Of all the fish out there in the freshwaterfishkeeping world, the goldfish is probably the most well-known, most well-beloved of all. These fish are easy to care for, live fascinating little lives, and come in a wide array of colors, types, and patterns, making them intriguing for hobbyists of all ages.
If you’re ready to learn all about the many types of goldfish before you choose your ideal pet to bring home, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve brought together the most comprehensive list of species we could create, including easy to acquire, not so easy to find, and the nearly impossible to bring home – so you get the whole scope of the species.
About Goldfish Types
As noted above, there are many types of goldfish. Many are plain or hardy or “common” varieties, while others are fancy goldfish. The third collection are “rare” species which may fall anywhere between plain or fancy, but are difficult to find.
The types of goldfish are split into plain or fancy based on their body shapes, tail shapes, patterns or colors, types of scales, and any other unique traits they may have. Often the name of the goldfish variety reveals something about their looks, but not always.
Single-Tailed Goldfish Varieties
One of the easiest distinctions to make between types of goldfish is the single versus double tail varieties. Single tailed goldfish are hardy and generally easy to care for. They often do well in either ponds or aquariums of appropriate size, tend not to be too sensitive to water parameters (making them ideal for new hobbyists!), and require minimal water flow. They’re also bright, colorful, energetic little swimmers, so they make any location exciting – just provide them with plenty of plants and hiding spaces!
The common Goldfish, also known as Carassius Auratus, is part of the Cyprinidae family and originates from Asia. This fish species has been bred and raised by humans for over a thousand years, it’s not certain when this fish became a household pet.
When kept in a home aquarium, they do best when kept with a tankmate. They are a social species of fish that needs others to feel safe and to have good health.
Two or three smaller goldfish ( around three inches or less) can be kept in a ten-gallon tank. After maturing they will need a bigger tank to live in. A goldfish given proper care has an average life span of five years. However, some have been known to live upwards of forty years and reach a length of twelve inches long.
This fish species is also related to koi, carp, and other similar fish.
The fish’s name, Auratus, means “overlaid with gold”.
In nature, this goldfish can be found in a variety of types of water. They can live in lakes, canals, rivers, and even ditches that have enough vegetation in the water. They prefer water that stagnates due to moving slowly.
Common goldfish are a good choice for beginning fish keepers because it’s a hardy breed of fish. This fish can live in water temperatures that range between 55-80F (12-26C) along with pH levels between 6-8 (which is the approximate levels found in tap water). The ideal water temperature for this fish is the low 70s.
Additionally, the common goldfish doesn’t need a heater and only has to have minimum care if it is placed by itself in a ten-gallon tank that has great filtration.
Another “common” or plain goldfish, the Comet is a lovely little fish thought to originate in Washington state in the late 1800s. This particular goldfish comes in several variations, the most popular a bright, metallic orange color that shows up really well in goldfish ponds and aquariums. They also come in calicos (often red and white or the popular red and silver sarassa comet).
Other color combos for these guys include black and orange, red and white, yellow, red, or black.
This variety is often mistake for the common goldfish, but its body is more slender than the common and more noticeably elongated fins. The caudal fin is typically half to three-quarters the length of the body and has a pointed end. The comet also has two pelvic and pectoral fins, and a single anal, dorsal, and caudal fin.
There are three types of Shubunkin goldfish: London, Bristol, and American.
London Shubunkin Goldfish
London shubunkin goldfish have calico patterns that vary in color combinations. Their bodies are thicker than other shubunkin varieties, as well, and they have round fins.
Bristol Shubunkin Goldfish
Bristol shubunkins are easy to tell apart from the other shubunkins as well, thanks to its unique tail, which is made of two huge, bifurcated, pointed fins, which appear to shape the letter “B.”
American Shubunkin Goldfish
The American shubunkin has a long, pointed tail and a thinner body than the others, though they are often mistaken for common calico goldfish at times.
Coloration Types in Shubunkin
Shubunkins also have various colorations which don’t necessary make them as easy to identify as you might think. Most midnight shubunkin, for example, are black with hints of white. Black opal shubunkins are similar in looks, but with more pronounced shades of black. Other varieties have patches of black, red, and white (calicos) – and are generally “shiny” goldfish with a metallic looking scale finish.
Ghost Bristol shubunkins, known as “pinkies” have no metallic scales and have pink gills with white bodies. Imperial shubunkins are solid red with a mix of shiny and matte red scales. Sanke shubunkins are bright white with pops of black and red. The sky blue shubunkin has no red but a matte based with a sprinkling of metallic scales and may occasionally have black markings and pink gills.
Though not as popular as they were 15 years ago, nymph goldfish are a fun variety of hardy goldfish. They’re excellent swimmers and add a lot of fun to an aquarium. They have egg-shaped bodies, a long, single tail, and some have telescopic eyes.
They grow up to 12-inches long and have been thought of as a cross between the Fancy Fantail and Comet goldfish varieties. They do well in both ponds and aquariums – as long as they have enough room – and are fairly easy to care for.
Double-Tailed Goldfish Varieties
The second generalized type of goldfish is the double-tailed goldfish – they make up the fancy goldfish types. These fish are the fancy varieties, typically have round, hunched, or egg-shaped body, and, as the name implies, have a split or double tail. These goldfish varieties are more sensitive than their single-tailed brethren, meaning they are harder to care for and don’t do well in ponds (read: for aquariums only!).
They tend to be slower swimmers, too, though they still need lots of swimming room. They may be kept together with other fancy goldfish varieties as tank mates, but they should not be kept with single tail varieties, as they can’t compete with them for food.
If you’d like to keep more than one fancy variety together, mix them together based on their physical traits and water requirements. Keep the more delicate breeds together and the hardier of the double tails (like fantails) together.
Some of these breeds also have physical traits that make them prone to injury and accidents, like the Celestials and Bubble Eyes. Avoid décor that has any kind of square corners and pad equipment, if necessary, to keep the fish safe.
The fantail goldfish is a great fancy variety for getting started with fancies. They’re a bit hardier than many of the other breeds and they’re gorgeous, so you’ll still get all the pleasure as you learn more details about delicate fish species care.
Fantails have an egg-shaped body and a long, lovely fantail, giving them their name. These fish are the foundational breed for most fancy varieties and tend to be bred back into lines to help maintain the health and hardiness genetically, as much as possible. They typically come in red/orange, black, yellow, white or calico, or koi-colored morphs (which are most often available in Japan only).
Their tails make them a little awkward in how they swim, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t thriving!
Ryukin are sort of the eastern breed version of the fantail goldfish. They have different body shapes, though, and are easily identifiable thanks to being tall goldfish with significant shoulder humps right behind their heads. They’re often taller than they are long, with slightly pointed heads and may have either short or long tails (depending on variety within the breed).
These fish are one of the larger fancy goldfish breeds and require a larger aquarium than most goldfish species – or, in this case you may consider a pond. This is one of the rare fancy goldfish species that can handle outdoor climates, as long as you live in a warmer place and can keep the water parameters fairly steady in their ponds.
Note: Young Ryukin look very similar to fantail in juvenile stages. Their unique shoulder humps don’t start becoming pronounced until they’re older, so purchasing one at a young age and verifying they are, indeed, Ryukin, may be challenging.
The pearlscale goldfish sort of resembles a golf ball. The little, round-bodied fish has thick scales and was selectively bred for this odd combination of traits. This means this fancy goldfish is not a great fit for beginner aquarists. They need pristine water quality and all those parameters kept at all times in order to thrive. They also tend to have extra issues with swim bladder diseases and disorders, so, again, though fascinating, they’re not a great fit for newbies.
Wakin & Watonai Hybrid Goldfish
The Watonai is a hybrid if the Wakin goldfish, so they’re closely related and have similar requirements. They both have lean bodies with an upright dorsal fin that extends all the way down the spine, and a double tail. The hybrid has a longer tail, however.
They have metallic scales, tend to be easy to moderate in care (i.e. dedicated newbies who’ve studied up and are prepared to take on the fish’s needs carefully should be able to handle them), and come in red or red and white, chocolate brown, yellow/orange morphs, or possibly calico.
These both do well in well-cared-for ponds and aquariums and may be housed with common, shubunkin, or comet goldfish in the single tail varieties, or other moderately hardy double tails.
Bubble Eye Goldfish
The bubble eye goldfish is one of the most unique fancy goldfish out there. I remember my grandfather having a bunch of these when I was a kid. He kept them in a well maintained rain barrel outside in the American Midwest. Because of this, I assumed they were easy to keep goldfish. Turns out, they’re not as hardy as I would have thought.
These odd little fish have water sacs under their eyes which grow in size with the fish, often becoming quite large and rather impressive. These sacs make them susceptible to injury and accidents, so be sure to remove any rigid décor, anything with sharp corners or edges, etc. I.e. keep in very ‘soft edged’ aquariums with plants and soft décor items, rather than rocks and coral.
Bubble eyes should be kept by intermediate or well-seasoned aquarists as they require precise care. They should never be stocked with faster breeds like Ryukin, as they will outcompete with them for food – and the bubble eyes will lose.
Sponge filters are highly recommended for their safety.
Telescope Eye Goldfish
Another unique fancy goldfish is the telescope eye. These have protruding eyes that are exceptionally round and “bulgy” giving them a unique look. This variety of goldfish is also sometimes referred to by its original Japanese name of Demekin.
Demekin come in a variety of subcategories, including the Black Moor and Panda Telescope (more below on these). They are less fragile than bubble eyes, but they still require great care and should not be kept by beginning aquarists. Equipment should be padded or separated so the fish can’t bump into them, there should be no sharp corners or straight edges on décor, and filter sponges should be used to avoid accidents for them.
Dragon Eye Goldfish
One variety of telescope eye goldfish is the Dragon Eye. They have unique cone-shaped eyes that greatly protrude from their faces. They’re thought of as originating in China, though many Japanese breeders have also bred them for aquarists in the US.
Black, Red and PandaMoor Goldfish
As mentioned above, the moor are a popular variety of telescope eye goldfish. They come in black, red, or Panda moor, the black and panda being most popular. They are instable color morphs in many cases, meaning their coloring may fade into bi-color (i.e. Black moors may become Panda or black and white morphs). Sometimes, moors have an underlying red or orange coloration, as well.
They should only be stocked with other fancy goldfish varieties, such as Ranchu, Lionhead, Celestial, or Bubble Eyes.
Jakin, Butterfly, Peacock, or Jikin Goldfish
The Jakin, sometimes called the butterfly or peacock goldfish is another uniquely distinct goldfish, a rare color morph from Japan. They tend to have longer bodies, like the common goldfish, some have a hunch like a Ryukin, and they have widespread tails that are amazing from an aerial view.
Jakin have a unique color scheme, as mentioned. They’re also a bi-colored red and white, but the only acceptable red is on the fins, tail, gill covers, and lips (the “12 points”). Red on any other part of their bodies makes them less than desirable and will be selected against.
They’re lean, beautiful (even if they don’t meet the official acceptable color points!), and have metallic scales. They are a hardier fancy goldfish and may do all right in very well maintained ponds. They may be stocked with comet, shubunkin, common goldfish in ponds, or indoors in aquariums, they’ll do well with other fancy goldfish like lionheads, orandas, or fantails. They’re generally considered “easy to moderate” care goldfish, so intermediate or well-studied beginners may do well with them.
Pompom goldfish are another unique breed of goldfish with a very distinctive trait: nasal appendages. The average pompom goldfish has an egg-shaped body, double tail, no dorsal fin, and a prominent natural growths on their faces that sort of look like two colorful, cottony pompoms (thus their name). These fish also often have other unique traits like telescope eyes or hoods.
They’re often cross-bred with oranda, bubble eyes, and fantails to create new varieties of pompoms with dorsal fins.
Most of the pompoms fish are very delicate and require special care. They are not suited well to ponds (i.e. don’t keep them in one!), they tend to be hard to care for, and need to have their specific water parameters met at all times to keep them healthy and happy.
You should only include very soft, rounded objects in their aquariums, and pad equipment to keep them safe from accidental injury.
Pompom goldfish come in bi or tri-colored patterns, or single colors, typically within red, or white/silver, black, calico, or red and white patterns. Their scales are metallic, though rarely you’ll find nacreous scales (a mix of translucent and reflective scales).
These fish are especially prone to infections, so they absolutely should not be kept in ponds and should not be kept by new aquarists, even with tons of study before stocking. They just won’t do well.
If the name didn’t fully give it away, yes, the lionchu goldfish is a hybrid of the Ranchu and lionhead goldfish breeds. They are not technically a separate breed, but because of the distinction, we’re pointing them out as a separate type of goldfish. They have no dorsal fin and a classic double tail (fantail style).
They will either have metallic are nacreous scales and come in single, bi-colored, tri-colored, or calico patterns. Typical colors include red, black, chocolate, orange, blue, red and white, or black and white.
They have a body shape similar to that of a Ranchu but have the tail shape and head growth of a lionhead. They require the same care that both the Ranchu and lionheads need, though. They are difficult to keep, so they are not for beginners. And they should never be kept in a pond. They are simply too delicate, partially in thanks to their head growths.
They should only be kept with similarly delicate fancy goldfish to protect them and to ensure they’re able to keep up with feedings and not bullied or starved out by others.
Celestial Eye Goldfish or Stargazing Goldfish
This unique telescope eye or stargazing goldfish, or the Choutengan, is known as the celestial eye goldfish because of the distinct upward pointing of the eyes (i.e. looking towards the heavens). The variety is a selectively bred fish for this unique mutation. They also do not have a dorsal fin, adding to their unique looks.
This particular variety of telescoping eye goldfish have been around a long time – since the 1700s. They don’t have very good vision, thanks to the odd direction and placement of their eyes, but they’re very active. They need special care in their fish tank environments (and should never be kept in ponds!) to help them out. Avoid overhanging or floating objects, use padding on equipment, and don’t keep them with other species or they’ll have a difficult time getting enough to eat.
The lionhead goldfish is one of the most popular goldfish without a dorsal fin. They are delicate fancy fish that look like the Ranchu breed, but their backs are flatter and they have a classic double tail. They also have prominent hoods that may cover their entire heads and faces, but the trait sometimes is limited to the top of the head or may not be present at all in some.
They tend to be awkward swimmers, so they may have difficulty competing with other breeds of fish for their dinners, so it’s recommended that they’re kept exclusively with other slow swimming fish species. They need warm water environments, and they should be kept in protected aquariums with precise parameters – meaning they’re not for beginners.
A well-known and highly popular double-tailgoldfish variety is the Oranda. This beautiful fish has been selectively bred for the wen on its head (the fleshy mass) that adds a unique “pop” of something unusual to the fish’s already dashing looks.
Oranda are a hardier breed of fancy goldfish and may be kept in a pond if it is extremely well maintained without any sharp objects within. The wen on their heads does make them prone to infection, so accidental injuries need to be avoided. Some owners who are well-versed (read: expert!) have been known to trim the wen growth when it becomes excessive to help prevent injury. If you’re not an expert, though, you could seriously injure your fish, so, call in a professional instead if you’re concerned.
Oranda goldfish fry start out looking much like standard fantail goldfish, but as they age, their wens become prominent.
Ranchu goldfish and Lionhead goldfish are similar to each other, so many folks confuse the two. Both feature wens (fleshy growths on their heads that sort of look like lion’s manes) and both lack a dorsal fin. A Ranchu, however, have the smaller wen which is closer to the head. They also have less fleshy cheeks than a lionhead, and they have a plumper body and more acute tail.
Ranchus are slow movers and must be kept only with other slow-moving fish species. They also may have some difficulty finding food if their wens grow large and block their vision. They will not be able to compete with faster fish for their food, either.
Veiltails are similar to fantails, but they are more difficult to care for. They have rounder, slightly more compact bodies than fantails, large, impressive 4-inch-long tail fins, and dorsal fins. These goldfish are the most Betta-like out there with their flowing fins and showy good looks.
Veiltails are more prone to injury than most other goldfish species, as well, thanks to these gorgeous tails and fins. They must be kept in fish tanks with limited décor, absolutely no sharp edges or square edges, and should never ever be stocked with fin nipping species.
These fish also have a difficult time scavenging for food, so they need to be fed floating food that they can see and catch easily. They also need tons of swimming room to avoid bumping their delicate fins and tails into equipment and décor as they move about. They are not appropriate for community aquariums and should be kept only with other veiltails or similar goldfish species who are slow moving or extremely peaceful and won’t steal their food!
Typically, veiltails come in red and orange or red and white combinations, though they may also come in calico form rather than merely bi-color form.
Another gorgeous breed of goldfish is the butterfly tail. The unique shape of their tails is stunning, especially from above – for which they were specifically bred. They have the tall shoulder hunches like Ryukins have, with a wide, long double tail that rather looks like a butterfly from overhead.
They also often have fancy traits like hoods or telescopic eyes. They come in a wide range of colors, including some unique shades: matte white, lavender, blue, red and black, red and white morphs, panda, black, and others.
They’re also very popular with breeders right now, so reasonably easy to find. They should never be housed in ponds, need to have pristine and precise water parameters, and should only be stocked with similar delicate fish with the same care requirements as they. And since they are delicate themselves, they should never have décor in their tanks that have sharp edges, square edges, or unpadded equipment, as they may easily injure themselves while swimming around.
Rare Fancy Goldfish Varieties
These particular fancy goldfish breeds are going to be hard to find. Most are only available in Japan or other very selective locations around the world.
This rare variety is actually a mutation. Those curled gills that make it so unique are mutated and cause the gill covers to curl out and away from the gills. This makes the gills more vulnerable and visible, making this an undesirable trait. Most breeders cull this form from their stock. If you see one of these little guys at the store, it’s recommended you don’t purchase as they’re unhealthy.
Izumo Nankin Goldfish
This unique variety of goldfish is almost never found in Western locations. The Izumo Nankin is a rare, bi-colored red and white dorsal-less goldish, that has a partially-fused Ranchu style tail.
Siamese or China Doll Goldfish
Siamese Doll Goldfish is a rate type of Fantail that has a unique yellow coloring known as Lutino morph. While these are not species that are easy to find in domestic markets, they could be located in other countries.
Hama Nishiki Goldfish
Hama Nishiki Goldfish are a cross between Oranda and pearl scale. This fish physically resembles the pearl scale, however, its fins are notable for being somewhat longer and its overall body size is a bit bigger. It has a small hood cover on top of its face that it has from the Oranda.
Egg-Fish or Maruko Goldfish
The Maruko Goldfish is another species of fish that is not available to purchase. This is a species that is thought to have descended from goldfish that did not have dorsal. Some goldfish fanciers are attempting to reestablish this fish species but so far their results are not available for commercial purchase.
Jade Seal Goldfish
Jade Seals are an older species of goldfish that is not currently for purchase. Essentially, they are a Red Oranda that has a white cap.
Tamasaba, Sabao, or Mackerel-Tailed Goldfish
This Japanese goldfish is rarely seen. It has an egg-shaped body with an arched back and long, single tail flowing out to rounded points, somewhat resembling that of a mackerel’s tail (thus the name). The breed originally began from the Ryukin stock, inheriting that distinctive hump. They’re easy to moderate to care for, but sadly hard to find.
Tosakin, Peacock Tail, or Curly Tail Goldfish
The Tosakin goldfish almost went extinct at one point, after earthquakes, World War II, and a tsunami destroyed a region in Japan where these gorgeous little fish were originally bred by a Mr. Hiroe Tamura. He actually risked his life to retrieve the remaining living fish and was able to not only save them but was able to help them re-establish the breed.
The breed is almost never found outside of Japan, though, even now.
The unique fish has a hunched look like that of the Ryukin, but has a glorious widespread double tail that is attached instead of separated like so many double tail breeds. The tails are incredible when viewed from above, giving an almost flowing skirt look.
If you did manage to find one of these beautiful fish outside of Japan, you’d need to be an expert fishkeeper to make sure the fish survives and thrives – they’re very delicate and difficult to care for. They absolutely should never be kept in ponds and need very specific tank décor – no sharp edges, no boxy surfaces, and very precise water parameters must be kept at all times.
These fish should also only ever be stocked with others of their kind, in tanks large enough to give them plenty of swimming room.
They come in red, black, or red and white, with the rare calico morph showing up every once in a great while.
Choosing the Right Goldfish for Your Fish Tank or Pond
Okay. You’ve seen the list (and surprisingly, there are still a few more types out there!), so you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed right now as you consider which breed of goldie might be best for your tank. Take a few moments, step back, breathe a little, and contemplate these things.
- What care level are you able to provide? If you’re not an expect, you really should only consider easy to moderate care varieties.
- What size fish tank can your space handle? Some goldies need really large tanks to do well – and of course, you want them to thrive!
- Do you have other pets who may startle or hunt your goldies? If you’ve got a cat who’s keen on watching that fish tank (I’m looking at you, Fluffy!), you should avoid the more delicate breeds unless they will be kept in completely separate spaces. Fish prone to injuries are also prone to startling easily and may be overly stressed or even more prone to accidents if other critters are bothering them.
- Is this breed suitable for ponds? If you’ve looking to stock your pond outdoors, keep in mind only those breeds which can handle an outdoor life!
- What other fish do you intend to stock (or already have at home)? Make sure the varieties of goldfish you’re considering will play well with others.
- What kind of décor do you want in the tank? If you’re into castles and rocks, delicate fish with hoods, bubble and telescope eyes, and similar traits are not a good match for that kind of habitat.
- What kind of budget do you have? Some breeds are common and easy to come by. Some, not so much. Be sure the ones you’re looking to stock fit without your budget as well, and, ideally, won’t have to travel a great distance to get to you. Long distance travel – heck, even short distance travel! – can be traumatic for fish, so avoid buying ones great distances away.
Consider all these things, especially focusing on the care of the goldfish, before you purchase. They will thank you for giving them a good life through their beauty, their energy, and their happy greetings when dinner time comes.