Fancy guppy, platy, molly and swordtail pedigree types

fancy guppy delta tailed guppy

fancy guppy veiltail champion

Fancy guppies, platies, mollies and swordtails

All the four popular livebearers available in your local shop are pedigree varieties or cross breeds. You will not find wild type (fish found in the wild or resemble fish from the wild) livebearers for sale. These fancy livebearer fish have been developed over many years of selective breeding. They are usually mass produced from tropical fish farms from the far east and Florida.

Pedigree in livebearers is measured by how close a particular fish is to an ideal fish in terms of colour, pattern, body shape and fin shape.

The laws of genetics applies to livebearers as it does to all other animals. You would be wise to learn the basics of mendelian genetics. Mendel’s law means that if two parent fish of different colour breed then the young will not be a blend of the two colours. If a pure red guppy breeds with a pure blue guppy then the young will not be

fancy guppy female champion

purple. The young will be either all red or all blue depending on if red or blue is the dominant colour. However the other colour has not disappeared it is still there but hidden behind the dominant colour. His second law means that every gene is inherited from an individuals parents – half from the mother and half from the father. When reproduction takes place then these genes split apart and recombine with genes from the other fish in complicated but predictable ways.

Mendelian_inheritance

Livebearers are ideal fish for selective breeding

Basic livebearer breeding for beginners

More advanced breeding techniques

Of all livebearers the four main livebearers (guppies, platys, mollys and swordtails) and their close relatives are ideal fish for selective breeding because fish such as guppies do not breed true. Every guppy differs from its parents slightly. These slight deviations can be developed over the generations to create new fancy varieties. That is why they have proven so popular with breeders. The other livebearers breed true most of the time so take a lot of work to produce new fancy varieties.

Guppies and mollys are closely related and it is sometimes possible to interbreed them to obtain a feature from one species to the other to create a new variety. Likewise swordtails and platys are also closely related and can interbreed to create new varieties.

male and female fancy guppy mating
male and female fancy guppy mating

If you want to be successful in pedigree breeding always select parent fish that are healthy, are in their breeding prime in terms of age and do not have any genetic defects.

When buying pedigree stock great care must be taken when buying the female in particular. The female’s pedigree is not obvious and just because most females look alike does not mean that they do not carry pedigree genes because they do. Using any old female for breeding is likely to result in a mongrel brood which is pointless.

When breeding for pedigree then you must apply selective breeding techniques.

1. Choose the best male and female that most closely fits the pedigree profile you are after

breeding pair hi fin tuxedo swordtails
breeding pair hi fin tuxedo swordtails

2. Culling. This means you must kill off or dispose of young fish that do not match the pedigree profile.
However you must wait until the young fish are half grown before you can tell whether there is no chance of them becoming good pedigree specimens or not. Remove all fish that do not make the grade. Also it makes good sense to separate young males from young females to prevent unwanted breeding. But beware that some young males develop late and may look like females longer than other males. Keep an eye on this.
This separation of males from females allows you to grow the fish until they hit their prime and then picking the best two without the fear of unwanted pregnancies

Fancy guppy pedigree types

short round tail Moscow guppy
short round tail Moscow guppy

Pedigree guppies have a standard body length that excludes the tail fin of 1 inch which is 26mm. This is because of cross breeding with mollies to obtain black genes then crossing back.

The tail types are divided into short and long tail types.

Pedigree guppy tail fin shapes

Short tail types do occasionally occur naturally in the wild. The short tailed varieties are the round-tail, spear tail and spade tail.

The long tailed varieties do not occur in the wild but are the result of extensive line breeding to lengthen and shape the tail to a defined pedigree standard. The long tailed varieties are flag tail, veil tail, fan tail, delta tail, lyre tail, double sword tail, bottom sword tail, top sword tail and pin tail.

Snakeskin delta tail guppy
Snakeskin delta tail guppy

Pedigree guppy colours

After fin shapes, colour is another important factor in pedigree
Guppies are described with a basic background colour together with an overlay colour called cover. This technically refers to the different layers of pigmentation and other iridophores that refract colours in the guppies skin.

The base colours for guppies are

Grey This is the wild grey/olve green type colour
Albino This is the lack of black pigment cells. There is an albino version called the glass-belly that has no pigment at all and has the pink eyes.

gold coloured guppy
gold coloured guppy

Gold Yellow colour but when black pigmentation is present appears bronze
White This is formed from white pigment cells and the lack of other colour forming cells.
Blond This is a light yellow colour. They have dark eyes.
Silver This is when the shiny iridophores overlay white pigment cells.
Blue Guppies don’t have blue pigment cells. Blue is created by black pigment cells that are refracted through iridophore cells creating an iridescent blue. They lack the red and yellow pigment cells.
Cream
Pink
Lutino
fancy guppy pedigree colours

Cover colours and patterns are a secondary layer of colour that gives the guppy its final colouration. Patterns include leopard skin or snakeskin, while emerald is a cover colour.

black lyretail swordtail
black lyretail swordtail

Fancy swordtail pedigree types

There are 3 basic fin types in sword tails
1) Normal fins – as in the wild type
2) Tall fins – where the dorsal is larger than normal
3) Lyre finned – where the all fins have extended edges in a lyre shape. This sometimes results in a lyre shaped gonopodiumm that is so deformed that such a fish cannot mate.
Sword tails come in several ground colours but not as many as the guppy.

Sword tail ground colours include:

pineapple male swordtail
pineapple male swordtail

green
pink
gold
albino
blond
white
silver
cream
There are so far 3 cover colours in Swordtails: Black, red and orange. The orange covered fish are called pineapples.

The common swordtail varieties are:

berlin cross swordtail female
berlin cross swordtail female

Berlin cross swordtail.
This originated in Berlin. This is a red sword tail with a black spotted body. This variety does not breed true. You have to cross a red sword tail with a red sword tail with black spots. That is why it is called a cross.
Frankfurt cross swordtail.
Originated from Frankfurt. The front half of the fish is red while the rear half of the fish is black. This variety also does not breed true and has to be crossed from a red with a Frankfurt cross.
Hamburg cross swordtail.
Originated from Hamburg. Has yellow fins, black body with blue/green metallic scales on the sides.
Wiesbaden Cross swordtail.
The fish is black with shiny scales. The top of the fish and the bottom of the fish are either red or green.
Green swordtail.
This has a green body with a red zig-zag band on the side.

red lyre tailed sword tail
red lyre tailed sword tail

Red Swordtail.
Both the ground colour and the cover colour is red. This gives the fish a deep red colour. The red albino has no ground colour but does have a red covering colour. The resulting fish is red with red eyes and a red tail. But its colour is not as deep as the normal red sword tail.
Tuxedo sword tail
The body is two thirds matt black covering a red ground colour. The black extends over most but not all of the body. The back is usually red.
Wagtail sword tail
Red bodied fish with all black fins. There are white, orange and yelow bodied varieties but all must have black fins.

Fancy platy pedigree groups

There are two basic species of platy that are closely related and over the years they have been interbred.
The maculatus platy is deeper bodied than the variatus platy. The maculatus platy comes from warmer waters than its close relative. The variatus platy grows more slowly than the maculatus platy. Most varieties have been developed from the maculatus platy with interbreeding to bring the varieties over to the variatus platy.

sunshine platy variatus
sunshine platy variatus

Fancy platy fins.

The point at which the body and tail meet should be a nice gentle curve and angle will be penalised by judges.
Most platys have tall dorsal fins that are square or flag shaped. Some platys have a brush like tail that is similar to the spear point tail in guppies.

The ground colours for platys are green,red and albino

The cover colours for platies are red, blue, marigold and black.

Well known platy varieties are:

comet platy = where the upper and lower edges of the tail fin are black.
2 spot platy = where the base of the tail has two dark spots. One above and one below.

mickey mouse platy
mickey mouse platy

Half moon platy = Where the base of the tail has a black crescent band.
Moon platy – where there is one large rounnd spot at the base of the tail.
Salt and pepper = Where the base colour(white) is dotted over with black dots all over.
Blue mirror platy = This variety has a green/grey base colour overlaid with shiny blue scales on the sides.
Coral platy = This variety is foreshortened so looks chubby. This variety is deep red.
Bleeding heart platy = This variety has a blond ground colour with a red patch on its breast and red bands coming up from the red patch.
Tuxedo platy = The body is two thirds matt black
Wagtail platy = Red bodied fish with all black fins.

Variatus platy colours

The only ground colour is green/grey
Sunset platy = This variety has bluish sides, yellow dorsal and red tail.

Hawaii platy variatus
Hawaii platy variatus

Hawaii platy = Matt black body with a yellow dorsal fin and a red tail fin.
Marigold platy = This variety has a yellow back and yellow dorsal fin. The lower half of the fish is orange as well as the tail being orange.

Fancy molly pedigree types

There are two closely related molly species in the hobby. The normal molly and the sailfin molly. Over the years they have been occasionally interbred in an attempt to create new varieties or improve existing varieties of molly. The normal molly has a small dorsal. Other fin types for the molly include a tall dorsal fin type, a veiltail fin type and a lyretail fin type. Note that some males with fancy fins have difficulty breeding because the gonopodium (being a fin) is also affected. So the male cannot fertilise his female.

female dalmation molly
female dalmation molly

The main colours for mollys are

Black, white, and green

The main molly pedigree types are:

Midnight molly = black body with a red dorsal fin
Albino mollys are common
White molly = silver white body and fins
Piebald molly = white molly with black dots all over
Golden molly = golden yellow molly. Some golden mollys have are overlaid in marbled black.
Liberty molly = blue sides and red edged fins .

Fish coloration

various tropical fish colours

Coloration in fish

How do fish colours come about?

various tropical fish coloursFish coloration is formed by the reflection and absorption of various parts of the spectrum of light inside specialised cells. This is achieved by various layers of colour forming cells, such as crystals in the skin(iridophores), pigment cells(Chromatophores) and underlying flesh colours. Pigment cells are of various types.

Chromatophores can be classed according to colour under white light: xanthophores (yellow), erythrophores (red), iridophores (reflective), leucophores (white), melanophores (black/brown), and cyanophores (blue).

Combinations of these pigments and optical effects can produce many distinct colours.
Fish can also alter their brightness, colour and patterns. These colour changes are mostly autonomous and are effected by nerve impulses and hormonal releases during mating or fright. The nerve impulses and hormonal releases affect the chromatophores. Coloured chromatophores are branch liked structures that contract to remove the colour or expand fully to show full colour. Iridophores can reflect light thereby creating a metallic effect. Some iridophores refract light. This has the effect of creating a colour where that colour is not available as a pigment. Blue is often created in this way. Very few species of fish have blue pigmentation.

regal angelfish fish coloration
regal angelfish fish coloration

The pigments found in the chromatophores cannot be created by the fish but must be extracted from their diet. It has been demonstrated that when certain fish are denied a certain pigment from its diet that the fish will change colour.

Why do fish have colour?

Fish can change their colours to blend in with their environment called background adaptation, in terms of brightness and colour. They can also change their colours depending on mood and agression or submission.

Colouration in fish is vital for a fish’s survival. It plays a role in camouflage, fish recognition, mate selection ,mood display and warning of poisonous or danger. Most preyed upon fish have camouflage themselves by having a coloration, pattern or shade that closely matches it background environment. Fish can recognise each other as being from the same species and which gender and colour plays an important role in this. When in breeding mood usually the male will colour up with brilliant coloration. The brightest colours tend to attract the best females and is used as a warning against rivals. Fish can display dominance and submission by darkening or lightening their colours. In some species such as in many Malawi cichlids, submissive males will take on the colour of the females to avoid attack from dominant males. Some fish do the opposite of camouflage and in fact have developed very striking colours as a warning of being poisonous or dangerous.

yellow box fish
yellow box fish from Maldives

In the tropical fish keeping hobby colour is one of the most important factors that determine whether a particular species of fish makes its way into the hobby. Hobbyists favour fish with brilliant colours and patterns. Hobbyists by selective breeding have created new “sports” with enhanced or even new colours. These fish are more valuable and score higher in fish keeping shows.

Experienced tropical fish keepers recognise that fish do change coloration according to their environment, water conditions and diet. Having a darker gravel, feeding foods with high levels of pigmentation and providing the correct ph, hardness and salt levels all help in getting the best out of fish colours. Some vitamins and amino acids that produce pigmentation have a short shelf life and will not survive in sufficient quantities in dried fish food. Only live food and vegetable matter can provide sufficient pigmentation to aquarium kept fish.  Stressed fish will lose coloration as well as fish under bright lighting in bare aquariums or fish undergoing medical treatment.

Countershading is where there a fish’s body is dark when viewed from above and is light when viewed from below. This is for camouflage from predators above the water who will find it difficult to see a dark backed fish against the dark of the ocean, while the light bellied underneath of a fish makes it difficult for predators underneath to see the fish against the bright sky.

When in courtship mood fish usually enhance their colours to their maximum level of vividness. Usually male fish have better blue and red coloration and are generally more colourful than their female counterparts.

Young fish in most species are grey,green or black and have few distinctive markings. This is a form of camouflage because most young fish are preyed upon by adult fish. Young fish spend most of their youth near river or lake banks or near muddy bottoms between algae and plants and so have colours that resemble their bushy or earthy surroundings. Some sea fish have young that undergo a larval stage where they drift along with plankton. Most of these young are transparent to blend in with other plankton to avoid being eaten.

Fish anatomy

fish anatomy

River fish are usually streamlined

Anatomy of fish

The shape of a fish’s body tells you a lot about its behaviour in the wild. Long stream-lined fish are usually lake or river fish. Being streamlined helps a fish to swim faster in rapid moving waters or open bodies of water such as a large lake. Short or stocky fish are usually from ponds or live near the bed of a river. Side flattened fish usually reside in in slow moving waters with lots of vegatation or roots. The body shape helps these fish swim between plants and reeds. Top flattened fish usually swim on or near the river bed or floor of a pond. Fish with mouth barbels usually swim near the floor of the river or pond and use these barbels to seek food on the murky bottom.

Mouth Anatomy of fish

The shape of a fish’s mouth tells you which part of the water it feeds from. Fish with upturned mouths feed from the water’s surface. Fish with forward pointing mouths feed mostly from midwater. Fish with down pointing mouths feed near the pond floor or river bed. Fish with mouths underneath the head feed off the floor or off algae attached to encrusted rocks.

Fish scales

The scales on a fish’s body provides physical protection from injury. These scales are quite tough and overlap each other to form a tough but flexible armour. The whole of the fish’s scaly body and fins and all body parts are covered in a slimy mucous. This mucous is being continuously secreted by the fish and is used to wash away any bacteria, fungus or virus from invading the body of the fish.

Fins of fish

Fins are used by fish for propulsion, steering, stability and braking. Fins have a secondary function as flags and signals to other fish. Fins when held spread are usually a sign that the fish is healthy, while a fish that is unhealthy will tend to clamp its fins closed.
Some fins are single while other fins are paired. All fins have some purpose.

The single (unpaired) fins are:

  • Dorsal fin – This fin is used for stability
  • Tail fin – This together with the tail is the main means of forward propulsion
  • Anal fin – This is used for stability and in male livebearers is adapted into a reproductive organ.
  • Adipose fin – This is found in some species such as the characins or tetras. This fin appears on the top of the fish in between the dorsal fin and the tail fin.

The doubled fins

  • Pectoral fins – Pectoral fins lie on either side of the body behind the gills and are attached near the bottom of the fish’s body. They are used for braking, manoeuvring and reversing.
  • Pelvic fins – These lie forward of the fishes anus. On most fish these are attched mid body near the bottom of the fish’s body. The pelvic fins helps the fish to rise and descend through the water. They also help the fish turn sharply and assist braking.

Swim Bladder

The swim bladder in fish is an air filled sac that is within the fish’s body that aids in buoyancy and maintaining the fish’s level in the water. By relaxing or contracting the muscles of the swim bladder a fish can compress the air sac or expand the air sac. When the fish decides to compress the swim bladder it will sink. When the fish expands the swim bladder it will float.

Fish Senses

Fish have the same five senses we humans have, plus they also have a specialised sixth sense, the lateral line. The lateral line runs along the middle of the fish from begind the gills to the tail on both sides. The lateral line consists of small pits in the middle of each midline scale. The water filled pits contain small neuromasts which are minute finger shaped structures that contain hairs. When currents enter the pits the neuromasts move, sending a nerve signal to the brain of the fish. This detection of minute changes in flow and water pressure allows the fish to sense its surroundings in a sonar like way. This sense is used in shoaling and detecting minute water currents from prey, other fish or objects. Blind cave fish rely on the lateral line to ‘see’.

Sense of taste in fish

Of course fish don’t have tongues but they do have taste buds in and around their mouths. Many fish also have taste buds all over their body. Many bottom feeding fish have taste buds in their barbels.

Sense of smell in fish

Fish smell through their nostrils. Some fish have two sets of nostrils that allows water to flow through them. Water is pumped into the intake nostril and expelled out of the ottake nostril. The resulting flow of water that passes across receptor cells in the nostril cavity which detects chemical messages and sends signals to the fish’s brain. Fish use their sense of smell to swim away from some smells that may be harmful, such as that of a predator. Or they may swim towards a smell of food or towards potential mate.

Sense of hearing in fish

Although fish do not have ears they do have an internal ear mechanism. Sound actually travels faster through water than through air. Sound travels through water as a series of vibrations. These vibrations travel through the fish’s body mostly undisturbed. However in the fish’s inner ear there are tiny bones called otoliths. Because the otoliths are denser than the surrounding flesh, they vibrate. This vibration is detected by nerves attached to these bones. The nerves then send signals to the brain. In some species sound is amplified by the use of the fish’s swim bladder.
Some fish can make sounds by grinding their teeth or drumming their swim bladder.

Sense of sight in fish

Sight is an important sense for fish as light does penetrate to beneath the waters surface. The eyes of fish have much in common with amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Fish’s eyes tend to be more spherical though. Most species have colour vision and some fish can even see ultraviolet light. Fish focus their vision by moving the lense closer or further from the retina. Most fish do not have binocular vision. However, the hammerhead shark does have a good binocular vision because it has its eyes set far apart but focussed forward.

Sense of touch in fish

Fish do have a sense of touch that spans through their who skin. Scaleless fish such as some catfish have an even better sense of touch.

A guide to keeping and breeding fancy goldfish

Champion grade veiltail goldfish with the ryukin back
The comet goldfish is a simple variant on the common goldfish
The comet goldfish is a simple variant on the common goldfish

A guide to keeping and breeding fancy goldfish

Goldfish are one of the perennial favorites of the aquarium trade. It is difficult to imagine a fish more evidently associated with fish keeping than the goldfish. While everyone is familiar with the traditional appearance of the common goldfish, the various varieties known as fancy goldfish offer a much wider selection of colors and forms than the layperson would expect.

All of these fish share similar needs when it comes to successfully keeping them. Because they create more waste than any other fish, it is necessary to provide them an appropriately powerful filtration system. This is because their digestive system lacks a stomach; food passes through their body very quickly, making it easy for you to end up with more mess in your tank than you know what to do with.

Specialised Care for fancy goldfish

Although care is similar to common goldfish, you do have to take into account the shape and features of the different varieties. The “chubby” varieties are prone to swim bladder problems and so should be fed with more fresh greens and live food and avoid or restrict feeding them with dried foods. And you may need to keep a heater in the tank in the winter to protect them from colder temperatures because they are not as strong as the common goldfish.

The bubble eyes are prone to damage to the bubble so avoid any sharp or abrasive objects in the tank. Both the bubble eyes and celestial types have poorer eyesight so you need to feed them close by and keep an eye on any uneaten food to remove it.

Ideal goldfish equipment

Nice example of a veiltail. Chocolate coloured veiltail
Nice example of a veiltail. Chocolate coloured veiltail

While it seems reasonable to imagine that goldfish belong in a bowl, the truth is that they need lots of space to survive. Use a large tank if you want to keep more than a few goldfish at a time, or keep them in an outdoor pond. Ponds offer numerous benefits to goldfish due to the large size, but offer poor visibility to aquarists.

If you keep a tank for your goldfish, you can create a tightly controlled, ideal environment for breeding. Before getting into breeding though, you will need to install a powerful filter that can move ten times the volume of the tank per hour in order to keep the water clean. That means a 100-liter tank should move 1000 liters per hour, in order to compensate for the waste these fish produce.

Goldfish do not need heaters in indoor tanks, but you may want one in order to encourage early breeding. These fish are biologically programmed to begin breeding when the water gets warm and food becomes abundant. Choosing which breed to breed, however, requires an introduction to the various types of fancy goldfish available.

Types of fancy goldfish

oranda goldfish with ryukin style back
oranda goldfish with ryukin style back

Despite the wide range of appearances common to different species of fancy goldfish, they are biologically very similar to the standard common goldfish. Most of them are characterized by a single major difference that they exhibit when compared to the common goldfish. Different sizes, colors, fin and body shapes, or other combinations of special features define the various species:

  • Comet Golfish – The single-tailed comet goldfish is similar in appearance to the common goldfish, but features a long forked tail. They come in a wide variety of colors, but the common gold coloration remains most prevalent. Comet goldfish come in white, red, and various spotted colorations as well. Comets as well as common goldfish can be wintered outside in ponds that ice over.
  • Fantail Goldfish – Fantails are one of the more basic fancy varieties. They have a sturdy tail fin that is forked into two when viewed from above. The top of the split tail will be closer together than the bottom of the tail creating a fan shape. The top of the tail fin should be firmly held above horizontal. The ends of the tail fin will be rounded. The body is deep and wide, egg shaped in fact. Fantails can be wintered outside in ponds as long as it doesn’t ice over.
  • Ryukin style back veiltail goldfish
    Ryukin style back veiltail goldfish

    Ryukin Goldfish – This is the Japanese version of the fantail and veiltail. They are distinguished by having a distinct humped back starting from behind the head and ending at the tail. Also, their tail fin fans out wider than the fantail. Finally the tail rises higher than the fantail. These goldfish come in red, white, black, and orange color combinations as well as the calico version. There is also a lionhead version too. Ryukin can be wintered in ponds with no ice because they have been outcrossed back to the common goldfish to re-introduce vigour.

  • Veiltail Goldfish – While featuring a body shape largely similar to that of the fantail, veiltail goldfish have a distinct double tail that is lengthy and uniquely square-edged, without any forking between lobes. The best ones will have a straightish end to the tail fin rather than lobed. The bottom of the veil in champions is horizontal and not diagonal. They come in many colors, with metallic varieties also available. Calico specimens are particularly attractive, where the colours should run into the fins. The veiltail is one of the less hardy breeds of goldfish and should not be wintered outdoors.
  • bristol shubunkin has wider tail fin than the london shubunkin
    bristol shubunkin has wider tail fin than the london shubunkin

    Shubunkin – The fascinating Shubunkin goldfish is a single-tailed type of fish featuring nacreous scales that are a blend of both metallic and transparent genes. The fins are similar to the common goldfish except they are elongated. They come in a wide variety of colors, most often with overlapping patches. This mixture of colours is called calico. Deep blue is the background colour with overlayed patches of red, brown, orange, yellow and black. The colour should extend into the fins. These can be wintered in ponds that don’t ice over.

  • Black Moor Goldfish – This species of fancy goldfish is surprisingly not gold in color at all. In fact, it is jet black with metallic scales, and sometimes a very slight orange tinge. They tend to be longer and thinner than most other goldfish varieties.
  • Pearlscale Goldfish – The pearlscale goldfish is a very popular fish for beginners. While very similar in appearance to fantails, every one of its scales feature a distinctive raised bump that makes it look like it is covered in pearls. The best specimens have a round, globe like body. Additionally, this type of fancy goldfish can grow significantly larger than others, so needs to be given sufficient space to thrive in successfully. A pearlscale with a lionhead is called a crown pearlscale.
  • Highly developed goldfish with telescope eyes, calico colour and oranda hood
    Highly developed goldfish with telescope eyes, calico colour and oranda hood

    Oranda Goldfish – One of the most colorful varieties of fancy goldfish, the oranda subspecies comes in combinations of red, black, blue, white, brown, and black. This species features a unique “hood” that covers part of its head. While they are born without this hood, it grows into place over the first two years of the fish’s life. The size of this growth is affected by the diet and water conditions the fish enjoys. Similar to the fantail but with the hooded growth similar to the lionhead.

  • Telescope Eye Goldfish – This sub breed, also sometimes called a demekin goldfish, dragon goldfish, or globe eye goldfish, feature extra large, protruding eyes and a round body. Fantails, blackmoors, orandas, veiltails and other shortbodied breeds can have telescope eyes.
  • Lionhead Goldfish – The distinctive lionhead hood  and lack of a dorsal fin separates this fancy goldfish from the other breeds. Apart from the signature growth on its head, it features short fins and a rotund body structure. Colors include numerous combinations of red, orange, white, black, blue, and brown.
Tancho lionhead goldfish. Tancho=red just on hood
tancho lionhead goldfish the red should be limited to the hood

These are only ten varieties of fancy goldfish—there are many more commercially available types, and even rarer varieties available to the fortunate aquarist. Many of these species look so different than the common goldfish that only experienced aquarists can recognize them as goldfish.

Because of the intentional genetic differences bred in fancy goldfish to develop their unique characteristics and traits, goldfish pedigree is important for individuals who wish to breed goldfish. Breeding fancy goldfish successfully requires access to adequate information about their lineage. This allows you to choose which characteristics you would like to see emphasized.

How to breed fancy goldfish

You can breed fancy goldfish in the aquarium or when the weather is warmer in a pond. In the aquarium you can breed them as early as march by using a heater to raise the temperature to about 65F.

Crown pearlscale goldfish showing perfect spherical body
Crown pearlscale goldfish showing perfect spherical body

If you have a male and female of fancy goldfish that you would like to encourage to breed, you need to set up the appropriate conditions. Female goldfish tend to anchor their eggs to something solid when they spawn, so you will want to add some live plants or a spawning mop to your tank.

Spawning mops, which are designed to protect the eggs from hungry adults while making it easy to transport eggs, are also widely commercial available for this purpose. Using a spawning mop, you can easily collect the eggs and deposit them in a secondary breeding tank, ensuring their safety in the process.

Feeding chopped earthworms, brine shrimp, or black worms to the fish can help mimic the abundance of spring time, when goldfish would naturally breed. Feed them three times a day and the fish will begin to enter the breeding mood.

If the female looks plump with eggs and the fish haven’t bred then try spraying cooler water into the aquarium first thing in the morning. This should trigger them to breed. The male will start chasing the female around the aquarium.

Sexing your fish for breeding

Blackmoor with the ranchu lionhead body and hood
Blackmoor with the ranchu lionhead body and hood

Once you set up the conditions for breeding, it is likely that your fish will enter breeding season, when they can be sexed. Identifying female goldfish can be tricky, especially for fancy varieties in which individuals can look very different. The following four steps can help:

  • See if you can identify the shape of the vent, located between the anus and anal fin of the goldfish. Female vents are convex and rounded, looking somewhat like the protruding “outie” navel a human being might have.
  • Feel the abdomen of the goldfish to determine how soft and yielding it feels. The area between the pelvic and anal fins on a female goldfish should be softer than that of a male goldfish.
  • Observe the pectoral fins. Females tend to have shorter, rounder pectoral fins than males do.
  • Males usually develop with pimples around the pectoral fins and gill area during the breeding season.
  • Males will start to gently chase and bump females before they are ready to breed.
Show quality ranchu lionhead goldfish
Show quality ranchu lionhead goldfish

Once you’ve conclusively identified your males and females, you should take the extra step of separating males and females into separate tanks for a few days before introduction.

Then select which male to breed with female. Often just picking your best female specimen with the best male specimen and allowing them to breed doesn’t give the best resulting offspring. With a little experimentation it can be discovered that a fish with slightly overlong fins should be bred with a fish with shorter fins to get a brood with perfect finnage.

It should be noted that calico coloured fish (including shubunkins) do not breed true. Only half the offspring will be calico coloured. The other half will be either metallic or pink in equal numbers.

Breeding season, however, is usually enough to get them to begin. Your males will become atypically aggressive towards the females, who will release their eggs in response.

Spawning behavior and raising fry

Show quality veiltail oranda goldfish
Show quality veiltail oranda goldfish

The male will chase the female for up to several hours. When the male bumps the female she releases eggs, which he will immediately fertilise. The temperature of the water with the eggs can be raised to 72F to help with egg development. During the next 3 days you can place the eggs in their own tank or remove all thish. Add methylene blue to your breeding tank’s water in order to prevent fungus growth on the unfertilized eggs and protect your fertilized ones.

Once they hatch, they will live off of their egg yolk for a day and a half. Only then do you need to feed them. They eat infusoria for a few days. Then start feeding on newly hatched brine shrimp.

After the fry have hatched, you should remove the spawning mop from the tank, taking great care to allow your fry to escape from inside the media first. You may then focus on raising them with an excellent diet of live brine shrimp and immaculately clean water.

After 4 weeks they can move onto bigger foods such as blood worm and chopped earthworms. And, weather permitting you can move the fry outside into ponds so that greater numbers can be grown. At 8 weeks they can eat finer grained fish food or flakes. The more delicate breeds will have to be brought back indoors before winter sets in. At this stage you should cull as many defective fish as possible.

Culling your goldfish

Calico lionhead. More blue in the colour would be better
Calico lionhead. More blue in the colour would be better

The last part of successfully breeding your fancy goldfish is rigorously culling your brood in order to ensure that the best specimens survive. Unless you are fortunate enough to have access to unlimited aquarium space, there is no way that the hundreds of even thousands of fry you are caring for will be able to survive without culling them weekly using a small net. Be sure not to discard your fish in the toilet.

When goldfish are born they are the colour of their native ancestors which is a greyish green colour. So it is not easy to cull for colour until later on. The young will start to change to the adult gold from the age of 5 months onwards. The green will darken to almost black then the orange colour will break out from this. Fish that change colour later such as 12 months and later will have a deeper richer red than fish that colour early. But some fish actually never change colour and stay green all their lives.

A lot of the brood will revert back to the natural form. Breeds such as fantail with the double tail can be easier to cull. Remove all fry with a single tail, leaving only the double tailed fry. But also note whether the tail has completely divided or not. Many otherwise perfect fantails have tails that don’t completely divide. These need to be removed too. Breeds that lack a dorsal fin can have fry culled that have the dorsal fin.

calico oranda
calico oranda

The lionhead and oranda do not develop their raspberry like growths on their head until they are about 12 months old so culling is difficult. However, you can still cull for the twin tail and lack of dorsal in the lionhead. But note that an oranda is not just a lionhead with a dorsal. If you are breeding lionheads and the fry have a dorsal you can’t just declare them as orandas. The lionhead has a more splayed fantail than the oranda and the back has a different curve.

Fancy goldfish require more rigorous culling, since they will doubtlessly feature much wider variation in their traits and characteristics, including body deformities and missing organs. You will need to begin separating and culling your fish after two weeks of life in order to make sure that you end up with a handful of healthy, high-grade adult fish in the end.

After several breeding and raising fry, you will gain experience as to which young show promise and which young should be culled earlier.

If you keep it up and handle your fry right, you’ll soon have a new generation of fancy goldfish, bred to your exact specifications.

Always match your fish against champion grade fish. There are many examples on the internet showing high quality body shapes, coloration, finnage and other features. Strive to emulate the best specimens and proven champions. This goes for purchases as well. Use the show class standards to help you buy the best specimens you can.

 

Selective breeding and wild caught fish

Wild caught Malawi fish - demasoni showing wild colours

A guide to selective breeding and wild-caught fish

Breeding pedigree livebearers

Breeding fancy goldfish

Wild caught Malawi fish - demasoni showing wild colours
Wild caught Malawi fish – demasoni showing wild colours

While you may have already enjoyed some success breeding some species of fish, there is an additional level of skill necessary to ensure that the specimens you breed are of the highest quality. In order to maximise the health of your fish, you must be aware of how to use reproductive biology to your advantage.

Once you understand the basics of breeding, you can begin selectively breeding fish with certain characteristics. Doing this successfully, however, requires some understanding of the genetic makeup of your fish, and the manner in which they will pass on desirable characteristics.

These characteristics can take any number of forms, from specific variations in colouration such as seen in many species of betta splendens or fin variations such as those commonly bred out of goldfish. Different colours, sizes, body shapes and even behavioural attributes can be bred in subsequent generations of your fish, but doing so requires paying attention to your fish pedigree.

Fish domestication designations or generations removed from the wild

Brilliantly coloured wild caught peacock - walteri
Brilliantly coloured wild caught peacock – walteri

Most novice aquarists are not aware of the fact that domesication designations for fish exist. These helpful little tags are often added onto the end of the description used to identify the fish:

  • WC, wild, or F0 – The most evident of the tags, this indicates a fish that was caught from the wild
  • F1 – First generation. This is a fish whose parents were both wild-caught fish
  • F2 – Second generation. This indicates that both parents of the fish in question were F1 fish
  • F3 – third generation and onwards are considered domesticated or tank bred fish

There are some important differences to consider between these options. First, wild fish are generally the most expensive specimens due to the increased costs of catching, importing and transporting them to your tank. However, they generally enjoy the most successful genetic makeup and, if gifted with a special characteristic that you want to breed, often represent the best chance of passing it on to their offspring. These fish are the most vibrant, naturally colourful and hardy specimens found in an aquarium. But they may be harder to keep in an aquarium because they are adapted to a life in the wild.

F1 and F2 fish are also valuable from a genetic point of view, although slightly less so, since the reduced genetic diversity of an aquarium tank will cause the genetic line to gradually degrade over later generations. Most breeders do not bother identifying fish that are past F2, and it is rare to see any fish advertised as such. As opposed to wild caught fish these specimens show a degree of domestication and will be easier to care for in an aquarium.

The longer a bloodline of fish spends in captivity, the more likely it is to fall victim to genetic defects or just a lack of genetic vitality. This is caused by inbreeding of related fish. Some of this may be relatively harmless, but many will lead to greater complications over time. For this reason, it is important to maintain genetic diversity when breeding in order to keep your fish and their offspring healthy. This can be achieved by keeping careful note of the ancestry of your fish to avoid closely related specimens breeding with each other.

Selective breeding of fish and genetic diversity

red green and black butterfly betta with dragon scales and halfmoon tail
red green and black butterfly betta with dragon scales and halfmoon tail

The most subtle skill in selective fish breeding is maintaining the appropriate balance between the genetic traits that you wish to pass on and the undesirable ones that will make your fish weak and susceptible to illness.

The importance of this balance is readily apparent in most fish species: A mass-produced specimen that has been grown on a fish farm with limited genetic diversity will be less vigorous and have duller colouration than a freshly-caught wild fish of the same species. In order to guarantee the best results for your selective breeding attempt, you will need to carefully select your fish and their mates. It is possible to reinvigorate a breeding group of fish with the introduction of 1 or a few wild caught specimens.

In the case of highly developed forms such as guppies that are markedly different in form and colour than wild specimens, the process is a lot more protracted. Breeding a wild caught specimen with a highly developed fish will most certainly invigorate the line with strong and healthy youngsters. But the likelihood of obtaining youngsters that resemble the developed form is almost zero. It will take a lot of breeding back to the original pedigree to regain the original developed form while maintaining some of the new found vigour in the strain.

There are two ways that you can improve the pedigree of fish

• Line breeding—The process of line breeding involves keeping the genetic blood line of your fish within the family in order to bring out the desired characteristic more. It is also often called inbreeding, and is the most successful way to ensure that a desirable physical attribute gets passed on.

• Outbreeding—This is the breeding of a fish with the characteristic you are encouraging to an unrelated fish from an entirely separate bloodline. This can be an important step towards ensuring the health of your fish after several generations of line breeding by ensuring that genetic diversity remains high and your fish are born healthy. One thing that you have to remember is that some feature of pedigree is carried by the male and others by the female. So when outbreeding you will need to outbreed both males and females otherwise important traits may be lost.

Advanced aquarists will often use a technique called parallel line breeding, in which several different bloodlines all featuring the desired characteristics will be bred and raised in parallel. After every 3-4 generations, they will be mixed with one another, offering the benefits of outbreeding with a vastly lower chance of losing their special line bred quality in the process.

A term often used by selective fish breeders is hybrid vigour, which is used to describe the better growth and survival rate of an outbred specimen than those of the inbred parents. Just like any other species, genetic diversity is the key to success, and with the right balance you should be able to raise healthy fish with your desired characteristics.

Choosing between wild-caught fish and later generations

Wild caught active malawi gar showing full colour
Wild caught active malawi gar showing full colour

If you would like to enjoy the greatest chance of success with your selective breeding operation, it is highly recommended that you start with wild-caught fish. This is not always possible, such as in the case of Fancy Goldfish, which do not exist in the wild at all, and many other common species as well, but if you can get wild specimens, you ensure the greatest genetic starting point.

Wild fish will often have the best colouration available for a specific species and produce the healthiest offspring. If you are able to get a hold of two wild-caught fish, you can begin breeding and sell your F1 fish for a reasonable price. This is especially true if you have already marked the beginning of a desirable trait through the union, which you can subsequently line breed for greater emphasis if you choose.

If wild-caught fish are unavailable, you can still gain the benefits of genetic diversity through purchasing two F1 fish from separate sources, as well. However, you will have to mark their offspring as F2 fish, which will diminish your rate of return if you are breeding specifically for profit.

In many domestic species of tropical fish that have been tank bred over many generations, wild fish are just not available either because the cost is prohibited, they may be a protected species, or they may have become almost extinct in the wild. In this case, some aquarists try to recreate the original form and colouration of the wild caught ancestor. They do this by selective breeding, but not to produce a fancy form or colour but to try and get back the original wild form. The wild form is usually stronger, has better finnage and better colouration than the mass produced specimens usually available. This is achievable, but it will not result in fish with the same vigour as wild specimens nor will it create fish with a diversified genetic make up.

A final comment about wild-caught fish should be made: Not all vendors get their fish from sustainable sources, and there are even those willing to sell tank-raised fish as wild-caught ones in order to make a quick buck hoping the average aquarist will not know the difference. Buy your fish from an enthusiast or a trusted vendor that runs a long term operation and your breeding program will benefit as a result.

 

Why the Zebrafish will Never Die of a Broken Heart

male adult zebrafish or zebra danio

stages of regeneration of amputated zebrafish heartDr Jana Koth works at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, based at the John Radcliffe Hospital, studying how the tiny Himalayan freshwater zebrafish repairs its heart after damage.

 

More than 6,700 people in Oxfordshire were affected by heart failure in 2011/12.

 

By looking at the way the zebrafish’s heart repairs itself after it is damaged the team hopes to find ways to treat people who have had heart attacks and those who develop heart failure.

She said: “Humans cannot regenerate hearts after they are damaged, but the zebrafish can. By learning how they do this could help us treat humans in the future.

“A zebrafish heart beats at 180bpm, two to three times faster than a human heart, so we cannot take a sharp picture from a live specimen.

“The colours in the picture show the green cells are heart muscle cells, and the red and blue staining shows components that make up the muscle.

“We can see that the cells are already really active. We can see what genetic steps they go through to regenerate.

“While it is clearly very useful with our research I also think it is a picture which could be hung on a wall.”

“It’s astonishing to discover the ‘Caught in the Net’ picture is actually a developing zebrafish heart. These creatures have the ability to heal their own hearts, something humans sadly can’t do.

“Studying their hearts in such fine detail will help us discover their secret so that one day we can repair damaged hearts, and help people with heart failure.”

 Read more here