Best Lionhead Goldfish Tank Mates

Lionheads are a popular species of Fancy goldfish that can make an interesting addition to a community tank. 

Are Lionhead goldfish aggressive? How many Lionheads can live together, and can Lionhead goldfish live with other fish?

Read on to discover what fish make the best Lionhead goldfish tank mates.

What size tank do Lionhead goldfish need?

Lionhead goldfish are a type of large Fancy goldfish, growing to reach 6 to 7 inches long when fully grown. That means you’ll need a pretty big aquarium if you want to keep these unusual fish and some suitable tank mates. 

When tank hunting for Lionhead goldfish, you must remember that those cute little fish you see in your local fish store are only babies. Those inch-long juveniles will grow rapidly into large adults and will quickly outgrow a small fish tank.

We recommend that you begin with a 20 or 30-gallon aquarium. If you start smaller, you’ll quickly find yourself having to upsize to a larger tank, which will be costly in the long run.

For every extra goldfish you want to add, you’ll need to add a further 10 gallons to your tank size.

Filthy fish!

Another reason goldfish need a large tank is that these are filthy fish, generating a ridiculous amount of waste every day.

If you keep your Lionheads in a small tank, the water quality will rapidly deteriorate, and your fish’s health will begin to suffer. A larger tank with a powerful filtration system stays cleaner for longer, which is great news for your fish and saves on cleaning and maintenance time.

What tank shape is best for Lionhead goldfish?

Fish Tank with plant and fish swimming around

Lionheads are clumsy, slow swimmers, wobbling around the tank in a most ungainly fashion. To make matters worse, Lionheads do not have a dorsal fin, further compromising their swimming ability.

We recommend a long, rectangular fish tank that offers lots of swimming space for your Lionheads. Place any decorations around the perimeter of the tank so that the fish won’t bump into them.

Goldfish of all varieties need lots of dissolved oxygen in their water. A rectangular tank offers more surface area for efficient gaseous exchange, which is essential for these fish.

Deep tanks are best avoided. Lionheads need to swim to the surface to feed, and a deep tank makes that extremely challenging for them. If your fish can’t get enough to eat, they will quickly become stressed, leading to a compromised immune system, disease outbreaks, and a general failure to thrive.

Does the tank need a lid?

Adult Lionhead goldfish are too heavy and clumsy to jump out of their tank. However, when alarmed, juveniles have made an occasional flying leap onto the living room carpet!

For that reason, we recommend using a cover slide or hood for your fish tank. A lid also  keeps dust and foreign objects from falling into the water, as well as reducing evaporation.

How about a goldfish bowl?

Goldfish bowls should not be used for keeping goldfish!

A goldfish bowl is far too small and doesn’t offer sufficient space for a large goldfish to be happy. In fact, these days, goldfish bowls are regarded as inhumane by many vets and fish-keeping specialists.

In addition, goldfish bowls don’t offer enough surface area for good gaseous exchange. That’s a problem for goldfish since they need plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water to thrive.

Can Lionhead goldfish live in a garden pond?

Yes, theoretically, Lionheads can live in a garden pond. 

However, we don’t recommend that for the following reasons:

  • Lionheads are terrible swimmers and cannot compete with slim-bodied, fast-swimming pond fish, such as Comets and Shubunkins, when it comes to feeding time.
  • Lionhead and other similar Fancy goldfish species are easily injured in the hurly-burly that often ensues at feeding times. That can lead to the fish suffering from stress-related diseases and even death.
  • Lionheads have a large, fleshy growth on their heads called a wen. The wen is very prone to injury and is more likely to sustain damage when living in a pond than it is in an aquarium.
  • Lionheads are Fancy goldfish that prefer slightly warmer water than their slim-bodied counterparts. That means the fish can struggle to survive and remain healthy if kept outdoors in a region where the winter weather is harsh.

So, all in all, we don’t recommend keeping Lionhead goldfish in an outdoor pond. A large, well-equipped aquarium is much more suitable for these quirky fish.

Are Lionhead goldfish aggressive toward other fish?

No, none of the goldfish varieties are aggressive, and Lionheads are peaceful, sociable fish that love the company of other fish. 

Occasionally, newly-arrived juveniles can chase each other around a tank, sometimes singling out one individual fish. However, that’s unusual behaviour and generally disappears once the fish have settled into their new home.

You might see a male Lionhead chasing a female around the tank during spawning. That can result in the female becoming exhausted or even injured if the male becomes too enthusiastic. In those circumstances, it’s sometimes best to remove the female until the male settles down.

Pond plant

Can Lionhead goldfish live with tropical fish?

Thermometer stuck in ground

Lionhead goldfish enjoy somewhat warmer conditions than flat-bodied goldfish, which means you can keep a few tropical or temperate species with them if you want to create a varied community.

Tropical fish species that can make good tank mates for Lionheads include:

White Cloud Mountain minnows

White Cloud Mountain minnows are lively fish that can reach around 2 inches in length.

These fast swimmers can easily outrun the slower Lionheads, making them safe to keep in a community setup with these goldfish. That said, you should include plenty of dense plants and rocky hiding places where the minnows can take shelter if they need to. 


Platies are vibrantly coloured active livebearers that must live in schools of at least five individuals.

These fish breed pretty much constantly, so you’ll soon have a tank full of them. However, many of the fry will be eaten by your goldfish so that the Platy population explosion will be kept under control.

Rosy barbs

Unlike other species of barb, Rosy barbs are a peaceful schooling variety that can make a beautiful addition to your tank.

These tropical fish can reach 6 inches long, so you need an aquarium of at least 30 gallons if you want to keep Rosies.

River Murray Rainbowfish

If you’re looking for a fish that can live with your Lionhead goldfish and really make your tank pop with brilliant color, the River Murray Rainbowfish could be perfect for you!

These strikingly beautiful tropical fish do best in cooler temperate waters of approximately 70° Fahrenheit.

Checkered/Chequered barbs

These barbs aren’t often seen in home fish tanks, which is a shame, as these fish can make a lovely addition to an aquatic community.

Chequered barbs are schooling fish that must be kept in large groups of at least eight.

Zebra danios

Zebra danios are universally popular community fish that do well with slow-moving goldfish that can’t catch and eat them.

These fish must live in large schools and need water temperatures of 65° to 77°Fahrenheit. Be sure to provide these active little fish with plenty of thick plants and hardscapes to hide in.

Dojo loach

Dojo loaches, or Weather loaches, are nocturnal fish. These strange fish inhabit the bottom of the tank, hiding amid your plants and hardscape. 

If you see your Weather loaches darting around the tank, don’t panic! Your fish are not sick; they are reacting to changes in barometric pressure. So, if your loaches suddenly appear to go crazy, you can be sure a storm is coming!

Dojos can climb and are renowned escape artists, so you must have a large tank with a tight lid if you decide to go with these guys. 

Hillstream loach

Although Hillstream loaches are not nocturnal, you won’t see much of them as they spend most of their day lurking beneath pieces of wood and decorations.

Hillstream loaches like cool conditions of between 68° and 75°Fahrenheit.

Corydoras catfish

There are over 100 species of Corydoras catfish, many of which are good tank mates for Lionhead goldfish.

Corys amuse themselves for much of the day, searching through the substrate for scraps of food. Between bouts of activity, the fish lay motionless on the substrate, apparently resting before darting to the surface to grab a gulp of air.

You need to keep a group of at least five or six Corydoras catfish, ideally of the same species.

Best tank mates for Lionhead goldfish

Tropical fish are not to everyone’s taste, so what other fish make good tank mates for Lionheads?

We think that the best tank mates for Lionhead goldfish are other types of Fancy goldfish! Most Fancies are slow swimmers. That’s perfect for the Lionheads, as it means there’s less chance of their wen being damaged in a collision with a faster swimmer.

The following goldfish make suitable tank mates for Lionheads:

  • Celestial Eye
  • Pearlscale
  • Bubble Eye
  • Butterfly Tail
  • Dragon Eye
  • Butterfly Telescope 
  • Fantail
  • Oranda
  • Pom Pom
  • Ryukin
  • Ranchu
  • Tamasaba
  • Veiltail

Large shrimp species, such as Neocaridina or Cherry shrimp can live with goldfish, provided you include lots of dense planting in your tank where the shrimp can hide. Freshwater snails generally also get along well with Lionhead goldfish. 

As well as adding interest to your setup, shrimp and snails perform a useful role in the tank. As well as providing company for your goldfish, these inverts munch algae, general waste, and uneaten fish food. That helps to keep the tank clean and lightens the bioload, which helps your filtration system to cope better with the waste the fish produce.

That said, we advise against keeping small freshwater shrimp because your goldfish will most likely eat them!

Unsuitable tank mates for Lionhead goldfish

As previously mentioned, Lionhead goldfish are pretty poor swimmers. So, you should avoid keeping them with faster, slim-bodied goldfish such as Shubunkins and Comets.

Lionheads do not do well with semi-aggressive fish and fin nippers, as they are too slow to get away from bullies.

The golden rule for goldfish tank mate compatibility is to avoid anything that will fit into an adult Lionhead’s mouth!

How many fish should Lionhead goldfish live with?


All goldfish species are gregarious, sociable fish that must be kept in the company of at least one other fish. 

Ideally, your fish need to live in a large group to feel relaxed and secure. So, provided you have a very large tank, you can keep as many fish in your community as you want!

Avoid Overcrowding Your Fish!

Overcrowding is one of the most common causes of fish mortality and disease outbreaks.

If too many fish are crammed into a tank that’s too small, they will become stressed, especially if dissolved oxygen levels are low, the water is polluted, and feeding time is frenzied. 

Stressed fish can develop a suppressed immune system, leaving them susceptible to attack by diseases and parasites and preventing the fish from thriving as they should.

Separate Feeding

Competition for food is a major stressor for fish. In a crowded tank, the largest fish tend to grab the lion’s share of the food, leaving the smaller, slower fish to go hungry.

Feeding the fish at separate ends of the tank can work well, as the larger ones will gravitate to one end of the aquarium. That way, the smaller, weaker fish won’t miss out, and a feeding frenzy that could result in injury won’t take place.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide to the best Lionhead goldfish tank mates. If you did, please share the article!

Lionhead goldfish are sociable, peaceful fish that do best when kept with other varieties of Fancy goldfish or tropical fish that enjoy cooler water. Avoid keeping small shrimp, as your goldfish will probably make a meal out of them. Flat-bodied goldfish should also be avoided, as they are fast, agile swimmers that could outcompete your Lionheads at feeding times.

What tank mates do you keep with your Lionhead goldfish? Tell us in the comments box below.

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