4 Butterfly Goldfish Care Steps (+ Lifespan, Size, Unusual Breed Characteristics)

There’s a breed of goldfish that’s sweeping the globe with popularity…

… And it’s the Butterfly.

Once virtually unknown, goldfish hobbyists everywhere are now dying to get their hands on them.

It only takes one look the websites of the suppliers that offer high end goldfish and you’ll see for yourself how it seems that Butterflies get snatched up faster than you can say “take my money.”

(Psst – check out our list of the top places to buy goldfish for sale if you are looking to purchase yourself a beautiful Butterfly!)

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Many of the most expensive ones are currently imported from Asia (after all, the breed was originally developed in China), though breeders in the US are starting to jump on board as well.

Put in the spotlight in recent years by Jennifer Lynx of Solid Gold with her HD Youtube videos, it’s not hard to see that butterflies are truly a beautiful and exotic breed of goldfish that make a statement.

It’s easy to spend all day watching them swim:


Today I’m going to give you the scoop on this lovely variety – and I won’t hold anything back.

Let’s dive in!

Exotic Characteristics of Butterfly Tail Goldfish

Butterflies are a short-bodied fancy breed with a relatively deep body and a horizontally set tail.

Seen from the side, the tails might not be much to look at…

… But viewed from above, the lobes are spread out in the shape of a butterfly with outspread wings.

Hence, the name “Butterfly.” 😉

The breed was originally developed to be viewed from above, but most hobbyists are keeping them in side-view aquariums.

Perhaps the benefit of this is that as the fish ages the tail fin tends to grow fuller and droop on the sides more, so it becomes more visible.

The dorsal fins are usually pretty tall, and sometimes the back seems to have almost a Ryukin-like hump behind the head.

In fact:

The Ryukin may have been one of the breeds used to create the Butterfly and may have contributed to its deep body along with the characteristic hump.

Many Butterflies also have telescope eyes and are sometimes referred to as “Butterfly moor goldfish.”

While young spunky Butterflies are fun to watch, there’s nothing quite like the grandeur of a mature one with its fins full grown as it moves slowly through the water.


Color varieties of this breed are commonly self-colored red, red and white and calico.

But newer, more unusual patterns are emerging as more breeders are taking up the breed, especially lavender, blue, matte white, panda and tri-color.

Breeding & Reproduction

I’ll be brutally honest with you:

Spawning Butterflies is no easy task for most people.

It typically requires subjecting the fish to a period of colder weather, followed by a warm-up in order to simulate the onset of spring.

With an abundance of food (without crossing the line into overfeeding), perfect water quality and a good mix of males and females, chasing can result in thousands of little eggs showering the aquarium or pond.

If you are successful enough to be able to raise them from fry to adulthood it can be a very rewarding hobby.

Butterflies can be rather clumsy when it comes to the spawning process due to their inhibited swimming abilities and round abdomens, and it’s actually pretty fun to watch.

How to Take Good Care of Your Butterfly in 4 Steps

This breed is arguably one that has seen considerable hybridization.

The more that happens, the more delicate the species becomes.

That’s because they are further away from their natural wild state.

All of the modified body characteristics that make the beautiful breed what it is today can work against the owner if you aren’t careful.


If you want to keep Butterflies, it’s really important to make sure you have everything just right to prevent infection and constipation – two issues which they are prone to.

But with the right diet and proper conditions, you will be on your way to a healthy, happy fish!

1. Choosing the Best Housing

Ponds are probably NOT a good option because the fish are such slow swimmers. They can’t escape from predators easily and don’t appreciate having to swim long distances.

The frigid winter temperatures can also be very hard on them.

So it’s a good idea to choose an aquarium that gives them enough water volume to keep clean conditions, but not one that is very deep (putting more pressure on them) or too oversized (requiring them to swim further to get to food).

The rule of thumb, 10-20 gallons per fancy fish, will do fine.

Oh, and remember – please never put your goldfish, Butterfly or otherwise, in a bowl!

No matter how cute it might be, the fish will never be able to live a full, happy life.

2. The Importance of Water Temperature

Like most fancies, Butterfly tail goldfish do best on the warmer side of the temperature spectrum.

70-80 degrees F is optimal for year-round comfort.

If the water does get colder in the winter, make sure it doesn’t drop below 60F.

Cold water can lead to a shorter lifespan (and often health problems) if they get too chilled.

That said, a butterfly (with good care) will live 5-7 years on average.

3. How to Feed a Proper Diet

A good diet will go a long way in making sure your Butterfly stays healthy long-term.


Protein is important for building muscle mass, but too much can lead to digestive trouble.

Especially for fish with more compact bodies, lots of fibrous veggies in addition to a quality staple diet are important to prevent constipation issues.

Click here to read more about goldfish food.

4. Choosing the Best Tank Mates

Butterflies are perhaps one of the most delicate breeds of goldfish.

They can have trouble competing with more athletic varieties – especially when they have telescopic eyes which results in poor vision.

So stay away from mixing them with slim-bodied fish like the Common or Comet. And of course, be sure to only stay within the goldfish species when selecting which ones to keep together.

They should be fine with slower-swimming fancies such as the Veiltail, Ranchu or Lionhead. Some seem to do well with long-finned Ryukins as companions.

An all-Butterfly tank is especially stunning as well and they seem to enjoy the company of their own kind.

Now I Want to Hear from You

The Butterfly goldfish is certainly a stunner, and it’s no wonder why they are even attracting new fish keepers to the hobby.

Have you ever owned a Butterfly tail goldfish?

Are you thinking about getting one for your tank?

I’d love to hear what you think!

Leave your comment below.

5 100% from 4 ratings
Rating 5 100%


  1. Ethan January 20, 2019 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    are butterfly goldfish a good starter fish? i have a 20 gallon tank set up and food and everything, but i do not have that much of a fish-keeping experience.and where do you suggest i buy my goldfish from?

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish January 24, 2019 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      I would not say a butterfly goldfish is a good beginner fish. I would start out with something more hardy, either a fantail or veiltail if you want a fancy goldfish or a slim-bodied fish like a common or comet.

  2. I January 29, 2019 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    Would a very small butterfly goldfish be able to live in a 5ish gallon bowl until it gets older? I am about to cycle a 20 gal tank for some butterflies, but still just curious. Love the site, and the informative advice.
    Thanks so much!

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish January 29, 2019 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      Just keep the water quality good 🙂 Butterflies don’t get that big most of the time. 🙂

  3. I January 30, 2019 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much! I was hoping to breed my butterflies and gift 1 or 2 to a friend of mine one day…. ?

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish February 1, 2019 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      Glad you liked the article!

  4. Jon Dunn February 7, 2019 at 4:01 am - Reply

    OK. I have spent about 1.5 hours going through a lot of your website, I\’m sorry I didn\’t find it before now. I was sold 4 what I think are butterfly fancy goldfish, one being calico. They appear to live, I think happily, in a 250 gallon pond. I\’ve had them for about 18 months, have not seen babies, have a lot of snails (round shell, button-like and one long tapered shaped). I test the water with liquid test kits for ammonia, nitrates, phosphates and ph weekly. I have an all in one pump, filter (with foam, bio blocks and pumice), fountain and a feed to a waterfall feature that is full of water plants. I feed them about a 20 or so small floating pellets daily. I don\’t see any issues with the fish but I have a horrible string (blanket) algae issue. I use algifix in amounts less than recommended (I was told this chemical will destroy the insides of the fish) about every 3-4 days and liquid wheat once a month and I still pull hands full of algae out weekly during the warm months. I have no idea what I am doing. The pool company I bought the fish from constantly told me conflicting information. I live in Phoenix, the water temp is about 52-55 degrees and clear. Should I have a heater, do I need a different filtration system, I have a small air pump in the water, not sure it is helping much. HELP?!?!?!, please. Prefer response by email if possible. Thank You!

    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish February 7, 2019 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      If it were me honestly I would try getting more goldfish! Goldfish love string algae but you probably don’t have enough of them to make a dent. You might also try Japanese Trapdoor snails (not sure if you have those already) and a big load of Hornwort to compete for nutrients. Above 50F is fine for winter temps in a goldfish pond.

  5. Jen March 22, 2019 at 11:59 am - Reply

    Hi! I have three lovely 4 month old Butterflies, and I have to say they are quite spunky at this age! One in particular vies for my attention when I am near the tank, when he swims his tail looks more like a fantail, but when I come up to the tank he fans it to its full span which is wider than his body! They are not good at finding the pellets I give them, because of their vision, and they are really fun to watch. Thanks for the very informative post Pure Goldfish! I’m sure many will benefit from this site’s content. 😉

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish March 22, 2019 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words, and sharing your experience with butterflies! They do have such personality 🙂

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