Goldfish

Scientific Name: Carassius auratus


George HorvathCopyright Info

Identification: There are many goldfish varieties, exhibiting a broad range of body forms and colors. In general, they have an elongated, stocky body. Wild populations vary in color from creamy white to gold to olive green. Although bright-colored forms are popular in the aquarium trade, fish in the wild typically have an olive-green coloration, which provides better camouflage in natural habitats. Goldfish are smaller than common carp (Cyprinus carpio) but readily breed with them, producing hybrids whose form is intermediate between the two species.


Size: Goldfish typically grows to 6-8 inches (15-20 cm), but it can reach 23 inches (59 cm) in length.


Native Range: This species is native to Eastern Europe and Asia, including China.


Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Carassius auratus are found here.

Full list of USGS occurrences

State/ProvinceYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Illinois191720013Lake Michigan; Little Calumet-Galien; Pike-Root
Indiana199920041Little Calumet-Galien
Michigan1880201718Au Gres-Rifle; Black-Macatawa; Clinton; Detroit; Great Lakes Region; Huron; Kalamazoo; Lake Erie; Lake Huron; Lake St. Clair; Lower Grand; Muskegon; Ottawa-Stony; Raisin; Saginaw; St. Clair; Tittabawassee; Upper Grand
Minnesota197520042Lake Superior; St. Louis
New York1982201616Ausable River; Buffalo-Eighteenmile; Cattaraugus; Chaumont-Perch; Eastern Lake Erie; Great Lakes Region; Irondequoit-Ninemile; Lake Erie; Lake Ontario; Lower Genesee; Niagara; Oak Orchard-Twelvemile; Oneida; Raisin River-St. Lawrence River; Salmon-Sandy; Seneca
Ohio198120174Cedar-Portage; Huron-Vermilion; Lake Erie; Sandusky
Ontario19252016*
Pennsylvania198220142Chautauqua-Conneaut; Lake Erie
Vermont199219921Mettawee River
Wisconsin196920137Duck-Pensaukee; Lake Michigan; Lower Fox; Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Milwaukee; Pike-Root; Wolf

Table last updated 11/16/2018

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for areas where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).


Means of Introduction: The goldfish is thought to be the first foreign fish species introduced to North America. Its first recorded releases in the United States occurred during the late 1600s, likely through intentional stocking by settlers. In the early 1800s, goldfish in the United States was considered an ornamental species rather than food. During the late 1800s, the U.S. Fish Commission raised and distributed goldfish to many states, mainly to meet the demand for fish for aquaria, fountains, and ornamental lakes. More recent reintroductions can be attributed to its use as bait and its continued escapes from aquaria, ponds, and hatcheries. Large numbers of goldfish are cultured as bait and as feeder fish for sport fish and larger ornamental fish.


Status: Goldfish has been reported in all states except Alaska. Breeding populations appear to be established in many states, although some areas may represent repeated escapes or releases rather than established populations. It is widely distributed in the Great Lakes basin. Most of the large established populations in the United States are recorded from the vicinity of western Lake Erie and in parts of southern and central California.


Remarks: The use of goldfish as bait is prohibited in some states.

The various body forms and colors of goldfish found in the wild are likely due to the fact that they have been widely and repeatedly stocked in the United States from many places in Asia and Europe.


Author: Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant


Contributing Agencies:
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Revision Date: 9/25/2012


Citation for this information:
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, 2019, Goldfish: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/greatLakes/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=508&Potential=N&Type=1&HUCNumber=, Revision Date: 9/25/2012, Access Date: 3/18/2019

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.