The lionhead goldfish is the oldest and arguably the most popular of the dorsal-less goldfish breeds. They have short fins, double caudal and anal fins, and a more rounded body. Very rarely there can be a long tailed Lionfish Goldfish born.
Bred in China to depict the image of the mythical lion-dog, the lionhead is characterized by the ‘wen’, or head growth, that covers its head. Each Lionhead Goldfish can grow a different sized wen. Some can have one that is so large it impairs their vision and others can have very small ones.
The lionhead comes in a variety of colors ranging from red, orange, chocolate, blue and black and calico, bi-colored and tri-colored variants.
The lionhead is almost identical in appearance to the ranchu goldfish and is in fact the predecessor to the Japanese bred strain. The lionhead, however, has a larger head growth in comparison to the Ranchu and its back isn’t as rounded. All of the round bodied goldfish are decedents of the Chinese bred carp called “Eggfish” or the Maruko in Japan. It is very hard to find either of the decedent breeds in the U.S.
Lionhead temperament and care
While younger lionheads do not require any special care, older lionheads with larger head growths require a certain amount of special attention and aren’t recommended for beginner aquarists. They prefer their water to be above 60F and they have a low tolerance for pollution in the water so having adequate filtration is necessary.
The thickening of the head growth as the fish grows older can often obscure their eyes and gills, impeding their vision and breathing. It is therefore crucial to ensure that the lionhead aquarium is adequately oxygenated. The wen is also prone to infections and will need to be treated properly if they occur.
Because of their bulky bodies and lack of a stabilizing dorsal fin, lionheads are also one of the poorest swimmers of all the fancy goldfish types. For this reason, lionheads should not be kept with faster swimming fish. Ideal tank mates for the lionhead include Bubble Eye goldfish, Celestial Eye goldfish and Telescope Eye goldfish.
Lionheads aren’t as agile as other species of goldfish and often blunder into decorations and injure themselves. It’s therefore important to make sure that no decorations or plants in the lionhead aquarium have sharp edges. They enjoy rooting around at the bottom of the tank and will uproot plants if put into the enclosure so it is recommended to have silk plants.
Lionheads, like all goldfish, are omnivores and will readily accept any plant or animal matter based food. A high protein diet will encourage more vibrant colors and greater hood growth in lionheads.
Breeding lionhead goldfish
Like most other fancy goldfish varieties, Lionheads aren’t exceptionally difficult to breed and can be encouraged to spawn given the right conditions of a healthy diet, adequate tank space and appropriate water temperatures. They will readily eat their eggs after they are fertilized, however, so it is important that the eggs be removed from the tank or the parents be placed into a separate tank. It is possible that upwards of 10,000 eggs will be laid at one time.
Choosing lionhead goldfish
When selecting a lionhead, it’s important to look for fish with a body depth of ½ or more of their body length. The lionhead’s back should be a smooth and shallow arch from head to tail with no ridges or spikes. A lionhead’s hood should be full, dense and symmetrical on all sides.