What's the difference between a Ranchu and a Lionhead?

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What's the difference between a Ranchu and a Lionhead?

Ever wondered how you can tell the difference between a Chinese Lionhead and a Japanese Ranchu? Goldfish boffin Paul Green of the Goldfish Society of Great Britain and the Ranchu Brotherhood explains how it's done.

The main differences between a Chinese lionhead and a Japanese Ranchu are the back and angle at which the tail is joined — and the head growth (hood or wen). However, you can get Chinese ranchu... 

The back and caudal peduncle of the Chinese lionhead are relatively flat and the tail runs on fairly flatly from the peduncle. The Japanese ranchu has a more curved and longer back profile, in Japan often likened to the shape of traditional combs or a Koban coin. 

The tail is more erect and there are some differences as to head shape, with the lionheads having large rounded head growth, whereas the ranchu has a long, wide head which, with the benefit of head growth, finally takes on a rectangular shape. 

Traditional Chinese ranchu are normally shorter bodied with a more rounded body shape and often ungraceful swimmers. However many have recently come to look more like their Japanese counterparts, having been bred from much improved imported Japanese stock.

Spot the difference 

  • Japanese ranchu have a longer back and more curved profile than the Chinese lionhead.
  • The tail of the Japanese ranchu is more erect and leaves the body at a 45° angle from the sloping caudal peduncle.
  • Ranchu have a long, wide head and a head growth that takes on a rectangular shape.
  • Japanese ranchu have a longer body than lionheads, so suffer from fewer swimbladder disorders. 
  • Ranchu can get very large and it is not uncommon to see fish of 30cm/12” on the showbench.

This item was first published in the September 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.