Introduction

With so many varieties of goldfish available across the world today, it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start for anyone looking for a unique addition. Many varieties of goldfish are only available in certain parts of the world, but goldfish keepers looking to diversify their tanks have brought rare types of goldfish to places they have not previously existed. One of these varieties of goldfish is the Sabao goldfish, which originated in Northern Japan in the Yamagata Prefecture.

The Sabao is an exceptionally rare breed of goldfish, even in Japan. They are a well-developed and recognized variety of goldfish with breed standards and are quickly becoming popular outside of Japan.goldfish divider

Quick Facts about Sabao Goldfish

Species Name: Carassius auratus auratus
Family: Cyprinidae
Care Level: Easy
Temperature: 65-74˚F
Temperament: Peaceful, playful
Color Form: Red and white bicolor
Lifespan: 15 years average
Size: 10″ or more
Diet: Omnivorous
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Freshwater; Filtration; Substrate (optional); Heater (optional);
Compatibility: Other goldfish varieties, peaceful fish and invertebrates
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Sabao Goldfish Overview

The Sabao goldfish is a rare breed that was created from crossbreeding fancy Ryukin goldfish with the common Syounai. Syounai goldfish are not currently being produced by any commercial breeder, so the current Sabao breeding stock is dependent on successful reproduction. Sabaos are similar to a slightly less rare goldfish variety, the Tamasaba, differing slightly in body shape and coloration.

Sabaos are sought after due to their hardiness. Although they are considered fancies, they are able to live in ponds, even during winter temperatures, and are fast swimmers. They can achieve lengths of 10 inches or more, which also makes them a great choice for pond life.

Sabao goldfish are elegant in appearance and movement. Their swimming style is judged when they appear in goldfish shows and is supposed to be graceful and balanced. Their elongated, comet-like fins flow gently as the Sabao swims.

How Much Do Sabao Goldfish Cost?

Due to their exceptional rarity, Sabao goldfish are difficult to find for sale. When they are sold, they usually sell for $150 minimum, with some selling for upwards of $300. For such an investment, it is likely to spend hundreds of dollars on purchasing high-quality equipment and food as well.divider3 goldfish bowl

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Sabao goldfish are docile and gentle. Due to their social, peaceful demeanor, they make great tankmates to other peaceful fish and invertebrates in community tanks. Sabaos can learn to recognize specific people and patterns, so they will likely begin begging for food around the same time every day or every time they see the person who feeds them.

Appearance & Varieties

True Sabao goldfish only come in one color variety, and that is red and white with distinct edges between each color. Sabaos have a rounded body when viewed from above and the front. Their tail fins are long and elegant, and their other fins are slightly elongated. From the side, they appear similar to a Comet goldfish. They also possess a single caudal fin, also known as the tail fin. This trait is like Common variety goldfish and is a leftover trait the Sabaos kept from the Syounai. Most varieties of fancy goldfish have a double caudal fin, so this makes Sabaos unique among fancies.

Sabaos are similar and closely related to Tamasaba goldfish, even being mistaken for each other. However, Sabaos do not possess the shoulder hump that Tamasabas have due to their development from Ryukins. Sabao goldfish, although rounded, are not as rotund as Tamasabas. They are more streamlined and are agile for fancy goldfish. Unlike most fancy goldfish, Sabao goldfish can often keep up with non-fancy goldfish varieties.

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How to Take Care of Sabao Goldfish

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Tank/Aquarium Size:

Ideally, Sabaos should be kept in a tank no smaller than 20 gallons, especially since they can grow to be quite large. They do prefer long, rectangular tanks for more straight swimming space. Sabaos can also be kept in ponds of just about any size.

Water Temperature and pH:

Sabao goldfish have a wider temperature range than many fancy goldfish, and usually like water between 65-74˚F. Like common goldfish, Sabaos will go into a semi-dormant state called torpor when temperatures drop, usually around 50-60˚F. This drops their metabolism significantly and allows them to survive cold temperatures, including below-freezing temperatures as long as the surface of the water has an inlet for oxygen. They like water with a neutral pH, so their preference is between 6.0-8.0.

Substrate:

Sabao goldfish do not require substrate in their environment but may enjoy having something to scavenge through. Aquarium sand and smooth gravel are both good choices for fish who like to scavenge. Gravel should be large enough that the fish cannot accidentally swallow it or end up with it stuck in their mouth. Smooth river rocks are also an aesthetically pleasing choice for a tank or pond but do not allow for much scavenging.

Plants:

These goldfish appreciated a planted environment if they still have plenty of space to swim. Anubias, Java Fern, Hornwort, Duckweed, and Water Lettuce make great tank and pond plant options. It is important to prevent the spread of pond plants into the natural environment, though, as invasive plant species can be damaging to the local ecology. Sabaos may also enjoy a moss ball, which provides the benefits of plants as well as a novel enrichment item for the fish.

Lighting:

Sabaos do not have specific lighting needs, but ideally should be allowed to have a day/night cycle of light. They should be allowed a period of “lights out” to mimic natural lighting cycles. Natural light is preferable, especially in a planted tank, but Sabao goldfish will enjoy an aquarium light or even artificial room lighting.

Filtration:

Filtration is important for Sabaos in tanks because they, like most goldfish, are heavy producers. They release a large amount of waste into their environment and ammonia can build up quickly with inadequate filtration. Filtration also functions to catch large particles of uneaten food and waste in the water, which helps improve cleanliness and decrease the buildup of damaging chemicals.divider3 goldfish bowl

Are Sabao Goldfish Good Tank Mates?

The Sabao goldfish is a peaceful tankmate but should not be put with tankmates it can fit into its mouth. Goldfish are omnivores and are opportunistic, so they will eat small fish, snails, and shrimp. If adding a Sabao to a community tank or pond, it is ideal to quarantine it for two weeks or more to ensure it is not introducing disease into the community.

Fin nipping fish like mollies should not be housed with Sabao goldfish. Betta fish can be housed in community tanks with Sabao goldfish, but this should be taken on a case-by-case basis and the tank should be closely monitored. Cichlids and other aggressive aquarium fish should not be placed with Sabaos or in community tanks.

What to Feed Your Sabao Goldfish

While all goldfish should be fed a high-quality diet to ensure health and longevity, Sabao goldfish are a large monetary investment and additional care should be given to their diet. Many of the people who breed and keep Sabaos in Japan feed them Hikari brand food. They can eat commercial sinking foods as well as fresh vegetables and fruits, and treats like bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia. Green vegetables like salad mix and broccoli should be available at all times to allow for grazing.

Keeping Your Sabao Goldfish Healthy

Sabao goldfish are a healthy variety of goldfish, but they can still suffer from common issues like swim bladder disease, which can be prevented by feeding sinking foods and not overfeeding. Providing a Sabao with a high-quality diet is essential, as well as a clean, enriching environment. If needed, a fish veterinarian can be found at the American Association of Fish Veterinarians’ website by using their location tool.

There are also excellent resources available on the Pure Goldfish Community Facebook page. This provides an option to search through previous issues and questions as well as ask questions and get feedback from professionals and experienced fish keepers.

Breeding

Sabao goldfish reproduce by egg-laying and spawning, so ensuring the breeding environment has plants or spawning mops in it to collect the eggs and allow them to incubate is necessary for positive outcomes. The breeding tank should also have hides available for the female if the male is being too pushy or aggressive.

Eggs may be eaten by goldfish or other tankmates, so it is best to keep the eggs in a separate tank. If kept in the regular tank and the eggs are able to hatch, the fry are extremely small and will be eaten by their parents or other fish, so for their safety and well-being they should be placed into a safer tank.

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Are Sabao Goldfish Suitable For Your Aquarium?

The biggest thing to keep in mind when looking into purchasing a Sabao goldfish is the high cost and extreme rarity of the variety. They are difficult to purchase and even more difficult to even find. But, if you can get your hands on a Sabao, it will likely make a great aquarium or pond addition, bringing a unique brightness with its crisp red and white coloration and beautiful flowing fins. Sabao goldfish can get large and live long lives with good care, so when purchasing a Sabao it is best to keep in mind that they could be in your home for upwards of 15 years and get to be around one foot long. The monetary investment of a Sabao goldfish is repaid two-fold by the enjoyment you would get out of this pet.


Featured Image Credit: Ghasem1122, Wikimedia Commons