Are Goldfish Carp? (Are They Really Different?)

If you love fish in general and goldfishes in particular, then it is quite obvious that you will find this article interesting and informative. We will try and find answers to a common question: are goldfish carp?

Though goldfish and carp fish are related, there is no doubt that they are both different species because there are some things that set apart the two. They both belong to the same family and subfamily of fish.

Below, we’ll try to look at some common things and also differences that make goldfishes a different type of fish. 

They are related 

Are Goldfish Carp?
Are Goldfish Carp?

There is no doubt that there are some common traits as far as goldfish and carp are considered. Having said this, we need to bear in mind that both these fishes belong to two different species and there are many things that are quite different. 

To begin with, let us have a rough idea about the origin of carp. It is believed that Ornamental carp have been around for many centuries, especially in countries like Japan. However, there is a particular breed of carp by the name Koi that was bred only from the 1820s.

It may not be out of place to mention here that koi is an ornamental version of the common carp. Hence, it would be wrong to consider them to be a separate species from the common carp. In fact, experts believe that it is a sub-species of carp. 

The Origins of the Goldfish 

Japanese Koi Fish
Japanese Koi Fish

Goldfish has been around for many hundreds of years. It is believed to have been in China for thousands of years. As is the case with Koi, they were bred selectively. The main objective was to develop patterns and colors that were attractive and good-looking.

When the Song Dynasty came to an end, there could have been many variations as far as the goldfish types are concerned. A few examples include white, orange, yellow, and white/red mixes. On the other hand, goldfish were introduced in Japan during the 16th Century and they spread to Europe, America, and other places during the 17th Century. 

How to Identify the Differences? 

Since goldfish and koi are at times similar to look at and they also have a few things in common, at times it becomes difficult to differentiate between the two. However, if you observe closely, you will not find it too difficult to identify the main difference between them. 

To begin with, goldfish are smaller in size when compared to carp, though there could be some exceptions. Secondly, goldfish have a body that has more variety to it in terms of tail and fin shapes. On the other hand, carp fish seem to come with more colors and also pattern combinations.

Carps also have visible barbels which are mostly absent in goldfish. Further, as far as the caudal fin is concerned, goldfish have a well-defined split. 

Big Carp Fish
Big Carp Fish

Goldfish also has a dorsal fin that is detached and it is free at the back. On the other hand, the carp fish has a dorsal fin that is different. It is attached to the back of the fish and forms a part of its overall length. 

Though there have been many instances of carp and goldfish being bred with one another, the offspring are always sterile. In other words, it will not be possible to breed various types and breeds of multiple generations as far as carp-goldfish hybrids are concerned. 


Carps generally have a longer lifespan and there have been instances where koi fish (a variant of carp fish) have lived for almost 226 years. However, the average lifespan of carp is around 50 years. Their overall lifespan depends on various factors including their care and upbringing.

On the other hand, goldfish have a much shorter lifespan. While a few variants of goldfishes may have lived for around 45 years, the average lifespan of goldfish is around 15 years. The lifespan of goldfish is influenced by many factors such as quality of water, proper aquarium, food quality, breeding habits, and other such things. 

A large bunch of goldfish in a pond on the Virginia Tech campus
A large bunch of goldfish in a pond on the Virginia Tech campus