You must admit that Ping Pong goldfish are adorable, whether you are a novice fish hobbyist or an advanced fishkeeper.

Among the many variants of goldfish available, this is the roundest among them all—it’s a trait all goldfish enthusiasts who own this species would like their fish to have. After all it is this particular shape that gave them the name. Seeing them wiggle those round bodies with their short tail flapping behind them is what makes these cuties so irresistible…and I haven’t even mentioned the pretty face behind it yet.

Ping Pong goldfish have this angelic, innocent, and child-like face that makes you smile when you see them. The Ping Pong goldfish trace their origins to the Pearlscale goldfish, a variant of goldfish from China known for its pearl-like scales that look like beads of pearls protruding from their bodies. The Pearlscale was imported to Japan in the late 1950s where they were called ‘Chinshurin’ because their name written in Chinese characters read ‘Chinshurin’ in Japanese.

After some time and through selective breeding of the Pearlscale goldfish, fish farmers were able to develop very round goldfish with pearl-like scales and short tails. Thus, the variant we love to call Ping Pong goldfish was born. To my recollection, Pearlscale goldfish may have been introduced to the country in the late 1980s and the Ping Pong goldfish may have first appeared in local fishkeepers’ tanks about a decade later.

Cute but Hard to Care For

While Ping Pong goldfish may win your heart because of their good looks, their care is another thing altogether. In my opinion, Ping Pong goldfish is one of the most challenging, if not the most difficult, goldfish variant to care for. I believe that in the process of developing a very round goldfish, inbreeding has inadvertently resulted in some negative traits.

They are not as hardy as other goldfish variants. Ping Pong goldfish dying on their owner for no apparent reason is a common experience, as compared to keeping other variants like Ryukins and Orandas, which are hardier. Scratching their heads is a habit Ping Pong goldfish keepers develop when they get home from work only to find their ball-like goldfish floating in the corner of the tank.

Wondering why the fish died seems to be an intriguing question most Ping Pong Goldfish keepers ask themselves.a More attention to details, better fish husbandry, and patience are required to improve the chances of successfully keeping them. The funny thing is, caring for Ping Pong goldfish is no different from keeping other goldfish variants; they are, after all, still goldfish and are classified under the same scientific name, Carassius auratus.

Goldfish like water that is slightly alkaline. Thus it would be best to keep water parameters within the pH range of 7.2 to 7.6. To do so, it would be best to keep carbonate hardness (KH) to about 200 ppm to 300 ppm. At these KH levels, it should help keep the pH level in your aquarium stable at the ideal 7.2 to 7.6 pH and prevent a pH crash. Therefore it is best to have some crushed corals or oyster shells as chemical filtration media in your filter system to keep KH and pH at desired levels.

Keep GH in the ideal range. General hardness (GH) is a measurement of the amount of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium and others in the water. Since goldfish are sturdy enough to manage soft and hard water, a GH range of 100 ppm to 400 ppm is ideal. Values outside this range are considered extremes and should be avoided especially when keeping Ping Pong goldfish.

Water quality is a big issue for goldfish keepers. Since goldfish are messy eaters and produce so much bio load, a very good filter with frequent and periodic tank maintenance is required. A good filter with active bioactivity should produce a well-cycled tank that should keep ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 ppm.

However, as with any mature filter system, nitrate levels will build up over time. It would be ideal to keep nitrate levels to 5 ppm to 20 ppm. Regular and frequent partial water changes should keep nitrate levels in check and within ideal levels. It is recommended that you do a 30% to 40% water change every two or three days when keeping goldfish. Ensure that your maintenance efforts will result in keeping nitrate levels below 40 ppm; otherwise, it may be dangerous for your Ping Pong goldfish.

Thus, it is wise to consider stocking lightly on Ping Pong goldfish to make sure your water quality is maintained well. It is a fact that under stocking will make for more stable water parameters and water quality as compared to over stocking. Under stocking is a good practice when keeping Ping Pong goldfish. Avoid over stocking due to greed and excitement, and give your Ping Pong goldfish a better chance at survival. Committing to light stocking density is a practice that benefits kept fish in general. With the Ping Pong goldfish, it is more a ‘must’ than an ideal.

Other Considerations

This is an observation I made after seeing the facilities in Lambs Marketing, one of the country’s leading aquarium fish wholesalers. They regularly import Ping Pong and other variants of goldfish. And one thing I noticed is their stocking density for Ping Pong goldfish is much less compared to the other goldfish variants. I interviewed one of the caretakers for the fishes, Openg Dagami, and he explains that if they normally stock a 100-gallon aquarium with 120 to 150 Ryukin or Oranda goldfish, a tank with the same volume is stocked with only 50 to 70 Ping Pong goldfish of the same size.

Likewise, he revealed that the packing density for Ping Pong goldfish is significantly less as compared to other variants of goldfish. When they receive a shipment of Ryukin and Oranda goldfish, there may be 100 pieces in a bag. However, the same size of bag will contain only 50 Ping Pong goldfish. Thus, even their suppliers practice loose packing when it comes to Ping Pong goldfish. Loose packing and low stocking density may also prevent injuries that Ping Pong goldfish are prone too. Quite often, you can observe Ping Pong goldfish with red spots on their body.

Perhaps because of their round body shape, Ping Pong goldfish tend to collide with each other and are often found to have hematoma-like injuries, which can easily develop into more serious injuries and lead to their eventual death. Another big concern with keeping Ping Pong goldfish is its susceptibility to Swim Bladder Disease (SBD). This is a real concern with goldfish keepers in general, but it seems to be more prevalent with Ping Pong goldfish. “SBD is common with Ping Pong goldfish. Compared to other variants, it seems they are more prone to SBD,” says Brian Santos, a long time fishkeeper who has kept Ping Pong goldfish many times. “Thus, they should be given food that is high in vegetative matter like fish food with spirulina or green peas. They say a high fiber diet can prevent SBD.”

If you are to seriously consider keeping Ping Pong goldfish, I highly recommend giving these round beauties their own tank and not mix other goldfish variants with them. The Ping Pong Goldfish cannot compete for food with other goldfish variants. They are so fat and slow, to the point they sometimes seem clumsy when they swim. Other variants will surely bully them when food is offered and they will most likely be hurt by other goldfish.

While keeping Ping Pong goldfish can be quite a challenge, I must honestly say that keeping them is well worth it. Your hard work and perseverance will surely be rewarded when you have a tank with a few Ping Pong goldfish. A Ping Pong goldfish the size of a softball is a goldfish one should be proud of, and it is sure to be the envy of one’s peers. I’d say Ping Pong goldfish are, as Robert Palmer once sang, “Simply irresistible!”

This appeared in Animal Scene’s October 2015 issue.