The goldfish theme and variations

The goldfish is the oldest "domesticated" fish; its story began long before hobbyists started keeping it in aquariums. The feral form, less brightly colored than the present fancy varieties, can reach 40-50 cm. Originating from Asia, it has now spread throughout all the temperate waters (5-25°C) of the globe. The classic red variety was selectively bred from feral stock, probably before the time of Christ, though breeding has made enormous advances since the Middle Ages. The earliest importations to Europe date from the 17th century, in the form of gifts made to the French royal family. There are many varieties, all of which have been isolated, after a long and painstaking series of selections, using the familiar red strain as a starting-point.

Goldfish varieties (Carp family)

Shubukin

The dorsal and caudal fins are markedly elongate. Coloration: variegated, with no fixed pattern. Size: 10-15 cm.

Japanese veiltail

The veiltail has a caudal fin composed of two or three lobes. Size: 10 cm. •

Lionhead

The lionhead has protuberances in the form of swellings on top of the head. Sometimes there is no dorsal fin. Size: 10 cm.

Japanese veiltail

The veiltail has a caudal fin composed of two or three lobes. Size: 10 cm. •

Telescope-eyed goldfish

The eyes of this variety are globular and protruding; sometimes the dorsal fin is absent. The commonest varieties are entirely black. A close relative is the celestial goldfish. Size: 10 cm.

Though people often confuse koi with goldfish, these are in fact different varieties of carp selected (starting from the feral variety) over more than 1,000 years. They can reach 1 m in length, and the presence of barbels clearly distinguishes them from the smaller goldfish. Size: 20-50 cm.

CARING FOR GOLDFISH

Goldfish must be kept in conditions corresponding to their natural habitat; the aquarium must be big enough to let them swim freely among the plants, while the substrate can be fairly coarse. Filter the water, but do not use heating: goldfish are considered hardy, but the maximum temperature should be 20-22°C, while below 5°C the fish become noticeably sluggish. Hardness and pH are not so critical as with other species of aquarium fish.

The bubble-eye

You can spot this variety at once by the bubblelike pocket under the eyes. The caudal fin may be normal, or divided into several lobes. Other varieties of goldfish exist; in addition, there is much crossbreeding between those mentioned here. In every case, color may be uniform or appear as red, yellow, gold, white or black splashes. Size: 10 cm.

Lionhead

The lionhead has protuberances in the form of swellings on top of the head. Sometimes there is no dorsal fin. Size: 10 cm.

THE GOLDFISH (CARASSIUS AURATUS): A ROARING COMMERCIAL SUCCESS

Breeding goldfish, which are unlikely to go out of fashion, is an important commercial activity. Besides its popularity with hobbyists, it is used as live bait - under stringent legal conditions - for the capture of carnivores. The modern varieties are raised in Italy, though the most sophisticated forms (often called "Chinese") are produced in Asia.

A GOLDFISH HILTON

If you want to offer your goldfish the very best conditions, keep them in a garden pool where they will grow much larger; they will overwinter safely, even if the water partially freezes. Breeding is by no means impossible outdoors, provided the minimum pool temperature is 19-20°C. However, the parents will try to gobble the eggs. The fry acquire the characteristic coloration only after several weeks.

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