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Pearlscale Goldfish

Pearlscale Fancy Goldfish

Family: Cyprinidae Pearl Scale Goldfish, Pearlscale Fancy Goldfish, Carassius auratusCarassius auratus auratusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I keep platy and whitecloude mino. With zebrafish. And 1 weatherloach. In cold water.  david

The rounded body of the Pearlscale Goldfish looks like it is adorned with rows of luminescent pearls!

Pearlscale Goldfish are very popular and can be found in collectors' tanks throughout the world. Their hardiness and ability to live in cold temperatures make them ideal pets. Instead of having the long, slender body of the Common Goldfish or the Shubunkins, the Pearlscale is one of the more rounded or egg-shaped fancy goldfish. They have a straight back with a swollen belly, resembling a golf ball.

The Pearlscale Goldfish is usually twin-tailed with a very compact body. It can be easily recognized by its nacreous scales that have raised centers and dark perimeters. Arranged in rows, these distinctive scales look like pale pearls.This is the only variety of goldfish with these types of scales. The Pearlscale Goldfish can be found in all kinds of colors, including red, blue, black, calico, chocolate, and red/white combinations.

These are one of the newer varieties of fancy goldfish. The first known mention of them is from the early 20th century. They have been developed largely in England where they first appeared in 1900. Today, there are more than 125 captive-bred fancy goldfish varieties.

Crown Pearlscale Goldfish
Crown Pearlscale Goldfish

A variation of the common Pearlscale is the Crown Pearlscale or Hamanishiki Crown Pearlscale, which develops a hood or head growth similar to that seen on the Oranda Goldfish.

Pearlscale Fancy Goldfish are fairly hardy and can be successfully kept by beginners. However, they must be handled with care as they can be easily damaged. Their scales can fall off with rough handling or after contact with sharp objects. Like many of the egg-shaped goldfish, they are slow swimmers. These fish won't win any races, but if kept with other slow-moving varieties, they should get plenty to eat and do well. Many of the elongated goldfish varieties like the Common Goldfish, Comet Goldfish, the Shubunkin do not make good companions for the Pearlscale Goldfish because they are fast swimmers and too competitive during feeding

Good tankmates are similarly shaped goldfish that are also slower swimmers, such as the Fantail Goldfish, Ryukin Goldfish, and the Black Moor Goldfish. These varieties all tolerate temperatures a few degrees above freezing, as long as the cooling drops only a few degrees a day.

Their hardiness and ability to live at colder temperatures make them ideal for outdoor ponds. If you wish to keep these fish in a pond, make sure the environment is safe. In a warmer, well-maintained tank, even the less hardy Water-Bubble Eye Goldfish, Telescope Goldfish, and Celestial Eye Goldfish can be good companions.

For more goldfish information, see:
Goldfish Care: Fancy Goldfish and Goldfish Diseases

Geographic Distribution
Carassius auratus auratus
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cyprinidae
  • Genus: Carassius
  • Species: auratus auratus
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Pearlscale Goldfish - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish - inches: 4.0 inches (10.16 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 65.0 to 72.0° F (18.3 to 22.2° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The goldfish of today are descendants of a species of wild carp known as the Prussian Carp, Silver Prussian carp, or Gibel Carp Carassius gibelio (syn: Carassius auratus gibelio), which was described by Bloch in 1782. These wild carp originated in Asia; Central Asia (Siberia). They inhabit the slow moving and stagnant waters of rivers, lakes, ponds, and ditches feeding on plants, detritus, small crustaceans, and insects.

For many years, it was believed that goldfish had originated from the Crucian Carp Carassius carassius described by Linnaeus in 1758. This fish has a wide range across the waters of the European continent, running west to east from England to Russia, north to Scandinavian countries in the Arctic Circle and as far south as the central France and the Black Sea. However, recent genetic research points to C. gibelio as a more likely ancestor.

Goldfish were originally developed in China. By the 1500s, goldfish were traded to Japan, arriving in Europe in the 1600s and America in the 1800s. The majority of the fancy goldfish were developed by Asian breeders. We can see the results of this centuries-long endeavor in the wonderful colors and shapes of goldfish today.

The Pearlscale Fancy Goldfish is one of the newer varieties of fancy goldfish. The first known mention of them is from the early 20th century. They first appeared in 1900 and have been largely developed in England. Today, domesticated goldfish are distributed world-wide. The Pearlscale is one of more than 125 captive-bred fancy goldfish varieties.

  • Scientific Name: Carassius auratus auratus
  • Social Grouping: Groups - Can be kept singly or in groups.
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed - There are no wild populations of this captive-bred variety.


The Pearlscale Goldfish is an egg-shaped variety of goldfish. The body is short, stubby, and compact . It has a straight back and swollen belly, resembling a golf ball, and it is usually twin tailed. This fish has rows of distinct scales with raised centers and dark perimeters.

These goldfish will generally reach about 4 inches (10 cm), though some hobbyists report their Pearlscales growing much larger. The average goldfish life span is 10 – 15 years, though living 20 years or more is not uncommon in well-maintained goldfish aquariums and ponds.

They can be found in all kinds of colors including red, blue, black, calico, chocolate, and red/white combinations. A variation of the common pearlscale is the Crown Pearlscale Goldfish or Hamanishiki Crown Pearlscale, which develops a hood or head growth similar to that seen on the Oranda Goldfish.

  • Size of fish - inches: 4.0 inches (10.16 cm) - Pearlscale Goldfish will generally reach about 4 inches (10 cm) in length, but have been reported to grow twice that size in exceedingly well-maintained tanks or ponds.
  • Lifespan: 15 years - The average goldfish lifespan is 10 – 15 years, but they have been known to live 20 years of more when well maintained.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Pearlscale Goldfish are some of the hardier species of goldfish and can be kept by beginners. They are very undemanding of water quality and temperature. However, they can be easily damaged, as rough handling or contact with sharp objects in their enviornment can knock off their scales.

Be careful even when netting these fish because lost 'pearl' scales will only grow back as regular scales. Some hobbyists suggest that providing additional calcium to their tank may help prevent the loss of scales, but that it is not yet documented.

Many people will keep goldfish in an aquarium with no heater or filtration. But for the best success in keeping goldfish, provide them the same filtration, especially biological filtration, that other aquarium residents enjoy.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy - The aquarist should use caution when netting this fish as the pearl scales are delicate and do not regrow as pearl scales. Some aquarists suggest that calcium-rich water is beneficial to this species.
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

Since they are omnivorous, the Pearlscale Goldfish will generally eat all kinds of fresh, frozen, and flake foods. To care for your Pearlscale Goldfish, keep a good balance by giving them a high quality flake food everyday. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen), blood worms, Daphnia, or tubifex worms as a treat. Other vegetables like cucumber and lettuce are acceptable as well. It is usually better to feed soaked freeze-dried foods as opposed to live foods to avoid parasites and bacterial infections that could be present in live foods.

Because of its unusual body shape, the Pearlscale is more susceptible to swim bladder disease and constipation. Any pellets or flake foods should be soaked thoroughly before feeding to prevent swelling in the stomach. Some aquarists recommend adding deshelled peas to their diet at least once a week to prevent and treat constipation.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes - This fish is a slow eater, the aquarist should ensure that it is not outcompeted for food by swifter tankmates.
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

These goldfish need to be kept in a well-maintained tank and given a proper diet to stay healthy. Minimum tank size is 10 gallons, so make sure water changes are frequent in such as small tank. Regular weekly water changes of 1/4 to 1/3 are strongly recommended to keep these fish healthy. Snails can be added as they reduce the algae in the tank, helping to keep it clean.

  • Water Changes: Weekly - Goldfish produce more waste than most other freshwater fish and benefit greatly from more frequent water changes.

Aquarium Setup

Setting up a goldfish aquarium in a manner that will keep your fish happy and healthy is the first step to success. The shape and size of the aquarium is important and depends upon the number of goldfish you are going to keep. These fish need a lot of oxygen and produce a lot of waste. Good filtration, especially biological filtration, is very helpful in maintaining the water quality of the aquarium. A filtration system will remove much of the detritus, excess foods, and waste, which keeps the tank clean and maintains the general health of the goldfish.

  • Tank parameters to consider when choosing a goldfish aquarium:
    • Tank size
      Ten gallons is the absolute minimum required to house a Pearlscale Goldfish. It's best to start with a 20 - 30 gallon tank for your first goldfish and then increase the size of the tank by 10 gallons for each additional goldfish. Providing a large amount of water per fish will help dilute the amount of waste and reduce the number of water changes needed.
    • Tank Shape
      Always provide the maximum amount of surface area. A large surface area minimizes the possibility that the goldfish will suffer from an oxygen shortage. Surface area is determined by the shape of the tank. For example an elongated tank offers more surface area (and oxygen) than a tall tank. Oval or round tanks that are wide in the middle and narrower toward the top might be filled less than full to maximize the surface area.
    • Number of fish
      For juveniles a general rule of thumb is 1 inch of fish (2.54 cm) per 1 gallon of water. However, this rule only applies to young fish. Larger gold fish consume much more oxygen than young fish so maintaining this formula for growing fish will stunt them and could contribute to disease and even death.
    • Fish size and growth
      To allow for proper growth, either buy fewer fish than the maximum number or be prepared to get a larger tank. To prevent stunted growth and other health problems, don't overstock the aquarium.

Goldfish are a cold water fish and will do best at temperatures between 65 - 72° F (18°- 22° C). The Pearlscale Goldfish are one of the most hardy varieties of goldfish and can tolerate temperatures a few degrees above freezing, as long as the cooling drops only a few degrees a day. A quick temperature drop can kill them, so if you live in a very cold climate a heater is advisable. The Pearlscale should not be kept in water colder than 55° F (12.77° C).

Provide a gravel substrate to help create a natural and comfortable environment for your fish. You can add some decor, but make sure that all ornamentation is smooth with no protruding points or sharp edges. Smooth rocks or driftwood should be used sparingly if at all. Aquarium plants would be the best choice of aquarium decor for goldfish, but unfortunately these fish are diggers. Consequently live plants may be uprooted. Artificial plants make a good substitute and silk plants are safer than plastic ones.

Most aquariums come with a cover that includes lighting. A cover for the tank is desirable as it reduces evaporation and though they are not prone to jumping, on occasion some goldfish will jump out. Lighting is not essential for goldfish, but it does make the aquarium a nice showpiece and lighting will help if you have live plants.

Goldfish are freshwater fish, but they have some tolerance for slightly brackish water. The salinity level for C. auratus must be kept low, below 10% with a specific gravity of less than 1.002.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gal (38 L) - Ten gallons is the absolute minimum required to house this fish. It has high oxygen requirements and produces a lot of waste. It will have very stunted growth if it is kept in a smaller aquarium.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes
  • Substrate Type: Any - A medium-sized gravel works best.
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 65.0 to 72.0° F (18.3 to 22.2° C) - Goldfish can tolerate colder temperatures, but the Pearlscale should not be kept in water colder than 55° F (13° C).
  • Breeding Temperature: - In the wild, goldfish spawn in the spring when water temperatures reach about 68° F (20° C).
  • Range ph: 6.0-8.0
  • Hardness Range: 5 - 19 dGH
  • Brackish: Sometimes - Goldfish are freshwater fish, but they have some tolerance for slightly brackish water. Any salinity for must be kept low, below 10%, a specific gravity of less than 1.002.
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All - These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

Goldfish are very social animals and thrive in a community. Not only are they a great community fish, but they are great scavengers as well. It is really not necessary to add other scavengers or other bottom feeders to the aquarium when you have goldfish.

Along with the other egg-shaped goldfish, like the Fantail Goldfish, Ryukin Goldfish, and the Black Moor Goldfish, the Pearlscale Goldfish are slow swimmers. They cannot vigorously compete for food with fast swimming types of goldfish like the Common Goldfish, Comet Goldfish, and the Shubunkin. The Pearlscale will do best with similarly slow swimming tankmates.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Threat - Goldfish will eat many kinds of aquatic plants. In their constant search for food, they can end up uprooting plants that they don't eat.

Sex: Sexual differences

During the breeding season, the male has white prickles, called breeding tubercles, on its gill covers and head. Seen from above, a female will have a fatter appearance when she is carrying eggs. It is impossible to sex Goldfish when they are young and not in breeding season, but generally the male is smaller and more slender than the female.

Breeding / Reproduction

Pearlscale Goldfish are egg layers that spawn readily in the right conditions. They can be bred in groups as small as five individuals, but they are very social animals and likely to breed in larger groups as well. The only time Goldfish will spawn in the wild is when spring arrives. To spawn them in the aquarium, you will need to mimic the conditions found in nature.

Provide an aquarium that is at least 20 gallons and make sure the fish are healthy and disease free. Some breeders suggest you treat them for parasites. Many breeders will also separate the males and females for a few weeks prior to breeding to help increase their interest in spawning. Introduce the fish into the breeding tank at the same time. The tank will need a lush environment with solid surfaces for the spawning process and for the eggs to adhere to. Bushy, oxygenating plants, such as Anacharis, work well for this, though artificial plants or fibrous spawning mops can also be used.

To induce spawning, the temperature can be slowly dropped to around 60° F (11° C) and then slowly warmed at a rate of 3° F (2° C) per day until they spawn. Spawning generally begins when the temperatures are between 68° and 74° F (20°- 23° C). Feeding lots of high protein food such live brine shrimp and worms during this time will also induce spawning. Feed small amounts three times a day, but don't overfeed. Uneaten scraps will sink to the bottom and foul the water. Maintain the breeding tank with partial water changes of up to about 20% per day.

Before spawning, as the temperature increases, the male will chase the female around the aquarium in a non-aggressive way. This can go on for several days, and the fish will intensify in color. During the spawn, the fish will gyrate from side to side, and the male will push the female against the plants. This stimulates the female to drop tiny eggs which the male will then fertilize. The eggs will adhere by sticky threads to the plants or spawn mop. Spawning can last two or three hours and can produce up to 10,000 eggs.

At this point the parents will start to eat as many eggs as they can find. For this reason, it is best to remove the parents after spawning is complete. The fertilized eggs will hatch in 4 to 7 days, depending on the temperature. You can feed the newly hatched goldfish specialty fry foods until they become big enough to eat flake or brine shrimp, or you can offer the same food as you feed the parents as long as it is crushed very small. At first, the fry are a dark brown or black color in order to better hide and not be eaten by larger fish. They gain their adult color after several months and can be put in with larger fish once they reach about 1 inch long. See Breeding Freshwater Fish - Goldfish for more information on breeding Goldfish.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

In properly maintained goldfish aquariums or ponds, goldfish illness is largely preventable. Even so, goldfish illnesses can occur, and if left untreated, may prove fatal. Goldfish are hardy, though, and if treated in a timely manner, most will make a full recovery.

When treating individuals, it is usually best to move the afflicted fish into a separate tank with no gravel or plants and do regular partial water changes. However, if the disease is apparent throughout the main tank, it may be best to do the treatments there. Whether treating in a hospital tank or your main tank, read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for any medication. Some medications can adversely affect the water quality by destroying beneficial bacteria. You may also need to remove the carbon from the filtration system, as carbon will absorb many medications, making the treatment ineffective.

Goldfish diseases are mostly the same as those that afflict other freshwater fish, and the symptoms and treatment of goldfish are also similar. The main types of fish diseases include bacterial infections, fungal infections, parasites, and protozoa. There are also other ailments caused by injury, poor nutrition, or bad water conditions.

One of the more common problems is Ich, which is a protozoan disease. Ich is easy to identify because your fish looks like it is sprinkled with salt. Though Ich is easily treated, like other protozoan diseases, it can be fatal if not caught quickly. Some other protozoan diseases are Costia, which causes a cloudiness of the skin, and Chilodonella, which will cause a blue-white cloudiness on the skin.

External parasites are fairly common, too, but pretty easy to treat and usually not fatal when treated. These include flukes, which are flatworms about 1 mm long with hooks around their mouths. They infest the gills or body of the fish. Another type of parasite is fish lice (Argulus), flattened, mite-like crustaceans about 5 mm long that attach themselves to the body of the goldfish. Lastly, anchor worms look like threads coming out of the fish.

Some bacterial infections include Dropsy, an infection in the kidneys that can be fatal if not treated quickly. Fish Tuberculosis is indicated by the fish becoming emaciated (having a hollow belly). For this illness, there is no absolute treatment, and it can be fatal. Tail/Fin Rot may also be bacterial, though the reduced tail or fins can be caused by a number of factors as well. There is also fungus, a fungal infection, and Black Spot or Black Ich, which is a parasitic infection.

Swim Bladder Disease is an ailment indicated by fish swimming in abnormal patterns and having difficulty maintaining their balance. This can be caused by a number of things: constipation, poor nutrition, a physical deformity, or a parasitic infection. Feeding frozen peas (defrosted) has been noted to help alleviate the symptoms and correct the problem in some cases.

Other miscellaneous ailments include Cloudy Eye, which can be caused by a variety of things ranging from poor nutrition, bad water quality, and rough handling. It can also be the result of other illnesses, such as bacterial infections. Constipation is indicated by a loss of appetite and swelling of the body, and the cause is almost always diet. Then there are wounds and ulcers. Wounds can become infected, creating ulcers. Wounds can develop either bacterial or fungal infections, or both, and must be treated. There are treatments for each of these diseases individually and treatments that handle both. For more in-depth information about goldfish diseases and illnesses, see Goldfish Care; Fancy Goldfish and Goldfish Diseases.


The Pearscale Goldfish is inexpensive and readily available in fish stores and online. One variety called the Crown Pearlscale has the iridescent scales of the common Pearscale as well as a crown atop its head like the Oranda Goldfish. The Crown Pearlscale is sometimes available and can be expensive.


Author: David Brough CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Pearlscale Goldfish

david - 2015-10-12
I keep platy and whitecloude mino. With zebrafish. And 1 weatherloach. In cold water.

Brandy - 2015-07-23
I have 2 pearlscale gold fish. They swim great and are super cute. I have many tanks and all diff types of fish. My pearls have their own tank. And I am not sure on their behaviour. They swim but then one will float and not move about an inch from the top of the tank and the other will go and lay down on the bottom of the tank. And then after time they will swim again. Is this them sleeping?

  • Jose Antono - 2015-08-17
    I'm having the same problem with my baby Patches, i'm beginning to suspect water temp. My temp is at 76 f. What is your temp at?
Emily - 2007-12-07
I have 2 pearlscales, Delilah and Kallie. They are so adorable. Delilah is a red and white crowned and Kallie is calico. Deli is about 3 inches long with long beautiful flowing fins. I've had her for over a year and she was about 1" long when I bought her. The bigger she gets, the more golfball-shaped she gets. I just got Kallie a couple weeks ago. She is a little baby, not much bigger than a small bouncy ball. She wobbles when she swims which I find absolutely adorable. I don't know if she is crowned or not but she has short fins (a characteristic of the non-crowned variety). They are some of my favorite fish in my tank (they live in a 90 gal with 7 other fancies) because they are unusual looking and very elegant. Make sure you either soak their food for about 5 minutes before you give it to them or feed them sinking pellets. Because of their shape, they are prone to SBD. Feeding peas about 3 times a week (with covering of pea removed) is also good for goldfish so they don't get swim bladder disease.

Yvonne - 2013-11-08
My baby goldfish swims with its head up and goes round and round then drifts to the bottom of the tank.