide a pleasing pattern. While sumi may develop on the hi (red) or on the white skin, Sanke with sumi on the white are highly sought after.
Taisho Sanshoku usually only have the sumi on the upper half of the body, they typically shouldn’t have any below the lateral line. This is one major feature that distinguishes Sanke from Showa, whose sumi are usually much larger and extend right down to the belly. Sanke often have some black stripes on the pectoral fins, but should not have motoguro – a block of black at the base of the pectoral fin.
Another characteristic that differentiates Sanke from Showa, is that Taisho Sanke does not usually have any sumi on the head. While classic Taisho Sanke will have only red over white on the head, quality Showa will always have a significant amount of black on the head.
Maintaining Healthy Coloration
To help develop and maintain healthy coloration, Taisho Sanke koi are often fed diets with color enhancers, such as those containing spirulina or krill, as well as those with ample (>30%) protein to aid in proper growth. These are of lesser importance if you don’t wish to show your fish at shows.
Price of Taisho Sanshoku
Like most varieties of specially-bred koi, Taisho Sanshoku are often more expensive fish. Their greater water quality needs (covered below) must also be taken into consideration, as you’ll need to have proper filtration and aeration features in place that will range in price depending on the size of your pond.
Taisho Sanke Gender Differences
Due to hormones, females will take longer to develop red and black coloring, but once they have it, it will last later into life. Males, on the other hand, often develop their coloring earlier, but it fades more quickly as they age. It can take several years for the Sumi markings to show up on Sanke, so some may look like Kohaku at first – and might be sold as such from irresponsible or ignorant breeders.