Butterfly Tail Goldfish – Breed Profile, Care Guide, Tank Mates

Top view of a butterfly tail goldfish isolated on blue
By Syberspace (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
If you’re looking for a unique fish to add to your aquarium, then a Butterfly Tail just might be a great option for you.

Not only are they fascinating to watch from the side, if you’re able to place your tank so you can view this breed from the top, you’ll get to see the beautiful sight of their tails creating a butterfly image while the fish is at rest.

Basic information

Being one of the most unique breeds of all fancy goldfish, it’s the prominent tail that sets them apart from all the other varieties.

At any point when it’s resting, their tail will fan out to display a fascinating shape and sometimes a range of colors.

As if their tail isn’t enough to make this breed of goldfish unique, they also vary massively within their breed. The key variations to look out for are not only their color, but also their eyes, with some of them being bubble eyed, and some of them being completely flat.

This variation obviously makes them look very different, and many experienced fish owners will have a preference for which they find more attractive.

What Colors can Butterfly Tail Goldfish be?

The most common varieties are the ‘Panda’ breeds which are black and white in color, and the rather sadly named ‘Lesser Panda’ which are red and black.

It’s possible to find Butterfly Tails in a wide range of colors, but the key thing to look for is the body should be one solid color, and then the second color will be on the outer band of the tail.

They can also be found with three colors, which makes them even more unique and interesting to look at from the top of the tank. Again here, even color distribution is a sign of a good breed, with each of the colors filling 1/3 of the fins.

What Size are they Fully Grown?

The Butterfly Tail breed isn’t one of the larger types of fancy fish, and will typically grow to around 5 inches, but in the right conditions have been known to reach 8 inches.

Of course, the tail will be very long and will make up a good proportion of the overall size of the fish.

How Many Years do they Live?

Similar to many breeds of fancy goldfish, in a well-maintained home aquarium that’s regularly cleaned and monitored, they can expect a life of around 10-15 years.

History

Although they were developed mainly as a fancy fish breed in Japan, it actually originates from China and was only brought over to Japan in the 1980s.

Not much is known about the early breeding of them, with the only real links that are commonly made suggesting it’s likely to be a variation of the Telescope eye.

It’s assumed this is where the bubble eyes are inherited from for those that still have this trait.

Are they Easy to Keep?

Like most of the fancy goldfish breeds, they aren’t generally recommended for beginner aquarium owners but aren’t the hardest type of fish to keep by a long way.

Although they’re very similar to other fancy goldfish when you consider their ‘difficulty level,’ the Butterfly Tail tends to be harder to get hold of, making them a rarer sight to be seen in home aquariums.

Butterfly Goldfish Care Needs

While they aren’t seen as ‘easy’ to keep, they certainly don’t offer a huge challenge, especially for an experienced fish keeper.

If you can set up your aquarium to cater for their delicate tails and are confident in monitoring the temperature and water levels, they can comfortably live a long and happy life in a home aquarium.

Follow a standard fancy goldfish care routine, and they will do well.

What Food do They Need?

Being omnivorous, it’s okay to feed Butterfly Tails a wide variety of food, although most owners prefer freeze-dried over live food options, as this can help minimize the risk of any bacteria being present in the tank.

When choosing what food to use, speak to your local specialist to see what they have in stock.

Everyday ‘treats’ to feed fancy goldfish are things like bloodworms or brine shrimps, but more exciting options might be recommended to you.

Even though varying their food is a great idea, don’t forget to make sure you’re giving them flake food daily…getting a high-quality brand is always a good idea.

To stop too much flake food being left in the tank to cause issues in the water, it’s recommended that smaller amounts are put in the aquarium a few times a day.

Tank Set-Up

For the most part, your key consideration when setting up their aquarium should be their delicate and unique tail!

If you want to have rocks or other decorations, then always try to pick things that have smooth and rounded edges so their tail won’t get damaged as they swim past. And remember to make sure they have room to swim through or around any items you place in your tank so they don’t get stuck.

When considering plants, as with all goldfish, their digging can make it very difficult to find live plants that can withstand life in a goldfish aquarium.

With that in mind, many owners lean towards having smooth silk plants to decorate their tank instead, as these are less likely to damage the tail, and it won’t matter if they get pushed around inside the tank.

Size and Shape of Tank?

Reaching around 8 inches as an adult fish may mean they aren’t the biggest of all fancy varieties, but they do still need a good amount of space to be able to swim around in.

As a starting point, a tank that can hold a minimum of 30 gallons would be recommended, but this will obviously increase if you’re hoping to add more fish to your aquarium.

To help ensure there’s plenty of oxygen in your water, you need to think about getting a tank with the largest surface area possible. This means the more unusual shape tanks, for example, an hour-glass shape would need to be much larger than a rectangle one, as the surface area is hugely decreased in the middle.

Must they have a Filter?

Although they look incredibly delicate and beautiful, unfortunately, the Butterfly Tail breed has the same issue as other breeds of goldfish, they produce a significant amount of waste!

This means weekly cleaning, and a good filtration system will help to keep the water clean, and your fish happy and healthy.

What Substrate Should you Add?

Because of their habit of digging, most breeds of goldfish are much better off having larger pieces of gravel substrate in their tank.

This will help lower the risk of them accidentally swallowing pieces of gravel when they’re moving around and digging at the bottom of the tank.

Do they Need Lighting?

While goldfish will be fine in a tank with no lighting, many owners of the fancy breeds do prefer to invest in some lighting to help make sure they have the perfect environment for their fish.

If you do decide to add lighting, then a moderate level is all you’d need plus you’ll have the bonus of your fish not being able to jump out if you’re using a lid with lighting!

You can learn more about lighting requirements in our article: Do goldfish need light?

Temperature Requirements

Being cold water fish, they will be happiest in water that is 65-78 degrees Fahrenheit.

While it’s always easier to have a fish that can live in a range of temperatures, do remember to check on your aquarium fairly regularly, as if the temperature does start to drop below this range, you’ll find they will begin to suffer.

Preferred Tank Mates

They are very social and do like to live in communities, but it’s important not to place them with any breeds of fish that are likely to do them any harm.

The main point to consider is that you don’t place them with any aggressive fish – their tail fairly delicate and likely to be injured or torn if they’re made to share a tank with more aggressive or playful breeds of fish.

Video: A Look at them in Action

If you still aren’t sure if Butterfly Tail Goldfish are the right breed for you, then it’s always worth having a look at a good quality video clip online so you can see them up close before you decide if they’ll be the perfect fit in your home aquarium.

 

Conclusion

When looking after Butterfly Tail goldfish at home, the most important thing to remember is the delicacy of their beautiful, unique feature: Their tail!

If you’re happy to monitor your aquarium’s water levels and temperature on a regular basis and can put a bit of extra thought into what decorations you will add to your tank, then these fish could be the perfect addition to your home.

Happy fish keeping!

Wendy Kathryn

Hi, I'm Wendy, the owner and creator of this website, an experienced fish keeper and avid student of the art since 2010. My aim is to help beginners avoid the many possible mistakes when getting started in this wonderful hobby.

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