Goldfish Types: A Comprehensive Guide to Popular Varieties

Goldfish are a popular choice for both aquarium enthusiasts and pond-keepers. These captivating creatures offer a vast array of types, making them a great addition to any aquatic environment. Goldfish can be broadly divided into two categories: common and fancy. The common varieties include the fan-tailed goldfish, while fancy types exhibit unique traits such as egg-shaped bodies, unusual fin shapes, and distinct markings.

Originating from a type of carp, goldfish were domesticated nearly 2,000 years ago in China. Since then, breeders have developed an impressive variety of breeds with diverse appearances and characteristics. Within the fancy goldfish category, some popular breeds include Oranda, Ryukin, Veiltail, Telescope, Black Moor, Ranchu, and Lionhead, each boasting their own charming features.

Whether you’re new to goldfish-keeping or looking to expand your collection, understanding the different breeds and their requirements is crucial. Factors such as diet, water quality, and tank or pond size can significantly impact the health and well-being of these wonderful aquatic pets. With proper care and consideration, goldfish can thrive and bring life to your home or garden.

History and Origins

Goldfish (Carassius auratus) have a rich history dating back nearly 2,000 years in China. Originally derived from the dull, grey carp native to East Asia, the goldfish owes its vibrant colors and unique features to centuries of selective breeding by humans.

In China, during the Jin Dynasty (AD 265-420), the first recorded appearance of red-scaled carp was documented. It was not until the Sung Dynasty (960-1279) that goldfish were fully domesticated and began to garner attention for their ornamental beauty. As the popularity of goldfish grew, various types were bred to enhance both their coloration and fin shapes, resulting in many of the 33 goldfish types we know today.

Some of the most popular goldfish types include:

  • Common Goldfish
  • Comet Goldfish
  • Oranda Goldfish
  • Ranchu Goldfish
  • Ryukin Goldfish
  • Shubunkin Goldfish
  • Fantail Goldfish
  • Bubble Eye Goldfish

These types of goldfish have distinct features and appearances that make them ideal for ornamental aquarium and pond settings. Most modern goldfish can trace their ancestry back to either common or comet goldfish, often crossed with fantail goldfish, resulting in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

Despite their origins in East Asia, goldfish have since been introduced to many other regions around the world. Due to their adaptability and hardiness, they can thrive in various environments, making them a popular choice for aquarists and pond owners. Through selective breeding practices and commitment to maintaining genetic diversity, goldfish have developed into the versatile and widely-loved species they are today.

Physical Characteristics

Body Shapes

Goldfish come in a variety of body shapes, but these can generally be divided into two categories: the streamlined, elongated shape of common goldfish and the more rounded, egg-shaped body found in fancy goldfish breeds. Streamlined goldfish, such as the common and comet varieties, are more agile and better suited for outdoor ponds, while egg-shaped goldfish are typically slower swimmers and better suited for aquariums. Furthermore, some fancy goldfish types have unique features such as the wen on the head of the Oranda goldfish, which is a benign skin tissue growth.

Color Variations

Goldfish are known for their variety in colors and patterns, resulting from selective breeding. Some common colors include:

  • Orange: The most common color, ranging from a pale gold to a vibrant, deep orange.
  • Red: Common in certain breeds like the Ryukin goldfish, this color can range from a pale pink to a deep, blood red.
  • White: Can occur as a solid color or in combination with other colors as a pattern.
  • Black: Often seen in the Black Moor goldfish, this color can be solid or as part of a pattern.
  • Yellow: Rarer than other colors, yellow goldfish are often mistaken for faded orange or gold varieties.

In addition to solid colors, goldfish can display various patterns of color distribution, such as:

  • Bicolor: Two distinct colors, typically orange and white or black and white.
  • Calico: A mix of three or more colors, usually including blue, with black and/or red spots.
  • Nacreous scales: These scales have a pearlescent quality, adding an extra dimension of shimmer to the goldfish’s colors.


Different types of goldfish have varying fin shapes and sizes. Some common fin variations include:

  • Single caudal fin: Found in breeds like the common goldfish and shubunkin, these goldfish have one tail fin.
  • Double caudal fin: Seen in fancy goldfish types, such as the Fantail and Oranda, these goldfish have two tail fins.
  • Dorsal fin: All goldfish have a dorsal fin on their back, but the size and shape can vary between breeds. For example, the dorsal fin on a Ryukin goldfish is usually larger and more pronounced than the dorsal fin on a common goldfish.

Paired pectoral and pelvic fins are found in all goldfish types, but their size and shape can also vary depending on the specific breed.

Types of Goldfish

Goldfish are popular pets and come in various varieties which can be broadly classified under two categories: single-tailed goldfish and double-tailed goldfish.

Single-Tailed Goldfish

Single-tailed goldfish are typically more streamlined and agile than their double-tailed counterparts. Some popular single-tailed breeds include:

  • Common Goldfish: This goldfish variety has a slim body and a single tail, with an average lifespan of 10-15 years. Common goldfish are often found in ponds and sold as feeder fish for predatory species.
  • Shubunkin Goldfish: Shubunkins are similar to common goldfish in shape but are known for their calico pattern, featuring a mix of red, white, blue and black colors.

Double-Tailed Goldfish

Double-tailed goldfish often have more distinct appearances and features, making them unique additions to any aquarium. Some popular double-tailed breeds include:

Goldfish Color Patterns

Goldfish come in a diverse range of color patterns that add beauty and individuality to each variety. These can generally be grouped into solid colors and combinations thereof. Common solid colors include red, orange, yellow, black, white, blue, brown, grey, and silver. Some popular and distinct color patterns are:

  • Calico: A goldfish with a calico pattern has a base color of either blue, grey, or silver along with patches of red, orange, yellow, black, or white. Calico appears in various shades and patterns, creating a unique and attractive appearance.
  • Red and white bicolor: Red and white bicolor goldfish have a base white color with red patches distributed across the body. The red hue may vary, from light orange to deep red.
  • Red and black bicolor: Red and black goldfish have a bright red or orange body with distinctive black patches or markings. Some specific names for red and black color combinations include:

    • Apache: Metallic red and black goldfish.
    • Tiger: The black markings resemble tiger stripes on a predominantly red body.
  • Tancho: Named after the koi variety with similar color patterns, the Tancho goldfish features a metallic white body with a single red patch, typically on the head.
  • Kuchibeni: A goldfish with red lips and a white head, called Kuchibeni, is an interesting and unique color pattern where the red on the lips contrasts with the white head.

In conclusion, goldfish color patterns range from solid colors to distinctive combinations. Breeding and careful selection have resulted in a wide range of attractive color patterns that add to the appeal of these popular aquatic pets.

Variety Origins

Chinese Goldfish

The goldfish (Carassius auratus) originated in ancient China as a domesticated version of the crucian carp (1-3). Some popular Chinese goldfish varieties include:

  • Celestial Eye Goldfish: Characterized by their unique, upward-facing eyes, they have a rounded body and long, flowing fins.
  • Black Moors: A fancy breed with a characteristic black coloration and telescope eyes, which protrude from the head.

Japanese Goldfish

Goldfish were introduced in Japan in the 16th century, leading to the development of unique Japanese varieties such as:

  • Wakin Goldfish: A hardy, long-bodied breed with a double tail, suitable for both aquariums and outdoor ponds.
  • Jikin Goldfish: Known for their unique “peacock tail” fin arrangement and red-and-white coloration, making them a prized variety.
  • Tamasaba Goldfish: A single-tailed variety with a long, flowing tail similar to that of the Ryukin, but with a more elongated body.

European Goldfish

European goldfish varieties emerged after the introduction of goldfish to Europe in the 17th century. Some well-known European breeds include:

  • London Shubunkin: A single-tailed variety with a slender body and calico coloration, it is commonly found in British ponds and waterways.
  • Bristol Shubunkin: Similar to the London Shubunkin, but with a more rounded body and a larger, more flowing tail.
  • Watonai: A crossbreed of the Wakin and Ryukin goldfish, the Watonai boasts a wide body and striking, double-tailed fins.

Overall, the range of goldfish varieties across China, Japan, and Europe reflects their rich history and appeal as popular ornamental pets.

Goldfish Care

Aquarium Requirements

Goldfish, particularly ornamental varieties, are popular decorative fish due to their beautiful colors, shapes, and ability to bring luck and fortune. When setting up an aquarium for goldfish, consider the following:

  • Size: Goldfish can grow anywhere from a couple of inches to over 12 inches long, so it is essential to choose a suitable tank size according to their variety and the number of fish you want to house.
  • Temperature: Goldfish are considered a cold-water species, and the water temperature requirements vary by type. Fancy goldfish can be kept between 68-74 F, while comets or shubunkins can be kept in a range from 60-70 F.
  • Filtration: A good quality filter is necessary to maintain water quality and balance, as goldfish can produce a considerable amount of waste.


Proper nutrition is crucial for goldfish health and growth. Keep these tips in mind when feeding your goldfish:

  • Feed them as much food as they can consume in 3-5 minutes.
  • Select a diet with around 30-35% protein and 5-7% fat for adult goldfish.
  • Reproductively active, breeding fish, or juveniles require a diet higher in protein and fat.
  • Many commercial diets available within this range cater specifically to goldfish.

Health and Disease Prevention

Maintaining the health of your goldfish is essential for longevity and disease prevention. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Regular water changes: It is vital to replace a portion of the aquarium water regularly to reduce the buildup of waste products and maintain proper water quality.
  • Observation: Monitor your goldfish’s behavior and appearance for any noticeable changes or signs of illness.
  • Quarantine: When introducing new fish, it is a good idea to quarantine them for a short period to prevent the spread of potential diseases to your existing fish.

Following these guidelines will help you provide the best care possible for your goldfish, ensuring they remain healthy, vibrant, and beautiful additions to your aquarium.

Popular Misconceptions

One common misconception is that goldfish can be kept in small bowls or vases. However, this is not suitable for goldfish as they require adequate space, a clean environment, and filtration systems to thrive. Bowls are simply too small to accommodate goldfish’s growth and their waste, leading to poor living conditions and shorter lifespans.

Another widely-held belief is that goldfish have very short memories, around 3 seconds. Contrary to this myth, goldfish can actually retain information for up to three months. They are capable of learning and remembering, which makes them quite fascinating pets.

There is also confusion between goldfish and koi, as they can sometimes have similar appearances. Despite these similarities, goldfish and koi are from two different species. Here are some distinct differences between them:

  • Physical characteristics: Goldfish have a more rounded body shape and shorter fins, while koi have elongated bodies and elongated fins.
  • Size: Koi are generally larger than goldfish, with some koi growing up to 3 feet in length, whereas goldfish commonly have a maximum length of about 18 inches.

People often think that goldfish are low-maintenance pets, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Goldfish require a clean living environment, frequent water changes, and proper nutrition to thrive. A well-maintained tank with good filtration and a balanced diet is essential for goldfish to live a long and healthy life.

Lastly, there is a misconception that all goldfish are feeder fish and have no value beyond being food for larger predatory fish. This is simply not true. While some goldfish are indeed sold as feeder fish, many goldfish varieties are bred for their beauty and unique characteristics, such as the Comet Goldfish and the Fancy Goldfish breeds.

In conclusion, it is essential to equip ourselves with accurate knowledge about goldfish to ensure their proper care and help them live a healthy life.

Selecting and Identifying Goldfish

When selecting and identifying goldfish, it is essential to consider their various body shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. Goldfish come in an array of types, and recognizing these distinct features can help you choose the ideal one for your aquarium.

In terms of body shapes, goldfish can generally be categorized into two main groups: long-bodied and egg-shaped. Long-bodied goldfish are characterized by their streamlined bodies, while egg-shaped goldfish are usually rounder and have a more stout appearance. Some examples of long-bodied goldfish are the Common Goldfish and Comet Goldfish. Egg-shaped varieties include the Fantail, Ryukin, Veiltail, Oranda, Telescope, and Black Moor.

Goldfish sizes can vary significantly depending on their breed. They can grow anywhere from 4 inches up to 12 inches in length. Size plays an essential role when deciding on the appropriate tank capacity and compatible tank mates.

Color variations are another significant factor when identifying goldfish. They can come in a range of colors, such as red, white, orange, yellow, and black. Some goldfish also exhibit a mix of these colors, creating unique patterns on their body. For instance, the Shubunkin Goldfish has a calico pattern, combining red, white, and blue colors.

Goldfish can also be identified based on specific physical features. One such feature is the shoulder hump, which can be seen in some breeds like the Ryukin Goldfish. Another distinguishing characteristic is the presence of a wen – a wart-like growth on the head – found in breeds like Oranda and Lionhead.

Some goldfish varieties have unique fins and tail shapes. Examples include the double tail of Fantail Goldfish and the long, flowing tail of Veiltail Goldfish. In Telescope Goldfish, the protruding eyes are a notable characteristic. When selecting a goldfish, it’s essential to be aware of these traits to ensure compatibility with other fish and compatibility with the specific aquarium setup.

In conclusion, understanding the various body shapes, sizes, color variations, and unique features will allow you to make an educated decision when selecting and identifying goldfish. Consider these factors and choose the goldfish that best suits your aquarium’s environment and your personal preferences.