What is a Lionchu?
By Peter J Ponzio
Fynnmood Goldfish Club (Singapore) primary objective is to study and learn about goldfish appreciation around the world. In other words, the club strives to understand, accept and appreciate the differences between schools of thoughts.
The Club is very glad to have invited Mr. Peter Ponzio from American Goldfish Association to share his goldfish knowledge with us. The club hopes to see more communication between the Far East and the Western. Posting such articles, and exchanging view points are the very first step of bring the hobbyists around the world closer together.
Once again the Club sincerely “thank you” Mr. Ponzio for his generosity teaching.
About the author:
Peter Ponzio is a certified goldfish judge, and one of the founding
members of the American Goldfish Association (AGA). He has been
raising goldfish for over forty years, and has been a judge for
approximately fifteen years. He is also a candidate judge in the AKCA
(Associated Koi Clubs of America). He is the author of hundreds of
articles on goldfish and koi, and has written Spike’s Goldfish Guide,
which is devoted to selecting and raising goldfish. The American
Goldfish Association can be found at www.americangoldfish.org.
What is a Lionchu?
This article first appeared in The Goldfish Report, the magazine of the
Goldfish Society of America. What is a Lionchu? That’s a good
question. A Lionchu is a cross between a Ranchu and Lionhead. While
not yet recognized as a new variety by the GFSA or the American
Goldfish Association (AGA), these fish are being produced in greater
numbers, in good to excellent quantity specimens, and are appearing
in numerous goldfish shows across the United States and
Internationally. Before we get into the specifics of what these fish look
like, it is probably helpful to review the existing Lionhead and Ranchu
varieties, adopted by the GFSA and the AGA to understand the
differences and similarities of the parent stock.
The Lionhead originated in China, and was the first hooded, dorsal-less
fish developed. The Lionhead was originally derived from a natural
mutation of an Egg-fish, which is one of the oldest varieties of
goldfish. Please see the line drawing, done by Merlin Cunliffe for the
GFSA, which shows the basic characteristics of this breed.
The Lionhead is a large fish, with fully grown specimens reaching ten
to twelve inches in length, and weighing several pounds. The breed is
characterized by a straight back, with a tail fin that joins the caudal
peduncle at an almost straight angle. The tail can be fully separated,
partially separated, or webbed. The caudal peduncle (the area where
the body joins the tail) should be broad, so that the tail is in an open
position when the fish swims. The back of the fish is quite broad, and
the area where the head joins the body should be broad as well, to
support the placement of the hood. The hood is the prominent feature
of the fish, and resembles as raspberry. The hood should be full, that
is, it should cover the top of the head, gill plates, and cheeks. The
Lionhead comes in all three scale types of goldfish: metallic,
nacreous, and matte, and coloration runs the full gamut of acceptable
colors in goldfish. Calico varieties are especially appealing in these
fish, as are yellow-bodied fish with bright red hoods.
The fish shown above is a traditional Lionhead, and is used with
permission from the Tetra Book “Chinese Goldfish.” Please note the
straight back, the broad caudal peduncle, and full hood covering
exhibited by this fish.
The Lionhead was introduced to Japan from China in the 17th or 18th
century. The Japanese were quite taken with the fish, and began to
introduce a series of selective breeding programs to enhance the fish.
The Japanese introduced a more rounded back profile, a modification
of the tail as it joined the caudal peduncle, and diminished the size of
the head growth, or “wen.” Please see the line illustration from Merlin
Cunliffe to view the basic breed characteristics of the Ranchu.
As you can see from this illustration, the Ranchu is modified from the
original Lionhead variety in a number of ways. The Ranchu is
generally shorter than the Lionhead, with lengths of eight to ten inches
being common. The body is actually thicker than that of the Lionhead,
and has a more rounded appearance. The back is definitely rounded,
and the tail joins the caudal peduncle at an angle of greater than
forty-five degrees. The caudal peduncle and back are generally
broader than that of the Lionhead, so that the fish appears to have a
very broad back, indeed. The head growth is definitely smaller than
that of the Lionhead, but should cover all three areas of the head:
top, cheeks, gill plates. The Ranchu occurs in all three scale varieties
that appear in goldfish, and in virtually all colors known for goldfish.
The outline of the fish should appear to form a rectangle when viewed
from above. Note also that the head, and wen, form a rectangular
appearance when viewed from above. If the head does not form this
rectangular shape, the fish is considered to be less than perfect. The
Ranchu is considered the epitome of goldfish breeding in Japan, with
fine examples costing in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Japanese Ranchu Societies are common in Japan, and are generally
reserved for members only – non-members may attend meetings and
shows by invitation only.
Shown above are two of my fish, both of which exhibit traditional
What then, is a Lionchu? Simply put, the Lionchu is a cross between
established examples of Lionheads and Ranchus, combining aspects
from both varieties in very specific ways. People generally like the
curving back, broad back and tail placement of the Ranchu, and the
large head growth of the Lionhead. Breeders have developed fish
which combine these characteristics, and have done so very well. The
number of Lionchus being entered in competition has skyrocketed, and
many fish have taken Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion
The GFSA and AGA have not officially recognized the Lionchu as a
separate breed, but with more fish being shown in shows, will probably
consider a special designation before long. Shown below are some
recent examples of Lionchus, which have been entered in fish shows
MAKC Show Entrant, picture from Carolyn Weise
MAKC Show Entrant
Breeder’s Social entrant, picture by Gary Hater
Midwest Pond Society Fish for Sale
Since the article from American Judge Peter Ponzio has been posted up.
There are some regular questions from many local hobbyists.
Here are some of the answered the Club has learned from our American hobbyists... ...
(1) What varieties do most Amercian like?
The most popular fish right now appears to be the Ryukin
Next in popularity are Ranchus and Orandas
(2) Colours and patterns are important to American judging standard?
Color is more important than pattern, since patterns are not as fixed as on koi
(4) Do they have new varieties of goldfish beside those found in Singapore?
We don't have many new varieties – probably the newest is the short-fin Ryukin
(5) Where do they get their fish from, China?
Believe it or not, most come from Thailand (Gunn Chukasul, Fish Corner), followed by China, then Japan
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