A Beginners Guide to Fancy Goldfish

When it comes to keeping fish, goldfish are the first that come to people’s minds. They are often seen as starter fish or starter pets for children and beginner pet owners because they are considered more robust than other fish. But these peaceful, classic fish are rewarding pets and can be the highlight of your aquarium. If you have an aquarium and want to add a unique and interesting fish, then fancy goldfish are the perfect choice. They are a beautiful combination of dazzling colours, majestic fins, and graceful swimming, making them popular fish around the world. And, as low maintenance fish, they are the perfect package for beginner and expert aquarists alike. Today we are going to go through a beginner’s guide to fancy goldfish and show you they’re more than just a starter fish!

Where Do Fancy Goldfish Come From?fancy goldfish

Goldfish are freshwater fish from the Cyprinidae family, originating in East Asia. They were selectively bred to produce the variety of sub species we have today. Goldfish are closely related to carp, though carp tend to be much bigger. Unlike their wild ancestors, modern goldfish are the results of centuries long selective breeding originating in Ancient China over a thousand years ago! Over the years, these fish spread to Japan, Europe, America, and eventually the rest of the world. Skilled breeders skilfully bred for the fancy goldfish we see today, for the mesmerising colours, beautiful fins, and fantastic shapes.

Goldfish are generally identified by their double fins and their egg-shaped body, though there is a variety of shapes available. And it is this variety that continues to draw people to goldfish. You are able to pick your personal favourite sub species.

If you take care of them well, goldfish can live for 5-10 years, depending on what type of goldfish you own.

Fancy Goldfish Behaviour

Fancy goldfish are generally peaceful and calm animals, spending most of their time in the mid-levels of their aquarium. They are slow swimmers, which means they generally can’t chase other fish or escape other fish. This means they shouldn’t be kept with aggressive fish species as they can’t get away and will be heavily stressed or could even be killed.

Fancy goldfish, however, play well with others. They are very social and love to have other fish around. In fact, one way to shorten the life of your fish is to keep them alone and isolated. Goldfish feel unsafe and exposed when they live alone, which causes stress and anxiety. So it is important to keep your fancies with other fish, even if they aren’t goldfish, to keep them happy and healthy. Their dream temperaments mean they won’t disrupt other fish in your aquarium.

The two times that fancy goldfish are active are during feeding and courting. When courting, a male fancy goldfish will put on a show to impress a female. And, at feeding times goldfish want to get a food before anyone else.

Different Types of Fancy Goldfish

When we think of goldfish, we usually think of the type of fish we had as children or one of the long-finned, fancy-looking goldfish at a pet store. But the truth is, goldfish come in an incredible variety of colours, patterns, sizes, and body shapes. As one of the first fish bred in captivity over a thousand years ago, through extensive breeding there are now over 200 varieties of goldfish in the world.

Goldfish are social and intelligent, and their diversity means you need to make sure you choose the right goldfish for your aquarium and lifestyle. Not all fancy goldfish are made the same and do need different fish keeping skills. Below we’ll explore a few of the most popular fancy goldfish available today:

common goldfish

1: Common Goldfish

The common goldfish has a slim body, a single tail, and lacks any special accoutrements. These fish tend to be inexpensive and are even sometimes sold as feeder fish for predatory fish. Common goldfish live, on average, 10-15 years but have been known to live to 20 years and more and reach sizes of 12-14 inches.

Their scales are described as metallic, and they can be red, orange, yellow, black, white, grey, silver, and almost any combination of these colours. Common goldfish are hardy and can generally survive in aquariums or ponds, even with poor water quality, as well as withstanding temperatures below freezing to greater than 90°F. They are a great choice for first time aquarists.

comet goldfish

2: Comet Goldfish

These fish have a slimmer body than the common goldfish and a long, forked tail. The comet is slightly smaller than the coming goldfish but are just as hardy and easy to care for. They also have metallic scales and can be any combination of orange, white, yellow, black, and Sarasa. Sarasa is described as a fish with a white body but with red fins. They are usually bicoloured and are rarely a single colour.

Shubunkin goldfish

3: Shubunkin

Another slim-bodied, single tailed goldfish is the shubunkin goldfish. The shubunkin is defined by their calico colouration, including a spotted combination of black, white, orange, and blue. There are multiple varieties of shubunkin including:

  • American Shubunkin – this fish looks similar to a calico comet goldfish
  • London Shubunkin – these fish look like a common calico goldfish
  • Bristol Shubunkin – this fish has a long, flowy tail like a comet goldfish but is rounded and heart-shaped

Technically, breeders consider any calico goldfish a shubunkin, but fancy calico goldfish are often marketed as calico-type. Another interesting fact about shubunkin is the dark spots on their scales. These spots are actually located under their pearlescent scales.

wakin goldfish

4: Wakin Goldfish

The Wakin goldfish is often confused with koi. They can grow up to 19 inches long and are best kept in ponds. It is believed by many breeders that Wakin goldfish are the predecessors of most fancy goldfish. They are most commonly seen in Asia, while not as often seen in Western ponds and aquariums. Wakin have an elongated double tail that is often longer than the tails of comets but are considered common goldfish due to their body shape. Wakin are usually bicoloured in red, black, white, and orange.

jikin goldfish

5: Jikin Goldfish

Also known as peacock goldfish, Jikin goldfish have a similar body type as the Wakin though they have a shoulder hump similar to that of a Ryukin goldfish. Because they are long and thin they are considered a common type goldfish, despite their flowing, double tail which appears as an x-shape when viewed from behind. The Jikin is less hardy than most common goldfish, however, and require a heater. However, they can thrive in ponds under the right conditions. They come in a colour pattern known as “12 Points of Red”. This means the fish has a white body but its fins, gill covers, and lips are red. Japan considers the Jikin a national treasure.

Watonai goldfish

6: Watonai

The Watonai goldfish is considered a hybrid of the Wakin and comet goldfish or the Wakin and Ryukin goldfish. Watonai have long, trailing double tails longer than those of the Wakin. They have metallic scales and have a wide range of colours including chocolate, red, white, yellow, and calico.

ryukin goldfish

7: Ryukin Goldfish

The Ryukin are recognisable by their egg-shaped body and high shoulder hump. The height of the shoulder hump growth can be influence by diet and water quality, as well as the quality of the breeding of the fish. Ryukin tend to be taller than they are longer but these fish still reach 10 inches in length. This makes them one of the largest varieties of fancy goldfish. These fancy goldfish are some of the hardiest fancy goldfish and do well in ponds. However, they do require warm water or a heater. Ryukin have beautiful metallic or nacreous scales and come in red, white, chocolate, and calico.

oranda goldfish

8: Oranda Goldfish

The Oranda goldfish features a delicate, textured growth on its head known as a wen. The wen actually continues to grow throughout the fish’s life. It can even begin to obstruct the fish’s vision. Luckily, the wen contains no blood vessels and can be trimmed by a professional if needed. The Oranda is one of the fastest varieties of fancy goldfish, especially when they are younger, and their wen is small. They are friendly fish and can be kept with other delicate fancy goldfish. Despite their speed, however, they are inefficient swimmers and require a floating food. They also need a heater to stay healthy. Oranda goldfish can be metallic, nacreous, or matte and are generally “red capped” in colour. This is a colouration where their bodies are orange or red and the wen is a darker shade of red. Oranda can also be black, blue, calico, or white.

9: Ranchu

Also known as the “king of goldfish” the Ranchu are characterised by their humpback and lack of dorsal fin. The hump sits further back than the shoulder hump of the Ryukin. They also have a wen, like the Oranda, that grows with age and can obstruct their vision. Ranchu goldfish are very sensitive fish and must have a heater as well as exceptional water quality. They are also not good swimmers so you should only keep them with other slow moving tank mates or other Ranchu goldfish or they will not get enough to eat. Ranchu goldfish have metallic scales in orange, red, white, or black. Calico Ranchu, however, are known by other names. Metallic calico Ranchu are known as Sakura Nishiki while nacreous calico Ranchu are known as Edo Nishiki.

10: Bubble Eye Goldfish

The bubble eye goldfish is easily recognisable by their upward-facing eyes and the fluid-filled sacs located on each side of the face. These sacs grow with the bubble eye goldfish, similar to a wen, and are incredibly delicate. If a sac ruptures it can risk a terrible infection for your fish, though the sac will grow back. So it is important to keep bubble eye goldfish in a tank free of sharp or rough edges.

Bubble eye goldfish also need a heater and floating food. They also lack a dorsal fin and can have a wen as well as other fancy goldfish features. This makes Bubble eye goldfish difficult to care for and they have extensive need to keep them safe. They are poor swimmers and should only be kept with other poor swimmers. Bubble eye goldfish can have metallic or nacreous scales in orange, red, chocolate, black, blue, or calico.

11: Fantail Goldfish

Sometimes known as the Europen Ryukin or Veiltail, fantail goldfish have an egg-shaped body and elongated dorsal fin. However, they don’t have the shoulder hump that Ryukin goldfish have. Their name comes from their quadruple tail that looks like a fan when viewed from above. Fantails are the easiest fancy goldfish to care for as well as being the fastest and hardiest, though they do require a heater.

Fantails can be kept with other fast goldfish as long as they aren’t being out-competed for food. While their scales are generally metallic, they can also be nacreous or matte. Fantail goldfish come in a variety of colours including red, yellow, orange, white, black, and any combination of these colours.

veiltail goldfish

12: Veiltail Goldfish

These stunning goldfish closely resemble Betta fish thanks to their gorgeous fins. Their fins are long and flowing, with extra-long dorsal fins and tail fins. Veiltail fins are prone to injuries, however, so they need to be kept in tanks with no sharp or rough edges. They also have trouble hunting for food so they do best with floating food.

Veiltail goldfish do not do well in community tanks and aquariums because of their poor swimming skills and delicate fins, though they can sometimes be kept with other delicate fancy goldfish. They generally have metallic scales, but some have nacreous or matte scales as well. They come in stunning colours including red, white, or calico and usually have one dominant colour with splashes of a secondary colour.

telescope goldfish

13: Telescope Goldfish

With fantastic, protruding eyes, its no wonder these fish are called telescope goldfish. Their eyes are generally round though one variety, known as the Dragon Eye Telescope Goldfish, have conical shaped protruding eyes. The eyes of the telescope goldfish are angled forward and despite the name, these fish have poor eyesight. These fish have egg-shaped bodies with double fins and require a safe environment to protect their delicate eyes. If an eye injury occurs it can unfortunately lead to pain, infection, loss of the eye, or blindness.

Telescope goldfish prefer high quality water and are considered a high-maintenance fish to care for. They come in a number of varieties including the black moor and red moor. Telescope goldfish do best in an indoor aquarium with other delicate fancy fish and goldfish, with the black moor being the exception to this. The telescope goldfish has scales that are either metallic or nacreous, and come in black, orange, red, blue, chocolate, and white. They also come in different colour morphs like panda, red panda, and calico.

14: Butterfly Goldfish

These gorgeous fancy goldfish have Ryukin-like bodies but stunning butterfly shaped tail fins. They have been specifically bred to be viewed from above, with the spread of their fins closely resembling a butterfly. As such, they are relatively hardy and are ideal for ponds. Butterfly goldfish can even have telescope eyes or wens. Their scales can be either nacreous or matte. They are usually orange and white or orange and black, but can also be found in lavender, blue, white, and calico. The most popular and desirable colour among fancy goldfish collectors is panda.

lionhead goldfish

15: Lionhead Goldfish

A precursor to the Ranchu breed, the Lionhead has a very similar body type with a wen. They don’t have a dorsal fin and have a much fuller wen and cheeks, as well as a longer body than the Ranchu. Like other goldfish with wen, the wen can grow to obstruct their vision and may need a professional to trim it.

Lionhead goldfish are slow and should only be kept in heated tanks with other Lionheads, Ranchus, and other slow-moving fish. Their scales can be metallic, matte, or nacreous, in orange, white, blue, black, red, and chocolate.

pom pom goldfish

16: Pompom Goldfish

Known as the Pompon in Japan, the Pompom usually lacks a dorsal fin and are characterised by the small, fleshy growths between their nostrils. These growths look like little pompoms and don’t grow large enough to obstruct the vision. Pompom goldfish can have other fancy goldfish characteristics like a wen, telescope or bubble eyes, or a fantail. Fantail Pompom usually have a dorsal fin unlike regular Pompoms.

Pompom goldfish require floating food and a heated tank. They reach around 6 inches and can be kept with other delicate fancy goldfish like Telescopes. They have metallic scales, though in rare circumstances they can have nacreous scales. Pompoms come in white, black, silver, red, or calico.

pearlscale goldfish

17: Pearlscale Goldfish

The pearlscale is one of the most easily recognisable goldfish with their thick, domed scales. Calcium deposits on their scales give them the appearance of small pearls all over their bodies. The pearlscale also has a unique body shape, similar to a ping-pong ball. However, if a pearlscale loses a scale due to an injury, the scale can grow back without the pearl appearance. They have nacreous scales and are most often seen in orange, red, white, black, chocolate, and blue.

However, pearlscales can be very difficult to care for and require absolutely pristine water conditions. They are very sensitive to any change, even for short periods, making them very delicate fish. Pearlscale goldfish can only be kept in heated tanks with other delicate fancy goldfish. They can’t swim well and, due to in breeding and poor breeding stock, they are prone to swim bladder problems. This can be deadly.

Habitat and Tank Conditions for Goldfish

Goldfish are domesticated and selectively bred from wild carp, so in most cases it is important to replicate their natural environment to keep them happy and healthy. In most cases, this isn’t too hard to replicate.

Tank Conditionsgoldfish tank

Contrary to what movies and TV shows would have us believe, goldfish, especially fancy goldfish, cannot live in bowls of water. In fact, you’re going to need a big tank for your fancy goldfish, especially if you want more than one fish. Goldfish need at least 20 gallons of water per fish – and goldfish over 8 inches need even more space. You also need a tank that allows your goldfish plenty of room to swim around the middle of the tank. A tank that is too small is highly likely to stunt your fish’s growth. And if your fish does reach its full size in a small tank, the amount of waste they produce will increase ammonia levels to a dangerous degree, causing serious health issues. For the best oxygenation, a rectangular fish tank is recommended.

Tank Filtration and Water Quality

Fish tank filtration is incredibly important to the health and vitality of your fancy goldfish. Filtration helps improve the water quality, improving fish health. For fancy goldfish, we recommend that you have an external filter that is at least twice the size of the rated size of the aquarium, and an internal filter. We also recommend frequent water changes even with this filtration, changing at least 50-60% of the tank water a week. P.h. should be kept between 6.5 and 7.5.

Substrate, Plants, and Decorationsgoldfish tank plant

Because fancy goldfish are related to carp, they prefer environments with sand or fine gravel that replicate ponds, lakes and rivers. They also thrive in a tank rich in plant life. But, before you go aquascaping, you need to weigh the pros and cons of live plants. The pros of live plants is that they act as a third filtration system, cleaning and oxygenating the water. They also offer a hiding place for your fish. The most common plants paired with fancy goldfish include java fern, hornwort, and anacharis.

However, the cons are that goldfish love to nibble on living plants, which means you could be constantly replanting your aquascape. Fake plants solve this issue, however you must choose soft, fabric plants over hard plastic plants to avoid injury to your fish.


While many goldfish like cold water, not all goldfish are cold water fish. Many fancy goldfish do require a heater. So it is best to research your specific breed of fish before setting up your tank. You should also keep your tank away from sunlight and external heaters as these can cause issues with algae growth.

When you keep your fancy goldfish in the optimal environment and feed them the right food, they will thrive and live long live, sometimes even up to 30 years!

Tank Mates for Fancy Goldfishpleco goldfish tank mate

Fancy goldfish tank mates are, unfortunately, very limited. You need fish that are capable of living in cold water (if your goldfish prefer cold-water), that are slow-moving, and who won’t attack your goldfish’s delicate fins. You will also need to choose tank mates that should be large enough not to be eaten by your goldfish! Choosing fish that prefer living in the top or bottom sections of the tank is also helpful as it means they’re living in different sections of the tank to your goldfish.

Some possible tank mates for fancy goldfish are:

  • Bristlenose Plecos
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Guppies
  • Mollies
  • Nerite Snails
  • Platies
  • Rosy Barbs
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows
  • Zebra Danios

Fancy Goldfish as Tank Matesgoldfish tank mate snail

The best tank mates for fancy goldfish are other fancy goldfish or peaceful common goldfish. Keeping slow swimming goldfish together means they won’t be outcompeting each other for food or be chased by faster fish. Further, most fancy goldfish have long, trailing fins, making them a target for fin nipping, which is why they do best with other fancies.

However, it is incredibly important that you don’t overstock your tank with fancy goldfish. Goldfish of all types are very messy. They eat a lot and they make a lot of mess. There should be a minimum of 20 gallons per goldfish, an internal and external filter, and you will need to do a 50-60% water change each week.

Fancy Goldfish Dietgoldfish food

Goldfish are omnivores so you have plenty of choice when it comes to feeding. In the wild, goldfish would eat insects, vegetation, and even tadpoles. As a result, it is best to give your fish a varied diet to replicate their wild diet as well as provide a range of nutrients.

You can feed your fancy goldfish store-bought flake and pellet foods – as goldfish do best with floating food – but there are other foods you can give them to supplement their diet. Many stores, like The Aquarium Factory, offer frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms to supplement your goldfish’s pellets.

Finally, feeding green vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and broccoli occasionally can help reduce constipation. You can add small amounts of these vegetables to your tank, raw, and allow your fish to slowly nibble at them. The high fibre content in these vegetable helps prevent blockages in your fish’s digestion.

Your goldfish should be fed twice a day, but only an amount they can eat in a couple minutes. Leaving food in the water only worsens the water quality, which leads to disease and sickness in your fish.

Fancy Goldfish Care and Diseases

Fancy goldfish are, in general, easy to care for. The main requirement is that you keep their tank clean. Fancy goldfish have the same sized organs of slimmer goldfish, meaning their organs are tightly bunched together. Unfortunately, this means fancy goldfish are prone to diseases and illnesses. The most common issues your fish will face are swim bladder disorders and liver diseases.

Swim Bladder Disordersgoldfish diseases

Swim bladder problems are easy to spot. Usually, the goldfish will be floating at the top of the tank or sitting at the bottom. The best way to combat swim bladder disorders is to not feed your fish for 24 hours, then feeding the fish food that is high in fibre, like vegetables and frozen food.

Liver Disease

Unfortunately, liver disease is harder to spot as it doesn’t show many symptoms. This is why liver diseases are particularly fatal. You can avoid liver conditions by making sure you are feeding your fish quality, nutritional foods.

Skin Diseases

For fancy goldfish skin disease can be a big issue. They can be caused by a lot of different things like bacteria and parasites and cause a lot of symptoms. Skin disease symptoms depend on the individual condition, but most can cause spots or colour changes on the body. Thankfully, there plenty of medications available to treat skin diseases in fish.


As we mentioned earlier, fancy goldfish have organs that are bunched up together. As a result, they can be subject to constipation, which can lead to more serious problems. So it is important that you feed a high quality, moist food as the moisture makes it easier for the fish to digest.

Are Fancy Goldfish Suitable for your Aquarium?

As long as you are willing to put in the work to keep their tank clean, and provide a large enough tank, fancy goldfish are suitable for anyone! The Aquarium Factory not only stocks a wide range of fancy goldfish, we also have a variety of tanks, filters, heaters, decorations, plants, fish foods, and more to set up the perfect tank for your goldfish.

Visit our store today to find out more!