Common goldfish

Common goldfish
Common goldfish
Common goldfish.JPG
Country of origin
Single tailed
Breed standards

Common goldfish or hibuna [1] are a type of goldfish with no other modifications from their ancestors other than their colour. Most varieties of fancy goldfish were derived from this simple breed. Common goldfish come in a variety of colours including red, orange/gold, white, black and yellow or 'lemon' goldfish.



Common goldfish are social animals who prefer living in groups. They are able to interact with any fish belonging to the same species. With provision of adequate care and attention, common goldfish can become tame. Once familiar with the face of its owner, swimming towards the fish keeper during feeding time can be observed and hand-feeding becomes possible. Small goldfish will normally avoid any form of human contact. However, this fear ceases in a middle-sized and mature goldfish. A full-grown goldfish is more likely to eat directly from the hands of its owner without evident hesitation. While this behavior is welcomed by goldfish owners, it proved problematic in outdoor ponds where predators may eat such friendly prey. Mature goldfish will also explore their surroundings through nibbling or grazing behavior.

If transferred into a tank of other goldfish, a common goldfish would normally try to communicate and familiarize itself with its new tank mates by rubbing up against the body of other fish. The most common introductory gesture would be by swimming side by side with another goldfish with its head facing forward, or by swimming side by side with another goldfish with its head facing the opposite direction, or even by swimming above another goldfish in a perpendicular fashion. Schooling is a common behavior when there is a new fish in the tank. After some time, this schooling behavior eventually ceases, and soon every individual fish will again be swimming and exploring the aquarium on its own. Aggressive behavior is uncommon when a new specimen is introduced into a settled school of goldfish.

Hierarchy during feeding is commonly observed in which the larger goldfish receives most of the food. However, small goldfish may also become aggressive or competitive feeders despite the presence of larger fish which is, in general terms, considered a good sign, as a willingness to feed is indicative of a healthy goldfish.


Common goldfish in a pond

It is a common practice to keep common goldfish in a small bowl but this allows waste in the water to build up to toxic levels and does not provide enough oxygen. For every small/young goldfish there should ideally be at least 2-3 U.S. gallons (or 7.6-11.4 litres) of water. A good filter, with no heater, is recommended because these fish can get larger than 12 inches (34 cm). Tank recommendations range up to 75 gallons or 283 L. It is possible to keep small goldfish in smaller tanks, but such an arrangement will be very difficult to maintain once the fish grows older. If there is concern about the fish not getting enough oxygen, particularly when it is warm, an air pump with an airstone or bubble strip will work well. Goldfish will die without sufficient dissolved oxygen in the water. A filter that can do at least 10x filtration is best, which means that for every 10 gallons or litres of water, the filter should be able to cycle 100 gallons or litres per hour.

Goldfish are curious fish that will quickly become bored without items or other fish to interact with. If placed in a bare aquarium goldfish will settle to the bottom and only move when fed or frightened by sudden jolts. However, if put in a tank with sufficient gravel, aquarium accessories or plants (real or fake) they will make themselves at home. Adding a few companion fish will also help, but make sure each fish has plenty of personal space.

Goldfish are not very territorial. However, if your aquarium is already too small for one goldfish , it will certainly be too small for two or more. Stress is not healthy for any goldfish. In a worst case scenario, one or two fish will bully the rest to starvation. Cannibalism is usually rare (occurring maybe when a fish is dying or dead) but in cramped, stressful situations, goldfish may behave unpredictably. Disease is possible any time fish are stuck in small homes.

When adding goldfish to a new tank it is important to place no more than two at a time. This allows helpful bacteria (which turns ammonia to nitrite and finally to nitrate) to grow. If introduced in too great a number before these bacteria grow, the goldfish will die from breathing in too much of their own untreated excrement. Even after the development of the biological filter, it is necessary to change about 50% of the water at least one time a week, or as necessary to prevent a build-up of harmful nitrate. The addition of live aquatic plants may reduce the number of times per month one will have to perform water changes, but only if the plants are growing (they will uptake nitrate as a source of nitrogen).

Common goldfish can be kept in water gardens or outdoor ponds throughout the year. Outdoor ponds have similar care requirement as indoor tanks with some notable exceptions such as amount of sunlight, natural and artificial environment pollution (i.e. dead leaves, debris, runoff), algae, selection of pond mates (i.e. algae eaters, frogs, etc.). Outdoor ponds tend to become miniature aquatic ecosystems, attracting various animals and plants (see water gardens for more information). In hot climates, it is important that pond temperatures do not rise to dangerously high levels which will kill the fish. In the winter, fish may become sluggish and stop feeding. This does not mean they are sick, but rather that their metabolism has slowed. The pond must not freeze solid and there should be an open spot in the surface ice to allow oxygenation of water. The ice should also not be struck, as this sends shock waves of sound pressure through the water scaring the fish.


Reproducing goldfish

Breeding common goldfish is relatively easy. In breeding condition the male will develop small white spots on his gill covers and the female will become busty. The male will chase the female until she releases her eggs, then the male will release milt and they will become fertilized. The eggs will then stick to any available surface. It is then best to remove the eggs to a separate aquarium as the adults are likely to eat them. When the eggs hatch into fry, they will need to be fed very small food such as hatched brine shrimp or a ready made fry food. As they grow bigger, they can eat finely crumbled fishfood. Eventually the pieces of fishfood can get bigger.


Common goldfish are usually hardy but can also contract diseases. These can be caused by poor water quality, overfeeding and overstocking. Goldfish are notoriously dirty, producing much waste, and continually stir up the substrate in their infinite search for food. In small aquariums, illnesses in common goldfish can quickly become fatal requiring quick and prompt treatment. Several symptoms can indicate sick fish such as cuts on any of the fins, a change in scale or eye coloration, excretions from the nostrils, scales falling off or the fish frequently rising towards the water surface. Aquatic Syphilis is also a major problem among koi and fancy goldfish alike, due to their voracious breeding habits. Many specialty treatments are available in the market to manage specific diseases.


Goldfish can have lifespans up to 20+ years if they are fed a varied diet and housed in exceptional water conditions. The oldest living Goldfish to date was a goldfish named Tish owned by Hilda and Gordon Hand of Thirsk, N. Yorkshire, England. Tish lived for 43 years after being won at a fairground in 1956.

Goldfish as feeder fish

Common goldfish are often used as live prey for freshwater turtles, notably red-ear sliders and other carnivorous fish including Piranha.


  • "An Interpet Guide to Fancy Goldfish" by Dr. Chris Andrews, (Feeding, pages 40 to 45), Interpet Publishing, 2002. - ISBN 1-902389-64-6
  • "Fancy Goldfish: A Complete Guide to Care and Collecting" by Dr. Erik L. Johnson, D.V.M. and Richard E. Hess, Weatherhill, Shambala Publications, Inc., 2006 - ISBN 0-8348-0448-4
  • Bristol aquarists

See also

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