Did you have a pet goldfish when you were a kid? Many of us did, but that fish was likely nowhere near as exotic or downright weird-looking as the oranda fancy goldfish.
In this guide, we introduce you to the beautiful oranda and include top tips and advice on how to keep this peaceful fish happy and healthy in your home aquariums.
Oranda goldfish background
Though its scientific name is Carassius auratus auratus, orandas are also occasionally called tigerheads, tiger goldfish, bubblehead goldfish, or big head goldfish. Globally, the oranda is one of the most popular types of goldfish you can buy.
Oranda goldfish are especially popular with hobbyists and breeders in Japan, where the fish are called Oranda Shishigashira. There’s also a prized calico morph called Azuma Nishiki.
What does an oranda goldfish look like?
Orandas have the typical egg-shaped bodies of most fancy goldfish and have large, round matte or metallic scales.
Its fins are symmetrical pairs, and the caudal fin is long and divided, fanning out across the water when the fish is hanging stationary. That look gives the fish its common Chinese name: flower of the water.
The oranda goldfish has a large head that’s covered with a characteristic fleshy growth called a wen. The wen begins growing when the fish is around three to four months of age and continues developing until the oranda is between two and three years old.
What color are oranda goldfish?
When choosing an oranda of your own, you’ve got a variety of colors to choose from. Pick a red, red and white, orange, blue, calico, or black oranda.
You can also find a popular color morph called the red-cap oranda. These beautiful goldfish are pearly white or silver with vivid scarlet heads that resemble caps.
What sex is my oranda goldfish?
It’s notoriously difficult to sex a goldfish, as males and females look remarkably similar, especially as juveniles. However, once the fish reach breeding age and are adults, it is possible to tell them apart.
When in breeding condition and carrying eggs, female orandas look even fatter when viewed from above. Male fish develop small white pimples called tubercles over their gill covers and head.
Are oranda goldfish large fish?
When you buy a juvenile oranda at one of your local fish stores, the fish will be pretty small in size at just an inch or so long. But don’t be fooled; these fish grow quickly, and will reach around six or seven inches when mature.
Some specimens, however, grow much bigger than that. Take the largest recorded oranda, Bruce, who reached an impressive 15 inches long! He was bred in Hong Kong at the TungHoi Aquarium and still holds the Guinness Record for the world’s biggest goldfish.
How long do oranda goldfish live?
The average goldfish lifespan is 10 to 15 years, and like most other types of goldfish, orandas can live that long or longer.
Are orandas a suitable fish for beginners?
Although all goldfish are pretty hardy creatures, the oranda can be quite challenging to keep.
These fish have a very low tolerance for unstable and bad water conditions, and they prefer a warmer water temperature than flat-bodied goldfish. That means you may need to heat the tank, and you must be prepared to stay on top of maintenance and make more frequent water changes.
The oranda’s fleshy head growth, the wen, may also make caring for this variety of goldfish more difficult, as it’s susceptible to infection following an injury or debris or fungi build-up.
Oranda goldfish origins
You won’t find an oranda goldfish in nature unless it’s a pet that’s been released into the wild and has somehow managed to survive on its own.
All goldfish are thought to be descendants of Prussian or Silver Prussian carp (Carassius auratus gibelio), a species of wild carp that hails from Siberia. These omnivorous fish inhabit the slow-moving waters of ponds, lakes, ditches, and rivers where they feed on plant matter, algae, small crustaceans, and insect larvae.
Goldfish on the menu!
Carp were kept in ponds and raised as a food source for centuries. In China, the fish were known as “chi” and were the most popularly eaten fish in the country. Then, a genetic quirk produced a few orange, yellow, and red fish. Buddhist monks adopted the colored fish as pets and began breeding them, especially for the ornamental value that the fish offered.
In the 1500s, these brightly colored fish were traded by Chinese breeders, arriving first in Japan, then in Europe in the 1600s, and the United States a couple of centuries later. Those first flat-bodied fish lived in ponds as decorative status symbols. However, Asian breeders developed round-bodied variants that were brought inside and kept in ceramic pots or glass vessels as pets.
Of those early fancy goldfish, the oranda is thought to be one of the oldest. Today, you can find upward of 125 different types of round-bodied goldfish!
Oranda goldfish care guide
So, now that you know all about the oranda’s fascinating origins, it wouldn’t surprise us if you wanted to buy one! Here’s everything you need to know to care for this aquarium goldfish.
As previously mentioned, orandas can grow to six or seven inches long, so we recommend a minimum tank size of a 20 to 30-gallons. Fancy goldfish produce a lot of waste, and big tanks will dilute the waste products, reducing the amount and frequency of maintenance that’s required.
These are highly social fish, so it’s ideal to keep at least two of them. Be sure to allow an extra 10 gallons of water per additional goldfish.
Goldfish are oxygen-hungry fish, so rectangular tanks are best, as they offer plenty of surface area for a better exchange of gases. A tall or bowl-shaped aquarium has a very small surface area, which can lead to unmet oxygen requirements in the water.
Goldfish are cold-water fish that need an environment ranging from 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Orandas prefer slightly warmer water temperatures than flat-bodied types, so aim for the upper end of that range.
The water hardness needs to be from five to 19 dGH with a pH level between 6.0 and 8.0.
Goldfish are very dirty creatures, so your tank must have an extremely efficient filter system to remove toxins from the water and provide good oxygen levels.
Like all goldfish of the egg-shaped variety, orandas are not good swimmers and will struggle to get around if the water movement is too strong. Cap the outflow pipe to redirect the flow away from the open water or buffer the current with decorations or plants.
A good-quality aquarium vacuum should be used each week to deep-clean the gravel and suck up decomposing plant matter, uneaten food, and solid particles of waste that, if left, would break down and pollute the tank environment.
When choosing decor for goldfish tanks, be careful that any rockwork, driftwood, or other ornaments don’t have sharp edges or protruding parts that could injure the fish or tear the flowing fins.
If the wen grows too large, it can obscure the oranda’s vision, making the fish have an even harder time swimming, so limit decor to the outer edges of the tank. Then, the fish will be less likely to bump into things and have plenty of open-water swimming space in the middle of the aquarium.
Goldfish like to rummage through the substrate, searching for scraps of food, so smooth, medium-gauge gravel is the best choice. It provides the setup with a natural look, too.
Are oranda goldfish plant-safe?
Yes and no.
Keeping living plants is beneficial for all fish tanks, as they absorb nitrates and carbon dioxide from the water while helping oxygenate the tank.
Unfortunately, orandas tend to uproot aquatic plants as they root around in the gravel and might nibble on some fragile species of aquarium greenery, too. Choose robust plants and anchor them in the substrate with plant weights or keep them in clay pots.
Silk plants make a good, safe alternative to living ones, but avoid plastic ones, as they often have sharp points that can injure your oranda.
Feeding the oranda goldfish
Orandas are omnivorous fish, maintaining a diet of both plant matter and meaty protein. You can feed your fish flake foods and pellets, as well as live and frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and the like. Feed the fish two or three times per day, giving them only what they can eat in two or three minutes.
Be very careful what you feed your orandas, though. Too much dried food can cause digestive problems, so be sure to offer the friendly fish a small portion of meaty protein — either live or frozen — each day.
If you want to offer the oranda live foods, always take special care to remove the food from the water it’s supplied in before giving it to your goldfish. You could also set up your own brine shrimp hatchery if you have the time and space to devote to such a project. And remember: never take live food from the wild environment! You might accidentally introduce some type of parasite or bacteria to your tank.
Oranda goldfish are gregarious fish that only thrive when kept in groups of their own kind or with other types of fish in the goldfish family.
Remember that these fish are omnivores who will eat algae, small invertebrates, and small fish, too, so you must choose your oranda’s tank mates carefully; avoid small species of coldwater fish and shrimp that would quickly be eaten. Other fish to avoid adding to your aquariums include flat-bodied goldfish, like comets, common goldfish, and shubunkins that are faster swimmers than the oranda and would outperform the slower fancy goldfish in a race for food every time.
Breeding oranda goldfish
You can usually breed oranda goldfish in a home aquarium, provided that the conditions are right and both members of the breeding pair are healthy and disease-free. It can also help to keep the two in separate tanks for a few weeks before introducing them to the spawning tank, as it can increase the pair’s interest in breeding.
The spawning tank should be around 20 gallons and set up with plenty of spawning mops, bushy plants, and flat stones that the eggs can stick to.
Slowly, reduce the water temperature to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Over the next few days, make sure the temperature increases gradually at a rate of three degrees per day until the fish begin spawning, which typically occurs when the temperature reaches around 68 to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
As a prelude to breeding, the male oranda pursues the female around the aquarium, and both fish’ colors become brighter and more vivid.
When the female is receptive, the couple gyrates against each other until the female releases her eggs, which stick to the plants, smooth stones, or spawning mop by sticky threads. This can continue for several hours, and up to 10,000 eggs can be deposited.
Once the spawning is finished, remove the parents from the eggs quickly so they won’t eat them or the goldfish fry.
Health and disease
Aside from potential wen injuries and infections, orandas are pretty hardy fish. Keep the tank clean and well-maintained, and you’ll be able to prevent most problems that might occur. However, some diseases just affect any fish, especially those that are injured or weakened by stress.
Ich, or white spot disease, is the most common parasitic disease that attacks goldfish. Ich appears as a scattering of white spots on the fish’s gill, fins, and body. Affected fish flick against solid objects from the tank to help remove the irritating parasites.
Cloudy skin is caused by the Costia and Chilodonella parasites.
Fortunately, most parasitic infections can be successfully treated with antiparasitic medications you can get from your local fish store.
Flukes, fish lice (Argulus), and anchor worms can get into your aquarium — often with live food — on plants, or attached to new fish.
You can usually see these external parasites attached to your fish’s sides or gills with the naked eye.
Much like the parasites mentioned above, flukes can be treated relatively easily with over-the-counter antiparasitic medication.
Fungus usually appears on fish that are kept in tanks where the water conditions are poor, and the environment is dirty. The condition appears as whitish, fluffy patches on the fish’s face, gills, and body.
You can treat a fungal infection with an antifungal medication that you’ll find in most fish and pet stores.
Although bacteria are present in most fish tanks, they only attack fish that are weak or injured. Bacterial infections usually appear as ulcers, sores, or red patches on the fish’s body, and sometimes, the fins appear bloody and shredded.
Most bacterial infections can be treated successfully with antibacterial medications.
Swim bladder disease
Swim bladder disease is an extremely common condition that affects all types of fancy goldfish. The problem is usually caused by digestive issues and incorrect feeding, although bacteria can sometimes be to blame.
Fish with swim bladder issues can’t swim on an even keel, floating up to the surface, sinking to the substrate, or leaning over onto one side.
Starving the fish for 24 to 48 hours, then incorporating a diet of live or frozen meaty food for a few days is usually an effective treatment plan.
Oranda fish availability
Oranda goldfish are usually available in most fish and pet stores at a modest price of a few dollars each for small juveniles. However, if you want a specimen with a very unusual color or pattern or you’re looking for a larger fish, you can expect to pay up to a few hundred dollars.
Oranda goldfish are just about the most popular variety of fancy goldfish on the planet. These beautiful community fish are fairly straightforward to care for, as long as you provide clean water and house them in exceedingly well-maintained aquariums. You can also avoid many of the common diseases and problems that sometimes affect fancy goldfish by feeding your orandas a high-quality diet.