They don’t grow on trees.

They didn’t invade from outer space (except for the Bubble Eye)

You can’t find them at the grocery store…

Or in the even wild, unless someone released them from captivity. Which is a big no-no.

So WHERE exactly did the world’s most popular domesticated fish come from?

Easy: the pet store!

No, but really – that’s a good question.

Well my friend…

I’m here to reveal the little-known origins of the goldfish in today’s post.

Let’s get down to business!

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A Short History on the Origins of the Goldfish

carp fish

Image Credit: Rostislav Stefanek, Shutterstock

If you’ve read my article on feeding, you’ll know that the carp is the granddaddy of the goldfish.

The carp is a muddy colored, single-tailed, short-finned fish.

It wasn’t really much of a fish, and people knew it.

That’s why it was the #1 fish used for food.

They weren’t pets – they were dinner.

A bit of a humbling backstory to our fancy fishy friends.


How did we get from that, to all of the amazing, colorful varieties of goldfish we see today?

Two words:

Selective breeding.

We really have the Asians to thank for most of the work.

See, in ancient China over 1,700 years ago, a yellow-orange variety of carp appeared – a natural genetic mutation.

(Psst, there’s your answer… goldfish come from China.)

These fish really stood out compared to the duller ones, which would normally have led to being eaten by predators.

But good news:

Once discovered, people started raising these fish in captivity in Buddhist monasteries, which protected them.

This brightly colored carp was the first goldfish, though it probably looked quite different in shape and color than what we have today.

Chances are they were afraid of humans for a long time after that.

No hand-feeding yet

The goldfish became an ornamental pet kept in ponds and courtyard gardens by the wealthy.

goldfish eating in pond

Image Credit: Andrea Geiss, Shutterstock

Get this…

If you were a commoner, it was actually illegal for you to own a yellow fish (yellow being the imperial color, dontcha know).

After that the really crazy stuff started happening, with all kinds of new color patterns, body types and fin varieties emerging.

The Japanese also lent a hand at painting the goldfish masterpiece.

They were the ones to contribute the Tosakin and the Ryukin.

It wasn’t until 1874 that the goldfish finally reached American shores, where the Comet was born (the only breed we invented).

Now, breeders all around the world continually work on improving existing strains and developing new ones.

To sum it up:

Asian countries have given us the plethora of goldfish breeds we have today.

From the Farm to Your Aquarium

Image Credit: vu dinh quoc an, Shutterstock

Most goldfish today have their beginnings at a fish farm of some sort.

Not surprisingly, the biggest ones are still located in China, where tons of outdoor ponds (usually made of concrete) are dedicated to breeding and raising these fish commercially.

How do they get here?

They must be then imported into other countries – a complicated process usually involving lots of travel time and intermediaries.

After they reach the pet stores, the journey isn’t over yet…

… They will still need to get to your house!


No wonder so many goldfish come down with sickness from all this stress not long afterwards.


Not all goldfish have the “Made in China” stamp on the inside of their left pectoral fin.

There exists a small network of independent European and American breeders and fish farms who do what they do out of enjoyment for the hobby.

These breeders and farms can usually ship fish directly to you, which saves considerable stress on the fish.

If possible, I always recommend getting your fish from them rather than any pet store.


You can support local goldfish keepers and get high quality, healthy fish to boot.

Isn’t that great?

Plus they are usually happy to help you answer any goldfish-related questions.

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Now it’s Your Turn

Did you learn something interesting about where goldfish come from?

I hope you did.

And if so, I’d love to hear what you thought.

Were you surprised to hear how the goldfish has become what it is today?

Leave your comment below and let your voice be heard!