Can you Eat Koi Fish and is it Safe to Eat

Koi fish are a beautiful form of carp that are often kept in ponds and decorative pools. This freshwater fish can be found in many different colors, but they are always vibrant and eye-catching.

One question that people often ask is whether or not koi fish are safe to eat. The answer varies depending on the source you consult, so we will do some research into this topic to find out if koi fish are edible!

Shortly, if you are wondering about the safety of eating koi and whether you can eat koi fish: Yes you can and yes it generally is safe, but not necessarily advisable. Read on to find out more!

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

Facts About Koi Fish

Originating from the Japanese word Nishikigoi, which stands for brocaded carp, the term Koi was popularized from the colored variants of the carp fish species. These fish are famous for aesthetic purposes, and more often than not, you can see them kept as pets 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 were used traditionally as a sacred ornamental centerpiece during feasts or religious ceremonies due to their beauty.


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, a koi pond, or aquariums or in other words stagnant water. However, some variants of these fish can live in wilder conditions like freshwater fish ponds and lakes, which are also generally better suited to fishing, if you really want to eat the fish koi.

Eating Habits

As carp, 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 Carp 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 many 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?

If you intend to give it a try, you should make sure to place your Koi fish in clean water before cooking it, ideally 24 hours or more. 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.

What does Koi taste like?

Koi fish tastes like many other type of freshwater fish, but the taste can be very strong if it is served as a dish. The flavor has been described to resemble that of muddy water or dirty pond water, with tough meat that does not necessarily taste good.

The Koi fish is a freshwater fish, 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 those for other fish species.

Are Koi good for humans and is it safe to eat?

Koi are known by some groups as ‘the most beautiful animal’ because they have scales in vivid colors such as orange-gold or blue/black/green resembling peacock feathers. That being said, it is still not advisable to consume koi.

Today, because Koi can be very large in size, with some weighing upwards of 25 kgs (55 lbs), many people have inquired about whether it’s possible to eat these fish and if the cooked fish koi meat is healthy.

Well first off just know that while there are many people who are tempted to make this culinary experiment, it is not recommended as Koi fish contain mercury levels that exceed the FDA’s safety limits.

As a result of their size and because they live in a natural ecosystem where pollution can accumulate in stagnant water or during spawning season, many koi populations have been contaminated with high levels of heavy metals such as cadmium and lead which are known to be toxic when ingested by humans-especially children. These metal contaminants can cause numerous health problems ranging from kidney damage to even cancer so we recommend avoiding eating these types of fish altogether!

Is Koi fish poisonous?

Koi fish is not poisonous in the sense that it will kill you when eaten. However, as previously mentioned, koi fish contain mercury levels exceeding FDA safety limits which can lead to numerous health issues if ingested regularly over a long period of time-especially for children and pregnant women.

For this reason, while many people are tempted to make this culinary experiment, we recommend to eat different types of food fish instead as they might be less risky for your overall well-being!

How do I prepare and clean the fish?

Do you still want to eat koi? 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 has a small body.

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. Then, proceed to cook it either in an oven or fry it in a pan, with a little oil. It is probably a good idea to add sauce too, as it can help enhance the taste of the fish koi meat. Personally, I find the curry recipe to look the most tasty.

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

How expensive is a Koi Fish?

One koi fish can cost anywhere from $50 to over a thousand dollars and in very rare cases a quality koi can sell even for more than a million dollars, making koi fish some of the most expensive fish in the world. This is because of their long breeding cycles and the rarer colors they are available in, as well as their sacred status in Japan.

Prices go up with color, but there are other factors as well like pure bloodlines or how much training it has received when raised that also contribute to the price tag you’ll see when looking at your options for buying one today!

Are Koi Edible – 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 this fish although, take note of these few important points before deciding to consume any Koi dish.

  • While koi fish is not poisonous, it contains more mercury than your average freshwater fish, making it less healthy to eat koi fish compared to other carp or fish meat in general.
  • Koi 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 quality koi fish before cookingyour catch. Use salt, and rinse with fresh or tap water to get rid of unnecessary microorganisms on the skin. Good luck!

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 related articles on blobfish edibility, blue marlin, perch, bowfin, flounder, pike, tripletail and tarpon edibility!