Goldfish are a true aquarium classic.
Just about every fish keeper knows about these bright little spots of gold.
They are often the first choice for beginner keepers. When cared for well and given enough space, they can grow quite large and live for up to 10 years.
When most people think of Goldfish, they think of the typical bright orange and yellow varieties. But these fish come in so many different shapes, sizes, and colors.
With more than 30 varieties to choose from, there is one for every keeper.
Read on to find the right Goldfish for you…
Table of Contents
Types of Goldfish
They are closely related to the Common Carp, which is known as the Koi fish in the aquarium hobby.
The single tailed breeds include the standard forms well known to all aquarists. They have long, slim bodies with a single caudal fin and two sets of pectoral and anal fins.
In the wild they are native to China, however their popularity has led to their introduction in waters all over the world.
This is the standard variety that you will find at most pet shops and aquarium suppliers.
Their iconic golden colors are exclusive to captive fish. In the wild, these fish are often silver or dull bronze. They can be found in various colors beyond the standard gold including: red, orange, white and yellow. Mottled and calico versions are also very popular.
They can grow up to 6 inches in a tank, but in a garden pond they can reach lengths of 10 inches or more. They should never be kept in a bowl.
A popular misconception is that they have very short memories. In reality, they can retain information for up to 3 months at a time.
There are very few single tailed varieties more popular than the Comet. The breed originated in the United States in the 1880s.
True to their name, they have long slim bodies with trailing tails. They are typically orange or yellow, but can come in other color forms as well.
Their trailing fins and smaller size distinguishes them from the Common breed.
Comets are very fast swimmers that do better in garden ponds than indoor tanks. Give them the space to swim, and they will display their grace and coordination.
Goldfish can appear in iridescent rainbow colors.
While they are not specifically referred to as rainbow fish, white scaled Goldfish may appear iridescent under certain lights. The whiter the color and the larger the scales, the more colors will be reflected.
Calicos can also be called rainbow if they display a particularly large array of colors.
If you are looking for a rainbow fish for your tank or pond, consider either one of these fish.
The Shubunkin is very similar to the Comet, but have a calico pattern rather than a solid color.
Multiple varieties of the Shubunkin exist including the:
Koi refers to ornamental breeds of the Common Carp.
This species have white or silver scales, with red or orange spots and black markings. The patterns resemble those of a common Kohaku Koi.
Larger Shubunkins and the Sarasa variety of Comets can closely resemble Koi. These varieties serve as good Koi substitutes for ponds on a budget.
Blue is a highly valued color. It is quite uncommon and only available on scaleless varieties and certain fancy breeds.
Most calico fish have a blue or lavender base color.
Telescopes and Orandas can be bred for blue coloration. The value of the fish increases with the depth of the blue color.
This is the single most well-known color. Shades of it vary from golden yellow to deep red. The value of the fish increases with the intensity of the color.
The orange color is a product of selective breeding for the aquarium trade. If an orange Goldfish is found in the wild, you can tell that it’s been released very recently.
Over time, feral fish released into the wild will revert to their natural colors and look more like the Common Carp.
Usually, Goldfish have beautiful iridescent scales everywhere however, scaleless varieties do exist.
Scaleless varieties are not actually scaleless, their scales are just so small and thin that the fish appears scaleless when you look at it.
These fish can be white, red, gold, or even blue and purple. Their colors are much more intense than those of the scaled varieties, and develop at 6-8 weeks old.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is a black or melanistic specimen. This occurs when there is an excess of cells that produce dark pigments. Melanistic animals are black or very dark brown and the result of a genetic mutation.
Completely black fish can also be selected for in breeding.
Black is a very popular color form the Telescope breed, Orandas can also be bred for their deep black color.
Outside of these breeds, the black color is usually a random genetic occurrence just like albinism.
A calico or mottled color is highly prized in the aquarium. For single-tailed fish, the most well-known example is the Shubunkin.
They most often have blue or silver based scales. The deeper and more vivid the blue color, the more expensive they are.
The ideal calico color form has deep blue, red, or white base scales with a sprinkling of black pepper spots all over the fish. It takes 2 to 3 years for the colors and patterns to fully develop.
This color is available on both single tailed and double tailed fancy varieties.
Albinism is a lack of pigmentation and occurs when the fish lacks the cells that produce darker pigments.
In most cases, the albinism occurs as the result of a recessive gene. It can occur in almost all breeds of single and double-tailed fish.
Albino fish are cream-colored with stark-white fins and very light pink or red eyes.
Fancy Goldfish Types
The breeding and cultivation of fancy Goldfish originated in Asia in the 19th century.
Most fancy breeds are distinguished from the common varieties by their paired caudal fins. In many cases, the anal fins and caudal fins have merged into a single pair of fins.
Ornamental fish have cultural significance in both Asia and the West, and are even the subject of mythology and artworks.
Some breeds are considered sacred or regarded as status symbols.
The selective breeding of Goldfish has resulted in a very wide variety of interesting colors and traits.
The Fantail is the ideal breed for those selecting their very first fancy fish. Their body form is similar to the Common variety, but features a unique quadruple caudal fin.
They are named for their long, fan-shaped caudal fins and are usually white with orange, red or gold markings.
Their quadruple fin is the result of merging between their paired anal and caudal fins.
Like the Common Goldfish, they can grow up to 12 inches in backyard garden ponds, and in aquarium, they will grow to about 6 inches.
Telescope Eye Goldfish
Telescopes are one of the most popular fancy breeds of all. They originated in China, but are now bred all over the world.
They are distinguished by their wide, protruding eyes. These can be round, cone shaped, or tube shaped.
These ‘telescope’ eyes can take anywhere from 2 months to 2 years to develop, but on average it takes about 3 to 5 months. The Telescope has been bred for many different body forms and colors, but the typical variety resembles a Veiltail with protruding eyes. They have wide dorsal fins and broad, trailing tails.
Fringetail and Ryukin Goldfish
The Fringetail, or Ryukin is considered a Japanese version of the Fantail.
They have a round and slightly humped body, with a very high dorsal fin and long, trailing tails.
You can find them in many of the color forms available to other breeds, including gold, white, and calico.
In 1893, several specimens of this fish were meant to appear in the World’s Fair. Unfortunately, only a few were able to survive the trip to Chicago.
The Oranda, also known as the Redcap, is distinguished by the large hump on its head.
They are similar to both the Fantail and the Lionhead. They may be a cross-breed of the two, or else a new variant of the Fantail.
A popular color form features a white body with a red hood. The hood usually sits on top of the head, but may cover the entire head as well.
Other color forms that exist include: red, blue, and black.
The Lionhead is a Chinese fish with a humped head. It differs from the Oranda in that it has short, stumpy fins and lacks a dorsal fin.
Its body is short and round, and the hood very often covers the entire head.
The hood develops at 6 months of age and continues to grow as the fish grows. It may even extend to the gill plates and cause problems with respiration. Lionheads can be red, white or gold. They are also known as brambleheads because their hoods resemble clusters of berries.
The Wakin is a fancy Japanese variant of the Common Goldfish, and are a very popular choice for outdoor garden ponds.
They are distinguished as a fancy breed by their paired caudal/anal fins, and have the same long, slim bodies as the single-tailed fish.
Wakins can grow up to 16 inches long, and compliment Koi and Comets very nicely in an aquascape.
Pearlscales are one of the showiest fish you can find – they are known for their large, round scales that resemble jewels or pearls.
They have round bodies and short white fins.
These fish do have dorsal fins, but still face difficulty with balance and buoyancy due to their shape. They swim very slowly and may have a hard time holding themselves up in the water.
Bubble Eye Goldfish
There are few breeds more controversial than the Bubble Eye. These fish originated in Asia and gained Western popularity during World War 2.
Their defining characteristics are the fluid-filled sacs below each eye. Larger sacs are highly prized and these fish are deliberately bred to increase their size. These sacs cause extra vision problems for the fish, and unfortunately blindness is a common issue in Bubble Eyes.
They often have a shortened lifespan compared to other breeds, and can be difficult to breed and rear.
The Moor Telescope is living proof that these fish certainly do not have to be gold! They are completely black except for their underbellies.
Usually, this color is the result of cross-breeding a deep red Telescope with another Moor.
The color is highly sought after due to its attractive contrast to the aquarium waters. Moors are slow and graceful swimmers and have the same trailing fins as other Telescopes.
Other Fancy Goldfish:
- Black Oranda Goldfish: These fish are simply deep black varieties of the Oranda. They can be completely black or feature a bright red underbelly.
- Eggfish Goldfish: The Chinese Eggfish is a Fringetail without a dorsal fin. It has a round, egg-shaped body and is usually white, but can also be red, gold, or mottled.
- Tiger Goldfish: The Tiger Telescope is also known as the Piebald Telescope. They have a banded tiger pattern, which can be partial or cover the entire body. The colors are usually red, orange, and black.
- Butterfly Goldfish: These are some of the most elegant looking fish around. This is a Telescope that is bred for two large, fan-shaped tails that resemble a butterfly’s wings.
- Celestial Goldfish: This is a Telescope variant that features upward pointing eyes, similar to the Bubble Eye. They have the body form of a regular Telescope, though they lack a dorsal fin.
- Veiltail Goldfish: The Veiltail is an American bred variant of the Fringetail. It has the same size and shape as the Fringetail, but lacks the humped body and features an indent in the center of its tail.
- Izumo Nankin Goldfish: The Izumo Nankin is a very rare breed that is similar to the Eggfish and the Ranchu. Most call them simply Nankin. Their ideal color form is red and white, with red extending to the caudal fin.
- Ranchu Goldfish: The Ranchu is a Japanese version of the Lionhead, and can be gold, white, or feature a mottled color form.
- Jikin Goldfish: This is a rare Japanese breed, that looks very similar to the Wakin, but is small and oval-shaped. They are white with red or bright orange spots on their bodies, snouts, fins.
While many of these breeds have very unique appearances, this should never be the top priority when you are selecting a fish for your aquarium.
No two Goldfish are alike. When you pick one, you should be sure you have the time and resources to dedicate to its specific needs.
Goldfish are still a classic, and with the right diet can be a fantastic addition to your tank.
Which type of Goldfish is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below…