Lionhead Goldfish
  Origin - China Difficulty - Beginner
  Availability - Uncommon to rare Adult Size - 6 to 8 inches
  Price - Cheap to Very Expensive Scales - Any



  Shelly the Fish - This is a good example of what you can find at a typical pet store.

  Show Quality Lionhead - An example of a show quality Lionhead.

  Ranchus - Prize winning red and white Ranchus.

  Nankin Video - An example of an Izumo Nankin.


History and Origin of the Lionhead

The Lionhead is the oldest of the dorsal-less breeds, originating as an offshoot from the Eggfish. The Lionhead itself originated in China around the 1600s.

After being exported to Japan, it was further refined into the Ranchu variety in the mid-1800s. Ranchus are the most expensive goldfish you can buy. Though the Ranchu steals much of it's thunder, the Lionhead is a very popular breed in it's own right. Ranchus are discussed in detail in the "Variants" section below.

Special Care for the Lionhead

The Ranchu variant is identifiable as a side-view Ranchu by the steep downward arch of it's peduncle and nearly vertical caudal fin

Juvenile Lionheads dont require very much special care, and can even compete reasonably well with common goldfish for food.

But as they get older their wen (headgrowth) may thicken considerably, obscuring their vision and encumbering their gills, making it harder to breathe. For this reason they also need well oxygenated water. Newer Lionheads seem to be getting fatter as well, which will further handicap their ability to swim as they age.

Beyond that, Lionheads can survive in a broad temperature range, and can be kept in ponds just fine (though they cant endure the same temperature extremes common goldfish can). As long as they are not kept with fish that will out-compete them for food.

Ideal Characteristics for the Lionhead

Many modern Lionheads have deeply arched backs, as seen in this black specimen, though not as deep as Ranchus

The body depth should be equal to 1/2 the body length or more. Modern Lionhead standards seem to be migrating in the direction of Ranchu-like fatter bodies (both width and depth). The back should be a smooth shallow arch from head to tail, with no imperfections such as bumps or spikes (vestigial dorsal fins). Old drawings of Lionheads show them with straight backs, but modern Lionheads should have at least a mild arch to their back. Lionheads are now exhibiting the same steep rear dorsal arch as Ranchus, though not as deep as with Ranchus.

Lionheads should have a full hood, dense and well developed. It should be even on all sides (as opposed to the Oranda wen, which is denser on top). As their name implies, they have wide massive heads compared to other goldfish. Their faces look like fish versions of bulldogs.

All fins should be paired and have a rounded appearance. There should be no dorsal fin (if there is, it is not a Lionhead but a Tigerhead variant of an Oranda). Caudal fins should be divided and moderately forked. Lionheads have short stiff fins that are slightly rounded on the ends. Lionhead Caudal fins are either straight (horzontal to the body) or slightly inclined up from the tail. Color saturation of the fins is not only desired, but seems to be the norm for this breed. Even from common pet store specimens.

Most Lionheads are orange or a mix of orange and white, but they come in virtually all colors. Black seems to be the new favorite.

Known Variants of the Lionhead

Ranchus are the most famous variant of the Lionhead, and often treated as a separate breed by many people. But they are a Japanese bred branch of the Chinese Lionhead, and the difference between the two is very difficult to see unless you know what to look for. The line between Ranchu and Lionhead is often blurred outside of Japan, but the Japanese have extremely exacting standards when it comes to Ranchus.

These are the rock stars of the goldfish world, and have much more precise standards than other goldfish breeds. Of all the different breeds of Fancy Goldfish, Ranchus are the most expensive. You will probably not find these at your local pet store (and if you do, they are likely re-marked Lionheads, and not true Ranchus)...they are typically available only from foreign breeders.

There is a lot of debate as to whether they are truely different breeds at all, since all of the traits found in Ranchus are acceptable in regular Lionheads as well. Ranchus have a shorter body than Lionheads; depth being equal to 5/8 to 3/4 the body length. The Peduncle should arch sharply downward from the back. Ranchus also have a full wen, but headgrowth should ideally be less than that of a Lionhead. Modern Ranchus are being bred with denser than normal headgrowth closer to the Lionhead standard. The gill covers should be elongated, with the peaks extending farther along the body.

All of the fins have a stiff and rounded appearance. Caudal fins are divided and splayed ourward, being almost flat. The fork is very mild or nonexistant, forming a triangle when viewed from above. The tail angle will depend on whether the fish is a Side-View ranchu, or a Top-View Ranchu. Side-view Ranchus are intended for aquariums (to be viewed from the side), and have a Caudal fin that angles sharply upward at 45 degrees from the tail. A Top-View Ranchu is intended for a Pond (to be seen from the top) and will have a much more horizontal tail. In Japan, only certain colors are considered Ranchus. Those that dont fit the standard are labelled as separate breeds (see below). But outside Japan, they are typically all labelled as Ranchu.

An example of a Izumo Nankin

Izumo Nankin is a tranditional white and red Ranchu variant bred for 250 years in Japan. Some people consider them an Eggfish variant, but it is listed here because it is a true Japanese breed and Eggfish originated in China.

They are intended as a top-view pond fish. The exact criteria are unclear (because all the source material for them is in Japanese), but they are predominantly dense snow-white fish with deep red variegated patterns. The color must be mostly white, and the head should have no red coloration at all except for the lips or eyes. There are red markings on all fins and the tail. The body is similar to a Ranchu, but deeper,and the abdomen tapers more abruptly (accentuating the peduncle, giving the fish a tadpole-like top profile). Nankins also have little or no wen, and a pointed head is very desirable. The fins are similar to a Ranchu, but the Caudal fin is larger and the Pectoral, Pelvic, and Anal fins smaller.

Multi-colored (mottled) Ranchu are called Edoni. They sometimes also have complex variegated patterns, which are very desirable. Edo Nishiki is a calico Ranchu produced in the 1950s by crossing a standard Ranchu with an Azuma Nishiki (calico Oranda). They conform to the same general standards as normal Ranchus except for their coloration, including the lack of a dorsal fin despite their Oranda ancestry.

This "blue" Ranchu is actually a precursor for a new type of Ranchu, but is not officially recognized as a Ranchu in Japan

Lionchus (sometimes called "Buffalo Heads") are a crossbreed between purebred Lionheads and side-view Ranchus, resulting in what amounts to a side-view Ranchu with Lionhead-like wen. In the beginning they were regarded as a "sport" fish, but seemed to have gained official recognition recently as a separate variety of Lionhead in show circles.

Pugface Lionheads are Lionheads with a flat face. They have less headgrowth on the top of the head, but heavy headgrowth on the cheeks.

Tancho Lionheads are basically like a Lionhead version of a Red Cap Oranda, except that they still have a full hood. All white with red over the top of their head. There are Tancho Ranchus as well.

Hironi are Ranchus which have veiltail type finnage. Otherwise they conform to the same standards as regular Ranchus.

Osaka Ranchus (aka Oosakaran) no longer really exist. Attempts are being made to re-create the breed (using Ranchu and Tosakin stock), but the originals are gone. They looked similar to a Nankin, but were wider and deeper, with a larger eyes and a larger caudal fin. Some of the current specimens have nasal bouquets due to the Hana Fusa stock being used to re-create the breed, but it is unclear if the originals had pom poms or not.

There is a long-finned version of the Lionhead in Japan called the Shukin.

Many sport varieties exist (Lionheads with PomPoms or dorsal fins for example) but these are not regarded as actual Lionheads or variants.

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