where do goldfish come from

Where Do Goldfish Come From?

The delightful little goldfish is a species of fish that developed from the Crucian carp (Carassius genus.)

Wild goldfish (Carassius auratus) are alive and thriving around the world today and are known as ‘chi.’

The domestic goldfish came into being from selectively breeding the wild goldfish.


Family Carassius Carp and Minnows
Genus Carassius Crucian Carp
Species Carassius auratus

Carassius auratus auratus

Wild Goldfish (also known as ‘chi’)

Domesticated Goldfish


Goldfish first originated in the Far East many centuries ago. The ‘chi’ (wild goldfish) were mainly a muted silver color.

Every so often genetics in the species produced colorful ‘chi’ and unfortunately, in the wild, the bright colors attracted predatory animals who ate them.

Around the 9th century, Governor Ting Yen-tsan found some colorful ‘chi’ in a pond outside of his city. He declared that pond as the “pond of mercy” to protect the ‘chi’ he found.

Furthermore, through the effort of Chinese Buddhist monks, colorful ‘chi’ were protected and set free in many ponds.

It was believed by the monks that they must perform the good deed of setting rare animals free.

goldfish photo

The colorful wild goldfish warranted such freedom because of their unique and bold colors.

Monks were catching and releasing them into ponds throughout China.

The monks not only rescued the colorful ‘chi’ from being eaten by predatory animals but also from humans.

Wild goldfish were raised during that time as a delicacy that was enjoyed by many Chinese.

Through time, the colorful ‘chi’ became domesticated through selective breeding. Different varieties were the result of the breeding.

The U.S. did not see the first goldfish until they were introduced in the 1800s.

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Goldfish Today

There are over 250 varieties of domestic goldfish today. There are distinct characteristics that set each variety apart.

Such things as flowing fins and tail on the veiltail are beautiful and elegant.

However, the odd trait of bulging eyes on the telescope eye or bubble eye is unique.

Body shape can range from streamline to egg-shape.



Egg-shaped bodies

  • Fantail
  • Telescope Eye
  • Veiltail
  • Oranda
  • Butterfly Tail
  • Ryukin
  • Tosakin
  • Pearlscale
  • Celestial Eye
  • Bubble Eye
  • Lionhead
  • Ranchu


Streamlined bodies

  • Common
  • Comet
  • Shubunkin
  • Wakin


The wild goldfish still runs rampant around the world with invasive populations found in rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, and other bodies of freshwater.

In many areas, wild goldfish are a nuisance.


What once was native to the Far East has become a common household pet everywhere.

No longer are goldfish raised for food or a rarity that requires the protection of monks or the Chinese government.

Coveted by many aquarists for their simple beauty, the goldfish will be around for a long time to come.

It will be interesting to see what kind of new species the future will bring to tanks around the world!

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