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The varieties of the Fancy Goldfish can be divided into two categories - those with a single tail and those with a twin tail, which would also include the anal fin being a double fin on the twin tail varieties.  Varieties are always being developed over time, either new varieties or variations within a recognised variety.  Some variation is down to personal preference by breeders and some is down to striving for perfection is some aspect such as allowing the fish to swim in a certain way.  Whatever the variety there is usually at least one or two types that Hobbyists are attracted to and like to specialise in. 


Most varieties can be found in either Metallic or Calico scale type, apart from the Common Goldfish and Shubunkins. The Common Goldfish is only in metallic and the Shubunkins are calico (also referred to as nacreous).  Generally speaking, colours on metallic type fish should extend into the fins.   


Common Goldfish

It’s probably a misnomer to call this variety ‘common’ because good specimens of this variety are hard to find from commercial outlets. It is the variety that is closest in shape to its wild ancestor. A good quality specimen should have no trace of a hump behind its head such as that found in the Crucian Carp. The arched shape of the back should in reverse match the shape of the underside of the fish. Fins should generally be short and rounded. Depth of body is down to personal taste. Some enthusiasts of this variety prefer a deeper body whilst some prefer it less deep towards the shape of a Comet. The best colour is generally thought to be a deep red or orange although some very attractive specimens can be found that are lemon, gold or a combination of red and white. The scale type on this variety is always metallic.

London Shubunkin

This variety is a mirror image of the Common Goldfish except that its scale type is calico.


Bristol Shubunkin

Like the London Shubunkin, this is a British variety and, as the name suggests, has been developed in the Bristol area. It has a ‘B’ shaped tail. The depth of body can vary.



This is generally a variety that has a body not so deep as the Common Goldfish and is more streamlined.  However, the significant attribute of the Comet is its elongated tail, which generally has pointed ends. The other fins are also normally longer and more pointed than those found in other single tailed varieties. The Comet was developed in the USA and is preferred by those who like the activity displayed by this variety and the speed at which the fish swims.  

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This variety deviates from single tailed varieties in that its body is more rounded, compressed and deeper. It is normally egg shaped but can be more or less so. There should be a smooth rise from head to the point of the Dorsal fin which is normally a height of about one-third of the body length. The pectoral, pelvic and anal fins are short and paddle shaped. The caudal fin should be carried stiffly without drooping and is normally fairly short but different lengths can be found depending on personal interest in this popular variety.



This variety is said to have been brought by boat from China to USA in the 1920s and further developed in France then developed again by GSGB members in the 1950s and beyond. The ideal fish has a deep, round but shortish body with a high Dorsal fin and a long broad Caudal fin falling in graceful folds with a square cut lower edge. The fin is fully divided to form two matching fins. The anal fins are also long and paired.  The remaining fins are equally well developed. A variety known for its grace.



The Ryukin is said to have been developed in the Ryukyu Islands off the coast of Japan.  It is similar in shape to the Fantail but its distinguishing feature is the back that rises steeply from just behind the head giving it a ‘hump-like’ appearance. This feature can vary from being vertical through to a gentle slope but most breeders aim for the hump to be as near to vertical as possible. The Ryukin’s tail can be anything from short to long, held tight together or splayed out. Those with shorter tails enable this variety to be a powerful and active swimmer.

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 A similar shaped variety to the Fantail or Ryukin but the main characteristic is the uniqueness of the Caudal fin. The lower lobes are greatly extended with up-turned outer edges with the appearance of being reversed and spread out in the direction of the head. Said to have been originally kept in shallow water because of their increased difficulty in swimming.  A variety to be viewed mainly from above. 



A slightly compressed variety with a thicker body than the single tailed varieties. Its main characteristic is the caudal fin, which when seem from behind is ‘X’ shaped and the peduncle is broad. Metallic versions are normally predominantly white, with red fins and red lips.



Oranda.  The distinguishing feature of this variety is the head growth. In Japan this growth is known as the ‘wen’ but Western aquarists refer to it as the ‘hood’. The head is broad and short and covered by a warty growth giving a raspberry-like appearance to the head. The hood should ideally grow equally in all sections, leaving the eyes and mouth exposed.  The Oranda has a full Caudal fin with a slight fork. Anal fins are paired. The Redcap Oranda has a white body and fins but a crimson red head growth, which should only be on the top of the head.



This variety is said to be the ‘King of Goldfish’ and is very popular in Japan. There are several variations of this variety and shapes change over time. The distinguishing features are the lack of a Dorsal fin, a short powerful Caudal fin and a head growth similar to that found in Orandas.   In recent times breeders have been developing Ranchu lines to be kept in aquariums and are thus known as ‘side-view’ Ranchu. 



The Lionhead is  a Chinese version of the Ranchu with a flatter back, deeper body and significantly more head growth. Whilst still seen and bred by specialist breeders in the UK, the Lionhead is now not so common as the Ranchu. 


Broadtail Moor

A globe-eyed variety. The colour is a velvety black, extending to the tips of the fins. The body and fins can be found in a similar shape to that of the Veiltail but forms can also be found where the body is less deep and shorter fins.



The Pearlscale is often likened to a golf-ball. It is normally quite round with short fins. The main feature of this variety is the scales, which are domed with raised centres. The outer margin of the scales are slightly darker than the inner part. The scales lie in even rows along the body and give a distinct ‘pearl-like’ effect as they reflect the light. 



A longish bodied fish without a Dorsal fin. The Celestial has globe eyes turned upwards and some say they need to kept with specimens of their own variety in an aquarium so that the owner can ensure they get sufficient food. Various stories exist as to why this fish has been developed in such a way. A common understanding is that those who were rich and powerful in China wanted a fish that would look upwards to their owners!



A Dorsal-less variety that is similar in body and fins to the Celestial. However, the noticeable difference is that the Bubble-eye has what appears to be moving bubbles as eyes.  They are like soft water filled balloons that move as the fish swims. This variety has many fans but equally as many who consider that its development is a step too far.


Other Varieties

The Chinese breeders, in particular, are constantly developing new varieties and varieties within a variety. An example of this is the ‘Rose Tailed Oranda’ - an Oranda with a beautiful tail that displays its beauty particularly when on the move. Another example is the ‘Butterfly’, which has globe type eyes and a tail not dissimilar to a Butterly when viewed from above. Combinations of differing body shape, colour, length of fins, scale type, eye type and other features make the Fancy Goldfish a fascinating species to keep, breed and develop.  The decision on how good an individual fish is rests largely with the owner who must decide on appearance, health, ability to swim and personal characteristics of the specific variety and specimen.   

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