The Rarest Breed of Goldfish—Thought to Be an Urban Legend—May Have Been Rediscovered in the Wild

Chicken Nugget and Tater Tot, who look like rare meteor goldfish, seem to be adjusting well to their new tanks and to online fame.

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When Reddit user heavypickle99 was cleaning out a client’s backyard pond, he almost certainly wasn’t expecting to find two tailless little goldfish at the bottom. After rescuing them and bringing them home, he posted a photo online and asked the goldfish community: “Is this a birth defect or an injury that healed?” And the Internet went wild. 

Chicken Nugget and Tater Tot, the two fish, look just like a type of goldfish named “meteor goldfish,” the rarest breed of goldfish in the world. The breed is characterized by its lack of a tail, with the rest of its fins elongated to help it swim surprisingly well.

At first considered a “mere freak” by breeders who encountered it as a random mutation, it was then purposefully bred at some point in the 19th century, even winning in competitive goldfish shows (yes, those are a thing). But the breed never really caught on—perhaps partly because of the difficulty in successfully raising them, as they are often weak and susceptible to illness.

Either way, meteor goldfish were very poorly documented, to the point where it has been suspected that they have just been a “self-perpetuating rumor” over the years and never actually existed. The Bristol Aquarists’ Society index on goldfish goes so far as to say “the Website Author has yet to see a photograph of such a fish (excluding a very few developmental freaks), either in books or on the Internet.”

But Chicken Nugget and Tater Tot are very well-beloved freaks. They’ve amassed a following on Reddit and have their own X and Instagram accounts.

Alas, it’s unlikely that these goldfish are actually meteor goldfish. Breeders haven’t bred them in decades, after all. It’s even possible that their lack of a tail isn’t due to genetics, but rather the result of an old injury or infection. And even if their taillessness is a genetic mutation, that doesn’t necessarily make them meteor goldfish. It would be like if a stray dog just happened to be born looking just like a Dalmatian—without the papers and the lineage, it’s not technically the same thing. Some people think Chicken Nugget and Tater Tot may not even be pure goldfish at all, but rather goldfish-koi hybrids.

As for the future of Chicken Nugget and Tater Tot, many people want them to carry their taillessness forward to the next generation to see more “meteor goldfish.” But as one Reddit user pointed out, chances are that their offspring wouldn’t inherit the same traits. A study done on tilapia showed that many of the factors that could cause such a deformity aren’t heritable, but rather individual imbalances or due to the environment altering their development. And aside from that, there’s the question of ethics when it comes to purposefully breeding a fish with no tail.

As with Pugs or Manx cats, changing the structure of the fish may cause it to have health issues or mobility struggles we’re not yet aware of. As of right now, heavypickle99 has no intention of breeding Chicken Nugget or Tater Tot—but they’ve already made their mark in goldfish history.

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