The Fascinating World of Fancy Goldfish: A Comprehensive Guide to Varieties, Care, and History

Fancy goldfish are a captivating addition to any aquarium, known for their vibrant colours, unique body shapes, and graceful movements. As ornamental fish, they bring a sense of tranquillity and beauty to their surroundings, making them a popular choice for aquarists of all levels. This article explores the fascinating world of fancy goldfish, covering their history, varieties, care requirements, and tips for purchasing these stunning creatures. Whether you are a novice or an experienced fish keeper, this guide will provide valuable insights into owning and caring for fancy goldfish.

Goldfish (Carassius auratus) have a long and storied history that dates back over a thousand years. Originating in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), goldfish were first bred from the Prussian carp, a species native to East Asia. Selective breeding led to the development of various goldfish types, each with unique colours and physical traits. By the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), goldfish breeding had become a sophisticated art form, with different varieties being carefully cultivated for their aesthetic appeal.

The practice of keeping goldfish spread to Japan in the 16th century, where further refinement and breeding produced even more diverse and elaborate varieties. By the 17th century, goldfish had made their way to Europe, and by the 19th century, they were introduced to North America.  Additionally, enthusiasts can often find fancy goldfish for sale alongside bettas, adding to the allure of creating vibrant and captivating aquatic displays.

Varieties of Fancy Goldfish

Fancy goldfish are distinguished from common goldfish by their distinct body shapes, fins, and colours. Here are some of the most popular fancy goldfish varieties:

Oranda: Recognized by their prominent head growth, or wen, Orandas have a rounded body and long, flowing fins. They come in various colours, including red, red and white, calico, and black.

Ryukin: Known for their high, arching back and deep body, Ryukins have short, rounded fins and are available in colours like red, white, red and white, and calico.

Fantail: With a double tail fin that resembles a fan, Fantails have a rounded body and smooth, flowing fins. They are commonly found in red, orange, and calico colours.

Lionhead: Characterized by the absence of a dorsal fin and a pronounced head growth, Lionheads have a unique appearance. They come in various colours, including red, orange, and white.

Ranchu: Similar to Lionheads, Ranchus lack a dorsal fin and have a pronounced head growth. They have a more rounded body and come in a range of colours, including red, orange, and calico.

Pearlscale: Known for their rounded, pearl-like scales, Pearlscales have a distinctive appearance. They have short, rounded bodies and come in colours like white, red, and calico.

Veiltail: Distinguished by their long, flowing tail fins, Veiltails have slender bodies and come in various colours, including red, orange, and calico.

Black Moor: With their characteristic black colour and protruding eyes, Black Moors have a rounded body and flowing fins.

Bubble Eye: Known for their fluid-filled sacs under the eyes, Bubble Eyes have a distinctive appearance. They lack a dorsal fin and come in various colours, including red, orange, and calico.

Celestial Eye: With their upward-facing eyes, Celestial Eyes have a unique look. They have rounded bodies and come in colours like red, orange, and calico.

Purchasing Fancy Goldfish

When purchasing fancy goldfish, it’s essential to choose healthy specimens from reputable sources. Here are some tips to guide you through the buying process:

Choosing a Reputable Seller: Whether you buy from a local pet store, an aquarium speciality shop, or an online retailer, make sure the seller has a good reputation. Look for reviews, ask for recommendations, and ensure the seller provides accurate information about the fish’s origin and care requirements.

Inspecting the Fish: Carefully inspect the fish for signs of health and vitality. Look for active behaviour, clear eyes, smooth scales, intact fins, and a healthy body shape. Avoid fish that appear lethargic, have cloudy eyes, damaged scales, torn fins, or unusual body deformities.

Understanding the Fish’s Background: Ask the seller about the fish’s background, including its age, diet, and any previous health issues. Knowing the fish’s history can help you provide the best care and address any potential problems early on.

Setting Up the Ideal Environment

Creating a suitable environment for fancy goldfish is crucial for their health and well-being. Here are the key factors to consider when setting up their tank:

Tank Size: Fancy goldfish require ample space to swim and grow. A minimum tank size of 20-30 gallons is recommended for a single fancy goldfish, with an additional 10 gallons for each additional fish. Larger tanks provide better water quality and more stable conditions, reducing stress and promoting healthy growth.

Filtration: A robust filtration system is essential for maintaining clean water, as goldfish produce a significant amount of waste. Choose a filter with a capacity suitable for the tank size and consider using a combination of mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration to ensure optimal water quality.

Water Parameters: Fancy goldfish thrive in freshwater with stable water parameters. Maintain the following conditions for optimal health: temperature of 65-75°F (18-24°C). Use an aquarium heater if necessary to maintain a consistent temperature. pH level of 6.5-7.5, with slight acidity or alkalinity being acceptable. Ammonia and nitrite levels should be kept at 0 ppm, while nitrate levels should be below 20 ppm. Regular water testing and partial water changes are essential to maintain these levels.

Decorations and Substrate: Fancy goldfish appreciate a well-decorated tank with plenty of hiding spots and areas to explore. Use smooth, rounded decorations to prevent injury to their delicate fins and bodies. A fine gravel or sand substrate is ideal, as it mimics their natural environment and is easy to clean.

Lighting: Moderate lighting is sufficient for fancy goldfish. Too much light can encourage algae growth, while too little can hinder plant growth if you choose to include live plants in the tank. A balanced light cycle of 8-12 hours per day is recommended.

Feeding and Nutrition

Fancy goldfish are omnivores and require a balanced diet to maintain their health and vibrant colours. A combination of high-quality commercial pellets or flakes, along with fresh or frozen foods, will provide the necessary nutrients. Consider the following dietary options:

Commercial Pellets/Flakes: Look for goldfish-specific formulations that are high in protein and low in fillers. Pellets are generally preferred over flakes, as they are less likely to cause digestive issues.

Fresh/Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with fresh or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, and vegetables like peas, spinach, and zucchini. These foods provide essential vitamins and minerals and help prevent constipation.

Feeding Schedule: Feed your fancy goldfish 2-3 times a day, offering only as much food as they can consume within a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to water quality issues and health problems.

Health and Common Issues

Fancy goldfish are generally hardy, but they are susceptible to certain health issues due to their unique physical traits. Regular monitoring and prompt treatment are essential to ensure their well-being. Some common health concerns include:

Swim Bladder Disease: Fancy goldfish are prone to swim bladder issues, which can affect their buoyancy and swimming ability. Feeding them a varied diet with plenty of fibre (such as blanched peas) and avoiding overfeeding can help prevent this condition.

Parasites and Infections: Like all fish, fancy goldfish can be affected by parasites, bacterial, and fungal infections. Maintaining good water quality, quarantining new fish, and observing for signs of illness (such as clamped fins, white spots, or unusual behaviour) are crucial for preventing and treating these issues.

Fin Rot: Fin rot is a common bacterial infection that causes the fins to become ragged and frayed. Prompt treatment with antibiotics and improving water quality can help manage this condition.

Ich (White Spot Disease): Ich is a parasitic infection that causes white spots to appear on the fish’s body and fins. It is highly contagious but can be treated with medication and by raising the water temperature.

Constipation: Fancy goldfish can suffer from constipation, especially if fed a diet high in dry food. Providing a varied diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and occasional fasting days can help prevent this issue.

Breeding Fancy Goldfish

Breeding fancy goldfish can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful planning and preparation. Here are the basic steps for successfully breeding fancy goldfish:

Conditioning the Breeders: Select healthy, mature fancy goldfish for breeding and condition them with a high-quality diet rich in protein. Separate the males and females for a few weeks and gradually increase the water temperature to around 75°F (24°C) to stimulate spawning behaviour.

Spawning Setup: Prepare a separate breeding tank with a spawning mop or fine-leaved plants to provide a surface for the eggs. Introduce the conditioned males and females to the breeding tank and monitor their behaviour. The male will chase the female and encourage her to release eggs, which he will then fertilize.

Caring for the Eggs and Fry: Once spawning is complete, remove the adults to prevent them from eating the eggs. Maintain stable water conditions and gentle aeration in the breeding tank. The eggs will hatch in 4-7 days, and the fry can be fed infusoria or finely crushed flakes until they are large enough to eat regular food.


Fancy goldfish are a stunning and rewarding addition to any aquarium. Their unique appearance, graceful swimming, and engaging personalities make them a favourite among fish enthusiasts. By understanding their history, varieties, and care requirements, you can provide a suitable environment for these beautiful fish to thrive. Whether you’re purchasing your first fancy goldfish or adding to an existing collection, the joy of caring for these elegant aquatic beauties is a truly fulfilling experience. With the right knowledge and dedication, you can ensure that your fancy goldfish leads healthy, happy lives, bringing endless beauty and serenity to your home aquarium.

Leave a Comment