Butterfly Tail Goldfish; Care Guide, Lifespan, and More

Butterfly Tail goldfish are a beautiful variety of Fancy goldfish well-known for their wide-lobed, spreading tail that resembles butterfly’s wings when viewed from above.

Although these goldfish can live in an outdoor pond, their delicate tails can make them vulnerable to damage and infection, so they are best suited to life in a well-maintained fish tank. 

If you like the idea of introducing a few of these flamboyant, gorgeous creatures to your coldwater tank, we have all the information you need!

Read this guide to learn everything you need to know about caring for and breeding the Butterfly Tail goldfish.

Origins Of The Butterfly Tail Goldfish

Goldfish are thought to come from China. The fish are distantly related to a wild Prussian carp species kept in ponds and raised as a food fish during the early 1700s. 

It’s thought that early fish keepers noticed a few bright orange specimens among the carp and kept them as ornamental pond fish. The fish were bred and crossbred, eventually producing different forms, and by the 1800s and early 1900s, goldfish were being traded across Japan, Europe, and the US.

In the early 1980s, Butterfly Tail Fancy goldfish appeared in the hobby, quickly gaining popularity as show fish. 

What is a Butterfly Tail Goldfish?

The Butterfly Tail goldfish is just one of over 200 varieties of goldfish that exist in the hobby today. 

These stunningly beautiful fish are so named for their broad-lobed tail that spreads out to resemble a butterfly’s wings. This breed of Fancy goldfish was originally developed to be admired from above, and you can enjoy the best view of that gorgeous tail from that perspective.

The Butterfly Tail goldfish has a tall dorsal fin that’s usually carried upright, and sometimes, the fish has a hump behind its head, rather like a Ryukin goldfish. The fish’s body is stocky and deep, with the characteristic egg shape of all Fancy goldfish types. Butterfly Tail goldfish also come in a variety called the Butterfly Telescope goldfish or Butterfly Moor goldfish with strange, protruding eyes.

Goldfish do not occur in nature. So, if you do spot one swimming in a pond in your local park, it’s most likely a pet fish that has outgrown its owner’s aquarium and been released into the wild.   

Butterfly Tail Goldfish Lifespan

In common with their wild carp ancestors, all goldfish species are relatively long-lived creatures that can survive for up to 30 years.

However, Butterfly Tail Fancy goldfish generally live for between ten and 15 years. That said, a lifespan of 20 years is not unheard of if the fish are provided with optimum living conditions and a high-quality, varied diet.

What Size Are Butterfly Tail Goldfish?

Butterfly Tail goldfish grow to an average of between 5 and 8 inches in length. 

However, the tiny, inch-long specimens you buy from your local fish store are juveniles of three to six months old, and they do grow pretty quickly! In fact, that cute toddler will easily double in length in just a few weeks, so you must bear that in mind when choosing a fish tank for your goldfish. 

Colors And Patterns

The Butterfly Tail goldfish is available in a wide range of colors and patterns, including:

  • Red
  • Red and white
  • Calico
  • Black-and-white (Panda)
  • Blue
  • Matte white
  • Lavender

The Butterfly Tail goldfish can have metallic or nacreous scales, although a rare matte white version is sometimes seen.

Price And Availability

Butterfly Tail Goldfish are generally readily available to buy in good pet stores for $10 or more, depending on the quality and age of the fish. 

You can also buy these fish from breeders who advertise their livestock online. If you buy direct from a breeder, you can often find more unusual patterns and colors, although these specimens will be more expensive.

Is The Butterfly Tail Goldfish Suitable For Beginners?

Although Butterfly Tail goldfish are relatively straightforward to care for, the breed has seen considerable hybridization. The more crossbreeding that takes place, the more delicate the variety becomes. So, if you decide to take on some of these beauties, you must be aware of that.

Also, goldfish don’t have a stomach. The fish takes its nutrition directly from its food as the food passes through the creature’s digestive system. That means that goldfish are basically swimming garbage disposal systems, continually eliminating huge amounts of waste as they move through the water.

To cope with and process that volume of waste you will need a highly efficient biological and mechanical filter system. You’ll also need to carry out partial water changes every week to remove harmful nitrates from the water.

Butterfly Tail Goldfish Care Guide

In this part of our guide, you’ll discover how to look after these charming fish.

Tank Size

Butterfly Tail goldfish can reach quite a large size, sometimes growing to 8 inches long. 

Contrary to popular belief, goldfish don’t grow to fit the size of their tank. And if you keep your goldfish in a tank that’s too small, problems often arise in the form of poor and abnormal growth. Fancies generally grow very quickly throughout the first few years of life, so it’s a good idea to buy a large tank from the get-go. 

For Butterfly Tail goldfish, we recommend at least a 20-gallon tank. If you plan on keeping more Fancies, you need to increase that aquarium size by ten gallons per fish.

Tank Shape

Fancy goldfish are clumsy swimmers who cope better in a long, shallow tank than tall, deep ones. 

Goldfish swim in all areas of the water column, and if the tank is too deep, your Butterfly Tail goldfish will struggle to reach the surface to feed, being dragged down by their heavy finnage. These fish need a lot of oxygen, and a long, rectangular tank provides a larger surface area for better gaseous exchange than a tall, narrow one.

Round-bodied Fancy goldfish don’t generally jump, especially large mature specimens. However, we recommend that you choose an aquarium that has a lid or cover slide. Keeping the tank covered ensures that the water won’t become polluted with dust and can help to prevent evaporation.

Never keep any goldfish species in a bowl! 

Traditional goldfish bowls are not suitable for goldfish. A bowl does not provide adequate swimming space for goldfish, and the surface area is too small for efficient gaseous exchange.

How Many Butterfly Tail Goldfish Can You Keep?

Goldfish of all species appreciate the company of other goldfish. However, these fish are quite curious and active, spending much of their day exploring and scavenging around their tank. For that reason, you need to provide plenty of space for the fish. If the tank is overcrowded, the fish are susceptible to injury, stress, disease, and stunted growth.

Basically, you need to allow 1 inch of fish per 1 gallon of water in your aquarium. 

Water Parameters

Butterfly Tail goldfish prefer cool water between 65o and 72o Fahrenheit. The water pH level should be in the range of 6.0 to 8.0, and the water hardness needs to be between 5 and 19 dGH.

Levels of ammonia and nitrite must be zero, and nitrate levels should ideally be below 20ppm. 


The Butterfly Tail is a very dirty goldfish that generates a surprising amount of waste every day. So, to cope with that, you’ll need a highly efficient filter system in your fish tank that can circulate the water around the aquarium at least four times every hour.

Thanks to their round bodies and heavy finnage, Butterfly Tail goldfish are dreadful swimmers that cannot cope with a strong water flow through their environment. However, you still need a powerful filter to move the water across the mechanical and biological filter media in the system. If possible, choose a filtration system that has an adjustable outflow valve or use ornaments and plants to buffer the current.

Tank Maintenance

Good housekeeping and regular tank maintenance are essential for your Butterfly Tail goldfish to thrive and grow well. 

You need to perform partial water changes of up to 30% every week to remove nitrates from the water that would otherwise harm your fish and overload the biological filter. We recommend that you use an aquarium vacuum to simultaneously remove uneaten food, plant debris, and solid waste from the tank. Waste hotspots include underneath ornaments, beneath internal filter units, and around plant bases.

If you have living plants in your setup, you’ll need to remove dead leaves and broken stems. Algae should be scraped from the front and side viewing panes so that you can get the best view of your fish. However, you can leave a small covering of algae on the rear glass to provide a grazing area for the goldfish.

Tank Decoration

As mentioned earlier, goldfish do not occur in the wild environment. That means you can choose whatever aquarium décor scheme you want. However, if you keep Butterfly Tail goldfish, you must remember a few critical things when decorating your tank.


Butterfly Tail goldfish have spectacular, floating tails that can be vulnerable to snagging on sharp or rough objects in the tank. 

A natural decoration theme looks gorgeous and can make the most of your brightly colored fish’s looks. So, use smooth rocks, pebbles, and driftwood as ornaments. Steer clear of spiky, twisted roots and decorations with abrasive surfaces that could injure a trailing tail.

Your substrate should be smooth, large gauge gravel.

What About Plants?

Living plants work well in any fish tank. Plants oxygenate the water, remove carbon dioxide, and suck up nitrates to use as fertilizers. However, goldfish of all species are notorious plant destroyers!

Butterfly Tail goldfish love to dig, rooting through the gravel in search of food and uprooting your plants as they do so. Also, goldfish are omnivorous and love nothing more than a tasty young plant shoot to munch on. 

That said, hardy plant species, such as Anubias and Java fern, are too tough for goldfish to find appetizing, and Marimo Moss Balls are pretty much indestructible, too.  

If you don’t want the hassle of caring for plants, as well as looking after goldfish, you could consider using silk plants instead of living ones. That way, the fish won’t eat the plants, and any that are uprooted can easily be replanted. 

We don’t recommend using plastic plants in a Fancy goldfish tank. Some plastic plants have sharp edges or points that can easily snag your Butterfly Tail goldfish’s fins, causing injury and leaving the fish open to bacterial infection.


Fish don’t need light to survive. However, if you include living plants in your aquarium, they need a minimum of eight hours of light each day to photosynthesize. 

Also, fish benefit from a clear night/day cycle that basically tells the creatures when they should eat and sleep. If the fish are deprived of that cycle, they are likely to become stressed, which damages the fish’s auto-immune system, potentially causing long-term health problems.

If you don’t have an aquarium lighting unit with an automatic timer, you can use a cheap timer plug that you’ll find at your local hardware or DIY store.

Nutrition and Feeding

Butterfly Tail goldfish are omnivores that enjoy a varied diet of both meaty protein and plant matter, including some algae.

A good basic diet for your goldfish should include frozen meaty foods, high-quality Fancy goldfish flakes and pellets, and some blanched fresh vegetables, such as peas, zucchini, and lettuce every now and then as a treat. The fish will also enjoy grazing on green algae, on decorations and the rear viewing pane in your tank, so you don’t need to clear all the algae away.

The daily inclusion of meaty food is very important in the Fancy goldfish’s diet. Because of the creature’s round body shape, the fish’s digestive system is extremely prone to constipation and bloating. That often affects the Fancy goldfish’s swim bladder, making it impossible for the fish to swim on an even keel.

What About Live Foods?

In a garden fish pond, goldfish will take insect larvae, insects, small crustaceans, worms, and the like that they find in their environment. You can buy live foods for your fish from fish stores. However, those living foods often come with unwanted extras in the form of parasites and bacteria that could harm your fish.

For that reason, we recommend that you use frozen food for your goldfish rather than live food unless you have a home brine shrimp hatchery.

How Much To Feed Butterfly Tail Goldfish

Butterfly tail goldfish should be fed two or three small meals each day.

You should give your fish only what they will eat in two or three minutes to avoid overfeeding them.

What Are Good Tank Mates For Butterfly Tail Goldfish?

All goldfish species are gregarious, sociable creatures that are best when kept in groups. Different goldfish varieties can be mixed in a tank or pond. However, we don’t recommend mixing slim-bodied goldfish with egg-shaped Fancies. 

Fancy goldfish, such as Butterfly Tails, are notoriously poor swimmers that lack the agility and speed of their slim-bodied relatives. That can mean that the Fancy goldfish miss out at feeding times and can sustain injuries during the melee. The stress that causes can lead to outbreaks of disease among your fish.

You can add a few invertebrates, including snails and larger shrimp varieties, to your setup. But avoid using very small shrimp and tiny fish, as the goldfish will probably eat them! Fin nippers that might attack your Butterfly Tail’s trailing finnage should be avoided. 

Health and Diseases

All goldfish are fairly hardy creatures that are pretty easy to keep healthy, provided that you keep their environment clean and feed them a balanced, high-quality diet. However, all pet fish can be affected by a few common health problems:

White Spot Disease

White Spot Disease is sometimes called Ich or Ick.

The parasite that causes Ich is found in most freshwater and marine fish tanks. However, the parasite doesn’t become active unless you have fish that are already weakened by stress or disease. 

Infected fish initially flick or “flash” against ornaments and the substrate as they try to dislodge the irritating parasites from their skin. As the Ich parasites’ life cycle progresses, the fish develop a rash of minute white dots like grains of salt across their body, fins, and gill covers.

You can easily treat White Spot Disease with an over-the-counter fish medication that you can buy from good fish stores or online.

Bacterial Infections

Fish that are weak or stressed can be susceptible to bacterial infections. Symptoms can vary, depending on the species of bacteria that are responsible, but signs of infection can include:

  • Ulcers
  • Inflamed skin patches
  • Lethargy
  • Frayed or ripped fins
  • Lost scales
  • Poor appetite
  • Breathing difficulties

You can treat most bacterial infections with a broad-spectrum antibacterial drug.


The term “fluke” covers various species of external parasites that can affect fish, including:

  • Anchor worms
  • Fish lice
  • Skin flukes

Flukes generally find their way into your fish tank attached to new fish, live food, or plants. The easiest way to keep flukes out of your aquarium is to put anything new into a quarantine tank for a couple of weeks and treat the water with an appropriate antiparasitic drug. 

Breeding Butterfly Tail Goldfish

As long as their living conditions are suitable and the fish are fed a high-quality, varied diet, all goldfish species breed fairly easily.

Before you embark on a Butterfly Goldfish breeding project, you’ll need a mixture of mature male and female fish. But how do you tell the difference between the sexes? 

Well, female goldfish are usually fatter and rounder-bodied than males. Male goldfish develop tubercles or white prickly growths on their head and gill covers when in breeding condition and are usually more slender than females.

Spawning Tank

If you decide to try breeding your Butterfly Tail goldfish, we recommend that you set up a dedicated spawning tank. A 20-gallon tank or larger is best, as that gives the fish plenty of space and thus prevents stress, making successful spawning more likely.

Goldfish can be brought into breeding condition by feeding them a generous high-protein diet for a couple of weeks prior to spawning. Many breeders like to keep the sexes separate during that time, theorizing that separation makes the fish more likely to breed when they are introduced.

The water in the spawning tank should be warm. The increase in water temperature during the spring usually triggers breeding in wild carp, and the same is true of domestic goldfish. Gradually increase the water temperature by a few degrees each day until it reaches between 68o and 74o Fahrenheit. The tank should be well-planted, with a few spawning mops or flat rocks included as egg laying locations.

Keep the environment pristine by carrying out 20% water changes every day until the fish start spawning.


When the fish spawn, the male Butterfly Tail goldfish chases the female around the tank, shimmying his body against hers to encourage her to lay her eggs. When the eggs are released, the male fertilizes them. The fish usually spawn over a few hours, and the female can lay up to 10,000 eggs. Unfortunately, goldfish are not good parents, and they will eat the eggs if you don’t prevent them from doing so by removing the fish as soon as the eggs are fertilized.

The fry should emerge after a week or so and are immediately free-swimming. You can feed your baby fish on fry food until they are large enough to eat finely crushed goldfish flakes, spirulina, and live baby brine shrimp.

Once the fish are around an inch or so in length, you can put them into your main aquarium with their parents. Juvenile goldfish are usually a drab bronze or brown color, only developing their adult coloration at a couple of months old. However, it can be up to two years before your Butterfly Tail goldfish show their true adult colors and patterns.

Final Thoughts

Butterfly Tail goldfish are beautiful coldwater fish that are best enjoyed from above when their gorgeous, spreading tail fins can be viewed in their full glory.

These goldfish are pretty easy to care for. Keep the Butterfly Tail goldfish in a group of similar types, feed them a high-quality, varied diet, keep the tank water clean, and your fish will thrive! You’ll need a tank of at least 20 gallons with a powerful filter system to process the waste products the fish produce.

Do you keep Butterfly Tail goldfish? Are they kept in a tank or a garden pond? Tell us about your fish in the comments box below.

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