Goldfish aren’t really Gold. Not really. Goldfish are really specially bred carp.

And their main lot in life seems to be that they want to change colour and also remember that they’ve done it. Despite the very common story that they have a three second memory this has been proven to not be true many times. Goldfish are very good at even recognising humans.

The food that they eat and their stress levels are factors in changes of colour, but the main issue is one of genetics. Often in a single goldfish’s life it will start as bronze then move on to a washed out white or orange colour with black tipped fins and then they change to orange with black tipped fins, then to all orange and then they end up as orange with white tipped fins. In the wild a goldfish would have been an olive-brown colour.

The food thing is an interesting factor because it’s often considered to be a big factor in goldfish colour. But genetics are more important here. For some animals though colour and food are important, like the flamingo. Weirdly the pink colour is from carotene (the stuff that makes carrots orange) it’s found inside shrimp too and it makes the flamingos pink (in the wild they don’t often eat shrimp but mainly get their carotene from algae. We feed shrimp to flamingos in captivity though to generate the pinkness). Those bred in captivity are more often just white. The one thing that doesn’t change in flamingos is their black feathers. They all have 12 black feathers, these are the feathers that are actually used in flight. The pinkness shows how good a mate they are because they can provide food to the young. But the black feathers show that they can actually fly.

This idea of animals changing colour due to their diet has been known about for a long time. In fact some of the earliest explorers thought that the reason that different races of people looked different was because of their diet rather than thinking that these people were actually different than them. It was often, but not always, those who came later who caused the racial stereotypes. And it seems like an easier thought process. The idea that the new people that you’d met were the same as you but simply looked different because they had food with new spices or rice or some other food you weren’t familiar with makes some kind of sense rather than the more horrible idea that the new people were somehow inferior.

Anyway, so although a change in diet can bring on a change in the colour of your goldfish, in this case you really are only speeding up (or slowing down) a process that is genetically pre-ordained. The only reason that our goldfishes are gold is because of the royal house of china whose colour was gold. In the same way that the only reason that carrots are orange (and not purple) is because of the Dutch Royal family.

So to sum up, a goldfish is basically just a show off carp. So here’s your round up of carp to finish the article:

Show off Carp Demure Carp Coy Carp

2 thoughts on “Olivefish

  1. Squirrel Chasing Nuts says:

    Yay goldfish!!!And very informational. It explains a lot about mine…

  2. fourstar says:

    Coy Carp. *groan*

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