What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word “goldfish”? You’re probably picturing the type of goldfish you’ve seen as a prize at the fair or that you had as a child in a fishbowl on your dresser. Maybe you’re even picturing one of the long-finned, fancy-looking goldfish you’ve seen in the pet store. What you may not know is that goldfish come in a whole host of colors, patterns, sizes, and body shapes. They were one of the first fish bred in captivity over 1,000 years ago and through extensive selective breeding, over 200 varieties of goldfish have been created.
While goldfish are intelligent and social, their diversity means it’s important to make sure you choose the right goldfish for your lifestyle and fish-keeping skills.
Click to Skip Ahead:
The Types of Hardy, Single-finned Goldfish Breeds
1. Common Goldfish
Common goldfish have a slim body and single tail and lack any special accoutrements. They tend to be inexpensive and are often sold as “feeder fish” for predatory fish. Common goldfish on average live 10-15 years but can live greater than 20 years and reach sizes of 12-14 inches. Their scales are metallic and can be orange, red, yellow, black, white, grey, silver, and almost any combination of these colors. They are hardy and can survive in aquariums or ponds, even with poor water quality, and can withstand temperatures from below freezing to greater than 90˚F. They are an excellent choice for new fish enthusiasts.
2. Comet Goldfish
Comet goldfish have a slim body and single tail but differ from common goldfish by having a slimmer body and a long, forked tail. They are slightly smaller than common goldfish but are just as hardy and easy to care for. They have metallic scales and can be a combination of orange, white, yellow, black, and Sarasa, which is a white body with red fins. They are usually bicolored and rarely are a single color.
These are another type of slim-bodied, single tail goldfish, and they are defined by their calico coloration, which includes a spotted combination of blue, orange, white, and black. They come in multiple varieties, including the American Shubunkin, which looks like a calico Comet goldfish, the London Shubunkin, which looks like a calico common goldfish, and the Bristol Shubunkin, which has a long flowy tail like a comet but it is rounded and heart-shaped. Technically, any calico goldfish is a Shubunkin, but fancy calico goldfish are often marketed as calico-type. Shubunkins have nacreous scales, often in combination with matte scales. Interestingly, the dark spots Shubunkins have are not on their scales but are located underneath their pearlescent scales.
4. Wakin Goldfish
Sometimes confused with koi, Wakin goldfish can grow up to 19 inches long and make excellent pond fish. It is believed that Wakins were the predecessors of fancy goldfish breeds. They are rarely seen in the United States and are far more common in Asian countries. While they have a double tail, which is associated with fancy goldfish, Wakins are considered common type goldfish due to their similar body shape to the common goldfish. The double tail is elongated, often longer than the tails of Comets. They are usually bicolored, seen in combinations of red, orange, black, and white.
5. Jikin Goldfish
Jikin goldfish are also referred to as “peacock goldfish” and have a body type like a Wakin goldfish, although they can have a shoulder hump like a Ryukin goldfish. They are long, thin, and considered common type even though they are double-tailed, with their flowing tail appearing as an “X” shape when viewed from behind. They are less hardy than other common type goldfish and require a heater but can thrive in ponds under the right conditions. Jikins come in one color pattern called “twelve points of red”. This means that the body is white but the fins, lips, and gill covers are red. Jikin goldfish are considered a national treasure in Japan.
- If you share a love for plants and goldfish, you should consider the Goldfish Plant!
This is another variety of goldfish with a double tail but considered a common type due to the body shape that is long and thin. Watonais are said to be a hybrid of the Wakin goldfish and Comet goldfish but may also be a hybrid of the Wakin and the fancy Ryukin goldfish. They have long, trailing tails that are longer than those of Wakins. They are most often seen with metallic scales, although they can be nacreous, and can be seen in red, white, yellow, chocolate, and calico, which would be a Shubunkin type Watonai.
If you're new to the world of goldfish keeping or are experienced but love to learn more, we highly recommend you check out the best-selling book, The Truth About Goldfish, on Amazon. From diagnosing illnesses and providing correct treatments to proper nutrition, tank maintenance and water quality advice, this book will help you to ensure your goldfish are happy and to be the best goldfish keeper you can be.
If you're new to the world of goldfish keeping or are experienced but love to learn more, we highly recommend you check out the best-selling book, The Truth About Goldfish, on Amazon.
From diagnosing illnesses and providing correct treatments to proper nutrition, tank maintenance and water quality advice, this book will help you to ensure your goldfish are happy and to be the best goldfish keeper you can be.
The Types of Fancy Goldfish Breeds
7. Ryukin Goldfish
Ryukin goldfish are recognizable from their egg-shaped body and high shoulder hump. It is difficult to determine how tall their hump will be when they are young, and the shoulder hump growth can be influenced by factors like diet, water quality, and quality of the breeding stock. They tend to be taller than they are long but can reach 10 inches in length, making them one of the larger varieties of fancy goldfish. Ryukins are hardy for fancy goldfish and can do well in ponds but do require warm water or a heater. They have metallic or nacreous scales and are found in red, chocolate, white, and calico.
8. Oranda Goldfish
These goldfish have a delicate, textured growth on their heads called a wen. The wen continues to grow throughout a fish’s life and can begin to obstruct vision. However, the wen does not contain blood vessels and can be trimmed by a professional if needed. Orandas are one of the faster varieties of fancy goldfish, especially when they are young and the wen is small, but they are not efficient swimmers and require floating food. They require a heater and can be kept with other varieties of delicate fancies. Their scales can be metallic, matte, or nacreous, and they are most often seen in a color called “red-capped”, meaning their bodies are orange or red and the wen is a darker shade of red. They can also be white, black, blue, or calico.
Known as “the king of goldfish”, Ranchus have a humpback and no dorsal fin. The hump sits further back than the shoulder hump present in Ryukins. Like the Oranda, Ranchus have a wen that grows as they age and can obstruct vision. Ranchu goldfish are sensitive and require a heater, as well as high water quality. They are not good swimmers and should only be kept with other slow-moving fancies like Lionheads and other Ranchus to ensure they are able to get enough to eat. Their scales are metallic, and they can be orange, white, red, or black. Metallic calico Ranchus are called Sakura Nishiki and nacreous calico are called Edo Nishiki.
- Related: Eggfish Goldfish
10. Bubble Eye Goldfish
Bubble Eye goldfish lack a dorsal fin and can have a wen, telescope eyes, or other fancy characteristics. They are easily recognizable by the upward-facing eyes and fluid-filled sacs located on the sides of the face. These sacs grow with the fish and are extremely delicate. Bubble Eyes should be kept in tanks with no sharp or rough edges. If a sac ruptures, it usually will grow back but it does open an avenue for infection. These goldfish require a heater and floating food, and are one of the most difficult goldfish to care for due to having extensive needs to keep them safe and healthy. They are poor swimmers and should only be kept with very delicate fancies, like other Bubble Eyes and Celestial Eyes. Bubble Eyes have metallic or nacreous scales and can be orange, red, black, blue, chocolate, or calico.
11. Fantail Goldfish
Also known as the European Ryukin, Fantails have an egg-shaped body and elongated dorsal fin but lack the shoulder hump present in Ryukins. They have a quadruple tail that looks like a fan when viewed from above. One of the easiest fancies to care for, they are one of the faster and hardier fancy goldfish, although they do require a heater. While they can be kept with other fast goldfish, they are too slow to be kept with common types who may steal their food. Their scales are usually metallic but can be nacreous or matte. Fantails have similar coloration to common goldfish, coming in red, orange, yellow, black, white, and combinations of these colors.
12. Veiltail Goldfish
These goldfish have the most similar fins to Betta fish out of all the types of goldfish. Their fins are long and flowing, with an extra-long tail and dorsal fin. These fins are prone to injury and Veiltails should be kept in tanks with no sharp or rough edges. They do not hunt for food well, so they do best with floating food. They are poor candidates for community aquariums due to their poor swimming skills and friable fins. They can be kept with other delicate fancies like Bubble Eyes. Usually seen with metallic scales, they can have nacreous or matte as well. Their coloration can be orange, red, white, or calico, and they usually have one dominant color with splashes of a secondary color spread across their body.
13. Telescope Goldfish
These goldfish have protruding, or telescopic, eyes. Their eyes are rounded, but one telescope variety called Dragon Eye has slightly conical-shaped eye protrusions. These eye protrusions are angled forward, and these goldfish have poor eyesight. Telescopes have egg-shaped bodies with double fins and while they are less delicate than Bubble Eyes, they still require a safe environment to protect their eyes. If an eye injury occurs, it can lead to pain, infection, blindness, or loss of the eye. They prefer high water quality and are high-maintenance goldfish to care for. Telescopes come in multiple varieties, including Black Moor and Red Moor. Telescopes do best in indoor aquariums with other delicate fancies, but the Black Moor is an exception to this. Their scales can be metallic or nacreous and they are usually seen in black, red, orange, chocolate, blue, and white. These goldfish can also be found in color morphs like calico, panda, and red panda.
14. Black Moor Goldfish
The Black Moor goldfish is a telescope variety but is hardier than other varieties of telescopes. These fish can be kept in ponds but do require warm water or a heater. They are faster than many fancies but too slow to be kept with common types. When young, Black Moors are almost always a solid black color, but black is an unstable coloration in goldfish and as they age, many lose some or all of their black coloration. This results in a coloration called panda, which results in a mostly white body with black fins and patches. They can also develop red panda, which results in a mostly red or orange body with black fins and patches.
15. Red Moor Goldfish
If a Black Moor goldfish has an underlying red or orange color, this can result in a Red Moor. Red Moor are defined by their telescope eyes and red coloration. They are fully red or orange, although they can have some small areas of black or white. Red Moors are just as hardy as Black Moors.
16. Butterfly Goldfish
Butterfly goldfish have Ryukin-type bodies but are differentiated by their butterfly shaped tail fins. These fish have been bred to be viewed from above and the spread of their tails closely resembles a butterfly. They are relatively hardy for fancies and can be kept in ponds. They can have telescope eyes or wens. Scales can be nacreous or matte and coloration is usually orange and white or orange and black, but they are also seen in lavender, white, blue, and calico. The most desirable coloration of Butterfly goldfish is panda.
17. Lionhead Goldfish
The Lionhead goldfish was a precursor to the Ranchu and has a similar body shape with a wen. They lack a dorsal fin but differ from Ranchus with a fuller wen and fuller cheeks, as well as a longer body. The wen can grow to obstruct vision and may require trimming. Lionheads are slow and should only be kept in heated tanks with other Lionheads, Ranchus, or other slow-moving tankmates. Their scales can be metallic, matte, or nacreous, and they can be found in orange, white, red, blue, black, and chocolate.
18. Pompom Goldfish
Pompom goldfish, also called Pompon goldfish in Japan, usually lack a dorsal fin and are recognizable by the small, fleshy growths located between their nostrils. These growths look like small pompoms but usually do not get large enough to obstruct vision. Pompoms can have other fancy characteristics like a wen, bubble eyes, telescope eyes, or a fantail. Fantail pompoms usually have a dorsal fin. They are delicate and require floating food, as well as a heated tank. They grow to around six inches and can be kept with other delicate fancies like Telescopes. Pompoms have metallic scales, although they can have nacreous scales in rare instances, and they can be white, black, silver, red, or calico.
19. Pearlscale Goldfish
Pearlscale goldfish are one of the most easily recognizable goldfish due to their thick, domed scales. These fish have calcium deposits on their scales that give them the appearance of small pearls all over their bodies. Their body shape is also incredibly unique, as they are shaped similarly to a ping-pong ball.
Pearlscales can be very difficult to care for and require pristine water conditions. They are sensitive to any change, even for short periods, and are considered very delicate. They can only be kept in heated tanks with other delicate fancies. They do not swim well and due to inbreeding and poor breeding stock, they are prone to swim bladder problems, which can be deadly. If a Pearlscale loses a scale due to injury, the scale can grow back without the pearl appearance. They have nacreous scales and are most often seen in orange, red, black, white, blue, and chocolate.
20. Hama Nishiki Goldfish
Also called a Crown Pearl, Hama Nishiki goldfish are Pearlscale goldfish with a bubble-like growth on top of their head. This growth is similar in appearance to the fluid-filled sacs Bubble Eye goldfish have by their eyes, but it is not fluid-filled. These fish can be difficult to keep and are exceptionally rare.
21. Celestial Eye Goldfish
Also known as Stargazing goldfish, Celestial Eyes are distinct because of their upturned, protruding eyes. They lack a dorsal fin and differ from Telescopes since their eyes look upward and not forward. They are sensitive to light and care must be taken in providing light to the tank. They require a dark room at night to be able to sleep. Celestial Eyes have extremely poor vision and are considered by some to be the hardest goldfish to keep. They can only be kept with other slow, delicate fancies, and require a heated tank and floating food. They can have fancy characteristics like long tail fins, pompoms, or a wen. Their scales are nacreous or metallic and they are available mainly in orange and red, although black and calico are possible but rare colorations.
The Lionchu is a crossbreed of the Ranchu and Lionhead. They have a Ranchu body type with the large Lionhead wen on the face and head. They can reach up to eight inches long and their care needs are identical to Ranchus and Lionheads. Lionchus have metallic or nacreous scales and are seen in orange, red, black, blue, white, chocolate, and calico.
23. Curled-Gill Goldfish
Curled-Gill goldfish are also sometimes called Reversed Gill goldfish. They are distinguishable by their outward turned gill covers. This is considered an undesirable mutation and is not intentionally bred for. These fish usually have poor health and short lives.
24. Egg-Fish Fancy Goldfish
Also called the Maruko, Egg-Fish have an egg-shaped body with no dorsal fin. They are believed to possibly be the predecessor to other fancies lacking dorsal fins. This variety of goldfish is exceedingly rare and is not available for purchase. Multiple breeders are attempting to restore the breed with Ranchu outbreeding.
25. Izumo Nankin
Izumo Nankins are another goldfish variety bred to be viewed from above in a pond. They have a small head lacking a wen or growth and do not have a dorsal fin. These are a rare find, especially in the West, and require an experienced fish keeper. They are bred to only be available in bicolor red and white.
26. Nymph Goldfish
Nymph goldfish are deceptively named because they can reach sizes up to 12 inches long. They have egg-shaped bodies with a single tail and are a hardy variety of goldfish. It is possible for Nymphs to have telescope eyes. It is believed this breed of goldfish may have originated from a crossbreeding of Comets and Fantails. They can be found in just about any color other than calico and are often bicolor.
27. Shukin Goldfish
Created by a crossbreeding of Ranchus and Orandas, this breed of goldfish almost went extinct during World War II. They are more common in the West than in the East, but they are still relatively rare. They are very sensitive and difficult to keep. Shukins are most often seen in red, white, silver, or blue.
The Tamasaba goldfish is also called the Sabao and the Comet-tailed Ryukin. It has an egg-shaped body like a Ryukin with a long, flowing tail like a Comet. While this breed is hardy and can be kept in ponds, it is considered a fancy goldfish due to the length of its trailing tail fins. They do best when kept with other Tamasabas or koi. They are usually a red and white combination but can also be solid red or orange.
29. Tosakin Goldfish
Tosakins are a rare variety of goldfish, seldom seen outside of Japan. They have a Ryukin-like body type with a divided tail and single fin, meaning that the two halves of the divided tail are connected. These fish are extremely sensitive and require exceptional water quality and an experienced keeper. They have difficulty tolerating even small changes. They need floating food and should only be kept with other Tosakins. Their scales are usually metallic but can be nacreous. Red, black, and white are the most common colors seen on Tosakins, but they can also be seen in calico.
30. Froghead Goldfish
This breed of goldfish is pretty rarely spotted in the aquatics trade. They are very similar in appearance to Bubble Eye goldfish with fluid-filled sacs on both sides of the face. Froghead goldfish have smaller fluid sacs than Bubble Eye goldfish and have a larger, squarer head. They also have larger cheeks than Bubble Eye goldfish, but not as a part of the bubble sacs.
Goldfish are fully domesticated fish, but they are closely related to the Prussian carp. Even with so much selective breeding, goldfish have maintained an ability to survive in the wild if released, although they are considered an invasive pest species in most places. Domestication has served the goldfish well, though. They are intelligent fish, able to learn through association, and are highly motivated by food.
Goldfish can be trained to perform simple tricks and are able to distinguish between different shapes, sounds, and colors. They also have developed social learning, which allows them to recognize people by appearance and sound. While goldfish often anticipate feedings at the same time every day, many of them learn to recognize the person who feeds them and will beg for food when they see that person, even if they are shy and hide from other people. All goldfish are omnivorous, lack sexual dimorphism, meaning there are few visible differences between the sexes, have large eyes, and lack true teeth, but do have a set of pharyngeal teeth, which are located in the throat and crush food. Their scales can be metallic, matte, or nacreous, also known as pearlescent.
Featured Image Credit: Hans, Pixabay