When you think of goldfish, you might think of a single little golden fishy swimming dully in a small glass bowl for a few months. While that's not uncommon, especially for kids with first pets, there are lots of different types of goldfish that are social and active and can live for a decade or more with proper care. It all begins with smartly picking the best goldfish for you.
The common goldfish -- the relatively small, uniformly gold-colored specimen that springs immediately to mind -- is not the only goldfish species. There are two primary categories: single-tail and twin-tail. It's best not to mix the two. The common, comet and shubunkin are single-tail goldfish species. There are more twin-tail species, with much greater variation in size, color, lifespan and other characteristics. Black Moors, celestial eyes, fantails, lionheads, orandas, pearl scales, pompoms, ranchus, ryukins and veiltails are only some of the twin-tail species. Research the traits, space and care requirements and other differences between species to pick perfect ones for your needs, tank capacity and ability to commit to care.
Picking a Supplier
Once you settle on the goldfish species you want, choose a good place to buy them to minimize the risk of getting unhealthy or mistreated specimens. If you know someone with goldfish, get a recommendation for a source. Aquarium supply and pet stores are usually a safe bet, and you may also be able to locate a goldfish breeder in your area. Ask for references from any breeder. Search online for reviews of stores and breeders you're considering. Wherever you go, confirm that fish are kept in uncrowded tanks with clean water, that the storefront seems well-kept and that the people tending to the goldfish are informed about proper care.
Healthy Heads and Bodies
Examine the heads and bodies of any goldfish you're considering. Their eyes should be the same size and clear with defined black pupils that show no signs of bleeding, discharge, clouding, swelling or malformation. Check that the mouth looks right and that there's no cotton-like material hanging out of it. Their gills should have intact covers, a flesh-like tone inside and be free of bleeding, mucous or other discharge. All scales should be shiny, blemish-free, individually defined and lie flat against the body. Avoid goldfish with areas of grayish film on their bodies. Inspect the entire body for lumps, bumps, abrasions, ulcers, bleeding or discharge, black speckling, stringy attachments, deformities and any other sorts of anomalies.
Healthy Tails and Fins
Check out the tails and fins of the goldfish you're considering. None should be ragged, torn, bleeding or lumpy. Don't be alarmed by white speckling on the outside of pectoral fins, though, as this is normal on male goldfish. They should all be fully formed and intact. The fins should splay out and paddle during swimming, and dorsal fins should stay erect most of the time. Fins and tails shouldn't be pressed against the body. Like the body, the tail should be free of string-like attachments. Watch how the goldfish swim, too; they should move easily and energetically, without spending much time lingering near the surface or the bottom of the tank. Also, stay away from goldfish that display aggression toward tankmates.
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Eric Mohrman has been a freelance writer since 2007, focusing on travel, food and lifestyle stories. His creative writing is also widely published. He lives in Orlando, Florida.