Single Tailed  Double Tailed  Dorsalless  Breed Criteria  Anatomy: Body Types  Anatomy: Fin Types  Colors & Scales

Single Tail Breeds:

 Common Goldfish  Comet  Shubunkin

Double Tail Breeds:

 Common Fantail  Oranda  Telescope  Ryukin  Pearlscale  Tosakin  Wakin  Jikin

Dorsalless Breeds:

 Lionhead  Celestial  Bubble Eye  Pom Pom  Eggfish

Site Index - Shortcuts to make navigation easier.

Goldfish Glossary - A list of commonly used terms.

Site Updates - Updated link section. - NEW OCT 7-

Links - Goldfish related links.


Goldfish have been bred for centuries. Because of their great variety, they can be difficult to classify. The easiest way is through fin arrangement. Click on the picture for each breed to see an expanded entry for it.

All existing breeds can be classified into one of three groups based on their fin arrangement: Single Fin (also called "wild" type), Double Fin, and Dorsalless.


These are goldfish that still look similar to the normal carp they are decended from except for their color and the shape of their fins.

Single-tailed goldfish do not exhibit traits such as portruding eyes or head growth. All single tailed breeds differ from each other only in their coloration and fin shape. They all have what is commonly referred to as a "wild" type body, meaning a body similar to that of a wild carp.

  Common Goldfish   Comet   Shubunkin


These are goldfish with split Caudal fins. Double tailed breeds have two tails that are fused together at the base, giving them a winged appearance. Most have split anal fins as well.

  Common Fantail   Oranda   Telescope
  Ryukin   Pearlscale   Tosakin
  Wakin   Jikin


These are Fantailed fish that lack a dorsal fin. All Dorsalless goldfish have egg-type bodies and lack a dorsal fin, but are otherwise similar to Double-tailed breeds. They are expected to have no bumps or spikes in the back arch. These bumps and spikes are vestigial dorsal fins.

  Lionhead (Ranchu)   Celestial   Bubble Eye
  Pom Pom   Eggfish    



On the individual breed pages, I have catagorized goldfish by a number of criteria. Color, scale type, and body type are covered in their own sections below. But in addition:


How difficult the fish is to keep.

Beginner fish are extremely resiliant and can survive a lot of punishment (good for kids). They can be kept in Aquariums or bowls and can survive a broad range of temperatures. Beginner fish are capable of living in outdoor ponds once they reach adulthood.

Intermediate fish are more delicate, and require extra attention. They should be kept only in Aquariums with a temperature of 55 degrees or more.

Advanced fish are very fragile, and will die easily if you dont know what you're doing. They should be kept only in Aquariums which are maintained carefully, and should only be kept with other breeds that are similarly delecate, to ensure that they can get their share of food.

These are general guidelines intended to inform beginners. Any breed of goldfish could be kept in a pond (for example) if the person keeping them knew what they were doing.


This indicates how likely your local pet store is to have the fish in stock. This is mainly applicable for people living in North America.

Common fish are available at all pet stores that sell fish. You can probably find these in many non-pet stores (such as walmart) as well.

Uncommon fish will be available at only at chain pet stores (like Petsmart or Petco), and shops that specialize in fish.

Rare fish may be occasionally be available in storefronts that specialize in fish, but will most likely only be available over the internet or by mail order.

Very Rare fish may not be available at all, or only from certain breeders (and will be very expensive). These are almost always mail order.


This is the typical price of a small fish at a common pet store in the US (or on the internet). By "small" I mean between 1 and 2 inches in body length (not including fins).

Very Cheap fish include anything under $1 (usually fish intended as feeders for other fish).

Cheap fish include anything under $5...unlike Very Cheap fish, these are intended as pets and not as food for other fish.

Moderate fish are anywhere from $5 to $15.

Expensive fish are anything over $15...some of these are simply adult versions of cheap fish. Because of their size, they are worth more money.

Very Expensive fish are show quality specinmens that can run into the hundreds of dollars. These are the fish that are typically bought as breeding stock.

The prices for most small fancy goldfish are under $10 each. Most non-show quality specimens will max out at around $50 for large adults.

Show quality fish (which includes many of the fish pictures on this site) can usually be bought only from foreign breeders over the internet. Expect to pay $30 to $60 in shipping (which has to be overnight, since they are live fish), in addition to $30 to $200 or more per fish. Small fish bought in this manner are typically only available in bulk.

Fish bought over the internet in this way are usually insured in case they die in transit. But be sure to read the breeder's shipping and return policy before you buy it.

  Adult Size

An estimate on how large (in inches) the fish is expected to get. The more exotic breeds tend to be smaller. The estimate is approximate, and is conservative.

  Special Care

Overview of the additional care the breed requires.


A brief background and historical overview of the breed.


This section deals with the actual body of the goldfish...basically everything except the fins.

Many body parts are described relative to "length" and "depth". The length of the goldfish is the distance between the front of the head to the beginning of the caudal fin (end of the tail). Length never includes the fins, just the actual body. The Depth is measured from the top of the fish (it's highest point) to the bottom (its lowest point).

Body Parts

Peduncle - This is the end portion of the spine that connects the tail to the body.

Operculum - These are the plates that cover the gills.

Chloaca - This is the hole containing reproductive organs, and the exit for urine and feces. It is located directly below the anal fins. It is sometimes also called the "Vent".

Orbit - This is the bony area of the skelleton in which the eye sits. In Goldfish this is often used to describe the ridges surrounding the eye as well.

Nares and Nasal Septa - These are the the fish's nose. The nares are the actual openings, and the nasal septa are the skin flaps that surround it. Pom Poms are specifically bred to have exaggerated nasal septa. And yes, Fish do have a sense of smell.

Dorsal - This describes the area covering the entire top side of the fish.

Ventral - This describes the area covering the entire underside of the fish.

Lateral Line - This is a sensory organ found in all fish. It allows the fish to sense pressure waves in the water. It functions in a way similar to hearing.

Wen - (AKA "Hood", "Cap", "Crown", or "Headgrowth") These are sponge-like skin folds found on some breeds of goldfish. All goldfish (even wild ones) have this growth to some degree, it has just been exaggerated in some breeds more than others. Wen normally covers at the least top of the head, but some breeds have it on the "cheeks" as well. Wen is also called a "hood"; a "half hood" covers just the top part of the head, while a "full hood" covers the cheeks as well. While wen can occasionally become a problem if it becomes too dense (because it interferes with the gills), it is otherwise harmless, and is very desirable on many breeds.


  Body Types

There are four basic body types that have been bred in exotic goldfish:

Wild - Wild type bodies are the default carp-like shape, usually long and slender. This is the normal "fish shaped" body type.

Torpedo - Torpedo shaped bodies are more flat and cylindrical. Koi have this body type.

Egg - Egg type bodies are wide and deep. Most exotic goldfish conform to this type.

Teardrop - Teardrop bodies similar to Egg shaped bodies, but are so deep as to be almost spherical.


While body shapes may vary widely, the position of the fins on the body will stay the same no matter what the breed. All goldfish will have these fins (with the exception of dorsalless fish, which lack a dorsal fin).

In the wild, the fins are how the goldfish moves through the water and maintains it's stability. Some goldfish have been bred to have duplicate fins on some areas of their body. Generally speaking, none of these fish swims better with duplicate fins. Duplicate fins (aka, "split fins") are a hinderance to swimming. They are bred this way for aesthetic appeal only.

Goldfish will have transparent fins by default. Color saturation of the fins is something that is highly desired, and has been aggressively bred into modern exotic goldfish breeds.


Caudal Fin - This is the goldfish's tail fin. The Caudal fins are normally the primary method of movement through the water, but most exotic goldfish have caudal fins that are so mutated that they no longer do this very well. So most forward motion is generated by brute force of the Peduncle, the Pectoral fins, or both. The Caudal is further divided into two regions, called "lobes". The space between these lobes is called a "Fork". The degree of forking is referred to as "mild" (little or no split between the lobes) or "deep" (prominant indentation between the lobes). If the Caudal fin is split, the degree of the split is usually noted as well. A "fused" caudal is a split caudal fin where the top portions of both caudal fins are joined together. Fins that are not fused (which is almost all) are considered "divided". A Caudal that is 50% divided, for example, would be fused together halfway along it's length.

A good example of Butterfly finnage can be seen on this Chocolate Moor

Anal Fin - This is the fin under the tail. Many (but not all) double tailed goldfish will have a split anal fin as well. Anal fins are never fused in exotic goldfish. Anal fins are normally used for maintaining stability while moving. In most breeds of exotic goldfish however, anal fins no longer serve their original function.

Pelvic Fins - All goldfish have two Pelvic fins. These are the fins on the underside of the body, so are sometimes called "Ventral fins". Pelvic fins are used mostly for stability in the water (staying upright).

Pectoral Fins - All goldfish have two Pectoral fins. The Pectoral fins are mainly used for fine-tuning their position in the water. Many exotic goldfish use them to generate forward thrust as well.

Dorsal Fins - All goldfish have only a single dorsal fin. This fin is used for maintaining stability while moving through the water. Some breeds of exotic goldfish no longer have a dorsal fin.


  Fin Types

There are several standards for fin types that range across several breeds. These are approximations of the various types of finnage:

An example of Ribbontail finnage

Fantail - Fantail finnage is the standard among double tailed breeds, and the ideal for Fantail goldfish. It is similar in shape to the Common Goldfish. Fins are short or medium length (1/4 to 1/2 the length of the body), and stiff. The fins should be stiff, slightly rounded, and the caudal fin should have a mild fork. Common Goldfish have what could be considered Fantail-type finnage except that they only have a single tail.

Ribbontail - Ribbontail finnage is similar to Fantail finnage but longer and less rounded. The Caudal fin should be very long (1 1/2 times the length of the body) and flowing...curling in on itself in adult fish. The dorsal should be high and erect, like a Ryukin. True Ribbontail goldfish are actually a variant of Fantail goldfish, but ribbontail-type finnage can be found on other breeds as well.

Fingetail - Fringetail finnage is similar to Ribbontail finnage but shorter. The fins' edges are serrated, unlike the straight edges of the other fin types. The bumps are all uniform and round however, and should not be confused with the erratic edges of straight fins that are shredded or split (such as those suffering from Fin Rot). The edges of a fringetail fin are uniform. The caudal fin should be about 1/2 the length of the body. The dorsal fin should have a standard straight edge to it.

Veiltail finnage should drape off the back of the goldfish

Veiltail - Veiltail (aka "Broadtail") finnage is rare, first produced in the 1920s. All the fins are very long, with a caudal fin (ideally) twice the length of the body. All edges are straight, and the caudal should have no fork at all. In the Veiltail the finnage is flowing, while in the Broadtail it is stiff.

Butterflytail - Butterflytail finnage is long and stiff, but the caudal is completely divided and splayed out to the sides like butterfuly wings. The caudal fin is ideally rigid and rounded with a mild fork. The lower lobes should be larger than the upper lobes.


This section deal specifically with the goldfish's skin and scales. The two terms are not the same thing. The skin is covered  by the scales. The scales determine how reflective the goldfish is. Scales themselves are colorless. Pigmentation only exists in the skin.

  Scale Types

The scales are always transparent, but have varying degress of reflection. Highly reflective scales make the fish appear metallic. Matte scales have no reflection at all. A combination of the two scale types is referred to as Nacreous scales. Nacreous scales have a dull mother-of-pearl appearance. The following table shows the three different types of scales:


The level of reflectiveness is caused by a substance in the scale called guanine. More makes the scales reflective. An absence makes the scales matte. A moderate level results in nacreous scales. A fish's scale type never changes throughout it's life. It will always have the same type of scales even if it's color changes or fades.


The original goldfish would look rather plain by today's standards. Even common goldfish sold as food for other fish in pet stores in modern times would be spectacular compared to the original goldfish of anicent China. But the colors have been cultivated over the centuries to produce the many varieties we have today.

Goldfish color is stimulated by light, the same way our skin tans in sunlight. If placed in the dark a Goldfish would eventually turn white (disclaimer: never place goldfish in direct sunlight however). Some types of flourescent bulbs sold in pet stores are specifically designed to enhance the growth of plants or the colors of fish. The light from these specialized bulbs will also "tan" goldfish better, and make their colors darker.

The original goldfish were copper/yellow colored. But in ancient China, yellow was a color reserved for royalty, so commoners were forced to develop the orange color that is so common today. White and Red varieties were bred by around 1200, and Calico varieties by 1600. Bronze and Blue varieties were bred by 1900.

To date, goldfish have been bred into white, yellow, black, blue (not a real blue but a black that appears to be a gray/blue color under nacreous scales), red, bronze (a sort of dull brown/yellow that looks like the metal) and mottled multi-color as well as the standard orange. A dark red/brown, often called "chocolate", is a new color that has recently been developed and is much sought after. Some metallic fish are described as "blue", though this is actually a shade of gray.

Some goldfish breeds have standard colors, but most colors can be found across many breeds. Color saturation of the fins is always highly desired in goldfish, no matter what their color or pattern.

Be aware that white is not the same as albino. Albino fish lack any pigmentation at all. So (for example) an albino fish would always have transparent fins. By contrast, white fish do have pigment. A white goldfish with color-saturated fins would have white fins, not transparent fins. Albinos can be identified by having red eyes as well.


In addition to color, goldfish are defined by the pattners of colors as well. Though some breeds have been bred to stabalize a specific pattern, the patterns of color on a goldfish can and do change throughout it's life. The following table shows the major types of patterns available:

  Panda   Tancho (Redcap)
  Mottled   Calico   Variegated

Mottled - "Mottled" means a combination of multiple colors. Mottled fish have two or more distinct (non-overlapping) patches of color. "Tri-colored" is a term used to describe mottled fish with three colors.

Calico - "Calico" is used to describe a fish with many different colors overlapping each other. Calico fish are distinguished from Mottled fish by their scale type...Calico fish all have nacroous scales. Although calico fish have combinations of many different colors, the best calico patterns contain a lot of blue.

Variegated - "Varigated" is used to describe scales that have more than one color on each scale. These scales together can form dithered patterns on the surface of the fish. Normally, the individual scales on goldfish are all a single color.

Self-Colored - "Self Colored" describes a fish that is all one solid color.

Panda - "Panda" coloration is usually applied to a specific type of Telescope called a "Panda Moor" in which mottled Black and White Telescope has markings similar to a Panda. However it has recently become very popular, and this coloration can now be found in many breeds. Panda coloration can br frustrating as it is often not fixed, resulting in a drift as the fish ages. Sometimes completely fading to white. True Panda goldfish maintain their color pattern throughout their lives.

Tancho - More commonly called "redcap", this is white fish with a red circle on the top of it's head. Ideally it covers the entire top of the head and should be as close to a perfect circle as possible. Originally found among Orandas, it is now common across many breeds. Tancho coloration is stable, and tancho goldfish should maintain their color pattern throughout their lives.

12 Reds - This color pattern is specific to Jikins, though it can be found in some other breeds as well. "12 reds" indicates a white fish with red spots in only 12 places: the lips, both pectoral fins, both pelvic fins, both anal fins, both Caudal fins, the dorsal fin and the gill covers.

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