Calico Goldfish (Carassius auratus) Care Sheet & Information

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Goldfish come in many shapes and sizes, and it can be difficult to properly identify the true name and variation of your goldfish. The calico goldfish is one of those variations and can be easily identified by its common three-color pattern. It should be noted that Shubunkin goldfish are sometimes also referred to as calico goldfish.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about calico patterns and the care required to keep one of these speckled goldfish healthy and happy in your own aquarium!


Unlike oranda, ryukin, or shubunkin goldfish, which all have different body shapes and fin types, calico is a type of coloration that can be, and was, bred to be expressed across breeds. These fish take their name from the same pattern usually found on cats, which were originally named for the substance of the same name.

‘Calico’ patterns are often used to describe other species colorations, such as B. the Calico Molly.

Natural habitat

Calico goldfish do not naturally occur in the wild, and if so, it is most likely a mutation of a released aquarium fish.

Goldfish (Carassius auratus) are descended from several species of wild carp that are common and still occur in the slow moving waters of Central Asia. From the 14th century onwards, China traded in variations of these wild carp, which eventually led to the many shapes and sizes of the goldfish known today.


The calico color is pretty easy to spot, even if it varies with each individual fish. These fish usually have spots all over their bodies, including their fins, ranging from white, red, yellow, and black to varying degrees and sizes; It’s also common to see a calico with lighter splashes of gray and even blue.

It should be noted that real calico goldfish often only offer Shubunkin varieties. Shubunkin goldfish were bred to express this white, red, yellow, and black calico color, as well as a pearly appearance of their scales.

For more information on keeping Shubunkin goldfish, please see our full care sheet here.

How big do calico goldfish get?

Because calico goldfish are found in a variety of goldfish breeds such as telescopic eyes, ryukins, and fantails, they can grow to vary in size. However, one of the largest breeds of goldfish is the oranda goldfish, which can grow up to 12 inches long. Oranda goldfish come in calico and have the potential to reach full size.

How long do calico goldfish live?

Under exceptional tank or pond conditions, goldfish can easily exceed the age of 10, with the current record being 43!

However, how long your calico goldfish will live will largely depend on the breed. This is because some breeds were bred to express harmful traits that affect their ability to thrive, such as: B. fancy goldfish with exaggerated fins and head growth.

Because of these improvements, the fish can become easily exhausted from swimming, which can affect food and the overall quality of life. In addition, unfortunately, many genes have been compromised and result in a shorter lifespan, regardless of whether the hobbyist provides the best possible care.

Do Calico Goldfish Change Color?

Believe it or not, goldfish change color all their lives! When goldfish are born they are usually a dull color of brown, gray, or even black. This is to help them stay invisible and not eaten while they are small.

As they grow, they begin to take on their signature colors and patterns. These colors and patterns are known to change rapidly over the course of a month or even a few days and are usually not cause for concern. However, it’s always a good idea to test the water parameters if something doesn’t look right in your freshwater tank or pond.

Otherwise, it is normal for your calico goldfish to change color throughout its life. Often times, the light gray and blue areas between darker spots are the result of a red, black, or yellow spot fading or developing.

It should also be noted that lighting, tank layout, diet, and water quality all play huge roles in the appearance of your fish. Some lights can cause colors to look completely different, making it difficult to buy fish in-store based on color. The tank setup can also be used to create a deeper contrast between colors, with darker substrates accentuating the lighter colors of the fish. Both the diet and the water quality are also reflected in the color quality of your goldfish.

Calico goldfish tank / pond requirements

Calico goldfish or pond requirements largely depend on the different types of goldfish you want to have. Goldfish are not recommended to novice aquarium enthusiasts due to the amount of litter they generate, and even the smallest breed of calico goldfish may require water changes and general tank maintenance.

In general, small species of goldfish such as telescopic eyes and fantails can be kept in a minimum aquarium size of 75.8 L (20 gallons), with larger ones always being better. The biggest problem with keeping goldfish is the amount of litter they generate, which can easily lead to increases in ammonia levels. For any goldfish tank, having a filter more than twice the size of the aquarium is almost essential to keep up with demand.

If you are planning on holding a real calico shubunkin goldfish, your best bet is to get as big as you can. Some hobbyists believe that keeping just one Shubunkin in 56.8 L (15 gallons) is enough clearance for the fish to swim happily and keep ammonia levels low. However, if you really want to keep your Shubunkin happy and have more than one fish in the tank, a minimum of 75 gallons (283.9 L) is recommended.

Tank structure

Like other goldfish, all calico goldfish are cold water fish and usually do not require heating. While they don’t need the tropical temperatures that most aquarium fish need, they do need relatively stable temperatures to prevent them from going into shock or hibernating.

Like other fish, goldfish need an aquarium light to regulate the sleep / wake cycle. Heavy filtration is also important as goldfish produce a lot of waste that quickly turns into ammonia, which can be fatal at relatively low levels. These fish are usually kept in a larger tank or pond to dilute the amount of waste that is created. In addition to good filtration, most goldfish hobbyists make water changes more frequently than other aquarium fish.

Goldfish can be kept on sand, gravel, or bare bottom. It is important to note that goldfish naturally search the substrate for food, and it is expected that your fish will regularly disturb your sand or gravel! Many hobbyists choose to keep them in a bare-bottomed tank as it makes it easier to clean up waste and you don’t have to worry about an ever-changing substrate.

Plants and decorations

It is also important to keep in mind that goldfish are omnivores and eat plants. Some aquarium hobbyists like to keep floating plants like duckweed with their goldfish, as they usually grow faster than they can be eaten and absorb a lot of excess nutrients. Also, when trying to keep live plants with your fish, keep in mind that they will likely uproot them from time to time!

If you have more designer goldfish species with modified eyes, fins, or heads, it is best to remove as many threats from the aquarium as possible. These include sharp decorations and plastic plants, as well as fluted gravel. It is very easy for these fish to accidentally bump into something and injure themselves, which can quickly lead to infection.

Calico goldfish behavior

Goldfish are active fish. Even goldfish with longer fins and larger heads try their best to keep pushing themselves through the water. These fish like to swim across all levels of the water column and can stress slow moving fish. This is especially true during feeding times as goldfish don’t have a stomach and can process food very quickly through their intestines, which means they are usually hungrier than other fish!

For the most part, all goldfish have relatively the same behavior. If you notice your fish gasping for air, lying on the bottom of the tank, or showing red markings on its body, it’s time to check the water parameters as these are common symptoms of ammonia poisoning!

Are Calico Goldfish Aggressive?

While calico goldfish are no more aggressive than any other type of goldfish, it is important to prepare for the breeds you are planning to keep. For example, Shubunkin goldfish may not be the best choice for keeping fancy goldfish in a tank setting due to a variety of activities that can potentially cause problems during feeding times.

In a larger pond setting, you may have much more control over whether your fish are not competing against each other.

Calcio goldfish diet

Despite the type of goldfish you have, all breeds are omnivorous. This means that they rely on both meat and plant-based foods, which might come as a surprise to some hobbyists! Fortunately, these fish will eat almost anything you put in their tank.

In order for these fish to keep their healthy and vibrant white, yellow, red, and black spots, they must eat a variety of high quality foods. It is best to use a high protein goldfish flake or pellet as the main food. Always make sure that excess food is removed after a few minutes, otherwise it will add to the total waste in the aquarium.

Otherwise, various live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods such as worms (earthworms, blood worms, Tubifex worms), brine shrimp, and even mealworms or crickets can be fed to these fish. Your fish will also appreciate a variety of blanched fruits and vegetables such as apples, zucchini, and lettuce.

It is important to note that some goldfish may even try to hunt some species of freshwater snail. If you want to keep snails with your goldfish, make sure they are bigger than your fish’s mouth and be prepared to potentially lose a pair!


The calico goldfish can refer to the white, red, yellow, and black colorations of some goldfish breeds, or can be used to categorize Shubunkin goldfish. The calico coloring is found in most common goldfish breeds such as the Ryukin and Oranda goldfish, with all of which have the opportunity to change their color over the course of their life.

Fortunately, no matter what type of calico goldfish breed you choose, grooming is relatively the same for everyone. Keep in mind that if you hold more sensitive breeds such as fancy or telescopic eyes, you may need to select tankmates a little more carefully and keep sharp objects out of the aquarium.

If you have any questions about the color of calico, the different breeds of goldfish, or the experience of keeping one of these freshwater fish in your own aquarium or pond, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

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