Monthly Archives: February 2013

Hammerscales, Mirrorscales, and Leather Goldfish

After my last post about the batik scale type, I thought it would be fun to highlight some other rare and different goldfish scale types! 

The Hammerscale
In the words of professional goldfish breeder and marine biologist Steve Hopkins, the hammerscale has “an indentation in the scale which makes light reflect in all directions and gives them more of a sparkle”.  I think this scale type is really pretty and I wish it were more commercially available!  This scale mutation can occur on any goldfish type, but here is a photo of a jikin goldfish displaying the hammerscale trait.

Photo credit: Rain Garden Snapshots

And below is a common goldfish with the hammerscale trait.

Photo credit: Hammerscale thread: Goldfish Keepers Forum

The Mirrorscale
The mirrorscale goldfish has few,irregularly spaced large scales.  This usually takes the form of one row of enlarged scales running along the lateral line, one row running along the back, and one shorter row running along the abdomen.  The spaces in-between each row are scaleless.  Some claimthis scale type is the result of a hybridization with the mirror koicarp, while others say the trait is actually a mutation that aroseindependently in the goldfish. 

Photo credit: Mirrorscale Goldfish Blog

Leather Goldfish
This mutation produces a fish that has no scales, or very few scales.  Though at a glance it may be difficult to tell the difference, the leather goldfish is not simply a goldfish with opaque scales.  It is actually scaleless!  I have only come across this type of goldfish once, at the Australian blog linked to below.  These leather goldfish also have a deformity that normally causes them to have only the caudal fin present; with all other fins being reduced to nubs.  It’s very likely that the fin deformities are linked to the scaleless trait. 

Photo credit: Mirrorscale Goldfish Blog

Batik Scale Type

If you try, you can easily learn something new about goldfish every day!  Today while researching about the mirrorscale goldfish (some claim this is a koi-goldfish hybrid, while others claim it is pure goldfish), I came across some photos of a scale type I had never heard of before. 

All the fish pictured were produced by a goldfish breeder in Indonesia, by the name of Hermanto.  A simple Google image search for “batik ranchu” will turn up photos of his fish that have been posted and discussed at length on several different online fish forums. 

The scales appear to be of all different sizes, and grow in many different shapes and even in different directions on the fish.  It makes for a really interesting, almost optical illusion-looking pattern.  Hermanto calls them batik after a traditional style of Indonesian clothing, because he says the scale pattern reminds him of those textile patterns.  He thinks this scalation is not specific to ranchu, but could hypothetically occur on many different types of goldfish.  In fact, in my digging online I also found a photo of a common goldfish with a very similar patch of backward-growing scales on one side.  So it seems to be something that can happen to varying extents on lots of different goldfish varieties.

The two image sequences above show the same fish; it decolored from the green fry color into the red and white color you see in the second sequence. 

Reactions are mixed, but there seem to be more people who like it than those who dislike it.  So what do you think?  Awesome or ugly?  Personally, I think it’s really cool.  Of course, it’s an admirable fish who has perfectly arranged and uniform scales, but I think this scale pattern is also nice in its own way and should be developed more!  Because, at the end of the day, it’s the amazing variety of form in goldfish that makes them so unique and special. 

Goldfish First-Aid Kit

When your fish becomes sick, time is of the essence when it comes to administering treatment.  In some cases, if treatment is delayed because you have to go out and find supplies, or you have to wait for online orders to be shipped, it can be too late to help the fish by the time you gather the supplies needed.  So it’s a good idea to always have on hand, in a goldfish first-aid kit, a few basic things that you may need. 

 Treatments & Medications

  • Praziquantel (Either AquaPrazi powder or PraziPro liquid is fine.) 
  • MetroMeds 
  • MediGold
  • Oxolinic Acid 
  • Jump Start (Or other probiotic food, used to replenish beneficial bacteria in the gut after antibiotics.)
  • Epsom Salt
  • Salt (Pure NaCl with no additives.  Morton’s Canning & Pickling salt is good.)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide 3%
  • Biobandage or Triple Antibiotic Cream
  • Q-tips  
  • A Scale (One with .1 gram accuracy for weighing medications, and one with 1 gram accuracy for weighing fish.) 

For the Water

  • API liquid tests for: ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, high range pH, GH, and KH
  • Prime or Amquel (Good because they detoxify ammonia and nitrite for a short period.)
  • Crushed Coral
  • Baking Soda
  • Buff-it-Up or Gold Buffer 

Diagnostic Tools

  • Microscope (One with up to 400x magnification is a great help in diagnosing illnesses.)
  • Fancy Goldfish by E. Johnson & R. Hess
  • Fish Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment by E. J. Noga
  • Fundamentals of Ornamental Fish Health by H. E. Roberts

    Goldfish Internal Anatomy

    (click image for larger view)

    Food is ingested through the mouth, but the mouth also takes in fresh water.  This water is continually pumped over the gills to extract oxygen from it, and then expelled through the operculua.

    The pharynx is located at the very back of the mouth, and this is where the fish grinds up food particles into smaller pieces for digestion.

    Pharyngeal Teeth
    The pharyngeal teeth are located on the lower surface of the pharynx.  These teeth are continually shed and replaced throughout the fish’s life.

    Chewing Surface
    Above the teeth, on the upper surface of the pharynx, there is a hard chewing surface used to grind the teeth against.

    Gill Arches
    Gill arches are bony structures that support the delicate gills.  The forward projections (look like spikes) on the gill arches are called gill rakers.  These gill rakers serve the purpose of straining out food and debris in order to protect the delicate gill filaments.

    Gills are composed of filaments containing capillary beds for gas exchange.  They allow the fish to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.

    The goldfish heart is two-chambered, having one ventrical and one atrium.  It pumps deoxygenated blood to the gills for oxygenation, and throughout all other organ systems of the body.

    The liver aides digestion by excreting digestive enzymes, stores fats and carbohydrates, and also destroys old blood cells.

    The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver.

    Goldfish have no stomach for food storage, but the beginning section of the intestine, called the intestinal bulb, functions as temporary food storage in addition to absorbing lipids from food items.  The second section of the intestine, called the caudal intestine, is narrower and absorbs protein from food items.

    The spleen stores blood and recycles old red blood cells.

    Gonads (Testes/Ovaries)
    The gonads, or reproductive organs, are located underneath the swim bladder.  Females have a single ovary that produces eggs, and males have paired testes for the production of milt.

    Swim Bladder (Cranial Lobe & Caudal Lobe)
    The swim bladder is a hollow, gas-filled sac that helps the fish maintain buoyancy.  Fancy goldfish can sometimes be prone to swim bladder problems because of their modified, deep bodies.  Their is a duct, called the pneumatic duct, leading from the esophagus to the swim bladder and by using this, goldfish can somewhat regulate the swim bladder by gulping air.

    The kidneys filter out nitrogenous waste from the blood.

    The spine provides structural support to the body, and also houses the spinal nerve cord.

    The brain is where automatic functions, like respiration, and higher behaviors, like decision-making, occur.  This is where all sensory information is processed.

    Copyright J.M.Connelly

    Goldfish External Anatomy

    (click image for larger view)

    For fancy goldfish, the body shape is much shorter and deeper than the typical torpedo shape seen in most fish.
    The peduncle is the area of the fish that joins the body and the caudal fin together.  In Japanese ranchus especially, a thick peduncle when viewed from above is a very desirable trait.

    Lateral Line
    The lateral line looks like a series of small dots running from the head to the tail of the fish, and it consists of sensory organs that detect vibrations and water current direction.

    The scales overlap in a regular pattern, and a high quality goldfish has very uniform scales in both size and shape.  The pearlscale goldfish has thick, domed scales that have a pearl-like appearance.

    The vent is the site of waste elimination.  The female vent protrudes slightly and is almost circular in shape, while the male vent is indented and more narrow.

    Differing varieties of goldfish have different head shapes; for example, the ryukin has a pointed triangular head, while the ranchu has a broad, squared head that’s covered in raspberry-like head growth. 

    Opercula (Gill Covers)
    The operculum is a hard bony flap that covers and protects the gills.  It’s open in the back for the release of water.

    Goldfish lack eyelids, so they sleep with their eyes open.  Differing varieties of goldfish have different eye shapes; for example, the telescope has protruding eyes, and the bubble eye has large fluid-filled sacs under each eye.

    The nostrils are connected by a U-shaped passage lined with cells that detect odors, and each nostril has a fleshy narial flap on the outside of it.  In the pompon goldfish, the narial flaps are exaggerated and form multiple folds of fleshy material; which are called narial bouquets.

    Goldfish are suction-feeders.  To ingest food, they quickly expand the mouth cavity which results in a pressure difference between the inside of the mouth and the outside environment.  This pressure difference causes water, along with the food item, to flow into the fish’s mouth. 

    Dorsal Fin
    The dorsal fin is used for steering and maintaining an upright position in the water.  There are many varieties of goldfish that lack a dorsal fin, like the ranchu, lionhead, and celestial.

    Dorsal Spine
    The dorsal spine is the leading ray of the dorsal fin.  It is rigid and helps the dorsal fin remain upright.  Sometimes the dorsal spine can become broken if the fish suffers an injury, and in that case the dorsal fin will normally be bent over. 

    Pectoral Fins
    The pectoral fins are used for steering, braking, and maintaining an upright position in the water. 

    Breeding Tubercles (Breeding Stars)
    Breeding tubercles can be found on the leading ray of the pectoral fins and on the gill covers of male goldfish in breeding season.

    Pelvic Fins
    The pelvic fins are used for steering.

    Anal Fins
    The anal fins are also used for steering.  In double-tailed goldfish, the anal fins should be paired and should be the same size and shape.  Anal fin deformities are fairly common in fancy goldfish.

    Caudal Fin
    The caudal fins provide thrust for swimming and act as a rudder.  Most fancy goldfish have two caudal fins that are split apart from one-another. 

    Caudal Lobes
    Fancy goldfish with properly-split caudal fins have four caudal lobes.  Some goldfish have what’s called a tripod tail, and this means there is only one upper caudal fin lobe which separates into two lower lobes.

    Caudal Fork
    The caudal fork is the indentation between the lobes of caudal fin.  In some goldfish varieties, like the veiltail and the butterfly tail, there should be no caudal fork present.  Instead, the end of the tail should be squared-off and straight.

    Fin Rays
    The fin rays are bony projections that give the fins structural support.

    Copyright J.M.Connelly 

    Luca’s Mouth Issue Resolved!

    Luca’s mouth is totally back to normal now, thankfully.  I’m so glad it turned out to be nothing more serious.  He was in quarantine for 3 days, and he had a salt dip each day.  Already after just the first salt dip, the mouth issue was much improved.  I had to go out of town over the weekend, and the cycle is much stronger in the main tank than it was in the QT tank (even though it was seeded with plenty of cycled filter media), so since his mouth was looking so much better anyways, I put him back in the main tank on Friday morning before I left.  I worried about him all weekend of course, but when I got back home, he looked completely back to normal!

    All better…


    As usual, he was super obsessed with zooming around foraging for food on the tank bottom while I was trying to take photos of his mouth. 

    It bothers me that I don’t know what the problem was, but I’m mostly just glad that it’s been resolved! 

    Luca’s Mouth Issue

    My poor little Luca seems to be having a health issue.  On Monday I noticed that his mouth tissue looks frayed as if it’s deteriorating.  See how it appears sort of “frilly” looking?  Well normally it would be perfectly smooth with no odd flaps or frills.  It seemingly happened overnight and at first I wasn’t sure if it was some sort of pathogen or if it was an injury, possibly from the plastic plant I had in the tank.  But it seems too uniform all around the mouth to be an injury from that.

    Thankfully it doesn’t seem to bother him at all; he’s still behaving just like normal.  But I needed to do something to try and stop the deterioration (if that is indeed what’s going on here) and get it to start healing.  So today I set up the quarantine tub and gave Luca a 5 minute salt dip/bath in a 3% salt solution.  Salt dips are always nerve-wracking for me because the fish tip over to their side and just generally act agitated during the dip.  But he actually handled it really well, and was back to his normal antics pretty much right away after the dip was over!  I think he’s a strong little fish… remember, this is a fish that survived that 5-day shipping ordeal!  I’m going to evaluate him tomorrow and probably do another salt dip.  Hopefully a few salt dips and daily 90% water changes in quarantine will be enough to resolve this.  It doesn’t seem like an infection since it’s not red or swollen, but maybe it’s just the very beginning of an infection so it’s not red yet.  But anyway, just in case I went ahead and ordered both MetroMeds and MediGold today from Goldfish Connection. 

    I’ve been meaning to make a salt dip how-to video for quite some time, so since I actually needed to do a salt dip today, I figured I’d finally get around to making the how-to video for it.  Here it is!

    AGA Membership

    I just want to let you all know that you should sign up formembership with the AGA if you can!  Yearly dues are only $15, and thatmoney goes toward their online publication (which you will receive as amember), promoting all breeds of goldfish here in the US, and putting on goldfish shows across the US.  This is my first year as a member, so Idon’t know much about it myself yet.  But I do know that it helps topromote the hobby of goldfish keeping in the US, and of course that’ssomething we all support!

    The AGA is providing their first new newsletter complimentary!  Here’s a link to the PDF.  February Newsletter

    All you need to do is download this form, fill it out, and send it and your $15 check to the address at the bottom of the form.
    Membership Application Form

    From my understanding, the AGA has been at a bit of a stand-still up untilnow, and they are now really trying to revive it and make it somethinggreat again.  First, by starting up the online newsletters again, andalso by revamping their website.  The newsletters are packed with tonsof beautiful goldfish photos, articles about breeding and keepinggoldfish, and goldfish keeping tips.

    Here’s the AGA’s website:

    Callisto the Unclassifiable Goldfish

    First, a little background to put this into perspective.  I bought Callisto and Ganymede from a hobbyist goldfish breeder who was getting outof the goldfish hobby.  He had owned them for three years, and originally bought them from the Dandy Orandas online goldfish auctions.  He advertised two “red broadtails” for sale on one of the goldfish forums that I frequently visit; one a male, and one a female.  Since this is how he described the fish, I also called them broadtails, since they did not appear to fit into any well-defined category of goldfish.  Four months after Iacquired the pair, Ganymede suddenly died for no apparent reason (March 2012).  Ganymede looked just like Callisto, except his fins were redall the way out to the ends and he was slightly smaller.  I adored Ganymede, and his loss actually made me lose interest in the goldfish hobby for a few months; something I thought could never happen.

    Ganymede (front) and Callisto (back).

    What is Callisto?
    As humans, we love categorizing things and we feel most at ease when categories are clear-cut and easy to understand.  But… many goldfish don’t quite fit so well into the neat categories we have made for them.  Many seem to have a mix of characteristics from a few different varieties.  This is because they’re all the same species and not every characteristic is fixed (meaning it breeds true).  So in any given spawn, you’re likely to see some fish that resemble the parent fish, but many that do not.  Callisto is one of those unclassifiable goldfish.  Since she was sold to me as a “red broadtail”, that’s what I called her at first.  But “broadtail” is not a recognized category of goldfish and it has no list of standards it must meet.  After a while, I got tired of giving out the full (and confusing!) answer every time I was asked what type of goldfish she is.  So for simplicity, I just started calling her a broadtail ryukin.

    Callisto’s most defining characteristic is her broad butterfly shaped tail, but she should not be called a butterfly tail goldfish, because the term butterfly tail is usually reserved for fish who also have telescope eyes (making them butterfly telescopes).  But the term “broadtail” is a little problematic because it’s used differently depending upon which goldfish breeder or seller you talk to.  Steve at Rain Garden, for example, calls his telescope eyed veiltails “broadtails”.  On the other hand, the breeder I got Callisto from called a fantail-like fish with a butterfly tail a “broadtail”.  This confusion arises because there is no agreed-upon definition of a broadtail goldfish.  There is also a lesser-known variety of goldfish called a chochokin, which is a fantail-like fish with a butterfly tail.  So perhaps that’s what I should start calling Callisto!  This variety also doesn’t have any standards though (that I have seen) and it is lesser-known, so it would likely be just as confusing as broadtail.  The veiltail is another fish who has a somewhat fantail-like body and a broad, squared-off tail.  But Callisto is not a veiltail either, because her fins are not long enough.  The fins of a veiltail are very long, with the tail fins trailing behind like the long train of a dress.  The veiltail tail does not look quite as butterfly-like when viewed from above because it’s a little more collapsed, probably due to its length and weight. 

    Callisto’s butterfly shaped tail.

    So because it’s hard to explain more completely what variety of goldfish she is, I’ve gotten into the habit of just saying she’s a broadtail ryukin.  But I don’t actually think she is very ryukin-like, and here’s why. The ryukin standard, as specified by the Goldfish Society of America (GFSA) calls for a fish whose depth of body is 3/4 to equal the length of the body.  Callisto’s body shape fails to meet this standard; it is too long and narrow.  In ryukins, that body depth to length ratio is achieved by the tall, humped back characteristic they are known for.  Here is a photo showing side views of both Callisto and Clover (my true ryukin), and another view with Clover’s ryukin silhouette over-imposed on Callisto’s photo.  Clover’s body is very short and tall, having a well developed hump starting just behind his head.  Callisto’s body is a bit longer and not as tall, and she does not have a pronounced hump on her back. 

    Comparison of their body shapes.

    A good ryukin specimen should also have a pointed, triangular head lacking in headgrowth.  The head should appear triangular in shape from both the side view and the top view.  Callisto’s head appears triangular in side view, however, she does have some visible headgrowth (this is fairly common, though not desirable for ryukins, in many types of goldfish as they grow older).  So the visible headgrowth alone would cost her major points if she were to be shown as a ryukin.  By contrast, Clover’s head appears very nicely pointed and triangular from the side view, and he has no visible headgrowth.

    Side view comparison of their head shapes.

    From the top view however, it is clear that Callisto has a head shape that is too broad for a ryukin.  This type of broad-shaped head is actually very desirable in ranchus, lionheads, and orandas.  It’s thought that the fish with broader heads develop better shaped wens.  And hey, since Callisto does have a hint of headgrowth on her, perhaps some might call her a broadtail or butterfly tail oranda!  But since I know that Callisto is over 5 years old, and that older fish of many wenless varieties sometimes start to show a little bit of headgrowth as they age, I would not call her an oranda.  In this case, I think the hint of headgrowth on her is simply due to her age.  Still, it does not change the fact that she does have a very broad shaped head with eyes that are spaced fairly far apart, so that disqualifies her as a ryukin.

    Comparison of Callisto’s head shape and that of a true ryukin.


    What sex is Callisto?
    Callisto is a bit enigmatic in another way too.  When I first acquired her, she had tons of breeding stars all over her face, gill plates, and the leading rays of her pectoral fins.  Breeding stars typically indicate that the fish is male.  Another way to tell the sex of a goldfish is to look at their vent shape.  Most often, a female vent will be more round in shape and will protrude slightly.  A male vent will be more narrow and oblong, and will not protrude.  It’s hard to tell the sex of Callisto by looking at her vent, because it is round like a female vent, and yet does not protrude.  Her male counterpart, Ganymede also had breeding stars, and he had even more than she did!

    Callisto’s breeding stars in December, 2011.

    The seller I bought these fish from claimed that Callisto was in fact female, although he admitted that she appeared male.  Since this person was a well-respected goldfish breeder I assumed he knew this because he bred these two fish together at some point, or used them to breed with his veiltails (he was a veiltail breeder), and so I took his word for it.  After the spawning season, the breeding stars of both Callisto and Ganymede faded.  Now in recent weeks, I’ve begun to see Callisto’s breeding stars again, but only very faintly.  I must admit, I am still not fully convinced that Callisto is a female fish, because I have had her in a tank with plenty of male goldfish before and I’ve never seen any concrete evidence of breeding behavior between her and any of my male fish.  She never produced eggs and was rarely, if ever, chased.  Although, recently I added two male butterflies to Callisto’s tank, and they do chase and nudge her around a little, so perhaps they know she is female.  They don’t chase Clover (male) around, only Callisto.  But then again, they did chase one-another around a little bit in their QT tank.  So maybe they’re just confused and are mistaking Callisto for a female because she is much bigger and rounder than they are.  Maybe I’ll never know for sure what sex Callisto is.  But lately I’m definitely leaning toward her probably being male.  I still call her a “she” by default, since I don’t really know for sure, and it’s what I’ve always called her.  Old habits die hard I guess.  I think when she dies (hopefully not anytime soon!) I’ll do a necropsy and try to see if I can find either ovaries or testes, because I hate not knowing!  Until then, it’s still a bit of a mystery!