Can you Eat Koi Fish and is it Safe to Eat

For all nature lovers out there, no doubt you have fishing at the top of your to-do summertime activity list. True, nothing beats being in the midst of nature surrounded by water, indeed an intoxicating experience. The best part is when your hook tells you you’ve caught a live one! And you probably just want to taste your catch right away. But have you ever wondered if that fish on your line is really the edible type?

Come to think of it, at some point in our college years, we have probably heard of those absurd campus dares that went as far as gulping down whole goldfishes. It seems crazy to think that these marine pets are now the subject of college pranks. This practice leads us to ask, how about those decorative fish you see in aquariums, gardens, and ponds? The graceful koi fish are abundant in these fixtures and are loved by so many.

I bet you think that all fish can be devoured, especially if they are fresh from their habitat. Well, hypothetically speaking, this would be true in an ideal world. Yet, for those who still hold such concerns about can you eat koi fish and is it safe to eat: Yes you can and yes it generally is safe. Read on to find out more!

Koi in a pond; Chinese Garden in Singapore; Can you Eat Koi Fish and how does it taste?

Originating from the Japanese word Nishikigoi, which stands for brocaded carp, the term Koi was popularized from the colored variants of the carp fish. These fish are famous for aesthetic purposes, and more often than not, you can see them decorated in water gardens or outdoor Koi ponds. For this reason, many people think they fall under the classification of goldfish, which is actually a misconception.


The first Koi offspring were said to have been bred from the Magoi carp. It had beautiful patterns colored in yellow and red. This natural mutation originated back in China in the 4th century, while the modern variety goes way back to the early 19th century in Japan.


Koi fish reproduce through the process of spawning. This happens when a male Koi nudges a female Koi until she lays numerous eggs for him to fertilize. Sadly, out of the hundreds of spawns, only a few survive to become adults.


The most basic description of a Koi is its colorful pattern and bright colors. Typically, they grow to a maximum of 90 cm in length, and their colorful bodies come with long flowing fins. These fish are yellow, orange, blue, red, black, white, or any other combination. But their skin color depends on what Koi variety they belong to.


Since the Koi fish does not really have a natural habitat, you can typically see them in decorative areas, such as gardens, fishponds, or aquariums. However, some variants of these fish can live in wilder conditions like freshwater ponds and lakes.

Eating Habits

Koi fish are considered omnivores, meaning they can have both animal and plant intake. For the wild Koi counterparts primarily found in Asia, they feast solely on aquatic insects, algae, and other microorganisms. If you have one at home in your own aquarium or pond, you can give them Koi feed.

Koi Care

Koi fish make great pets. However, they require a well-maintained habitat and a stable food source. If you are caring for a Koi at home or planning to get one as a pet, you should ensure the water is clean using a pump and filtration system. Oxygen and pH water levels should also be regularly checked.

asian old asian elderly senior elder woman looking at koi fish in pond

Koi Fish as Food

Now I have shared all there is to know about the Koi fish. Let us then get on to answering the question that most fish lovers are dying to know. Hopefully, you can gain some helpful insight, which could add to your growing expertise on fish as a whole.

Are Koi fish edible?

The Koi fish resides in freshwater, a condition that makes it prone to algae attachments. This will give off an aftertaste when you serve it as a dish. The taste is similar to that of fish grown in muddy water like ponds and lakes. That is why recipes making use of this fish are not that popular, unlike other fish types.

But if you intend to give it a try, you should make sure to place your Koi fish in clean water before cooking it. Given its diet and habitat, you need to keep it clean before making it a part of your cuisine. Depending on your craving, you could have it prepared by simply frying it or grilling it using the ideal fish grilling basket. Or you could have the option of turning it into Koi no Amani, a trendy dish in Japan, or into Koi fish curry.

How do I prepare and clean the fish?

Before anything else, you have to remove all its scales along with the skin from the pectoral area. Also, do not forget to trim the mouth area as well as the gills. These parts, though edible, are not a good idea to eat because of the bitter taste it imparts to your palate. Anyhow, if you plan on not cooking your Koi fish right away, removing the gills will make sure it doesn’t spoil fast. You can cut them loose at their attachments or simply rip them out if your fish is the small kind.

Once this is done, empty out the inside, making it easier to wash. Cleaning your fish with salt ensures it is free from any bacteria or hydra attached to their skin. Afterward, run it under fresh or tap water, so any residue is wholly flushed away.

Koi in a pond; Chinese Garden in Singapore; Can you Eat Koi Fish and how does it taste?

Can you Eat Koi Fish - Conclusion

To answer whether Koi fish can be eaten and is safe to eat, yes, Koi fish is very much edible, and it is pretty safe to eat. Nonetheless, take note of these few important points before deciding to consume any Koi dish.

  • This fish has to be correctly cleaned of scales and devoid of gills for a better eating experience. These parts leave a not-so-pleasant aftertaste on the dish.
  • Make sure to wash the fish before cooking. Use salt, and rinse with fresh or tap water to get rid of unnecessary microorganisms on the skin.

As always, leave a comment below if you have any questions about Koi fish in general, or even share with us an interesting experience about the first time you’ve had a Koi fish meal! Also check out our articles on bowfin and tarpon edibility!

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