Lionhead and Ranchu goldfish are both beautiful varieties of fancy goldfish, but they are similar in appearance. So similar, in fact, they are often confused for each other. Both are curious, playful, and social goldfish. They will usually learn to identify people and will become social toward the person who feeds and cares for them. Goldfish require more care than many people require, and fancy goldfish are a far cry from the goldfish people kept in bowls as children. Lionhead and Ranchu goldfish both create an aesthetically pleasing tank and watching their stout bodies wiggling around is mesmerizing. Read on to learn more about Ranchu and Lionhead goldfish!divider1- goldfish

Visual Differences

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At a Glance

Ranchu Goldfish
  • Average length (adult): 10-12 inches, up to 16 inches
  • Average Lifespan: 10 – 15 years
  • Diet: Pellets, flakes, gel food; Diet can be supplemented with frozen or fresh foods like blood worms, spirulina, brine shrimp, and daphnia, as well as a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Water parameters: 65-72˚F, pH 7.0-8.4, nitrates <40ppm, nitrites 0ppm, and ammonia 0ppm
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful, playful
  • Color patterns: Solid, bi-color, tri-color, calico
Lionhead Goldfish
  • Average length (adult): 6 inches
  • Average Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Diet: Pellets, flakes, gel food; Diet can be supplemented with frozen or fresh foods like blood worms, spirulina, brine shrimp, and daphnia, as well as a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Water parameters: 65-72˚F, pH 7.0-8.4, nitrates <40ppm, nitrites 0ppm, and ammonia 0ppm
  • Care level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful, curious
  • Colors and patterns: Solid, bi-color, tri-color, calico
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Ranchu Goldfish Overview

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Appearance

Ranchu goldfish are a fancy variety goldfish known as “the king of the goldfish”. They have a fleshy, raspberry-textured, head growth known as a wen, which may obstruct vision and require trimming as the fish ages. Ranchus have egg-shaped bodies with a shoulder hump that may or may not be very pronounced. They lack a dorsal fin. They have double caudal fins that do not get particularly long but do flow beautifully in the water. Ranchus can reach an adult length of up to eight inches, but most only reach 5-6 inches.

Ranchus can be self-colored orange, red, yellow, silver, grey, black, or white. The most common color presentation in Ranchus is bi-colored red and white or orange and white, but they can also be red and orange, red and yellow, black and white, and other combinations of these colors, including tri-color combinations. Ranchus can also be calico. Their scales may be matte, nacreous, which means the scales have a mother-of-pearl appearance, or metallic. Calico Ranchus fall into two sub-groups; metallic calico Ranchus are known as Sakura Nishiki goldfish and nacreous calico Ranchus are known as Edo Nishiki goldfish.

Keeper Considerations

Ranchu goldfish are very poor swimmers, so they should not be kept with fast-moving varieties of goldfish, like Comets and Wakins. Their swimming abilities worsen as they age, so juvenile Ranchus may be fast enough to compete but it is not advised to attempt this. While many goldfish varieties cannot be housed with smaller fish because they will eat them, Ranchus are slow enough that they may safely be housed with small livebearers and invertebrates, like guppies and shrimps.

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Ranchus are sensitive to changes in water parameters and it is recommended to keep a heater in the tank to maintain a stable temperature. Tank water should be checked weekly once cycled to ensure the tank water parameters are staying stable with no ammonia or nitrites and low nitrates.

Ranchus should not be kept outdoors because their slow swimming can make them vulnerable to predation. They do best and are safest in indoor tanks. They are social fish and usually appreciate having tankmates. Their wen and fins can tear if bumped into sharp or rough objects, so rough-edged tank décor is not a good choice.

Suitable for:

Ranchus are suitable for beginner fish keepers who are educated on water care. Ideally, the keeper should have a fully cycled tank prior to bringing a Ranchu in to ensure the water parameters are already stable. They are nice additions to community tanks with fish that will not bully them or outcompete them for food. They are not suitable for ponds and should only be kept indoors.

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Lionhead Goldfish Overview

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Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

Appearance

Lionhead goldfish may be the predecessors of Ranchu goldfish, so they are similar in appearance. They have egg-shaped bodies and lack a dorsal fin, like Ranchus. They usually have longer bodies than Ranchus and lack the shoulder hump. Lionhead goldfish also have a wen, but they can be differentiated from Ranchus by their larger wen and fuller face. They have chubby cheeks from their wen growth. The wen will grow on top of the head as well as on much of the face except the eyes and mouth but may cover the eyes and require trimming as the fish ages. They have double caudal fins that are short and flowy, much like the Ranchu. There is a long-finned variety of Lionhead goldfish, but it is relatively rare. Lionheads have been reported to reach lengths greater than 10 inches, but most do not exceed 5-6 inches.

Lionheads may be self-colored red, orange, yellow, white, blue, chocolate, black, or silver. They are typically bi-color red and white, orange and white, orange and black, or red and black. The wen is almost always red or orange on top of the head but may be a different color on the cheeks. They can also be calico or tri-color combinations. Lionheads may have matte, nacreous, or metallic scales, but the breed standard calls for metallic scales.

Keeper Considerations

Like Ranchus, Lionheads are poor swimmers, so they should not be kept with faster fish that will outcompete them for food. They can be housed with smaller tankmates like fast-swimming livebearers and invertebrates that will not bully them as there is a low chance the Lionhead will be able to catch tankmates.

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Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

Lionheads are sensitive to toxins in the water, like ammonia and nitrite buildup, and they do not handle temperature fluctuations very well. They should be kept in heated tanks to prevent these fluctuations. They should not be kept in outdoor ponds and should only be kept indoors due to their sensitive nature and slow swimming speed.

Lionheads make great additions to community tanks that meet the above criteria for water parameters and tankmates. They should be kept in tanks with smooth surfaces to prevent damage to their fins and wen. If the wen growth begins to cover the eyes or mouth, it will need to be trimmed by a professional or someone who is familiar and comfortable with the procedure.

Suitable for:

Somewhat experienced fish keepers or well-studied beginners. They should only be moved into fully cycled tanks. Lionheads are suitable tankmates to other slow-moving goldfish varieties like Ranchus, Lionchus, and Orandas. They are not suitable for outdoor ponds and should only be kept in indoor tanks with heaters.

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Which Breed is Right For You?

Lionheads and Ranchus are fun goldfish varieties and watching them wiggle their little butterfly-shaped tails around a tank is beautiful. They are a gorgeous addition to single-species or community tanks, but they do require a knowledgeable caregiver.

Both of these goldfish varieties have similar care needs, but the lionhead’s wen may require more maintenance than the Ranchu’s. Lionheads have slightly shorter lifespans than Ranchus but may reach larger lengths. Unfortunately, both of these goldfish varieties may have shortened lives compared to non-fancy goldfish due to overbreeding, inbreeding, and poor breeding practices. If you bring either type of fish home, ensure you are purchasing from a reputable breeder.

Purchasing a high-quality water testing kit and using it routinely will assist you in determining your water quality. If you are considering bringing either of these fish into your family, make sure your tank is fully cycled to ensure the survival and best health of your new, scaly friend. If the water quality is good and the fish are happy, they may crossbreed with each other, so if you don’t want to have hybrid varieties of these fish, keeping variety-specific tanks is necessary.


Featured image credit: (L) Sardo Michael (R) Arunee Rodloy | Shutterstock