Freshwater Fish

Shubunkin Goldfish – Care Guide

did you know there isthree different types of Shubunkin goldfish, one of which is quite rare? Whichever variety of these beautiful and super-popular goldfish you decide to keep, you will be rewarded with many years of enjoyment, as long as you care for your fish properly.

So what size tank do you need for a Shubunkin? What is the average lifespan of a Shubunkin and which variety lives the longest? Are Shubunkins suitable for beginners?

In this complete guide to Shubunkin goldfish care, you’ll learn everything you need to know about giving these beautiful fish everything they need to thrive.


Scientific name carassius auratus auratus
Common name (species) Shubunkin, Calico Goldfish, Speckled Goldfish, Harlequin Goldfish, Coronation Goldfish
Family Cyprinids
Source No wild populations, hybrid bred in captivity
Diet Omnivore
level of care Beginner
Exercise Active and social foragers
Life expectancy 10 to 15 years, although some specimens live longer
Temper Pacific and gregarious fish
tank level Swim in all areas of the tank.
Minimum tank size 75 gallons
Temperature range 65° to 72° Fahrenheit
Hardness of water 5 to 19 dGH
pH range 6.0 to 8.0
Filtration / Flow Rate Need strong filtration
type of water Sweet water
Breeding Moderate, layers
Compatibility good community fish
OK, for planted tanks? It tends to dig, so it can uproot plants. It can nibble on tender shoots and new leaves.


There are around 200 different species of goldfish, all of which are believed to be genetically descended from the wild Prussian silver carp found widely in Asia, more specifically Siberia.

These wild carp, or «chi» as they were called, were the most widely consumed fish species in China. In fact, the fish were bred in captivity as a food source. Chi is a rather drab gray or silver color. However, from time to time, a wild fish would produce a random orange, red, or yellow fish due to a genetic abnormality.

Clearly, the brightly colored wild carp would be quickly gobbled up by predators, so the kindly vegetarian Buddhist monks of the 9th century «rescued» some of those early goldfish and kept them in ponds as pets.

These early fishermen began to experiment with crossing colorful chi, creating more and more varieties. In the 16th century, goldfish in many different shapes and colors were traded with neighboring Japan. By the 17th century, ornamental pond fish reached parts of Europe, and by the 19th century, goldfish had reached the US.


The first Shubunkins are believed to have been developed around 1900 in Japan, and in China the unusual color variant is called Chuwen-chin.

Thanks to Shubunkin’s blue color, which is rare in goldfish, these beautiful creatures are considered more valuable than other colorful forms of goldfish.


There are no wild Shubunkin goldfish, although Prussian silver carp can still be seen alive and kicking in Central Asia.

Although all the different varieties of goldfish found in fish stores are farmed commercially, they eat the same diet as their distant relatives in the wild and prefer the same habitat. Wild carp live in slow-moving bodies of water such as small rivers, lakes, ponds, and ditches, feeding on algae, plant matter, small crustaceans, and insects and insect larvae.

Thanks to their ancestry and large size, Shubunkins are usually happier and live longer if they are kept in a garden pond rather than a tank.


Shubunkin goldfish are elongated, flat-bodied fish. These fish have a short broad head and a gently tapering body that tapers from the back and belly to the base of the forked tail fin. Unlike Fancy goldfish species, Shubunkin’s fins are upright and the edge of the dorsal fin is somewhat concave.

The Shubunkin is universally popular due to its coloration. The fish are commonly described as calico, meaning they have a speckled combination of many different colors, including:

  • orange
  • Yellow
  • Net
  • Black
  • Purple
  • white
  • Gray
  • Brown

All of those colors should be set to a blue base color. Blue is a very rare color in goldfish, and the more blue a Shubunkin has, the more valuable it is.

types of goldfish SHUBUNKIN

There are three varieties of Shubunkins:

  • the american
  • the london
  • the bristol

American Shubunkin

American shubunkins have the multicolored appearance characteristic of all shubunkins, but are distinguished by their tails. These fish have much longer and deeper tails than the other variants.

Sometimes this type of Shubunkin is called a Japanese Shubunkin, as it is believed to be the original form of the species.

London Shubunkin

London Shubunkins are percale in color but have much more rounded fins and a slimmer body shape than the other types.

Bristol Shubunkin

The Bristol Shubunkin has a slender body like a kite fish, but with shorter, rounder fins.


Male and female goldfish generally look more or less the same. However, it can tell the difference between male and female fish when it comes to breeding season when the water warms up and the days get longer in spring.

If possible, watch your Shubunkins from above. Females are usually broader and rounder than males. Also, when male goldfish are in breeding condition, they develop white pimples on their gills and heads called tubers or breeding stars.


So how big will your Shubunkin goldfish get?

Shubunkin goldfish typically grow to between 12 and 18 inches in length when fully grown. Fish kept in large outdoor ponds typically reach a larger size than Shubunkins kept in tanks.


Shubunkins have a life expectancy of between ten and 15 years, although it is not uncommon for these fish to live much longer if kept in optimal conditions.


I recommend that you do not stay alone with a Shubunkin goldfish.These are very social fish that will not thrive if kept in isolation.


Like all varieties of goldfish, Shubunkins are peaceful creatures that are happiest when kept in groups of conspecifics or similar types of other coldwater fish.

Read a detailed article on safe goldfish tankmates in the article at this link.


All varieties of Shubunkins are agile and fast swimmers. For that reason, it’s not a good idea to mix these speedsters with slower, clumsier swimmers like Orandas, Lionheads, and other types of fancy goldfish.

The Shubunkins will take all the food you offer before the fantasies take a look. Also, Fantasies are typically poor swimmers and will most likely be hit and injured by fast-swimming Shubunkins.

Very small fish should also be avoided, as a large goldfish will most likely regard tiddlers as a food source.


Shubunkins can grow to quite a large size and have mouths to match!

Goldfish are notoriously greedy fish that will make a meal of just about anything that is small enough to fit in their mouths, including shrimp and small snails.


By feeding your fish the highest quality food you can afford, you can be sure your pets are getting all the nutrients and variety they need to stay healthy. Buying cheap fish food is really a false economy because cheap brands often contain a high percentage of filler that has no real nutritional value.


All goldfish are omnivores. That means they need a mix of meaty protein and plant matter in their daily diet. Therefore, I recommend a mix of goldfish flakes, pellets, and frozen foods.


Like their wild cousins, the Prussian carp, goldfish love live foods. However, I recommend frozen foods over the live equivalent.

Why? Well, unfortunately, live foods often come with hitchhikers in the form of parasites and bacteria, so the delicious food that fish enjoy can be deadly. Collecting insect larvae, worms, and the like from your local pond may seem like a good option, but should be avoided for the same reason.

If you really want to feed your Shubunkins live, the safest option is to keep a brine shrimp hatchery at home if you have the space and time.


Goldfish are voracious feeders and will eat anything offered to them without complaint. Unfortunately, that means it’s easy to overfeed your fish, which can sometimes cause health problems.

Shubunkins kept in tanks

I recommend that you tank feed Shubunkins twice a day, giving them only what they will eat in a couple of minutes.


If your Shubunkin goldfish lives in a pond in your backyard, they will find plenty to eat in the form of plant matter, algae, insects, and insect larvae naturally found in their environment. So if you only have a few small fish, you won’t need to feed them.

However, larger specimens will need to be fed goldfish pellets. Feed the fish once a day, offering just enough to last the fish for a few minutes. Do not overfeed your fish, as uneaten food will break down in the pond, contaminating the water and overloading your filtration system.

Feed pond fish in winter

When the pond water temperature drops below 50°F, stop feeding your fish every day. When the temperature drops, the metabolism of cold-blooded goldfish slows down so much that they don’t need much food. A little food given by hand once or twice a week is all the Shubunkins need in the winter weather.



Shubunkin goldfish grow rapidly and can reach 12 to 18 inches when fully grown. So you need a large tank of at least 75 gallons for a fish or a pair. For any additional fish, add another 10 gallons per fish.

Goldfish are also very dirty fish, producing large amounts of waste. So the larger the volume of water in the tank, the more the waste will be diluted. That creates a healthier environment for your fish and less maintenance work for you.

tank shape

Shubunkins are fast swimmers that need a lot of room to move, so choose a long tank over a deep one. That shape also allows for excellent gas exchange, which is crucial for these oxygen-starved fish. It goes without saying that a fish tank is not a suitable home for Shubunkins. A bowl is too small for these live fish and does not offer enough surface area.

Does a goldfish tank need a lid?

Shubunkin goldfish may jump when alarmed or when food is offered, so choose a tank with a tight-fitting lid or a slip-on lid.


Shubunkins do not have any specific requirements when it comes to tank configuration. The look of your aquarium and the aquascaping you choose is entirely up to your personal preference.

With that said, there are a few things to consider when setting up a tank for Shubunkins:


Goldfish like to dig into the substrate looking for bits of leftover food to grab. To prevent injury to fish, smooth, medium-gauge gravel is the best option.


Goldfish often look their best when displayed against a natural-looking background. So driftwood, smooth rocks, and twisted roots can all look good.

Remember that these fish are active swimmers, so don’t overcrowd the tank and leave a clear area of ​​open water in the middle of the tank.


Live plants are a great addition to any aquarium as they use toxins as nutrients and help oxygenate the water through photosynthesis.

However, goldfish are confirmed plant feeders, so choose robust species whose tough leaves are not attractive to fish. Remember that your Shubunkins like to dig into the substrate, which can uproot the plants. Use plant weights to anchor plants or place them in clay pots.



It’s an urban myth that you don’t need a goldfish filter! All goldfish, including Shubunkins, produce a large amount of waste that will pollute your tank if you don’t have an efficient filter.

The best goldfish filtration system option is something that generates enough power to provide excellent circulation and surface agitation, but without creating a strong flow. For that, an external canister filter system and powerheads are recommended. You can also add an air stone or bubbler to help oxygenate the water.



All goldfish are cold water fish, preferring a water temperature between 65o and 72o Fahrenheit.

The pH of the water should be in the range of 6.0 to 8.0, with a water hardness of between 5 and 19 dGH.


Goldfish will do well in natural ambient lighting. However, your plants will need eight to ten hours of light per day for photosynthesis.

Basically, you need to select an LED lighting unit that suits the light level requirements of the plant species you are growing in the aquarium.


Perform weekly 30% water changes and thoroughly clean the substrate with an aquarium vacuum. Take care to remove food debris, dead plant matter, and fish waste from between the base of plants, in the corners of the tank, and under tank décor items.

Use an algae magnet to remove algae from viewing panels so you can enjoy your fish. But be careful not to remove all the beneficial bacteria and biofilm that are essential for biological filtration.

You should rinse the filter media with dirty tank water once every few weeks to prevent it from getting clogged with mud. Change the old filter media from time to time, as recommended by the manufacturer.


Gather everything you need to set up your aquarium, including:

  • Canister or Powerhead Filtration System
  • Air stone or bubbler (if using)
  • LED lighting unit
  • Floors
  • Medium gauge gravel substrate
  • Smooth rocks, driftwood, twisted roots, etc.
  • water conditioner
  1. Wash the gravel under running water to remove dust.
  2. Add a few inches of gravel to the aquarium. Place an upturned plate or plate on top of the substrate.
  3. Attach the filter and heater, but do not turn them on yet.
  4. Add non-chlorinated tap water up to one inch below the fill line. Pour the water over the plate upside down so as not to displace the gravel.
  5. The water must contain a small amount of ammonia to start the nitrogen cycle. To do that, you can add some gravel from an established fish tank, sprinkle some fish flakes into the water, or add a drop or two of pure ammonia.
  6. Wash your decorations to remove dust and add them to the tank.
  7. Trim live plants if you are using them to remove dead or brown leaves and damaged stems, and plant the prepared stems in clay pots or directly in gravel. Be sure to leave space between plants for them to grow and spread.
  8. Activate the filter and heater system and let them run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your plants will require eight to ten hours of light each day to photosynthesize, so turn on your tank lights if applicable.


Now, you need to wait until the tank has completed the cycle. That can take at least ten days and you can’t add fish to your tank until the cycle is complete.

Test the water to see that ammonia and nitrite levels are zero and nitrate levels are ideally below 20 ppm.

If those levels are too high, you should give time and keep testing the water.


Shubunkin goldfish are hardy creatures, but they can sometimes be prone to some diseases, especially if the water is dirty and polluted.


Shubunkins are active and social fish that enjoy swimming with their tank mates, digging, and foraging in the substrate.


Warning signs that could indicate possible health problems include:

  • not eat
  • Inactivity
  • Sores, ulcers, or red areas on the skin.
  • Broken, ripped, or bloody fins
  • Rubbing or hitting the substrate or solid objects in the tank
  • Not socializing with peers


Health problem Symptoms or causes suggested action
Ich (white spot disease) White spot disease is a parasitic infection. Infected goldfish rub against solid objects, and scattered white spots appear on the gill covers, fins, and body of the fish. Treat the tank with over-the-counter Ich medications.
Flukes Flukes is a generic term for several species of parasites that attach to the body or gills of the fish. Fish with flukes secrete excess mucus and rub against objects in the tank. Treat the water with an antiparasitic medication.
fungal infections White, fluffy growths on the mouth, head, body, and gills. Quarantine infected fish and treat the tank with antifungal medication.
Bacterial infections Sores, ulcers, and red spots on the head and body, and torn, bloody fins. Treat the water with an over-the-counter antibacterial medication.


Shubunkins are egg layers and can be raised in a home tank. The fish generally spawn in the spring when the weather warms up, and if you keep goldfish in an outdoor pond, chances are you’ll discover plenty of babies without having to do any work.


Set up a large spawning tank containing lots of lush plants, smooth pebbles, and perhaps a few spawning mops. When the eggs are laid, they stick to spawning plants, pebbles, or mops.

To induce spawning, reduce the water temperature to 60°. For the next few days, slowly raise the temperature by 3° each day until the Shubunkins start spawning, usually once the water temperature reaches 68° to 74°F.

Feed the fish a high protein live diet of bloodworms, brine shrimp and daphnia etc.


Before mating occurs, the male fish chases the female around the tank and the colors of both fish intensify. Watch out for breeding stars on the male’s gill covers that indicate he is ready to breed.

The male fish will push the female against the plants to stimulate her to drop her cargo of eggs. That can take a few hours, and the female can produce up to 10,000 eggs.


Keep an eye on the procedures and be ready to remove the parent fish once the eggs are laid, as they will eat the eggs and fry if they get the chance.

Hatching usually takes between four and seven days. When the fry are free swimming, you can feed them infusoria and fry foods, followed by brine shrimp and crushed goldfish flakes when the little Shubunkins are big enough to tackle that.


You can buy Shubunkin goldfish at most fish and pet stores.

Shubunkins are generally not very expensive, although you will pay more for those with exceptional blue coloration. London Shubunkins tend to be less frequently available and therefore more expensive than the other varieties.

  • air stone and bomb
  • algae magnet
  • Aquarium (minimum size 75 gallons)
  • aquarium vacuum cleaner
  • Goldfish Conservation Books
  • canister filtration
  • Power heads (optional)
  • medium caliber gravel
  • High quality goldfish flakes and pellets, frozen food
  • LED lighting unit
  • Live plants (optional)
  • Smooth rocks, driftwood, tangled roots
  • water conditioner / dechlorinator


I hope you enjoyed our comprehensive guide to the beautiful and unusual Shubunkin goldfish.

Do you have Shubunkins in a tank or outdoor pond? Are you the proud owner of a rare blue Shubunkin?

Tell us your story in the comments box below, and remember to share our guide if you loved it.

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