Pearlscale Goldfish 101: The Essential Care Guide

Pearlscale goldfish are a fascinating freshwater fish with quite a unique appearance. Because of this, there’s a long list of aquarists who are interested in owning them as pets.

But it’s important to know what you’re getting into first.

While caring for these fish isn’t the hardest job in the world, it requires you to be mindful of the specific requirements they need (mainly due to their anatomy).

This guide will help prepare you for the task by covering all the essential elements of Pearlscale goldfish care. By the time you’re done reading it, you’ll be ready to go!

Species Summary

The Pearlscale goldfish is one of the quirkiest and whimsical-looking fish species around. Sometimes referred to as the Golfball Pearlscale or Ping-Pong goldfish, these freshwater fish have a signature body shape and distinct scales you won’t find in other types of goldfish.

Pearlscales are one of many species belonging to the “fancy goldfish” category. Like other fancy goldfish, Pearlscales were developed in captivity. Thus, they don’t exist in the wild. This particular species is relatively new, popping up around the turn of the 20th century.

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These fish are thought to originate in China before developing more in Japan.

Perfect for well-decorated tanks and ponds, Pearlscale goldfish are always bound to turn heads. For both aquarists and onlookers alike, this is a species that people just seem to love!


When you take a look at the Pearlscale goldfish, the first thing you’ll notice is its deep round belly! Mature adults can have a perfectly rounded belly that’s similar in shape to the orange fruit.

But that’s not all.

Pearlscale goldfish near the bottom of a freshwater aquarium

Covering the belly are raised bead-like scales. These scales are nacreous in nature and arranged in rows. They’re actually made out of calcium carbonate deposits. But, they have a translucent and reflective finish that’s similar to pearls, which is how they get their common trade name.

The rounded belly and scales develop as the fish gets older. Juveniles look like normal fancy goldfish by comparison.

To accompany that golfball-shaped belly are some beautiful flowing fins. The dorsal fin is single, but the rest of the fins are all paired. The tailfin, in particular, has split lobes to create a beautiful forked appearance.

Author Note: There are a couple of special varieties of Pearlscale goldfish. You may see crown fish or wen fish. Crowned Pearlscale are sporting large rounded bubbles on the head. They’re sometimes called Hooded Pearlscales, High-Headed Pearlscales, or Hamanishiki.

Wen Pearlscales are similar to species like the Oranda goldfish. They have the iconic wen growth, which is bubbly and textured.

When it comes to color, there’s a lot of variation with the Pearlscale goldfish. You can see solid-colored specimens covered in orange, red, white, black, or blue. Chocolate brown fish are also becoming more prevalent. Calico and bi-colored fish are popular as well.


On average, the lifespan of a Pearlscale goldfish is about 5 to 10 years. There are some reports of these fish living up to 15 years, but those instances are few and far between.

For the most part, Pearlscales are quite hardy. However, their unique biology does open them up to some health problems. In suboptimal living conditions, those health issues can have a greater effect on the fish, shortening their lifespan significantly.

Average Size

The average size of an adult Pearlscale goldfish is typically about six to eight inches in length. As we mentioned earlier, they’re often compared to oranges in terms of size and shape!

These fish can get slightly larger, with some even reaching lengths of 10 inches. But again, those instances are the exception rather than the rule.

Pearlscale Goldfish Care

Pearlscale goldfish care isn’t too difficult if you know the basics. They are a well-rounded species (pun intended) that can be deceptively hardy despite their strange anatomy. These freshwater fish can adapt to a range of environments and do well in cooler waters.

As always, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the needs of the Pearlscale. Like any other fish, they have their preferences and some strict care guidelines you need to follow!

Tank Size

These fish aren’t particularly strong swimmers. Their body shape and fins aren’t the most conducive for fast swimming. So, don’t expect them darting around the tank.

Even still, you need to provide ample room for comfort. We recommend using a tank size of no less than 20 gallons for the Pearlscale goldfish.

If possible, a 30-gallon aquarium is even better. That’s enough space for a single Pearlscale goldfish. To add more, bump up the tank size by about 10 gallons for each additional fish.

Author Note: This species does well in outdoor ponds, too (assuming the weather is right). In ponds, they can flourish and may even grow beyond their expected size when kept in an aquarium.

Water Parameters:

Pearlscale goldfish aren’t a naturally occurring species. As a result, there are no wild habitats to model your tank after. Luckily, the broad group of fancy goldfish have been around for centuries, so their preferred living conditions are long-established.

These fish prefer to live in cooler waters that are slow-moving and teeming with plant life. Pearlscales are great cold water aquarium fish. They tolerate a wide temperature range and do best with neutral pH levels. However, rapid fluctuations in temperature or pH can lead to stress and disease.

As long as you follow these water parameters, your Pearlscale should have no problem thriving in your tank.

  • Water temperature: 65°F to 80°F (around 70 degrees is ideal)
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 4 to 20 dKH

Author Note: Despite their hardiness and comfort in colder waters, it’s still smart to test the water on a consistent basis. This will allow you to keep the conditions stable. We still recommend doing this if you’re keeping them in a pond as well (even though the conditions will probably be more stable).

What To Put In Their Habitat

Pearlscales aren’t too picky when it comes to decorations. You can use plastic items or natural ones. It’s really all the same to this fish!

However, most experienced aquarists tend to stick with a habitat that mimics a natural pond.

This means adding plenty of rocks, driftwood, and plants. If you want to use live plants, choose cold-hardy varieties like Hornwort, Java moss, Anacharis, and Anubias.

For your substrate, choose smooth gravel. Larger gravel pieces are best to avoid accidental ingestion.

The most important thing to consider when decorating the tank or pond is to avoid sharp edges or anything that could injure these fish.

Pearlscale goldfish are a bit clumsy due to their lackluster swimming abilities, and those beautiful raised scales are delicate. Once they fall off, they will not come back!

Common Possible Diseases

Pearlscale goldfish are susceptible to all the common freshwater fish diseases. This includes issues like Ich, fin rot, fungus, and flukes.

Fin rot is quite common in poor water conditions. Because the fins of the Pearlscale are long and flowy, it can do a lot of damage to this fish (since there’s a lot of available tissue). To avoid the disease, monitor water conditions.

You should also change about a quarter of the water volume every week to prevent ammonia and nitrate levels from spiking.

One Pearlscale goldfish swimming by itself

One of the most common diseases to affect the Pearlscale goldfish is swim bladder disease. Despite the bulbous shape of their bellies, the intestinal tract is quite compact. When they eat too much or take in too much air, the swim bladder organ suffers.

The disease affects the fish’s ability to swim, so you must do all that you can to avoid it. Pearlscales already have compromised mobility, so further deterioration can be catastrophic.

Pearlscale Goldfish Food & Diet

Pearlscale goldfish are omnivores with a healthy diet. They’ll readily accept most foods without hesitation.

You can provide dry flakes and pellets that are fortified with calcium. However, dry foods can upset the delicate digestive system and cause swim bladder disease. To reduce the risk of problems, soak the food first so that it’s soft and digestion-ready.

It’s also important to limit protein to about 30 percent of their diet. Too much protein is unnecessary and can lead to a variety of health complications.

You’re better off sticking with a diet that’s rich in vegetables instead. Pearlscale goldfish like lettuce, cucumbers, and peas. The vegetables will help prevent constipation and intestinal problems.

The occasional live or freeze-dried food is good, too. However, it’s important to limit those food sources to snacks instead of diet staples.

Behavior & Temperament

You don’t have to worry about aggression from the Pearlscale goldfish. This species is very easy-going and docile.

The fish will spend most of their day slowly swimming around the tank. You might see them playing around plants or exploring.

Pearlscales are comparatively weak swimmers, but they’ll wobble along the water and show off their beauty all the same! Despite their lack of mobility, they’re actually rather active (everything just happens slowly).

Tank Mates

Pearlscale goldfish make great additions to peaceful community tanks (or ponds). They have no problem cohabitating with other docile species.

You should avoid keeping them with any aggressive or semi-aggressive species. It’s also a good idea to steer clear of fast-swimmers. Many fast-swimming fish are notorious for nipping the fins of the Pearlscale.

These fancy goldfish have no way to defend themselves from this behavior, which is why it’s best to stick with other slow-moving fish.

Here are some suitable tank mates for the Pearlscale goldfish:

Author Note: Certain types of snails can be a good fit with Pearlscales as well. Nerite and Mystery snails are two great choices.


Pearlscale goldfish often breed in captivity. In many cases, they do so without intervention from aquarists.

But if you do want to actively promote spawning, the process is very similar to that of standard goldfish.

First, set up a separate breeding tank filled with plants or spawning mops. Start at a low water temperature around 60 degrees. When you add your bonded pair, you can slowly raise the temperature by about two degrees per day until you reach standard tank conditions.

This will trigger a mating ritual. Females can lay upwards of 1,000 eggs at once!

In about five or six days, the eggs will hatch. Fry can survive on the egg sac for a couple of days. Once they’re free-swimming, you can provide powdered food or infusoria until they’re ready to eat freshly hatched brine shrimp.

Remember: young fish do not exhibit the defining traits of adults. That rounded belly won’t start to appear until about eight months of age. The pearly scales will appear soon after.             

Wrapping Up

Effective Pearlscale goldfish care is all about understanding the specific needs of these fish. While they’re relatively low-maintenance, their health will suffer if you don’t account for their unique anatomy.

But as long as you do that, everything should be just fine. These fish are a joy to own and are quite fun to look at!

If there’s anything you think we missed, feel free to let us know. We want to make sure these care guides are as useful as possible, and always appreciate a little help from our readers.

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