About Common Goldfish – The humble & underappreciated goldfish ancestor

What do you know about common goldfish?

Perhaps you know them as those prize giveaways from carnivals or fun fairs that you have been to, or… maybe you know them as those cheap fish that you buy in bulk to feed your big, expensive and exotic aquatic pets.

Yeah, they are indeed perceived as the lowest class in the goldfish world, and maybe in the whole ornamental fish world as well.

About Common Goldfish

However, we either do not know this about common goldfish, or we have forgotten – Without them, there would not be a goldfish world which is so colorful and so diverse.

History of common goldfish

All varieties of goldfish are man-made and it all started more than a thousand years ago by the Chinese. During that time, the Chinese bred these dull silver colored Prussian carps for food. Although they are naturally silver in color, these carps can produce red, yellow and orange color mutations.

Seeing these potentials, the Chinese started to selectively breed them to this yellowish orange coloration which looked very much like gold, thus the name “goldfish”.

Common Goldfish

The first goldfish breed eventually captured the interest of the imperial family and became very popular. It was then selectively bred through generations to develop more goldfish varieties that we know now. This ancestor of all goldfish is non-other than the humble and underappreciated common goldfish.


Common goldfish breed does not have any distinct characteristics like its fancier descendants. There is no special growth on the head or any fancy eyes. It does not have long flowing fins or a cute rounded body. There is nothing special about common goldfish, and that is what made them common.

Being the first goldfish breed, it shares a lot of resemblances with the Prussian carp which it originated from. It has a streamlined body and a single tail, which is short and slightly rounded. In terms of coloration, besides gold, common goldfish also come in solid red, yellow, orange, black, white and a mixture.

Common Goldfish

With its torpedo shaped body, common goldfish breed is a very good and strong swimmer.  It can also grow to be really big. When being taken care of properly, it can easily get to more than 12″ in length.

Compared to other goldfish varieties, common goldfish is hardier and is more resilient in handling less than ideal environment.

Care for common goldfish

Although common goldfish is hardier, this does not mean that it does not require any care.  We do need to provide them with proper care as below:

1) Good water quality
Good water quality needs to be maintained for any fish, hardy or not. This definitely applies to common goldfish as well.  So as fish keepers, we must always make sure that our fish tank is fully cycled, with proper filtration and regular maintenance are done to upkeep the water quality.

2) Space, space and space
As common goldfish can grow to more than a feet long, it is better to keep them in a very big space such as a pond.

They require more than 20 gallons per fish for them to grow properly.

Besides that, they can be jumpers as they are strong swimmers. So if being kept in a fish tank, we should consider having a fish tank cover.

3) A balanced diet
Goldfish need a balanced diet containing protein, fats, fiber, minerals, and vitamins for them to grow healthily. Giving them a varied diet from prepared food to live food can help them to get the nutrients that they need. Be careful not to overfeed though.

The  humble & underappreciated goldfish ancestor

Due to its high availability and low price, the common goldfish breed is often looked at as the outcast of the fancy goldfish world. They are often mistreated and underappreciated because it is so cheap to just replace them…, forgetting that they are living beings too.

Common goldfish have come a long way, a more than 1000 years “way” to be more precise.  They have served the Chinese imperial family once upon a time and is the ancestor of all the fancy and expensive goldfish varieties that we know of now.

So perhaps they should not be so humble and so underappreciated, but rather deserving the same kind of care and considerations that we give to their fancier descendants. That’s something that we should remind ourselves about the common goldfish.

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10 Replies to “About Common Goldfish – The humble & underappreciated goldfish ancestor

  1. I feel like all animals deserve a chance. even if they are the lowest in so called “class”. And hey, we are talking about animals, not insects. lol. But this article actually reminds me of 2 goldfish that my sons had won at a carnival, when they were 5 and 3 years old. Of course I am the one who actually took care of them. We bought a 1 gallon aquarium for them. They stayed alive until we moved from the second floor, to the bottom floor of the apartment complex. Then 1 of them passed away. So that was about a year, for him. The second thrived, and even got a little bigger now that he didn’t have to share the small tank. Then about 3 years after that, we moved again. I could tell the move took a toll on the little guy, even though it was just down the street. He wasn’t himself for a few days. But then he got better and got stronger. I got him a 20 gallon and we got a new fish to go with him. Buy then he had gotten very big from being in the 20 gallons. And our extended family didn’t even believe we won him at a carnival all those years ago. Once I realized how long we actually had him and how big he was getting, I did some research and found out that gold fish can live up to 20 years. That was amazing to me. But sadly after having him for a total of about 5 years, he passed away. And it was my fault. I had a system of cleaning the tank. I would over feed him a little cause I knew he liked looking for the food in the rocks later on, and when I would clean his tank, I only emptied half of the water because I heard that its healthy for the fish to keep half of the dirty water, so they don’t go into shock. And I had that system going for the entire time I had him. But I was pressured by in-laws that we had roomed with, to clean the tank better and that it looked disgusting. Boy did I regret that. About 2 days after putting brand new water in the entire tank, my gold fish passed away. I was sad. 🙁

    Every time I go against my instincts, things just don’t turn out right. That’s what I get for letting them pressure me and making me feel like I didn’t know what I was doing.

    1. Hi Constance,
      So sorry to hear about your goldfish. I suspect that when you cleaned its tank and replaced all of the water, all the beneficial bacteria were removed, and the poor goldfish was subjected to the toxic compounds released from the nitrogen cycle. Anyway, hopefully you are better informed now and have better luck if you ever pick up fishkeeping again!

  2. This is a very informative article about goldfish, Alex. As you say, most people view goldfish as a cheap freshwater aquarium species. My first encounter with them was winning one at a fairground years ago. I thought then how cruel it was to hand those little fishes in plastic bags as a prize to kids. I bet the majority of those goldfish were dead within a couple days.

    Still, at least I have learned from this article that goldfish are descendants of the Prussian carp.

    I recall witnessing two, foot-long goldfish, in an aquarium tank that was only about four feet long and murky with algae. That was in a public house here in England back in the 1980’s. The landlord said that the goldfish were old. How old they were I can’t quite remember, but I think he said 30 years or so. Those fish were obviously happy in that tank because they lived for so long, getting free food every day from the owner. I bet he won them at a fairground!


    1. Hi Janice,
      Thanks for sharing. It is so nice to hear about the 2 huge goldfish that you have encountered. The longest living goldfish ever recorded was more than 40 years old!

  3. Hey, it is one of the best articles to introduce goldfish. It reminds me that my grandfather had been breeding goldfish for several years and they were so beautiful! Water quality is very important when breeding goldfish. We usually give prepared food and today I know that we can also provide live food to them. Thank you for sharing this information!!

    1. Hi Ted,
      Thanks for sharing. Water quality is indeed important for keeping and breeding goldfish. Thanks for the visit!

  4. This was great insight to a species that is overlooked. It’s true, the goldfish is treated like the stray mutt of the pet fish family. It was interesting to understand their coming about. I think as a kid, I learned to appreciate even the goldfish by having one as a pet and taking care of it. As a kid you really bond with your pets, no matter what they are and I think that it’s a great start to learn to value even the smallest and most overlooked of creatures. A life is a life, no matter who small, and for that alone, deserves respect!

  5. I always thought that goldfish are one of the more attractive fish. Where I come from, salmon are in lakes and rivers, and they are so unnattractive!

    We never had any luck with keeping those “fun fair” fish alive, and so never had enough time with one to appreciate it. Thank you for this bit of history; it never occurred to me to look into how they came to be!

    1. Hi Irma,
      Thanks for the comment. I guess one of the reasons why those “fun fair” fish or common goldfish tend to die easily is because they were already stressed out or diseased when you get them.

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