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Lionhead Goldfish Overview, Unique Traits & Care Guide

The lionhead goldfish is a unique and cute freshwater fish. The fancy goldfish is suitable for both freshwater community and species-only tanks.

Unlike other goldfish types, it doesn’t need a group of its own. So, if you have a space crunch, you can also keep only one!

Now, if you’re intrigued to know more, keep reading!

Species Overview

Common NamesLionhead goldfish, Shou-xing
AppearanceCommonly golden-orange with white patches or white with slight orange, round body tapering to tailfin, protruding scales, no dorsal fin, a rounded hump on the back, bumpy,raspberry-shaped wen
Size (Adult)Usually 12-20 cm (5-8 inches), 25 cm (10 inches) with best care
LifespanMostly 15 years, can live up to 20 years
Tank LevelAll levels
Care LevelModerate
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons for one fish, add 10 gallons per extra fish, 50 gallons for a community
Tank MatesOwn type, slow-swimming goldfish varieties or gentle, non-aggressive community fish, some invertebrates


The lionhead goldfish was bred in China from Asian wild carp to resemble the mythical Chinese lion-dog.

It came to Japan in the 17th and 18th centuries, where the Japanese modified its appearance with a rounder back, different tail, and smaller head growth.

However, they still maintain the fish’s ancestral size and lifespan traits. The lionhead is a fancy variety similar to ryukin, oranda, and ranchu.

Unique Traits

The lionhead goldfish lacks a dorsal fin, which is important for balance. So, it swims uniquely with slow, bobbing movements in search of food. It also has poor eyesight that can lead to occasional collisions with tank walls or decor.

Fun Fact: These fish are often confused with oranda goldfish due to their similarly shaped bodies and presence of hood. However, lionheads are typically rounder in shape compared to orandas.


Lionhead goldfish in aquarium

If you’re curious about the appearance and behavior of this species, let’s delve in deeper.


Lionhead Goldfish typically range from 12 to 20 centimeters (5 to 8 inches) in size. In my experience, some reach up to 25 centimeters (10 inches) in proper care, like other goldfish varieties.


The lionhead goldfish comes in diverse colors. While many are golden-orange with white patches, some are mostly white with a hint of orange. There are many other color variations, including blue, black, and calico.


This fish has a round, bulging body with a big belly and protruding metallic, nacreous, or matte scales. Its rounded shape tapers to the tailfin.

It lacks a dorsal fin, resulting in a rounded hump on their backs. There’s a double caudal fin and a double anal fin. The tailfin opens when it swims.

The goldfish also has a fleshy, bumpy, uneven raspberry-shaped cap, aka wen, around the head, which varies in size and texture from fish to fish.

Behavior & Temperament

The lionhead goldfish is incredibly passive and non-aggressive, even during breeding. It is an ideal community fish, getting along well with other peaceful species. But it can also thrive alone.

It is a slow swimmer, often perceived as lazy. In reality, its slow movement is due to its poor swimming ability rather than laziness.


On average, this fancy goldfish lives around 15 years. Some exceptional specimens reach up to 20 years. The lifespan is influenced by genetics, health, and the care received.

Lionhead Goldfish Care

Since care and breeding for lionhead goldfish share similarities with common goldfish, here we focus on parameters specific to this species. For comprehensive guidance, please refer to the detailed care guide before acquiring these fish.

If you’re enthusiastic about caring for this fish in your tank, let’s read about the proper care guidelines to ensure its well-being!

Tank Size

For a single lionhead goldfish, a minimum 20-gallon tank is needed. For each additional fish, add 10 gallons. A 50-gallon tank is advisable for a community setup.

Some suggest keeping a single fish in a 10-gallon tank. But, in my understanding, it is too cramped and will have a high water flow, which is uncomfortable for the species.

Fish Care Tip: Keep only non-abrasive and safe decorations in your lionhead goldfish tank. Sharp or rough surfaces can harm these delicate fish.

Food & Diet

The lionhead goldfish is omnivorous and prospers with a balanced approach of 50% protein-based food complemented by 50% plant-based foods. It’s safer to opt for freeze-dried foods over live ones to prevent potential parasites and bacterial infections.

Feed a balanced diet of the following:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Tubifex worms
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Daphnia
  • Zucchini
  • Fish flakes
  • Goldfish-specific pellets
  • Peas
  • Romaine lettuce

The fish is a voracious eater but feed it only twice daily to prevent overeating and health issues.

Give extra time to locate and eat its food. Due to poor swimming abilities and impaired vision, it requires a bit more time.

Feeding Tip: Don’t feed the fish with only dry foods as that can lead to constipation, gastric troubles, and swim bladder issues. Incorporate occasional meaty foods or fresh vegetables into its diet to ease and prevent these problems.

Tank Mates

Lionhead goldfish can thrive harmoniously in a community tank with peaceful, slow-swimming fish that won’t compete for food.

However, it’s equally content living alone. This makes it suitable for single-fish tanks, especially if space is limited.

Some compatible friends for this fish are other slow-swimming goldfish varieties or gentle, non-aggressive community fish, like:

  • Banded corydoras
  • Most loach species
  • Rosy barbs
  • Bubble eye goldfish
  • Black moor goldfish
  • Celestial goldfish
  • Minnows

You can also choose invertebrates like:

  • Danios
  • Snails
  • Shrimp s
  • Freshwater Crabs

Tank Mates to Avoid

Avoid housing them with the following kinds:

Fast swimmers (e.g.: common goldfish, comet goldfish, and shubunkin goldfish): Lionhead goldfish are slow and struggle to keep up with swift fish, leading to difficulties in feeding and potential stress.

Fin-nippers (e.g.: tiger barbs, serpae tetras, or bettas): The lionheads have delicate fins and are susceptible to injury, infection, or undue stress from such species.

Aggressive species (e.g.: cichlids or other territorial fish): They may harass and intimidate your goldfish, leading to stress and potential physical harm.

Common Diseases

The lionhead goldfish are much more prone to illness and infection than other goldfish species. They need their tank water absolutely clean for optimum health.

Please go through the common goldfish article to know more about the diseases that can affect them and how to treat them in such cases.

Quick Tip: Ensure optimal tank hygiene and water quality to protect lionhead goldfish from infections and injuries, as neglect in this area can be life-threatening for them.

A word from FIA

The delightful lionhead goldfish have always been a hot topic among goldfish enthusiasts.

Since the fish is an opportunistic eater and rewarding to care for, aquarists have a gala time raising these slow-graceful swimmers.

We hope you found this article insightful and informative, and if you have any questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

Feel free to share this article with fellow aquarium enthusiasts to spread the joy of caring for these captivating species.