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Imperial Goldfish: Care Guide, Varieties, Lifespan & More (with Pictures)

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By Lindsey Stanton

carassius auratus_slowmotiongli_shutterstock

The Imperial Goldfish is an experimental species. Because of its experimental nature, it can take many forms, shapes, and colors, but tends to have metallic scales like the Shubunkin, and it often has a matte band around the center of the body. It has a body shape similar to that of the Sabao. This species has not yet been released to the market, but you may find some examples if you shop around carefully.

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Quick Facts about Imperial Goldfish

Species Name: Carassius auratus
Family: Cyprinidae
Care Level: Easy
Temperature: 65° – 75° F
Temperament: Peaceful
Color Form: Red, orange, yellow, black, gray, white, brown, blue
Lifespan: 5–30 years
Size: 5”–15”
Diet: Flakes, pellets, gel, freeze-dried foods, frozen foods, fresh foods
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons for two fish
Tank Set-Up: Tank, filter, sand, rocks, plants, hides
Compatibility: Lives well with peaceful goldfish and other tank fish

Imperial Goldfish Overview

The Imperial Goldfish is a cross between the Bristol shubunkin and the single-tailed red metallic Veiltail Goldfish. The Veiltail itself is an experimental fish, which shows the rarity of the resulting Imperial Goldfish. Although there are no strict standards for this experimental genus of goldfish, which means that it can come in any shape or color, there are some emerging trends that have been witnessed. The Imperial tends towards the metallic red of the Veiltail, but this species differs from many others in that it has metallic scale centers and matte edges. They often have bands across the entire length of their body. They have a large tail, similar to that of the Shubunkin. Young and juvenile Imperials may have black bands, but these will usually fade to a solid red by the time they age or mature.

They share many of the same properties as Shubunkins. The hardy fish will survive with most types of food and are happy in cooler waters, which means that they are suitable for living in ponds as well as tanks.

Imperial Goldfish are usually sociable, so they will be able to live in groups. They tend to do better with other fast-swimming fish because they are fast-swimming themselves, and they will tend to eat the food of slower swimming tank dwellers.

How Much Do Imperial Goldfish Cost?

Imperial Goldfish are not available for general sale, because they remain an experimental species of fish. Some examples may be found in general populations, but until the species has developed fully, they will be difficult to get hold of outside of British and US-based breeders that are hoping to advance the Imperial Goldfish. However, the Imperial Goldfish may be available in general stock, in which case they will be available for anywhere from $1 to $10 or more.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

The Imperial Goldfish is a fast-swimming fish and is considered a sociable addition to the tank. He should live with other fast swimmers, however, otherwise, he will eat all the food before the slow swimming inhabitants get their share of the meal. The Imperial is attractive to look at and will usually get along with other inhabitants without attacking or nibbling at them.

Carassius auratus_boban_nz_shutterstock
Image Credit: boban_nz, Shutterstock

Appearance & Varieties

The Imperial Goldfish is not an official species…yet. This means that there are no standards regarding the appearance and color points of a typical Imperial. With that said, they usually adopt the red color of the Veiltail. They may also have black blotches when younger, but these normally disappear to leave a solid red. However, as the Imperial is a cross between the Veiltail and a Shubunkin, it can adopt any of these colors and markings.aquarium plant divider

How to Take Care of Imperial Goldfish

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

The Shubunkin is a hardy fish, and the Imperial is likely to adopt the same properties. The Imperial will require a tank with a minimum volume of 30 gallons for two fish, which gives them enough room to swim quickly around the tank. They will enjoy additional space, and larger tanks will require less frequent cleaning. A larger tank is not only easier to clean, but it allows for more environmental additions.

The water for this type of fish needs to be between 65°-75° Fahrenheit for optimal conditions, but the Imperial Goldfish is likely to survive in colder water temperatures as well. However, if the water gets as cold as 50° F they may enter torpor. If this occurs, simply warm the water to liven the fish up. If you keep the tank in good condition, your Imperial should live for around 15 years but can live longer than this in ideal conditions.

Water pH needs to be between 6.0 and 8.0 with hardness between 5 and 19 dGH.

Shubunkin-style fish can live with any type of substrate including gravel. They will appreciate medium-sized gravel because it enables them to sift through the substrate to find food flakes.

This type of fish can be very messy, so you will need a good tank filtration system. You will also need to clean and change the water regularly to maintain good fish health.

When it comes to plants, the Shubunkin may rip up slow-growing roots to look for food. Quick-growing plants are more effective for this type of fish, as well as for the Imperial.

Image Credit: Waraphorn Aphai, Shutterstock

Are Imperial Goldfish Good Tank Mates?

Although the Imperial Goldfish is a friendly tankmate and will not usually attack any of the other fish you keep, they are agile and fast swimmers, and they will eat all of the food in the tank before slower swimmers have the opportunity.

It is possible to keep them with slower fish, but you will have to watch your stock and feed at different times to ensure that all of your fish are eating properly. Keeping different types of fish that eat at different speeds is a good way of ensuring an entertaining and enjoyable tank.

Carassius auratus Goldfish_gunungkawi_shutterstock
Image Credit: gunungkawi, Shutterstock

What to Feed Your Imperial Goldfish

Imperial Goldfish are hardy and generally happy eaters. They will do well-eating flakes because they are quick and alert enough to eat the food before it reaches the substrate and before other fish eat it. They also enjoy foraging in medium-sized gravel, so they will also enjoy eating pellets because they can hoover these up from the base of the tank. Fresh food and freeze-dried foods, including mealworms, also make a good treat for your Imperials.

Keeping Your Imperial Goldfish Healthy

The Imperial Goldfish is likely to be a messy fish, which means that you will have to clean and change their water often to keep them happy and healthy. If one of your fish becomes ill, you will need to act quickly to separate them from the rest of the fish stock, too. Fin rot is an issue for fish with large fins, like that of the Imperial. This occurs because of and is worsened by poor water conditions. Ensuring a clean and calm tank is the best way to ensure that any of your fish remain healthy. Stressed and depressed fish can become ill, and rather than treat ill health, it is better to prevent it in the first place.


Breeding Imperial Goldfish is difficult because the fish is not yet recognized or commercially available. Generally, you will need a group of at least 4 or 5 of the fish to ensure that they breed successfully. You can, of course, try to breed your own by crossing the Bristol Shubunkin with a single-tailed Veiltail. Your fish will breed with the right tank conditions, which means that you will need to drop the water temperature down to 60° F and then gradually increase the temperature by 2° F a day until it reaches around 72° F. This should stimulate the fish to start breeding.aquarium plant divider

Are Imperial Goldfish Suitable For Your Aquarium?

The rarity of Imperial Goldfish means that they are difficult to get hold of. They are not commercially available, although you may find them in general stock, and you may have managed to breed your own. Being related to the Shubunkin, this species is a friendly little fish that will usually get along well with all other tank fish, and they can even live in outdoor ponds. However, they are quick swimming fish, which means that they may eat any food you add to the tank before slower swimming fish can get them.

The metallic sheen of the Imperial Goldfish gives them a highly desirable appearance. They are quick, which also makes them fun and entertaining to watch. However, for now, at least, they are very difficult to get hold of because they are experimental fish that have yet to have standards developed.

Featured Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

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