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Aquarium scene with a bright orange goldfish swimming, tail at lower left, head at upper right, with some driftwood and another goldfish,  white and orange, behind.

Goldfish

The goldfish (Carassius auratus auratus) is a freshwater fish in the family Cyprinidae. It was one of the earliest fish to be domesticated, and is one of the most commonly kept aquarium fish.

A relatively small member of the carp family (which also includes the koi carp and the crucian carp), the goldfish is a domesticated version of a less-colorful carp (Carassius auratus) native to east Asia. It was first domesticated in China more than a thousand years ago, and several distinct breeds have since been developed. Goldfish breeds vary greatly in size, body shape, fin configuration and coloration (various combinations of white, yellow, orange, red, brown, and black are known).

HistoryEdit

In ancient China, various species of carp were domesticated and have been reared as food fish for thousands of years. Some of these normally gray or silver species have a tendency to produce red, orange or yellow color mutations; this was first recorded in the Jin Dynasty (265–420).

A drawing in brown ink on an ocher background. A rectangular glass aquarium tank sits on a wooden stand with carved, curled legs, and contains two fish as well as plants with wavy grass-like leaves.

A western aquarium of the 1850s of the type that contained goldfish among other coldwater species

During the Tang Dynasty (618–907), it was popular to raise carp in ornamental ponds and watergardens. A natural genetic mutation produced gold (actually yellowish orange) rather than silver coloration. People began to breed the gold variety instead of the silver variety, keeping them in ponds or other bodies of water. On special occasions at which guests were expected they would be moved to a much smaller container for display.[1]

In 1162, the Empress of the Song Dynasty ordered the construction of a pond to collect the red and gold variety. By this time, people outside the imperial family were forbidden to keep goldfish of the gold (yellow) variety, yellow being the imperial color. This is probably the reason why there are more orange goldfish than yellow goldfish, even though the latter are genetically easier to breed.

The occurrence of other colors (apart from red and gold) was first recorded in 1276. The first occurrence of fancy tailed goldfish was recorded in the Ming dynasty. In 1502, goldfish were introduced to Japan, where the Ryukin and Tosakin varieties were developed. In 1611, goldfish were introduced to Portugal and from there to other parts of Europe.

During the 1620s, goldfish were highly regarded in Southern Europe because of their metallic scales, and symbolized good luck and fortune. It became tradition for married men to give their wives a goldfish on their one year anniversary, as a symbol for the prosperous years to come. This tradition quickly died, as goldfish became more available, losing their status. Goldfish were first introduced to North America around 1850 and quickly became popular in the United States.

Related speciesEdit

A pale silvery and brownish fish, facing left

A wild Prussian carp (Carassius auratus gibelio)

A golden colored fish with silvery highlights, facing right

A Crucian carp (Carassius carassius)

Goldfish were bred from Prussian carp (Carassius auratus gibelio) in China, and they remain the closest wild relative of the goldfish. Previously, some sources claimed the Crucian carp (Carassius carassius) as the wild version of the goldfish. However, they are differentiated by several characteristics. C. auratus have a more pointed snout while the snout of a C. carassius is well rounded. C. gibelio often has a grey/greenish color, while crucian carps are always golden bronze. Juvenile crucian carp have a black spot on the base of the tail which disappears with age. In C. auratus this tail spot is never present. C. auratus have fewer than 31 scales along the lateral line while crucian carp have 33 scales or more.

When found in nature, goldfish are olive green. Introduction of goldfish into the wild can cause problems for native species. Goldfish can hybridize with certain other species of carp. Within three breeding generations, the vast majority of the goldfish spawn revert to their natural olive color. The mutation that gave rise to the domestic goldfish is also known from other cyprinid species, such as common carp and tench. Koi may also interbreed with the goldfish to produce a sterile hybrid fish.

There are many different varieties of domesticated goldfish. Fancy goldfish are unlikely to survive in the wild because of their bright fin colors; however the hardier varieties such as the Shubunkin may survive long enough to breed with wild cousins. Common and comet goldfish can survive, and even thrive, in any climate that can support a pond.

In pondsEdit

Goldfish are popular pond fish, since they are small, inexpensive, colorful, and very hardy. In an outdoor pond or water garden, they may even survive for brief periods if ice forms on the surface, as long as there is enough oxygen remaining in the water and the pond does not freeze solid. Common goldfish, London and Bristol shubunkins, jikin, wakin, comet and some hardier fantail goldfish can be kept in a pond all year round in temperate and subtropical climates. Moor, veiltail, oranda and lionhead can be kept safely in outdoor ponds only in the summer, and in more tropical climates.

Small to large ponds are fine though the depth should be at least 80 cm to avoid freezing. During winter, goldfish become sluggish, stop eating, and often stay on the bottom of the pond. This is completely normal; they become active again in the spring. A filter is important to clear waste and keep the pond clean. Plants are essential as they act as part of the filtration system, as well as a food source for the fish. Plants are further beneficial since they raise oxygen levels in the water.

Compatible fish include rudd, tench, orfe and koi, but the latter require specialized care. Ramshorn snails are helpful by eating any algae that grows in the pond. Without some form of animal population control, goldfish ponds can easily become overstocked. Fish such as orfe consume goldfish eggs.

In aquariaEdit

A shiny gold and orange goldfish with a short, bulging body, and very long, flowing fins and tail, facing left

A Fantail goldfish

Like most carp, goldfish produce a large amount of waste both in their faeces and through their gills, releasing harmful chemicals like ammonia into the water. Build-up of this waste to toxic levels can occur in a relatively short period of time, and can easily cause a goldfish's death. For common and comet varieties, each goldfish should have about 20 gallons of water. Fancy goldfish (which are smaller) should have about 10 gallons per goldfish. The water surface area determines how much oxygen diffuses and dissolves into the water. A general rule is have 1 square foot. Active aeration by way of a water pump, filter or fountain effectively increases the surface area.

The goldfish is classified as a coldwater fish, and can live in unheated aquaria at a temperature comfortable for humans. However, rapid changes in temperature (for example in an office building in winter when the heat is turned off at night) can kill them, especially if the tank is small. Care must also be taken when adding water, as the new water may be of a different temperature. Extremely high temperatures can also harm goldfish. However, higher temperatures may help fight protozoan infestations by accelerating the parasite's life-cycle—thus eliminating it more quickly. The optimum temperature for goldfish is between 20 and 22°C.[2]

Like all fish, goldfish do not like to be petted. In fact, touching a goldfish can endanger its health, because it can cause the protective slime coat to be damaged or removed, exposing the fish’s skin to infection from bacteria or water-born parasites. However, goldfish respond to people by surfacing at feeding time, and can be trained or acclimated to taking pellets or flakes from human fingers. The reputation of goldfish dying quickly is often due to poor care.[3] The lifespan of goldfish in captivity can extend beyond 10 years.

If left in the dark for a period of time, goldfish gradually change color until they are almost gray.Template:Citation needed Goldfish produce pigment in response to light, in a similar manner to how human skin becomes tanned in the sun. Fish have cells called chromatophores that produce pigments which reflect light, and give the fish coloration. The color of a goldfish is determined by which pigments are in the cells, how many pigment molecules there are, and whether the pigment is grouped inside the cell or is spaced throughout the cytoplasm.

Because goldfish eat live plants, their presence in a planted aquarium can be problematic. Only a few aquarium plant species for example Cryptocoryne and Anubias, can survive around goldfish, but they require special attention so that they are not uprooted. Plastic plants are often more durable, but the branches can irritate or harm a fish that touches one.Template:Citation needed

FeedingEdit

On a blue background, two large light red wafers at the upper left, a light gray compressed cube at the upper right, small brown pellets at the middle left, and, at the middle right and bottom, various yellow-green and red flakes

Various types of prepared fish food


In the wild, the diet of goldfish consists of crustaceans, insects, and various plant matter. Like most fish, they are opportunistic feeders and do not stop eating on their own accord. Overfeeding can be deleterious to their health, typically by blocking the intestines. This happens most often with selectively bred goldfish, which have a convoluted intestinal tract. When excess food is available, they produce more waste and faeces, partly due to incomplete protein digestion. Overfeeding can sometimes be diagnosed by observing faeces trailing from the fish's cloaca.

Goldfish-specific food has less protein and more carbohydrate than conventional fish food. It is sold in two consistencies—flakes that float, and pellets that sink. Enthusiasts may supplement this diet with shelled peas (with outer skins removed), blanched green leafy vegetables, and bloodworms. Young goldfish benefit from the addition of brine shrimp to their diet. As with all animals, goldfish preferences vary.

BehaviorEdit

Behavior can vary widely both because goldfish live in a variety of environments, and because their behavior can be conditioned by their owners.

Goldfish have strong associative learning abilities, as well as social learning skills. In addition, their Visual perception allows them to distinguish between individual humans. Owners may notice that fish react favorably to them (swimming to the front of the glass, swimming rapidly around the tank, and going to the surface mouthing for food) while hiding when other people approach the tank. Over time, goldfish learn to associate their owners and other humans with food, often "begging" for food whenever their owners approach.

Goldfish that have constant visual contact with humans also stop considering them to be a threat. After being kept in a tank for several weeks, sometimes months, it becomes possible to feed a goldfish by hand without it shying away.

Goldfish have learned behaviors, both as groups and as individuals, that stem from native carp behavior. They are a generalist species with varied feeding, breeding, and predator avoidance behaviors that contribute to their success. As fish they can be described as "friendly" towards each other. Very rarely does a goldfish harm another goldfish, nor do the males harm the females during breeding. The only real threat that goldfish present to each other is competing for food. Commons, comets, and other faster varieties can easily eat all the food during a feeding before fancy varieties can reach it. This can lead to stunted growth or possible starvation of fancier varieties when they are kept in a pond with their single-tailed brethren. As a result, care should be taken to combine only breeds with similar body type and swim characteristics.

Intelligence Edit

Goldfish have a memory-span of at least three months and can distinguish between different shapes, colors and sounds.[4][5] By using positive reinforcement, goldfish can be trained to recognize and to react to light signals of different colors[6] or to perform tricks, such as the limbo, slalom, fetch, and soccer.[7]

ReproductionEdit

Goldfish may only grow to sexual maturity with enough water and the right nutrition. Most goldfish breed in captivity, particularly in pond settings. Breeding usually happens after a significant temperature change, often in spring. Males chase females, prompting them to release their eggs by bumping and nudging them.

Goldfish, like all cyprinids, are egg-layers. Their eggs are adhesive and attach to aquatic vegetation, typically dense plants such as Cabomba or Elodea or a spawning mop. The eggs hatch within 48 to 72 hours.

Within a week or so, the fry begins to assume its final shape, although a year may pass before they develop a mature goldfish color; until then they are a metallic brown like their wild ancestors. In their first weeks of life, the fry grow quickly—an adaptation born of the high risk of getting devoured by the adult goldfish (or other fish and insects) in their environment.

Some highly bred goldfish can no longer breed naturally due to their altered shape. The artificial breeding method called "hand stripping" can assist nature, but can harm the fish if not done correctly. In captivity, adults may also eat young that they encounter.

Goldfisheggs

Goldfish eggs showing cell division

Goldfishfry

Goldfish fry just hatched (Ryukin)

Mosquito controlEdit

Like some other popular aquarium fish, such as the guppy, goldfish and other carp are frequently added to stagnant bodies of water to reduce mosquito populations. They are used to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus, which relies on mosquitoes to migrate. However, introducing goldfish has often had negative consequences for local ecosystems.[8]

Controversy over proper treatmentEdit

View from above of children gathered around a pale blue rectangular tub filled with many small orange fish swimming in water. A girl at the top of the scene leans over the tub, with a pink scoop in her right hand and a white bowl in her left hand.

The Japanese game of Goldfish scooping

Some countries ban the sale of traditional fishbowls under animal welfare legislation due to the risk of stunting, deoxygenation and ammonia/nitrite poisoning in such a small environment. Because of their large oxygen needs and high waste output, such bowls are no longer considered appropriate housing for goldfish.[9]

Although edible, goldfish are rarely eaten. A fad among American college students for many years was swallowing goldfish as a stunt and as a fraternity initiation process. The first recorded instance was in 1939 at Harvard University.[10] The practice gradually fell out of popularity over the course of several decades and is rarely practiced today.

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Nutrafin Aquatic News, Issue #4, 2004, Rolf C. Hagen, Inc. (USA) and Rolf C. Hagen Corp. (Montreal, Canada)
  2. Goldfish
  3. Goldfish
  4. Research by the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth in 2003. Goldfish were trained to push a lever to earn a food reward; when the lever was fixed to work only for an hour a day, the fish soon learned to activate it at the correct time.
  5. The Discovery Channel's show Mythbusters tested the contemporary legend that goldfish only had a memory span of 3 seconds and were able to prove that goldfish had a longer memory span than commonly believed. The experiment involved training the fish to navigate a maze. It was evident that they were able to remember the correct path of the maze after more than a month. Mythbuster Results: A goldfish’s memory lasts only three seconds
  6. Demonstrated in a 1994 public experiment at the Palais de la Découverte science museum. The experimental details and results are described in: Template:Cite journal
  7. Send Your Fish to School. ABC News: Good Morning America. Posted: May 7, 2008.
  8. Template:Cite web
  9. Template:Cite web
  10. Template:Cite web

External linksEdit

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