Meet The Fancy Goldfish
There is such variety in the world of fancy goldfish that it can be challenging to describe them all in one place…there are over 200 kinds of fancy goldfish! From the popular Fantail to the rare Ranchu to the bizarre-looking Bubble Eye, they each have their own impressive sets of features. It’s easy to see why fish keepers adore this special group of goldfish.
Fancy goldfish thrive better in larger tanks. They consume large amounts of oxygen compared to other fish their size and produce large amounts of waste. Their long fins can be caught by currents or drag on rocks or plants and their rounds bodies and long fins can sometimes make them clumsy swimmers.
Twenty gallons per fish is the average recommendation for most fancies with at least 10 gallons for each additional goldfish. Some breeds that grow larger than 6 inches will need 30 gallons per fish.
Fancy goldfish are big consumers. They eat large volumes of plant matter and they also consume large volumes of oxygen. This means that fancies also produce more waste, so water filtration is especially important. Look for a system with these 3 levels of filtration:
Mechanical: removes solid waste and is the first step to improving water quality
Chemical: removes toxins such as ammonia and nitrates caused by waste and byproduct
Biological: removes bad bacteria and allows good bacteria to thrive in the water
It is important to use a filtration system that is compatible with your tank size. A filtration system must be able to process at least 5 times the tank volume per hour. For example, if your fancies are in a 30-gallon tank, you will need a filter that can process 150 gallons of water per hour.
Some experts also recommend adding a sponge filter to help remove large debris before it can clog other parts of the filtration system. If you are breeding your fish, a sponge filter will also prevent fry from being taken in by the filtration system.
It is important to clean the filter or replace cartridges as recommended by the manufacturer. Any filter media that you clean and replace must be rinsed well in aquarium water to keep the beneficial bacteria alive. Don’t use detergents or tap water as this will kill the good bacteria and reduce your water quality.
Fancies especially need a slower current. They are not as agile as other types of goldfish. Their rounder bodies and long finnage make it easy for them to be swept away by even moderate currents. If a fancy appears stuck in a corner of the tank, the current may be too strong.
Two of the more popular types of filtration systems for fancies are canister filters and power filters. They provide the 3 stages of filtration required, can usually provide some surface agitation for added oxygen, and have an adjustable flow so the current doesn’t overpower your fish.
Water quality is important to the health of all fish and fancy goldfish are no exception. in general, aim for these parameters:
Hardness: 4-15 dGH
Nitrates: 0 ppm
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Fancies will also benefit from extra oxygen in the water. This can be achieved in multiple ways:
Surface agitation (some filter systems will do this)
Add a bubbler, such as an airstone
Add live plants
Use a larger tank
Test water monthly for pH, nitrites, and ammonia. Any trace of nitrites or ammonia could indicate dirty water due to waste or byproducts. Clean the tank, structures, and flora regularly and replace ¼ of the water weekly with fresh, dechlorinated water. Since oxygen is especially important to goldfish, it is advisable to also test oxygen levels in the water. All of these can be done with at home test kits or by taking a water sample to your local aquarium store.
Experts on fancy goldfish disagree on ideal water temperatures. Some say that fancy goldfish are cold-water fish like other fish in the carp family. The optimum range is 65 to 72⁰F and a heater is unnecessary. Others insist that fancies don’t do as well in the cooler water and that a water heater is needed to keep a range of 75 to 82⁰F. Fancy goldfish don’t exist in the wild so we don’t know what is natural for them. What the two sides do agree on is that too much temperature fluctuation can cause distress. Whatever range you use, try to keep it consistent. For fancy fish keepers who plan to breed their fish, temperature changes will be necessary to induce spawning. These changes should be done slowly over weeks to avoid distress and illness.
Fancy Goldfish Diet
One of the primary causes of illness in aquariums is overfeeding and fancy goldfish are no exception. Overfeeding can cause digestive and swim bladder issues, especially for fancies. A quality diet is important to good health and there are 2 things that a fancy needs from a quality diet: high-quality protein and plenty of fiber-rich plant matter.
Look for a commercial food made specifically for goldfish that includes marine-based proteins. This is the most natural diet for your goldfish.
When looking for quality food, there are several things you want to avoid:
Fishmeal: this is primarily ground bones and scales and includes a minimal amount of good protein
High fat: look for less than 10%
Grains (barley, corn, wheat, etc): this is not a normal food source for goldfish and they can’t digest it well
Some of the best options as a primary food for your fancies are gels and pellets. These will usually be more expensive options compared to flake foods, but your fancies require only a small amount. Feed them this primary diet once or twice a day and only what they can eat within 1 to 2 minutes.
Besides the quality protein, fancies also need a good volume of plant material, which they can graze on throughout the day. Some popular choices for vegetables are green leafy varieties such as kale, lettuce spinach cucumber, peas, and squashes.
Try a variety of different vegetables and fruits, as long as they aren’t too acidic. If you do choose to provide a hard vegetable such as pumpkin or carrots, it may need to be softened by steaming or blanching before your fancies can eat it.
Many treats are available also. Try offering your fancy goldfish some of the following on occasion:
- Brine shrimp
- Tubifex Worms
- Small snails
The primary diet should be a small amount of quality protein and plenty of plant material to forage on throughout the day, but variety is important. Your fancies will try just about anything you offer within reason. It will help to remove old food from a tank before it deteriorates, as this will affect water quality.
Fancy goldfish are peaceful, social fish and would be great companions for other varieties of fancy goldfish. In general, fancies are slower, less agile swimmers so they would not be suitable for regular goldfish or other fast-swimming fish. Fancies would not be able to compete as well for food during feeding time. Their long, flowing fins often temp faster fish to nibble them and fancies don’t have the speed or maneuverability to escape.
Creatures that would make good tank mates for fancy goldfish are slower, smaller, and don’t compete for the same food source. Consider some of these options:
Ghost shrimp: they will eat algae and scavenge the substrate; give them plenty of places to hide, but they will possibly provide a good meal for your fancies on occasion
Plecostomus: look for one that is large enough to avoid being eaten by a fancy goldfish, good scavengers
Zebra Danios: they are fast enough to avoid being eaten and prefer areas with a stronger current so your fancies can stay in the calmer waters
Snails: look for ones that are large enough to avoid being eaten by a fancy goldfish
There are many reasons to keep live plants in an aquarium with your fancy goldfish:
- Enhance the visual appeal of the tank
- Provide grazing opportunities for your fancies
- Clean and oxygenate the water
If you choose to keep live plants you will want to add aquarium lights to encourage the plants to grow. You may want to consider fast-growing plants because fancies will want to graze on them. There are some plants that goldfish usually avoid eating so growth rate isn’t an issue. You may need to tie the plant to a rock or other structure because fancies are known to forage through the substrate and uproot plants.
Some specific plants to consider are:
Hornwort: grows fast, inhibits the growth of algae, provides grazing material for your fancies
Duckweed: grows fast and floats at the top of the tank so it doesn’t need to root in the substrate; use caution so it doesn’t cover the entire surface of the tank
Moneywort: easy to grow and not usually eaten by fancies
Java Fern: goldfish usually avoid eating it, this plant only grows to about 8 inches so it won’t take over the tank
If you do notice that your fancy goldfish are eating more of the plants than you expected, offer them other vegetation that may be more appealing like lettuces or spinach.
You could also use artificial plants to add interest to the tank, but you won’t have any of the other benefits.
Tips For Successfully Keeping Fancy Goldfish
Some fish keepers may feel intimidated by fancy goldfish. Fancies aren’t known for being as hardy as other pet fish (the average lifespan is 6-8 years), but they can live a comfortable, healthy life and provide years of beauty and enjoyment with two main ingredients:
Clean water and a healthy diet.
Clean water means using an appropriate filter, testing water quality regularly, and oxygenating the water. It also means not overstocking the tank.
A healthy diet for fancy goldfish includes a small amount of quality protein and a variety of vegetation. The quality protein will be primarily from the commercial food you choose and the vegetation may be from tank plants as well as anything you choose to provide.
As a fancy fish keeper, it’s also important to be aware of common illnesses that affect fancy goldfish and how to recognize them. If you can recognize the signs of illness early, your fish will have a better chance at a successful outcome. One common issue with fancies is swim bladder disease. This is often indicated when the fish is floating at the top of the tank or sitting at the bottom. Try fasting your fish for 24 hours and then offer some high fiber vegetation. Skin diseases are common and can be caused by bacteria or parasites. It can usually be identified by unusual spots or color changes.
Fancy Goldfish Facts:
Just like all dogs are the same species, be it the Chihuahua or the Great Dane, all goldfish are also the same species: Carassius auratus auratus. Within this species, there are many breeds, hybrids, and variations that give us the multitude of fancy goldfish we see today.
What makes a fancy goldfish fancy? Some of the features that differentiate fancy goldfish from common goldfish:
Body shape: fancies are oval to round
Double fins: fancies have a double set of caudal and anal fins
Size: fancies average 6 to 8 inches
Breeding: fancies have been selectively bred for years to produce some of the most unique features
Five Fancy Goldfish Fun Facts
- A school of goldfish is called a “troubling” or a “glint”
- President Grover Cleveland kept fancy goldfish imported from Japan in ponds at the White House
- All goldfish have clear scales; the color underneath shows through metallic (shiny), matte (not shiny), or nacreous (mixed) scales to give them unique markings
- Black Moors have matte scales which make them appear velvety
- The world record for largest goldfish is 15 inches, held by “Bruce” an Oranda Goldfish from TungHoi Aquarium in Hong Kong