Lionhead goldfish care: Tank Size, Lifespan, Diet & More


Lionhead goldfish are a unique and cute species that many freshwater aquarists are interested in. Due to their uncommon appearance, they’re always going to be a topic of discussion!

This guide covers the essential elements of lionhead goldfish care. You’ll learn about their size, lifespan, behavior, diet, and ideal tank size.

Species Summary

The lionhead goldfish, also known as the fat head goldfish, is a quirky little freshwater species that many aquarists love. This type of goldfish does not exist in the wild but belongs to the Asian carp family. It’s a fancy goldfish species like the ryukin, oranda, and ranchu.

Like those other fancies, the lionhead goldfish is a byproduct of selective breeding. It originated in Asia and was likely developed thousands of years ago by combining the genetics of wild carp.


A full-grown lionhead goldfish

While there is no such thing as a “wild” lionhead goldfish, these fish have preferences that match their genetic ancestors. Wild carp come from cool, slow-moving rivers, streams, and ponds. Modern fancy goldfish have similar preferences in captivity.

Lionhead goldfish care can be challenging for novice fish-keepers. They have distinct needs to meet. But if you’re up for the task, they’re a beautiful aquarium addition that can bring years of fun and whimsy.


The lionhead goldfish has an unmistakable appearance.

Let’s start with the body. Unlike wild carp’s sleek and streamlined bodies, these aquatic creatures have a bulbous shape. They have an egg-like silhouette with big bellies. The body is so round that it often causes the scales to stick out.

Their rounded shape tapers to the tailfin. These fish have a distinct fantail that’s common with fancy goldfish. It’s moderately sized but maintains that flowy appearance that many hobbyists love.

Another notable physical detail is the lack of a dorsal fin! Unfortunately, this anatomical quirk does affect the fish’s swimming ability. They’re notoriously uncoordinated and incapable of swimming fast or steadily.

Without a dorsal fin, the oddball shape is even more apparent. It creates a rounded hump, highlighting a distinct curve in the fish’s back.

The final noteworthy detail of the lionhead goldfish is its wen. A wen is a fleshy growth that surrounds the head. It creates a mane-like appearance, giving the fish its lion-inspired name.

Wen size and appearance can vary dramatically from fish to fish. Some specimens have barely any growths at all. Meanwhile, others can have massive wens that grow over the eyes, affecting visibility.

The growth has a similar texture to a raspberry. It’s bumpy and uneven. But despite how unappealing it might sound, large wens are often sought-after among goldfish collectors!

There’s as much variety as the wen when it comes to color. Most fish have that iconic golden-orange hue that people expect from goldfish. However, it’s rarely solid.

Author Note: Usually, you’ll see patches of white on the body and fin. Some are predominantly white and only have a slight accent of orange! Others will have a calico-like appearance, sporting shades of black, white, and orange.

This fish species has tons of beauty, and this variety makes them popular among hobbyists.

Average Lionhead Goldfish Size

The average lionhead goldfish size is between five to eight inches. However, it’s not uncommon to see these fish grow even bigger.

Some of the largest specimens recorded are around 10 inches long, so don’t be surprised if they exceed their average length when given proper care.


You can’t guarantee the number of years any fish will live. Genetics and exposure to disease all have a significant impact on the lifespan of these fish.

That said, the average lionhead goldfish lifespan is about 15 years. In rare instances, they can live up to 20 years!

To help your fish live to the upper end of the expectancy range, make sure to give them excellent care. Lionhead goldfish living in substandard conditions are more likely to die early.

Lionhead Goldfish Care

Lionhead goldfish care isn’t always easy due to its many distinct needs. They’re not particularly hardy and will not tolerate major fluctuations in their living conditions. As a result, these fish are best for aquarists with some experience.

But if you’re ready for the challenge, raising lionheads can be a rewarding experience. Follow these care guidelines to provide the best possible life and keep your fish healthy.

Tank Size

The first thing to do is choose an appropriately sized fish tank. A single lionhead goldfish needs a tank size of at least 20 gallons. Anything smaller, and you’ll run into stability issues with the water. Cramped living quarters can also cause problems with stress.

A 20-gallon tank is enough for a single lionhead goldfish. If you plan to keep more than one or establish a community tank, go bigger! More space is always welcome.

As a rule of thumb, add about 10 gallons of volume per fish. For community tanks, 50 gallons is a good starting point.

Author Note: Choose a tank that’s horizontally oriented. This species will swim around the entire water column. However, they have visibility issues. Pair that with their swimming difficulties, and a horizontal tank is much easier to navigate.

Water Parameters

Like other fancy goldfish, lionheads need a habitat resembling their ancestors’ living conditions. The wild carp used to breed the lionhead goldfish lived in cooler bodies of water. The tropical water parameters you would use for other freshwater fish will not cut it for the lionhead.

The most important thing to remember is that you must keep conditions stable. Fluctuations can lead to stress, allowing disease to take over. Lionhead goldfish are less adaptable than others, so you must monitor the tank regularly and perform weekly water changes to prevent the fish’s bioload from souring the water parameters.

Here are a few core parameters to get you started. As always, set up your tank ahead of time if possible and give it time to establish before acclimating your fish.

  • Water temperature: 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 8.0 (Aim for a neutral 7.0)
  • Water hardness: 5 to 20 KH

Tank Setup

Lionhead goldfish don’t need all the bells and whistles to stay happy. In fact, simpler is better for this species.

Author Note: These fish are prone to injury, and their lackluster swimming ability can cause problems in ornate tanks. Because of this, you must design your aquarium to be as safe as possible.

Start with a layer of sand or smooth rock substrate. Those materials offer plenty of design flexibility, but they won’t present a safety issue like gravel and other rough surfaces. If you prefer, you can keep the bottom bare. These fish won’t mind.

Plants are also an option. You can keep silk plants or living ones. However, keep in mind that goldfish often ruin living plants. They may dig the roots up or nibble on the leaves as a snack.

If you want to add items for enrichment, go for smooth rocks or plastic decorative items. Avoid anything rough or pointy. That leaves driftwood, rough stones, and other abrasive objects out of the question.

A lionhead goldfish swimming

Simple plastic caves or art deco decorations are fine if you ensure no harsh edges exist. Pointy objects are just waiting to cause physical injury!

In addition to decorative items, install all the necessary equipment to keep water conditions stable. That includes a solid filter to remove waste, water heat to maintain temperatures, and good lighting. It’s also a good idea to add a bubbler for aeration. However, make sure that it doesn’t create a strong current.

Common Possible Diseases

Unfortunately, these fish are susceptible to many diseases.

The good news is that practicing excellent lionhead goldfish care will drastically reduce the chance of this being an issue.

The most common ailment to affect any freshwater species is Ich. The stress-caused disease is highly contagious and quickly spreads to other fish in the enclosed environment. The most obvious symptom of Ich is white spots all over the body.

If you notice that your fish have Ich, quarantine them immediately and administer medications. Then, address the stress-inducing factors that caused Ich to take hold.

Lionhead goldfish can also suffer from many bacterial infections. They can encounter fin rot, resulting in frayed fins and even worsened swimming ability. Dropsy is common, too. It causes fluid buildup, swelling, and heart problems.

Fungal infections can occur as well. This species can develop fungal problems on their wen or other body parts if the water conditions aren’t right.

If the fish’s diet isn’t right, fish can experience severe constipation and bloat. That may graduate to swim bladder disease, negatively impacting the fish’s buoyancy.

Don’t let these possible health concerns scare you. Lionhead goldfish can experience many ailments, but they can also live perfectly healthy lives! It all depends on the quality of care you provide.

Food & Diet

These fish have a voracious appetite! Lionhead goldfish are opportunistic omnivores. They’ll eat just about anything and will continue to feed if given the opportunity.

Overeating is a significant problem with lionheads. You must be vigilant about how much food you provide and the quality offered.

The best approach is to feed these fish no more than twice per day. During each feeding, provide enough food they can consume in a minute or two. Any more than that, and you risk constipation issues.

So what should you feed a lionhead goldfish?

The easiest option is commercial food. There’s no shortage of nutritionally balanced flakes and pellets on the market. Anything formulated for fancy goldfish will do.

If you want to treat your fish, you can also offer high-protein snacks and blanched vegetables. Some good food items to feed include:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Tubifex
  • Daphnia
  • Peas
  • Romaine lettuce

Behavior & Temperament

You don’t have to worry about aggression with lionhead goldfish. They’re some of the most mellow species in the trade. And they couldn’t cause much trouble even if they wanted to!

Like we mentioned earlier, this species isn’t the best swimmer. They lack a dorsal fin for balance, resulting in a strange swimming pattern. They bob around slowly, exploring the tank and looking for items to eat.

They can encounter issues due to their poor eyesight. As a result, don’t be surprised if you see them bumping into the glass or decorative items. That’s why it’s important to avoid sharp objects that could cause injury.

Lionhead goldfish is the epitome of passive. They’re not known to be aggressive at any point. Even when breeding, they’re peaceful.

Tank Mates

You have many great options for tank mates, but they’re not necessary.

Lionhead goldfish are perfectly content living in solitude. You can create a single-fish tank if you’re limited in space. A lack of companions won’t negatively impact the fish in any way.

But, of course, it’s always nice to create a community tank. Thanks to their peaceful nature, these fish get along with others just fine. You can keep multiple lionheads or mix things up with other species.

Good tank mates for the lionhead goldfish include:

When looking for community fish to pair with them, avoid any aggressive or semi-aggressive species. Steer clear of fin-nippers, too. Lionhead goldfish aren’t capable of swimming out of harm’s way, so smaller fish with a knack for biting finds can cause trouble.

Other passive, slow-moving fish are the ideal tank mates. You can also consider smaller schooling fish to add some visual interest.


Breeding lionhead goldfish is pretty straightforward, but it does require some preparation.

It’s best to establish a breeding tank. It should be large enough to house a group of at least six fish. Replicate the water conditions of your main tank and consider adding spawning mops for the eggs.

Once you add your fish, give them time to get used to each other. Then, use your water heater to gradually increase the temperature until it reaches around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. That will trigger spawning.

Males chase females around, eventually nudging them with their heads. It’s part of the spawning process and usually causes no harm.

Females can lay thousands of eggs before the male fertilizes them. Once she lays her eggs, remove the adults. They will attempt to eat the eggs and the fry that hatch.

Eggs typically hatch within a week. The fry will absorb the egg sac before becoming free-swimming two days later. Provide them with powdered or liquid fry food before moving to baby brine shrimp and infusoria.

Closing Thoughts

Lionhead goldfish care can be challenging at times, but owning these fish is incredibly rewarding. All it takes is some dedication, work, and knowledge to help this species thrive!

If you have any questions about these unique pets, let us know! We’ll help you out as much as possible.


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