Part of the allure of koi keeping and water gardening is the variety of species available to choose from. As for goldfish, new varieties have become very popular — and more available outside of the secret society you once
had to be in to have access to them.
The history of goldfish dates back to 960 AD in China, where they were produced for food as a means to supplement protein sources. Over time these fish were developed into cherished pets.
As America evolved in the early 1900s, “five-and-dime” department stores such as Woolworthintroduced and gave access to these exotic fish (which we now know as common goldfish). The result: the beginning of the tropical fish industry. In-home fish-keeping was begun. Over time, goldfish bowls evolved into tanks and then small goldfish ponds. The pond hobby was started…and continues to grow.
Ideal Pond FishGoldfish, or Carassius auratus, make a great pond fish because:
• They are hardy fish that are cold-tolerant and can withstand many months of below-freezing weather, living just fine under the ice.
• They grow to a typical maximum size under 10 inches, allowing more people to enjoy the pond-keeping hobby in vessels as small as a rain barrel. From a retailer’s standpoint, this opens up a larger pool of customers.
• Smaller environment requirements also mean that these “pets” can be brought inside and placed in an aquarium during the winter for year-round
The recent boom in water gardening and the fish pond hobby has allowed the fish farmer more incentive to produce some new varieties of goldfish never before commercially available.
Some of the more impressive varieties:
Sanke Gold has a comet-shaped body with markings similar to that of a koi. This variety has a white body with red and black markings rivaling some top-grade koi.
“The challenge in developing something never before seen on the market,
combined with the excitement of seeing these fish improve, generation after
generation, keeps us working hard for the rewards of producing these beautiful fish,” said Manley Davis, hatchery manager at Black Water Creek Koi Farms.
“Reproducing someone else’s breeding efforts is an easy way to make fish, but being able to say we ‘evolved’ this variety is something very
few fish farms can claim.”
Black Opal is an elongated variety. These fish have various markings of deep black over a white or even powder blue base color. The sharp contrast between the two colors really makes these fish stand out.
Wakin is a double-tailed, fast-swimming variety with origins dating back
throughout Japan’s ornamental fish history. Even today, Wakin are a favorite
of hobbyists. We were given a gift of six Wakin back in the early 2000s.
Over a period of years we have been able to produce these fish as a great new variety to the market. In subsequent years, Calico Wakins and other color varieties have proved top sellers in retail outlets.
Watonai are double-tailed goldfish
with a similar body shape to Wakin, but
with a longer flowing tail. Recent developments
from our breeding program
have resulted in some very unique fish.
Fish Like DiamondsI think what drives most fish farmers’
passion, not pocket books, is the really
unique and special opportunity to see
and have a hand in the production of
some truly unique fish. I often compare
our fish farms to diamond mines; we
go through an awful lot of dirt to get
a few diamonds! But the allure of the
unknown — that chance of finding that
one “diamond” in the net when the fish
are harvested — that’s the reward that
drives most of us.
It may not be the best business plan,
as making those few diamonds takes
tremendous resources. Most farms
choose the route of mass production
that favors a more consistent income
stream with much less financial risk.
But while these crazy-looking fish typically
come with an appropriately higher
price tag, these higher prices become a
lot more reasonable when one knows the
“true costs” of production, similar to the
diamond mine I mentioned before. True
aquatic diamonds, such as these one-in-a-
million fish, attract buyers who desire
the best and rarest goldfish available. The
best part, from a shop owner’s perspective,
is the little space and care these fish
need compared to the notoriety, traffic
and cash flow they can produce.
The photos below portray some truly
unique specimens that were found during
the 2013 harvest here at our farm.
aking Goldfish ProfitableWe are often asked: In terms of making a profit, what should a shop carry?
My response is based on what is best
for the customer; what is best for you,
the shop owner; and what is best for the
Outdoor ponds are a joy to their
owners, and the aquatic pets that they
keep quickly become members of the
family. Sadly, smaller fish are an easier
target for predators such as birds. Thus,
I recommend only keeping elongated bodied
goldfish, such as those mentioned
above, because of their ability to swim fast.
Stubby body fancy g o l d f i s h
have a lot higher
risk of being
is nothing more
having your pets
disappear. Happy customers will be
back for more fish if the ones they
purchased from you originally
survived and flourished as cherished
Starter Fish: I was very typical
in my progression in the tropical fish
hobby. I started with a dollar’s worth of
feeder goldfish and stocked them in my
“hand-made,” 150-gallon concrete pond.
Over time I developed an interest that
turned into an obsession with tropical fish
and pond fish. As time went on, a career
developed and I ended up with a fairly
large business of three koi farms spread
across 300 miles of Florida.
I think every shop owner should have
some starter fish of low cost. Not necessarily
feeder fish, as they typically are not
handled or treated for long term survival
(indeed, the term “feeder fish” is fitting).
Feeder fish may harbor diseases and die or
pollute your “new-to-the-hobby” customer’s
pond. Instead, offer them a three- or
four-dollar fish … one that’s affordable
but still offers a high probability
of success. Great choices include Sarassa
Comets, Shubunkins and Wakins.
Stubby Body Goldfish: These fish
have more health problems and cannot
swim well enough to be in outdoor ponds
with larger fish or fast-moving currents.
They’re great for aquariums, though.
Higher-End Fish: Keeping a tank or
pond of specialty pond goldfish will keep
customers coming back as their tastes
change and they desire better and more
exotic fish. These fish can offer great
profits and an edge that your competitors
Imported Goldfish: I am a bit
biased to American-produced fish. Not
only because of my involvement in
the industry, but also for the more important reasons. Due to the difficulty
in production, imported fish
come from many different suppliers,
thus increasing disease risks. As
I like to say: “Kiss too many people
and you’re likely to catch a cold.” Buy
from too many sources and increase
your risk — and more importantly,
your customers’ risk — of getting
a disease. Buying from a reputable
producer rather than a broker/mixer
will insure that you have happy repeat
customers due to fewer problems.
Selling goldfish is no longer a
“five-and-dime” affair. Goldfish can
increase traffic, increase cash flow,
and most importantly, increase your
selling season. The setup costs are low
and the possible rewards are many.
Good luck, enjoy this great industry
and have a great season!