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Butterfly Goldfish: Pictures, Care Guide, Varieties, Lifespan & More

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

Butterfly Goldfish

There’s a breed of goldfish that’s sweeping the globe with popularity: it’s the Butterfly goldfish.

Once virtually unknown, goldfish hobbyists everywhere are now dying to get their hands on them. It only takes one look at the websites of the suppliers that offer high-end goldfish, and you’ll see for yourself how it seems that Butterflies get snatched up faster than you can say, “Take my money!”

(Psst – check out our list of the top places to buy goldfish for sale if you are looking to purchase yourself a beautiful Butterfly!)

Red and white, solid white, or Panda? Goldfish enthusiasts are powerless to resist!

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Many of the most expensive ones are currently imported from Asia (after all, the breed was originally developed in China), though breeders in the US are starting to jump on board as well. Put in the spotlight in recent years by Jennifer Lynx of Solid Gold with her HD Youtube videos, it’s not hard to see that butterflies are truly a beautiful and exotic breed of goldfish that make a statement. It’s easy to spend all day watching them swim.

Today I’m going to give you the scoop on this lovely variety—and I won’t hold anything back. Let’s dive in!

Image Credit: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shutterstock
Image Credit: sakharumoowan, Shutterstock

Exotic Characteristics of Butterfly Tail Goldfish

Butterflies are a short-bodied fancy breed with a relatively deep body and a horizontally set tail. Seen from the side, the tails might not be much to look at but viewed from above, the lobes are spread out in the shape of a butterfly with outspread wings.

Hence, the name “Butterfly.” 😉

The breed was originally developed to be viewed from above, but most hobbyists are keeping them in side-view aquariums. Perhaps the benefit of this is that as the fish ages, the tail fin tends to grow fuller and droop on the sides more, so it becomes more visible.

The dorsal fins are usually pretty tall, and sometimes the back seems to have almost a Ryukin-like hump behind the head. In fact, the Ryukin may have been one of the breeds used to create the Butterfly and may have contributed to its deep body along with the characteristic hump. Many Butterflies also have telescope eyes and are sometimes referred to as “Butterfly moor goldfish.”

While young spunky Butterflies are fun to watch, there’s nothing quite like the grandeur of a mature one with its fins full-grown as it moves slowly through the water. Color varieties of this breed are commonly self-colored red, red and white, and calico. But newer, more unusual patterns are emerging as more breeders are taking up the breed, especially lavender, blue, matte white, panda and tri-color.

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How to Take Good Care of Your Butterfly in 4 Steps

This breed is arguably one that has seen considerable hybridization. The more that happens, the more delicate the species becomes. That’s because they are further away from their natural wild state. All of the modified body characteristics that make the beautiful breed what it is today can work against the owner if you aren’t careful.

So, if you want to keep Butterflies, it’s really important to make sure you have everything just right to prevent infection and constipation, two issues they are prone to. But with the right diet and proper conditions, you will be on your way to a healthy, happy fish!

Butterfly tail goldfish from above
By Syberspace (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Choosing the Best Housing

Ponds are probably NOT a good option because the fish are such slow swimmers. They can’t escape from predators easily and don’t appreciate having to swim long distances. The frigid winter temperatures can also be very hard on them. So it’s a good idea to choose an aquarium that gives them enough water volume to keep clean conditions, but not one that is very deep (putting more pressure on them) or too oversized (requiring them to swim further to get to food).

The rule of thumb, 10-20 gallons per fancy fish, will do fine. Oh, and remember, please never put your goldfish, Butterfly or otherwise, in a bowl! No matter how cute it might be, the fish will never be able to live a full, happy life.

If you're new to the world of goldfish or are an experienced goldfish keeper that loves to learn more, we recommend you check out our best-selling book, The Truth About Goldfish, on Amazon.

From diagnosing illnesses and providing correct treatments to ensuring your goldies are happy with their setup and your maintenance, this book brings our blog to life in color and will help you to be the best goldfishkeeper you can be. 

The Importance of Water Temperature

Like most fancies, Butterfly tail goldfish do best on the warmer side of the temperature spectrum. About 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for year-round comfort. If the water does get colder in the winter, make sure it doesn’t drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold water can lead to a shorter lifespan (and often health problems) if they get too chilled. That said, a butterfly (with good care) will live 5–7 years on average.

Are Butterfly Goldfish Good Tank Mates?

Butterflies are perhaps one of the most delicate breeds of goldfish. They can have trouble competing with more athletic varieties, especially when they have telescopic eyes, which results in poor vision. So stay away from mixing them with slim-bodied fish like the Common or Comet. And of course, be sure to only stay within the goldfish species when selecting which ones to keep together.

They should be fine with slower-swimming fancies such as the Veiltail, Ranchu, or Lionhead. Some seem to do well with long-finned Ryukins as companions. An all-Butterfly tank is especially stunning as well, and they seem to enjoy the company of their own kind.

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What to Feed Your Butterfly Goldfish

A good diet will go a long way in making sure your Butterfly stays healthy long-term. Protein is important for building muscle mass, but too much can lead to digestive trouble. Especially for fish with more compact bodies, lots of fibrous veggies in addition to a quality staple diet are important to prevent constipation issues. Click here to read more about goldfish food.

Breeding & Reproduction

I’ll be brutally honest with you, spawning Butterflies is no easy task for most people. It typically requires subjecting the fish to a period of colder weather, followed by a warm-up in order to simulate the onset of spring. With an abundance of food (without crossing the line into overfeeding), perfect water quality, and a good mix of males and females, chasing can result in thousands of little eggs showering the aquarium or pond.

If you are successful enough to be able to raise them from fry to adulthood, it can be a very rewarding hobby. Butterflies can be rather clumsy when it comes to the spawning process due to their inhibited swimming abilities and round abdomens, and it’s actually pretty fun to watch.

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Now I Want to Hear from You

The Butterfly goldfish is certainly a stunner, and it’s no wonder why they are even attracting new fish keepers to the hobby. Have you ever owned a Butterfly tail goldfish? Are you thinking about getting one for your tank? I’d love to hear what you think! Leave your comment below.

Featured Image Credit: stupphips, Shutterstock

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