Complete Shubunkin Goldfish Guide: 5 Must Read Facts

Goldfish come in many forms, but have you ever seen a calico Goldfish before?

The Shubunkin Goldfish is a single tailed breed that is beautifully decorated in many different colors. They are red, gold, orange, silver, white, and black and look just like Koi!

Shubunkins are one of the most sought after Goldfish breeds.

They are one of the easiest fish for beginners to care for and their playful nature will captivate keepers of all ages.

Are you considering one of these beautiful Goldfish for your aquarium?

Read our guide below on care, breeding, and much more…


What is a Shubunkin Goldfish?

Goldfish are the single most common aquarium fish in the world and is one of the few that is well known by those outside of the aquarium hobby.

The Shubunkin is a captive-bred variety of the Common Goldfish (Carassius auratus).

It was first bred in Japan in the 1890s by crossing a Wakin Goldfish with a calico colored Telescope.

They are best known for their color.

In an outdoor setup this fish can reach lengths of up to 12 inches. Indoors it will top off between 8 and 10 inches.

The price depends on the size and the quality of your specimen. Smaller specimens under 6 inches long will cost anywhere from $4-$8. A large, top quality specimen can cost well over $25.

A lot of people think that Shubunkin Goldfish are Fancy Goldfish. Fancy Goldfish are double tailed varieties that are bred for their unique appearance. Shubunkins are a single tailed breed so they are not considered Fancy.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: None.
  • Nicknames: Calico Goldfish.
  • Color Forms: Calico.
  • Size: 8-12 inches.
  • Tank Size: Minimum 75+ gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 65-72°F.

Pros and Cons


  • Good starter fish for beginner.
  • Affordable alternative to the Koi.
  • Compatible with other types of Goldfish.
  • Suitable for both indoor and outdoor setups.


  • More expensive than other single tailed Goldfish.
  • Needs a large tank.
  • Very popular and sells out quickly.
  • Can sometimes intimidate Fancy Goldfish.

Shubunkin Goldfish Appearance

Shubunkin Goldfish Swimming

This fast swimming fish has a very streamlined body and is shaped like a torpedo.

Their body is designed to keep up with currents and water pressure.

Shubunkin Goldfish come in three different varieties: American, London, and Bristol.

  • American: This is the standard variety, and has a torpedo-shaped body with a pointed V-shaped caudal fin.
  • Bristol: The Bristol variety is the rarest and most popular. They have the same body shape as the American, but with trailing fins that are rounded at the tips.
  • London: The London variety has shorter fins and a more compressed body which closely resembles a calico colored Common Goldfish.

Young fish sold in pet stores can be between 4 and 6 inches long.

One of the biggest mistakes that a keeper can make is to assume that it will stay that size, or grow to fit the tank. Expect them to grow to around 10 inches long, but it can grow over 12 inches outdoors.

They have a total of 6 different fins, including: a sail shaped dorsal fin, a V-shaped caudal fin, paired pectoral fins, a pelvic fin, and an anal fin.

You can use the fins to tell the difference between males and females. Males have longer and wider fins, whereas females have rounder abdomens. Males will also develop small white spots (known as breeding tubercles) when they are in breeding condition.

Their beautiful colors are the main attraction.

Red, orange, gold, black, and yellow can appear over a white, silver, or blue base color.

A single fish can have up to 5 different colors at once. Small black ink marks will appear on their fins as well as their body.

Growth Rate and Size

Shubunkin Goldfish are not only one of the largest single tailed Goldfish, but they are also one of the fastest growing.

Fish just purchased at the pet shop are about 4 inches long and will grow at a rate of about half an inch per month. As they get older the growth rate slows to an inch per year. However, it continues growing throughout its entire life.

In a pond this fish will grow over 12 inches long.

5 Fun Facts About Shubunkin Goldfish

  1. Blue and red are the most popular colors, with the Bristol being the most expensive variety.
  2. The oldest Shubunkin Goldfish was 20 years old.
  3. Although this is strictly a captive breed, it may be spotted in the wild if it was released or escaped from a fish farm.
  4. The Shubunkin Goldfish is often kept as a cheaper alternative to the Koi. It is also a great option for keepers who cannot commit to an outdoor pond.
  5. Contrary to popular opinion, this fish does not have a short memory. Goldfish can learn to memorize their feeding schedules, recognize their keepers and even perform tricks.

Habitat and Aquarium Set Up

Shubunkin Goldfish Close Up

The Shubunkin Goldfish is not found in the wild but their environmental conditions match their cousins (the Common Goldfish).

Common Goldfish occur in both natural and manmade bodies of water, including drainage basins and irrigation ditches. They prefer cool, slow moving waters that are somewhat turbid.

It is easy to create a good set up for this fish, but you must have at least a 75 gallon tank. You will need to add 10 gallons of water for every additional Shubunkin Goldfish you keep.

The ideal temperature range is between 65 and 72°F. The pH range is 6.0-8.0 and the hardness can range from 4-18 dGH. You will need a powerful filter to clean up a large amount of waste – aim for an external filter for an indoor aquarium and a canister for an outdoor pond.

Your fish will look their best in a light intensity between 2-4 watts per gallon. In an outdoor setup you can rely on natural sunlight.

Use a light colored gravel substrate that is not plastic or dyed.

There are so many different ways that you can decorate a Goldfish’s home.

Try placing a few rocks or driftwood structures in the corners of your tank.

While these fish do appreciate plants they are also likely to eat them or dig them up. Floating plants are your best option for this tank.

Float Hornwort, Green Cabomba, Duckweed, or Redroot Floater along the surface of your tank or pond.

You should avoid artificial plants as your Goldfish will try to eat them.

Caring for a Shubunkin Goldfish

Shubunkin Goldfish

The Goldfish is considered the perfect beginner fish.

They are hardy and highly adapted to changing water conditions.

To thrive your Goldfish will need a proper tank (not a bowl) with a filter that is powerful enough to clean up all of the waste they produce.

You will also need to clean the tank each week. This includes at least a 25% water change and cleaning the glass, and vacuuming the gravel.

The most common disease is ich or white spot disease, which is caused by a parasite. The telltale sign is a sprinkling of white dust over their scales. Your fish may rub against the aquarium glass or decorations in order to relieve the itching caused by the ich.

It may also be quite lethargic.

Fortunately, ich is one of the most treatable illnesses. However, it can spread very quickly to the other fish in the tank. You should isolate your fish as soon as you realize something is off, and start a regimen of antiparasitic medication. Keep them isolated for at least a week until the infection has cleared up completely.

Feeding and Diet

Shubunkin Goldfish are big eaters will dominate the tank at feeding times.

High quality fish flakes will make up the bulk of their diet.

These flakes should include both protein and vegetables, with no food dyes or carb-filled additives.

You can also offer them live prey.

Bloodworms are a favorite, but they will also accept earthworms and grindal worms. Your fish will happily munch on water fleas, brine shrimp, grass shrimp and insects. Snails can make a tasty snack as well.

Lettuce, zucchini, peas, broccoli, and cucumbers can be boiled and blanched for a delicious snack. Bananas, strawberries, and melon make a tasty treat as well.

You can also feed your fish the extra cuttings from your aquarium plants too. This helps to stop them from munching on your plants the rest of the time!

Here is a safe list of food they can eat:

  • Flakes
  • Pellets
  • Bloodworms
  • Microworms
  • Earthworms
  • Grindal worms
  • Daphnia
  • Moina
  • Brine shrimp
  • Grass shrimp
  • Insects
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Melon

You should feed them twice a day as adults and 3 times a day as juvenile.

Each serving should last them around 2 minutes.

Shubunkin Eating


These playful fish are always in motion and can be spotted darting around every level of the tank. They swim very gracefully and are fun to watch.

Shubunkin Goldfish enjoy exploring their environment and are at their happiest when there is plenty of wide open space to explore.

You will often spot them nibbling at the gravel in their tank. They are not eating the gravel, but sifting it for leftover fish flakes and other things to eat.

Contrary to popular opinion these fish do not have short memories!

You might notice that your fish will swim to the sides of the tank when you enter the room. This means that they have associated you with their food and care. They can also learn to navigate mazes and puzzles that you set up in the tank.

Tank Mates

These fish are very friendly and social.

They will get along with Goldfish of all kinds, along with other fish that can live in a cool water tank.

Since they are temperate water fish you must only include species that can handle temperatures under 74°F.

Other Goldfish make the best tank mates and your Shubunkin will spend a lot of time chasing and playing with them.

Common and Comet Goldfish make wonderful friends for them, as do Fantails and other more hardy Fancy breeds. If you have a pond, you can house this fish alongside the beautiful Koi fish.

Other suitable tank mates include:

  • Glass Catfish
  • Common Pleco
  • Cherry Barbs
  • Zebra Danios
  • Platys
  • Dojo Loaches
  • Apple Snails

There are a few tank mates that you should never keep with Shubunkins.

Slow moving breeds like Orandas and Ryukins will not be able to keep up with its speed and energy.

Also avoid predatory fish such as Iridescent Sharks and tropical species like Celestial Pearl Danios and most Tetras.

Finally, make sure to avoid fin nippers like Guppies, White Cloud Mountain Minnows and most Barbs.

Keeping Shubunkin Goldfish Together

These fish are very happy when kept in groups.

However you must make sure that you have enough space for each one.

A 75 gallon tank will only be able to hold a pair.

You need 20 gallons of water for each Goldfish after your initial pair. For instance, you will need a 115 gallon tank to keep a group of 4.

Breeding Shubunkin Goldfish

How To Breed Shubunkin Goldfish

If you want to breed your Shubunkins then you will need to have a group of at least 5.

Breeding them outdoors in a pond is easier, however you can breed them inside too. You will need at least a 100 gallon tank.

Furnish it with soft substrate and a few Hornwort plants.

Drop the tank temperature to 60°F, then slowly raise it daily in increments of 2°F to mimic the spring breeding season.

Bloodworms and other protein packed foods will get your fish into breeding condition. Once they are ready to breed the males will develop tiny white breeding tubercles over their pectoral fins.

Males will become particularly hyperactive and chase the females around the tank. When they pair off the male will lead her behind a plant to lay her eggs. Up to 3000 eggs can be laid at a time and spawning occurs 5 or 6 times throughout the year.

The eggs will turn from white to transparent when they are fertilized. After this, you must remove the parents to stop them from eating the eggs.

Usually the eggs hatch within 2 days, but it can take up to 4.

For the first 2 days the larvae will survive off of their yolk sacs.

After this they can be fed liquid algae and infusoria for the first 2 weeks

The juvenile fish can be added to your community tank once they reach 4 inches in size. They will reach maturity once they are 8 months old.

Shubunkin Goldfish History and First Sighting

The history of Goldfish begins in ancient China.

It is closely related to the Common Carp and comes from the Cyprinidae family.

The Shubunkin Goldfish was first bred in the late 1800s. It was created by crossing a Wakin Goldfish with a calico Telescope.

At the beginning of the 20th century their popularity spread outside of Asia. Foreign visitors to Japan and China took the fish back with them to their home countries, prompting breeders in the west to create their own variations.

The Bristol and London varieties were created in the 1930s, while the American variety slightly modified the original Japanese line. Hobbyists no longer had to rely on imports from Japan and China.

Once the breed became available in other parts of the world their popularity skyrocketed and it became known as the poor man’s Koi fish.

Shubunkin Goldfish are still widely bred today and they are usually the first Goldfish to sell out at the pet store.

Quick Species Summary Table

Shubunkin Goldfish
Other Common Names: Calico Goldfish
Scientific Name: Carassius auratus
Family Name: Cyprinidae
Distribution: Captivity only
Size: 8-12 inches
Color: Calico
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Energetic
Lifespan: 10-15 years
Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Other Goldfish and temperate water fish


The Shubunkin is one of the most remarkable Goldfish that you can keep.

It is very similar to the Comet Goldfish, although it is much more eye-catching.

You can design any number of creative setups for them to live in and you can even use them to accent a beautiful garden pond.

Their hyperactive nature can provide hours of fun for its keepers and its tank mates.

Just remember that this is certainly not a disposable pet. Their intelligence, good health, and long lifespan will lay this misconception to rest.

Whether it is the only fish in your tank or part of a diverse community, the Shubunkin Goldfish is truly the life of the aquarium.

Let us know in the comments section below if you have any questions…