The history of human genetic engineering goes back at least 10,000 years and the humble goldfish (Carassius auratus) is a star animal attraction in that story.
One of these projects started out as an attempt to perfect a hunting companion: domesticated dogs from wolves. Another was begun by agricultural societies needing guards for their new grain stocks: domesticated cats.
Societies that fished for survival also began breeding and farming fish, mainly river carp and their cousins, to supplement what food they could catch in the wild.
Over successive generations, humans managed to breed faster growing, fleshier, and flashier fish by choosing those with obvious, favorable genetic mutations through selective breeding.
The unpresuming goldfish also has the distinction of being the first foreign fish to migrate (with human help) to the New World.
Too bad that the Asian carp, of which the goldfish is just one member, is considered an evasive species in many waterways across the Americas today.
Through millennia of interbreeding goldfish, humans have expanded the various makes and models considerably with varied success. Some were prone to illness, others sterile hybrids much like a Liger or Zonky, or became invasive species.
Others rose to produce virulent, more robust, longer-lived, and stunningly beautiful goldfish.
Today we examine 25 of the best goldfish (plus a few relatives and common errors) to help you choose the most resilient, abundant, prolific, and attractive fish for your collection. Bet you won’t catch them all!
1. Common Goldfish/Feeder Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
The base model is just as advertised. They do not have the fanciest fins or coloration and are mainly bred as food rather than as pets. Often they have been produced for quick turnover, large and fast-growing mild-tasting flesh rather than looks or genetics.
Beyond weekly water changes, basic tank cleaning, and daily feeding, they need little else to make good pets. Their ease of care, simplistic beauty, and robust nature make them a perfect entry-level aquatic pet, even for young ones.
However, they need a decent-sized tank, not a bowl or decorative “prize” holder one often finds at fairs or local markets.
Each goldfish feeds heavily then soils the water just as much. So, not only would they be unhappy or stressed in a confined space, but they would also soon be swimming in heavily polluted water for lack of a better expression!
However, by selectively breeding this species for specific attributes, many breeds and variants have been produced. Some are ideal, but others less so, as can be seen from the variants which follow, in alphabetical order for easy lookup.
2. Amur carp or koi (Cyprinus rubrofuscus)
The National Fish of Japan, the Amur carp, better known as koi, is not even in the same genus as a goldfish (Carassius Auratus).
That is like comparing cats and dogs, who are both carnivorous, placental mammals, bred and kept by humans as companions but completely different animals.
Koi and goldfish are both oily, freshwater fish that have morphed beside humans into a myriad of types or breeds just as varied as cats and dogs. So now that we have gotten this taxonomic quirk out of the way let us now examine some top models of true goldfish.
3. American/Japanese Shubunkin (Carassius auratus)
All goldfish that follow are also from the same species: Carassius auratus, so no more dupes.
Although similar to the base model Common Goldfish, this breed, the American or Japanese Shubunkin has a single caudal fin about half the length of the body with pointed lobes.
Their scales are nacreous, meaning neither completely translucent nor reflective but both. This enables them to take on many different color combinations on just one individual.
4. Black Moor Goldfish
This breed has been aggressively bred to exaggerate telescopic eyes and long drape-like extended fins all around.
Although they are incredibly docile, easy to keep, and highly attractive, they suffer from extremely poor eyesight.
This limits the number and type of neighbors they can live beside. Amongst the most sought-after beginner fish, Black Moor Goldfish (and other Moor Goldfish sub-variants like it) are great starters but often best housed only with their own kind.
5. Bristol Shubunkin
Bristol Shubunkin has traits similar to the American or Japanese Shubunkin. The main difference is that they have a single caudal fin about half the length of the body with rounded rather than pointed lobes.
They, too, tend to be multicolored with nacreous scales and are sought after by breeders. However, if left to breed without intervention, their exaggerated features will become less prominent in offspring.
This is natural selection at work as the most dominant and practical components, sizes, colors, and shapes will be the ones that naturally get carried on in future genes.
6. Butterfly Tail Goldfish
Another goldfish with highly exaggerated attributes, this one also has super-extended eyes. However, the show stopper is its caudal fins which appear butterfly-shaped when viewed from above.
Add in striking skin coloration, and they can easily compete with their insect namesakes on appearance.
Butterfly Tail Goldfish may be a great deal slower in the water but flutters about just as gracefully.
Some butterfly caudal fins have been further exaggerated and new variants created: the Chinese comb tail, the trapezium tail, and fairy tail, to name but a few.
7. Celestial Eye or Stargazing Goldfish
This is definitely one of the strangest goldfish around. Their oversized eyes are pointed perpetually at 90 degrees, meaning always looking straight up.
While this might be ideal for stargazing, avoiding predators, and grabbing the attention of nearby humans, it also is the source of their namesake given by Chinese breeders in the 18th century.
They also do not have a dorsal fin, which means they can not roll and maneuver out of trouble. Generally, they are slow-moving and, coupled with their poor eyesight, can only be recommended for more advanced keepers.
8. Comet Goldfish
Comet Goldfish, on the other hand, is a more back-to-basics model of goldfish. Although they tend to be thinner and smaller, their proportionately exaggerated, the comet-like tail is their main feature.
Some variants of the Comet Goldfish exist to produce color varieties to accentuate their comet streak.
Tancho single-tails are comet-tails but with silver bodies and a single red-tinted patch on the head. Sarasa comets have a red-and-white color or koi-like patterns and exaggerations in addition to the celestial-like tail.
For some reason, this variant is prone to over-eating. While this is true of all goldfish, generally, something in their genes makes them particularly voracious.
Goldfish are opportunistic omnivores that eat when food is available. If it is always available, they will eat perpetually to their detriment. So please do not overfeed them; it is just a “comet” courtesy.
9. Dragon Eye Goldfish
Named in Chinese ‘Dragon Eye’ much like the longan fruit there for the same reason, this fish features prominent, black, bulbous eyes. The namesake fruit’s seed has a similar appearance hence mutual namesakes.
It is also known more generally worldwide as a Telescope Goldfish but may simply be called something else locally or due to history and culture. They are all goldfish but whose eye size, shape, and location attributes have been accentuated.
10. Egg-Fish, Eggfish, Ranchu, or Maruko Goldfish
Here is another prime example of slight variants from selective breeds being given different common names.
They are not the same but vary by region, degree of exaggerations, and continued vitality. This is similar to how sparkling wines in the New World differ from those in the Old World (like champagne) using different grape varietals.
So although Ranchu (the most common name) will typically have egg-shaped bodies, no dorsal fin, and an arched back, some have additional unique attributes.
They come in matte, calico, or metallic shimmery scales, but alas, no eggshell finish. With these differing scale options, colors run the entire gamut of the rainbow.
11. Fantail Goldfish
Fantail is similar to a Ranchu in shape, size, and nature but is known for its quadruple caudal fin. It also sports double anal and tail fins.
So if you were looking for a model with spoilers and fins, this is the one you want to take down the strip.
They will turn heads and get noticed, which might also explain their prolific breeding habits. All jesting aside, they are easy to breed for all levels of experience, so start your own family today.
12. Izumo Nankin
This is another proprietary blend with aficionados and breeders primarily found in Japan. It has a Ranchu-like tail and similar dorsal fin-less appearance in shape and size.
Its coloration is typically a koi-like red and white mottle and takes on many of the most sought-after attributes amongst variants. They are generally not available in the New World but prized globally for their refined natures.
13. Oranda Goldfish or Lionhead Goldfish
This crowned royal of the goldfish species is the Oranda Goldfish. It has an oversized cranial hood or crown which looks like a lion’s mane.
Coupled with an arched back and four-pronged tail, this regal can be easily be spotted on the red carpet dressed in cloaks of many colors. There are dozens of known color variations and proportions among this breed alone. So who will be your lionhead goldfish?
14. Jikin or Peacock Goldfish
This is another specialized breed mostly only found in Japan. It is worth mentioning for its unique X-shaped quadruple tail fins, which other breeders often seek to emulate.
Although a select few have been bred with specific patterns and the tale-tell tail, these are are still very rare in nature. Without human intervention, it is unlikely that these genes would have been naturally selected.
15. Lionchu Goldfish
If a Lion and a Tiger make a Liger, a Ranchu (Goldfish) and Lionhead (Goldfish) make a Lionchu. Literally, they are the offspring of the two variants carrying the best of both worlds.
It has an overly prominent headpiece like the Lionhead but the broad and curved back and tail of the Ranchu.
So despite their good looks, their body shape does slow them down a bit. If you’re thinking of mating variants or perpetuating Lionchu Goldfish, just make sure they have plenty of space and docile tank mates.
16. London Shubunkin
London Shubunkin has traits similar to their other Shubunkin variants, with attributes taken from their Comet, Calico, and Common Goldfish ancestors.
They have a single caudal fin about half the length of the body with rounded rather than pointed lobes.
They are slightly more diminutive in size but equal in beauty to their Bristol and American / Japanese counterparts. Interestingly like a human tattoo, their color can fade with exposure to sunlight.
So make sure their pool or tank has shady spots for them to avoid excessive ultra-violet (UV) exposure and keep their coloration.
17. Nymph Goldfish
Fantail and Veintail Goldfish have been cross-bred for many years. On rare occasions, when these are bred, recessive genes affecting size and longevity can produce a Nymph Goldfish.
It is literally a super-sized, mild-mannered super Goldfish whose activated genes change the way and speed at which they grow.
If you happen to find one of these rare morphs, expect them to live over a decade and grow to over a foot in length.
So if you were looking for the biggest catch among goldfish, the Nymph Goldfish fits the bill if and when you can find this rarity.
18. Pearl Scale Goldfish
Pearl Scale Goldfish has often been compared to an orange golf ball with white divets. It sounds funny, but that is what it closely resembles.
It has thick, raised scales that look like pearls or a textured finish. It has also been dubbed the Ping Pong Pearl Scale and the Golfball Pearlscale respectively.
Although quite similar to the Veiltail goldfish in many attributes, it is differentiated mainly due to its odd dotted coloration.
19. Pompom Goldfish
Pompon or Pompom goldfish stands out for one apparent reason. Their nostrils each have a small outgrowth resembling the namesake piece of cheerleader equipment or a tight floral bouquet.
Their bodies most resemble Oranda Goldfish but sometimes come with altered fins and tails. Although sub-variants exist in China and Japan, most of these are difficult, if not impossible, to source outside of these jurisdictions.
20. Ranchu Goldfish
Ranchu has an egg-shaped body, no dorsal fin, and an arched back. They come in all scale varieties (matte, calico, or metallic shimmery) and hence reflect nearly every color.
This means they can be bred to every imaginable shade. As mentioned previously, they may also be identified as an Egg-Fish, Eggfish, or Maruko.
Just remember, they are all goldfish and are similarly designed for attributes but with differing local standards and names.
21. Ryukin Goldfish
Do not be mistaken; these egg-shaped beauties are cold-water fish bred for centuries before being exported out of China.
Due to their lineage, they grow pretty slowly, develop changes to coloration over time, and often live for several decades.
These curated fish are egg-shaped, just like a Ranchu, but differ in that have highly defined pointy heads and double pleated fins. If you are looking for long-lasting beauty, a Ryukin Goldfish just might be your calling.
22. Siamese Doll Goldfish
Siamese Doll Goldfish is a common name given to fancy goldfish with telescopic eyes that happen to suffer from albinism.
They can be offspring from similar goldfish with pleated, multiple fantails and are not a specific breed but simply albino moors.
It is the result of two parents with recessive color genes that have produced an albino. Replete with red eyes and a lack of coloration, these attributes have been sought after as a rarity among collectors.
23. Telescope Goldfish
As mentioned previously, this may be called a Dragon Eye Goldfish. Outside of Asia, these are better known as Telescope Goldfish.
Though any goldfish variant bred to accentuate bulging eyes could fall under this very loose category of bug-eyed fish. Most are crosses between Fantails and Ryukin but may also be adapted from more complex combinations.
24. Tosakin Goldfish
This Ryukin and Ranchu blend has one of the most fabulous tails of any goldfish. Its other name, the curly fantail goldfish, speaks to this unusual attribute.
The Tosakin Goldfish has a large tail that spreads out like a fan with two or three defined leading edges. This gives its tail a braided or curly look very different from its peers.
25. Veiltail Goldfish
Much like a bride on their wedding day, they are elegant, regal, and draped in a lengthy veil.
Only this fish bride uses her tail as a veil which only a few goldfish can rival. It has a delicate egg-shaped body with long flowing fins and comes in all three goldfish finishes: matte, calico, or metallic shimmer.
Although Veiltail Goldfish has a particularly delicate frame, fins, and tail, it is surprisingly social with other docile tank mates. This may be due to their odd ability to recognize other fish and even their owners.
Some hobbyists have even claimed to have trained them to move about the tank (to facilitate cleaning) or during feedings.
Researchers at Ben-Gurion University have taken this a step further by demonstrating just how trainable and intelligent that can be. They have even learned to drive with a conditioned response to food.
Surprisingly, they quickly learn the mechanics and strategize “car” movements for improved outcomes.
26. Wakin Goldfish
Here is one extra option to round out our 25 types of goldfish to explore (along with one lonely carp).
Although archeological and first-hand accounts are scarce, Wakin Goldfish appears to be one of the first documented efforts to breed positive traits from the base model deliberately.
It appears last but not least since the Fantail, Oranda, Pearlscale, Ranchu, and Ryukin all seem to have been developed from the Wakin Goldfish. Today there are numerous standards for breed, pedigree, and qualification through jurisdictions worldwide.
It is still a great starting point for those beginning breeding and genetics 101. From a small pool of individuals, even the most basic changes can be made in only a few generations.
They are affordable, easy to care for, and even easier to breed. The granddaddy of twin-tailed goldfish worldwide remains a popular choice today among all levels of knowledge, experience, and difficulty.
There are nearly four times as many identified breeds of goldfish as there are domesticated cats.
Over the course of several hundred years, humans have deliberately bred goldfish for the most possible attributes in all possible permutations and combinations.
Today there are 200 recognized breeds in China alone, with many phenotype variations found worldwide.
Simply put, we have been playing designs with all makes and models of goldfish for years. Some might call it genetic modification, while others might frame this as human progress.
So, although names and local standards differ, remember first and foremost that they are all goldfish who harken back to ancient carp.
What differs are their eyes, tail type, and coloration. These have been specifically cultivated and refined over successive generations to create both masterpieces but at a trade-off for other survivalist traits.
Some attributes were muted over time to develop the best model through natural selection. The goldfish that will survive the best across a multitude of climates, that can see, swim and hunt to the best of its abilities, will ultimately prevail.
Other genes’ dominance petered out naturally for a reason. Camouflage is always better to hide out in than brightly colored hues.
Oddly-shaped (but beautiful) bodies and fins can impede escape from a predator, and suddenly these modified pets are completely ill-suited for nature.
So never release these pets back into the wild; they will not survive. Please also don’t house your goldfish in a stereotypically small bowl.
Regardless of the breed, they all grow to at least several inches, in which case the little bowl will be inadequate into adulthood, as we have mentioned before.
Once you have a suitably large aquarium, be sure to house them with other similar goldfish and their koi cousins. These fancy varietals simply can not compete with more aggressive fish for space and resources.
Who would have ever thought keeping and breeding goldfish could be so complex? For the most part, it is not difficult; there are just lots of options. Hopefully, we’ve given you a good cross-section from which to choose.
Just remember that we take on a serious responsibility when choosing to breed animals, whether for food, pets, or species protection.
When you do so, however simple or exotic, they must be nurtured, cared for, and treated as delicate pets worthy of your attention throughout their often long lifetimes.