The Pearlscale (nicknamed Ping-Pong goldfish) is of Chinese origin from the Cyprinidae family (of which the koi is also a member). In Japanese, it is known as Chinsurin.
They are frequently mistaken for Fantails with their characteristic egg-shaped bodies but the shapes are slightly different. The body is compact and rounded, with a small, narrow head and no wen (crown).
There is a variety that has a hood that is similar to that of the Oranda—only as more rounded and not as cauliflower shaped—known as the Crown (Hamanishiki or “High-headed”) Pearlscale.
They maintain the rounded body shape throughout life with younger Pearlscales resembling golf balls, while the older look more like oranges (but with more colors!).
According to this article, the Pearlscale was a gift to the Empress Dowager Ci-Xi of China from an Indian delegation. The article also goes on to say that it is believed to be a mutation of the Chinese fantail.
Although it could have some more ancient roots, the good-natured Pearlscales are believed to have been around in their current form since the late 1800s or early 1900s.
Here are some of the defining characteristics of the Pearlscale:
- Can be short or long
- Slightly rounded at edges
- Single dorsal fin
- Caudal, pectoral, ventral, pelvic and anal fins are all paired
- Caudal fin lobes are split giving a forked appearance
- Domed and arranged in rows
- Milky “pearl” domes should be in contrast to metallic underneath
- Golf ball- or orange-shaped
- Body is as wide as it is deep
- Depth should be ⅔ of the length
- Red/White combinations
- Chocolate brown
This is the only fancy goldfish to have scales of different shapes to those of the common goldfish.
Unlike the other goldfish, the scales are domed, making them look like beads. Calcium carbonate deposits at the tops of the scales are what gives them the translucent, pearl-like appearance.
The Pearlscale has nacreous scales. These are a combination of two basic types of goldfish scales—matt (flat or translucent color) and metallic (guanine-rich, reflective) scales.
Nacreous scales exhibit both reflective and translucent qualities, allowing for the biggest variation in colors.
If one of the bead scales is lost, its replacement will grow back flat, so it is recommended that your aquarium doesn’t have any rough or abrasive surfaces.
Pearlscales are comfortable in tanks or ponds. A bigger surface area is recommended and can be helpful for maintaining higher oxygen concentrations.
A good starting point for this fancy goldfish is a 30-gallon tank, with an additional 10 gallons per Pearlscale. Weekly water changes (from ¼ to a ⅓) are recommended. Additional calcium-enrichment of the water is also helpful with Pearlscale for scale maintenance.
Some enthusiasts recommend that your tank water have a light-green tinge (with small amounts of algae) to it. It helps to maintain the quality of the color of the Pearlscale. Direct sunlight in clear water can cause the scales’ color to fade.
And although fairly hardy, it is sensitive to rapid swings in temperature and pH. It can, however, withstand colder water temperatures, as long as the temperature change is gradual. An ideal temperature ranges between 66-72ºF. And although the Pearlscale can survive in near freezing temperatures, less than 55ºF is not recommended.
The pH, as in most of this species, is at 7.0, but it can live in the 6.0-8.0 range (although not ideal for growth or color).
Because of their shape, they are not particularly good (reads: fast) swimmers. It is not recommended to keep Pearlscales with faster swimming or more aggressive fish as they will be outcompeted for food. Comets, common Goldfish and Shubunkins may not be the best mates. Slower swimmers like the Fantail, Ryukin and the Black Moor Goldfish are better options.
Even though there can be swimbladder issues as the Pearlscale matures, affecting their ability to keep upright in the water, they can live up to 15 years—some of the bigger ones can reach upwards of 8-10 inches and about the size of an orange.
Because of the heavier calcium requirements on the scales, evidence suggests a calcium fortified diet.
As a result of their body shapes, they have more compact intestinal structures. Dry flakes or pellets are not recommended as their intestines are quite delicate and dry food can cause swelling. Soaking them beforehand can help digestion.
They are omnivorous and should be fed a variegated diet consisting of vegetables (lettuce, cucumber, peas—which can help with constipation) as well as live (or frozen) insects or shellfish like daphnia, bloodworms, tubiflex worms and shrimp.
It should be noted, though, that parasites and harmful bacteria can be present in live food, so it should be used as a treat.
Pearlscales are a common fancy goldfish as a result of their unusual shape and scalation. Given the right amount of care and proper feeding, these amiable goldfish can make wonderful additions to any family.