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Note: This standard may be used to judge the Tamasaba, the single-tailed version of the Ryukin. As a single-tailed fish, the Tamasaba is a longer form, with a more tapered body and longer peduncle that enables the fish to glide through the water.

Breed Development

The majestic Ryukin is a powerful fish that swims with confidence, demonstrating no awkwardness or uncertainty in its movement. The Ryukin exhibits chiseling in its muscular form, with a single hump that rises from the top of the skull to the base of the dorsal. When viewed from the side, the hump forms one continuous circle with the rounded girth of its abdomen.

Calico Ryukin (with continuous circle,) © Merlin Cunliffe 2016

Size on a Ryukin is an important feature, which distinguishes a “good Ryukin” from a “great Ryukin”, with a massive specimen always likely to impress. Size, however, cannot compensate for a lack of refinement or a harmony of its parts. This harmony (or balance) can be lost with the over-exaggeration of features. For example, the double hump on a Ryukin is an undesirable feature, as it detracts from the circular form, which is an aesthetic most characteristic of the Ryukin. Similarly, finnage should complement and enhance the roundness of the Ryukin form.

To complement and enhance the roundedness of the Ryukin, the head of the breed is small and sharply angled, with a tipped nose, that resembles either the number “7” (Japanese form) or the pointed like the beak of a finch (Chinese form). Both forms are acceptable, with the “7” preferred. The contrast between the sharply angled head and the rounded body highlights the circular nature of the Ryukin form. Its eyes are of moderate size and round, contrasting with the breadth of the Ryukin.

The Ryukin was originally bred exclusively as a metallic scaled fish, in only red (or orange/yellow), red and white, or white. The emergence of other color variants is of recent vintage, including the black, blue, calico, blue belly, and sakura varieties. The intensity of pigment is deep, whether from the brightest of reds and whites, to the palest of blues and lavender

There is no preference for fin length, with balance and harmony of finnage being of prime importance. When a Ryukin’s finnage lacks balance the fish will have great difficulty swimming on a horizontal plane and will come to rest pointing either up or down. A judge would best determine balance of fins from the top during movement and validate that balance through a side evaluation. When out of condition, a Ryukin will move haltingly, rather than piloting itself through the water.

The Tamasaba is of similar form to the Ryukin, with a single tail, as illustrated below:

Tamasaba (with continuous circle) © Merlin Cunliffe 2016

History and Background:

The Ryukin breed originated in China as the fantail goldfish, but was further refined and selectively improved with its arrival in the semi-autonomous Kingdom of Ryukyu in the 1770’s. The Ryukus were annexed by Japan in 1879, 100 years after the fantail’s arrival in the Islands.

Some texts relate that the Ryukin is a descendant of the Japanese Wakin. It is more likely, however, that the Ryukin is a descendant of the Chinese fantail, since the Japanese Wakin is a generic breed of goldfish, which includes both single and double-tailed breeds, with an elongated cigar-shaped body. The modern Ryukin is more akin to Ryukin form described by Shinnosuke Matsubara in his 1908 treatise, Goldfish and Their Culture in Japan: “The superior kind has a head broad in front but not angular, and a short body.” The Matsubara description is not too unlike the variety developed by Hugo Mulertt in 1881 (illustration by Herman Wolf), a likeness of which he labeled the “Comet goldfish”.

While originally developed as a top view pond fish during the Ming Dynasty in China and the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan, the breed has also been bred for its side view attributes with the advent of the glass-sided aquarium. This standard views the Ryukin as an all-around fish, to be appreciated and evaluated from top and side view


Schedule of Points: An excellent fish may score 100; maximum deduction per segment is limited to possible (+) points allotted.

Disqualifications: Twisted spines; headgrowth; telescopic eyes.

Overall balance and deportment 20Fault DescriptionPoint DeductionLeaning to one side while swimming-5Poor swim action (e.g., haltingly or waddling)-5Still posing with head tilted up or down-5Lack of roundedness (other than pointed head)-10Fat, rather than muscular and chiseled-5

Fins 15Fault DescriptionPoint DeductionImbalanced fin lengths or types-10Tail divided less than 50%-5Tail carriage angle too small or too large-5Tail too rigid or inflexible when in motion-5Condition-5

Head 20Fault DescriptionPoint DeductionRounded (parrot) head shape-10Distance from eyes to mouth is too distant-5Head too large-5Curled or open gill covers-5

Back 25Fault DescriptionPoint DeductionHump is not on same circular plane as belly-10Partially developed or double hump-10Irregular contour—bumps and dips along dorsal-5Arch of back is too severe, or too little (flat)-5

Eyes 10Fault DescriptionPoint DeductionUneven eye placement (top view perspective)-5Protruding eyes (but not telescope)-5Eyes too large or small for size of fish-5Irregularities: missing, telescopic, upturned, pinhead small eyes, or sacs under eyesDQ

Scales 10Fault DescriptionPoint DeductionScales too large or irregularly spaced-5Irregular or asymmetrical scale rows or patterns-5Multiple missing, damaged, or raised scales-5

Total Points 100

General Type:

To appear powerful, thick and round in shape and able to swim with confidence, gliding through the water with ease. Should be balanced and symmetrical from head to tail and side to side. Defined as a “circular” fish when viewed from the side, with the hump and belly on the same circular plane. From the top, the thick, muscular back appears as a layer atop a round torso, with a small wedge that is the head of the Ryukin.

Tail- The top of the twin tail should be set above the slope of the peduncle. The outer edges of the caudal tail shoulders will soften and relax as a fish matures. When in motion, the tail shoulders should fall back gently, to reduce resistance and assist in propelling the fish forward. When the tail shoulders are stiff, they will result in awkward tail action and waddling.

Upon resting, the tail shoulders should flex back into the perpendicular position, anchoring the Ryukin in a stationary position. Note: The fin rays will soften with age, so a topsail fish with a slightly rigid tail may improve with age; however, a judge should only make a determination on the fish before them that day and not a fish that it might become someday in the future. The lower lobes of the caudal should also be angled downward enough to propel the fish forward with ease. The tail should be well-divided, with the split being at least 50% complete.

The tail core, or connection between the two caudal wings, should not appear raised or thickened, which would suggest fusion of more than the two adjacent rays. The size of the tail should be in balance with the size and shape of the body, and never so large or effuse to appear collapsed or drooping. In the case of a large tail, the peduncle and leading ray structures must be particularly strong so as to ensure that the tail remains functional.

Head- The head should be small, triangular, and well-chiseled so as to accentuate the overall roundness of the Ryukin body. The width between the eyes and the distance from the eyes to the mouth should be evenly spaced. There must be no headgrowth (or wen) on the fish and the eyes should be of moderate size and smooth to the surface of the face, facing neither up nor down. Parrot-headed fish, excessive fleshiness, crooked mouths or evidence of nasal growth are to be severely penalized.

Back- The back should appear thick, muscular and long enough that the abdomen does not appear compressed or excessively rounded. The effect should be multi-tiered, with the muscular back on top and the rounded abdomen pronouncedly evident as a second tier. The spine should be straight from head to tail, and not crooked or twisted. If in doubt, the scale pattern along the dorsal ridge of the Ryukin can be used to understand the Ryukin’s vertebral structure. Individual Ryukin will vary in size, but the overall spherical symmetry and balance should be prioritized over the body size alone.

Hump – The Ryukin hump is a primary distinguishing feature of the breed. From the side, the hump should be on the same circular plane as the abdomen. The hump projects power and muscularity that is uniquely the Ryukin, and it must be viewed from both the front and the top of the fish.

Peduncle- The peduncle is the distal portion of the spine where the caudal fins are attached. The peduncle should appear thick and rounded and as a natural continuation of the line of the back. The peduncle should be neither too short nor too long to enable the Ryukin to propel itself seamlessly through the water. The peduncle should remain rounded all the way to the tail, and should not be pinched at the end.

Eyes- Eyes should be medium-sized, symmetrical and visible from the side. The size of the eyes should be proportionate to the body size, giving the fish a natural and alert expression. Protruding eyes are a fault and telescoped or eyes that are aligned upwards or downwards are a disqualification. Very small or unmatched pupil sizes are also a fault. Eyes may be of different colors

Scales- Scales are to be of moderate size and neatly arranged and should not be missing in patches. It is not usual for scales along the back ridge to be smaller than those along the abdomen. Scales that are irregularly patterned are an indication of irregularities in skeletal structure and should be penalized. Pigmentation on the Ryukin must be deep, with red the color of vermillion, black the color of Chinese ink, and the white without tint.

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