Ornamental fish are those fish species kept in ponds, water gardens, and aquariums primarily due to their beauty. The most common of the ornamental fish is the goldfish, a type of freshwater fish from the carp family. The ornamental fish exists in different shapes, coloration, and size due to centuries of selective breeding. The origins of the goldfish can be traced back to ancient China where the selective breeding on the Asian carp begun.
Goldfish originated in ancient China where the Asian Carp fish species were found to produce color mutations resulting in yellow, orange, and redfish instead of the usual silver coloration. The special coloration was first recorded in the 4th Century CE during the Jin Dynasty. The fish species had become favorite in ponds by the Tang Dynasty. However, selective breeding of goldfish was done during the Song Dynasty. By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the popularity of goldfish as ornamental fish had spread outside of China, reaching Japan in 1603 and Portugal in 1611. From Portugal, the goldfish was introduced to other regions of Europe where it became a status symbol. The ornamental fish was introduced to North America in the 19th Century, reaching the United States by the 1850s.
In captivity, goldfish will usually shy away from human interaction, but they grow accustomed to their owners. The fish has been found exhibiting ‘excitement’ behaviors such as swimming to the surface or swimming rapidly around the aquarium or bowl when the owners approach them. Some fish species rival the goldfish in cognitive abilities, as goldfish have been found to have both social learning skills and associative learning skills. With specialized training, goldfish are capable of identifying different colors and sounds, and can even perform tricks. Scientists state that the memory spans in goldfish go back at least three months.
Goldfish come in different varieties differing in color, eye configuration, and shapes of their bodies. The emergence of these varieties has been made possible by centuries of selective breeding, which has resulted in an estimated 300 goldfish varieties. Examples of these varieties include the Chinshurin, the Fantail, the Lionhead, the Black telescope, the Oranda, the Choten Gan, the Comet-tailed, the Veiltail, the Dragon Eye, and the Japanese Ranchu. However, the Chinese tradition has four classifications of goldfish based on their anatomical features, and these are the Dragon Eye for fish with protruding eyes; the Crucian for fish which have the normal anatomical features; the Egg for fish which do not have dorsal fins; and the Wen for fish with fancy tail fins.
The record for the largest goldfish is held by a fish found in the Netherlands that was, in 2008, measured to be 18 inches in length. Another exceptionally-large goldfish was one caught in Poole, England which was 16 inches in length and 5 pounds in weight. An important aspect to note is that these two large individuals were both living in the wild as goldfish rarely attain such sizes while living in captivity. However, an exception was a goldfish known as ‘Goldie’ which despite living in a tank was two pounds in weight and 15 inches in length.