Koi - Sanke

Taisho Sanke - the second of the "big three" varieties generally referred to simply as Sanke which literally means tri colour. A white-backed Koi with red and black markings, this variety can be considered as a Kohaku with the addition of black or sumi markings. This being the case, all the important features we look for in Kohaku apply equally to Sanke. Body shape and skin quality are of prime importance, fine white skin being particularly valued as this is even harder to find than on Kohaku. The Hi should be uniform in colour and form an interesting well-balanced pattern. Add to this several well placed sumi markings and we have the basis of a good Sanke. The head markings should run down between the eyes finishing around the nostril area. Menkaburi and Bozu patterns are undesirable.

Unique head patterns are, today, finding favour just as with Kohaku. In assessing Sanke the old question "without the sumi would the Koi make a good Kohaku?" is still a valid consideration. With regard to Sumi markings, sumi on white skin is called Tsubo Sumi and is preferred to sumi on red skin which is called Kasane Sumi. When fully developed sumi should be a deep dense black having a lacquered appearance, called Urishi and have sharply defined edges. There should be no sumi on the head or below the lateral line. A large sumi marking on the shoulder helps create an imposing look, particularly if this falls on white skin. Although this is perhaps considered less important with the emergence of the so-called modem Sanke which have a minimal amount of sumi, sometimes only one or two markings. The placement of the sumi is important and should give the appearance of definite marking, achieving balance on the Koi and not just random black spots. Many small sumi markings tend to produce a spattered effect lacking refinement, and sumi markings which are too large give a heavy dominant appearance. As with all patterned Koi, balance is the key. Fewer well placed sumi markings are generally preferred to a large number which tend to lack elegance. The sumi of Sanke is variable and can either become more intense or even fade altogether as the Koi grows.

In young Sanke it is worthwhile looking for underlying sumi which appears as grey markings under the skin which have not yet fully developed. This later developing sumi is called Ato which once fully developed is said to be more stable. Fully developed sumi on your Koi may well not last and often breaks up. Whilst they may appear very attractive at the time, such Koi may well disappoint in the long term.The fins of Sanke should have a few sumi stripes but too many gives a heavy impression. Sanke with pure white fins have generally come from Kohaku lineage.Those with stripes are reputed to have more stable body sumi. There should be no solid sumi at the base of pectorals nor should there be any Hi staining of the fins.Sanke with a continuous Hi marking from head to tail are Aka Sanke which simply means red. They often grow very large but are generally regarded as lacking elegance due to the absence of Tsubo Sumi. Sanke with a separate head spot are Maruten just as with Kohaku.

Sanke are also produced as Doitsu Koi which should have a neat row of large scales along the dorsal ridge. Misplaced scales often appear on the body and are considered as a fault. Doitsu Sanke appear very pretty when small but are not as highly regarded as scaled versions when large. Other types of Sanke include Kanoku which are Sanke on which the Hi is dappled. Koromo Sanke, the Hi of which has a reticulated sumi pattern on the individual scales. Tancho Sanke, the only Hi being the round head spot. Metallic Sanke are called Yamatonishiki, good specimens being very rare as the metallic lustre tends to make the Hi appear orange and the sumi silvery grey. Kinginrin Sanke with their shimmering scaling are also very popular, but that's a subject for another time.

The concluding thought to apply to Sanke of all types, should be the striving for complete harmony of the three colours.

Stan Collinge