Do Koi Fish Have Whiskers: Importance of Koi Barbels

Koi Fish, also known as carp, are a species of fish that have been beloved by aquarists for centuries. With their bright colors and unique patterns, these fish truly stand out in any aquarium.

But one question that often comes up is: Do Koi Fish have whiskers? In this article, we will explore the answer to this question and dive into the fascinating world of Koi Fish whiskers.

One of the defining features of these fish is their long, protruding whiskers, also known as barbels. These whiskers are essential for koi fish to function properly and to survive in their environment.

Two sets of whiskers koi fish possess of which the top of them they use for sensing food. It helps them to determine the taste of food underwater.

Besides, koi fish use their whiskers for communication and finding mates during the breeding season. Keep reading this article to know more about the whiskers of koi fish.

Do Koi Fish Have Whiskers

What is so special about koi fish?

Koi are considered a Japanese breed of carp fish. A koi is any member of this species that has grown to over one meter in length (3 feet).

They have a unique body shape with a long fin on each side of their body and a long snout with whiskers running down their face.

The whiskers are very thin and flexible, allowing them to move quickly without bumping into things when they swim through water or react to disturbances in the water’s surface such as light reflections or moving objects nearby such as other fish or humans who may want to interact with a koi.

Have you ever wondered what Koi’s barbels look like?

The first set of barbels is slightly more developed than the second and third sets, appearing as small stubby things that protrude from just below the lip. They are clear and resemble small growths rather than barbels.

The second set of barbels will start to grow on the bottom lips, but they won’t be visible yet. The first set of barbels stays temporarily for a few months while they regrow, then fall off again.

Besides, the third pair of barbels are generally longer than the first two sets and can be from one to three inches long. These barbels may lower down a bit and fish may have trouble swimming for it.

What are the uses of koi fish whiskers?

Do you know the uses of whiskers in koi fish? Whiskers play a significant role in koi fish life. Whiskers known as Maxillary Barbels. Listed below are some of the facts about why the barbers are used for.

Tasting food

Koi fish Whiskers are covered with olfactory sensors, which help their nose to smell food. Moreover, the slender organ also helps koi test food before ingesting it.

koi got four Whiskers, two are each side of their mouth. The top two Whiskers are shorter, while the bottom two are longer. But the fact is the uses of all Whiskers are the same, which is to have a taste of food without eating.


Whiskers serve koi fish as a way to communicate. They use their Whiskers to find a mate in the breeding season. Male koi fish (flare) their Whiskers courting female kois.

On the other hand when a female koi ready to spawn eggs flare their barbels. Moreover both males and females of this species open their Whiskers while defending their territories.


Whiskers also help koi fish in sensing. Koi fish are not that lucky like humans, as they can easily see things or identify o jests from a distant place. Koi fish have to survive underwater in low-light conditions.

But Whiskers help koi fish additionally with their eyes to see things easily. It gives them an extra advantage to find things underwater in low-light conditions.

Is it possible to koi fish without Whiskers?

Whiskers are an essential feature of Koi fish, and they use them to find food, detect predators and navigate the water.

Without their whiskers, Koi fish are at risk of becoming injured or even killed by predators.

It is possible to koi fish without Whiskers, but there are some different reasons behind it. These are explained below.

Young age

Koi are not born with whiskers, but if they are only one or two inches long, they are most likely not developed yet.

Koi do not need whiskers to survive, but many people believe they look nicer with them. Whiskers can grow throughout a koi’s life, but they are typically only noticeable when the fish is very young or older.


Koi fish are typically very hardy fish, but their whiskers can be injured and fall off. This usually happens while removing the fish from the pond with a net, but can also happen when the fish are fighting or when they are caught in a knot. Parasites or other fish can also damage whiskers.


People may be confused about differentiating between koi fish and goldfish. Koi fish have long, thin whiskers that give them their characteristic snout. In contrast, goldfish have no whiskers at all making it easy to distinguish between the two types of fish.

Hard to see:
If you were to look at a young koi fish with a magnifying glass, you may be able to spot a whisker starting to form. Koi Whiskers are not always easy to see, as they are very small and often located close to the fish’s eyes.

Frequently asked question
Do female koi have whiskers?

Yes, female koi have whiskers (Jones), female koi use their whiskers for communication, searching for food as males do. Besides, female koi flare their whiskers when they are to spawn eggs. Both male and female koi use whiskers to defend their territory.

What Is the Length of a Koi’s Barbels?

The barbels of koi fish are located on the sides of their mouths between the upper and lower sets of teeth. The lower set is normally longer than the upper set. Koi fish barbels can be longer one two to three inches in length.

What Happens if Koi Lose Their Whiskers

In nature, koi use their whiskers to find food at the bottom of ponds. Some people use floating fish food for their indoor koi pond. If a koi lost its whiskers, it could be tough for them to find food.

But If your koi is an adult and has lost its whiskers there is hope. The tissue can regenerate new whiskers if it has enough healthy tissue left.

Does A Baby Koi Have Barbels?

Baby koi have barbels. You can see them when the fish is first born, but they’re tiny and almost invisible to the naked eye. The barbels are there for a few weeks and then fall off as the koi turns one year old.

The growth of the barbels depends on what kind of food you give your baby koi. If you feed your koi a nutritious diet, they’ll grow bigger.

Koi fish have whiskers. They’re called “whiskers” because they look like the hair on a cat or other animal.

How Many Whiskers Does a Koi Have?

The first set of whiskers is usually near the top of their lips, and they’re smaller in size and could resemble growths more than whiskers.

The second set of whiskers is usually around where their top and bottom lips meet.

These are larger and typically what you see and think of as whiskers—the ones that stick out when you stroke down your koi’s cheek. They can range in size from 1-3 inches in length.

Sometimes the whiskers can grow too large and cause the koi trouble swimming. Therefore, when selecting a koi fish for a pond you want to look to make sure its whiskers are proportional to its head.

If you’re not sure, you can compare them to other fish to get an idea of ​​how big they should be. Koi with long whiskers are usually undesirable, especially if they’re too big for their mouths.

At what age do koi get their barbels?

Koi are born without barbles. A few weeks later barbels started to grow. But barbles will disappear in a few months. It will take about one or two years to grow barbles on their bottom lip. But soon it will come back.

In the matter of the second pair of barbles, it will grow from foodstuffs containing protein. To reach their full potential barbles need amino acids from the protein. Finally, third barbles will grow in the age between 3 to 4 years old.