Shubunkin Goldfish: Types, Care, Diet, Tank Size & More

A shoal of Shubunkin Goldfish

If you a lover of fancy goldfish, and of course you are since you are reading this guide I’m pretty sure you are also going to love the Shubunkin goldfish. 

These goldfish packs virtually all you can ask for in a fish.

First of all, they are amazingly colorful, and will add splashes of colors to your tank more than all but very few goldfish.

Secondly, unlike many fancy goldfish, they are expert swimmers and will liven up your tank in a very exciting way.

Thirdly, they are easy to care for, have straight forward care requirements and can survive pretty low temperatures.

These are just some of the few reasons why the shubunkin goldfish are favorites of many fish hobbyists.

In this guide, you are going to find more of those reasons plus understand their care requirements from tank size, water parameters, diet, tank mates and much more.

By the time you are done reading it, you have all the info, you need to buy and rise the Shubunkin goldfish successfully for many years to come.

Let’s get to it!

The Shubunkin Goldfish are plainly one of the most colorful and beautiful fancy goldfish you can add to your tank. 

While most goldfish have a combo of no more than 2 colors, the shubunkin is covered in a mixture of numerous exciting colors and patterns. 

This is why it’s often referred to as the Calico or the Speckled Goldfish. 

Fascinatingly, they have a color combo of oranges, yellows, blacks, browns, purples, greys, whites, reds and sometimes even blue. 

Being one of the types of fancy goldfish means shubunkin goldfish did not originate from the wild. They are a product of selective breeding and its believed that they were first created in Japan roughly about 120 years ago in the year 1900. 

These fish are ancestors of a species of wild carp known as the Prussian Carp, Silver Prussian Carp or Gibel Carp Carassius gibelio and their scientific name is Carassius auratus.

The Prussian carp specifically inhibit the slow-moving and stagnant lakes, ponds and rivers of Siberia, Central Asia.

Temperature can vary across the water bodies and most contain slightly neutral pH with sand and dirt laying beneath.

Most fancy goldfish do pretty well in a similar condition as the Prussian Carp.

Shubunkin goldfish make a beautiful addition to home aquariums because of their flashy colors and activeness.

And because they can survive pretty low temperatures as long there is no rapid fluctuations, they are usually kept in outdoor ponds.

This is undeniably a good thing considering how big they can get. Many hobbyists prefer them over koi because they offer the same excitement and are less expensive.

Shubunkin Goldfish Care Snippet

  • Maximum fish size: 12.0 inch
  • Minimum tank size: 75 gallons
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner – Expert
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 65°F to 72°F
  • PH: 6.0 to 8.0
  • Hardness: 5 to 19dGH
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Ideal tank mates: Glass Catfish, Killifish, Koi, Comet Goldfish, Fancy Golfish, Cherry Barbs, Tetras, Guppies, et Cetra.

Appearance

First of all, there are three different types of Shubunkin Goldfish existing now which are:

  • The American 
  • The Bristol 
  • The London

But before we go on to discuss the differences between the 3, I wanted to point out the general characteristics these fish share. The most obvious one is the body coloration.

They all come with numerous colors and patterns with the usual colors being red, orange, grey, white, yellow, brown, and purple. 

These colors combine to create an amazing calico look that is very hard to get bored with. 

You know how beautiful those calico cats look? know that they are just tricoloured. Shubunkin goldfish in most cases have more than three colors.

What’s more, sometimes they come with a combo of blue which is extremely rare in goldfish.

Interestingly the bluer the fish the rarer it is and because the blue is desired so much by hobbyist the more expensive it is.

Shubunkin Goldfish Appearance

They generally have a wide but short head and their body is elongated and tapers smoothly towards the back. 

They have a prominent dorsal fin which usually stands erect. Their tail fin is very large, forked and flowing.

A combination of their calico pattern and their long flowing fins makes them absolutely stunning to watch when cruising around the tank.

As for the differences, it goes like this.

  • The American is considered by many as the original Japanese Shubunkin rather than a variant. The way to identify it is from the tail as it has a longer tail with a considerably deeper fork, kinda like that of a Comet Goldfish. 
  • The Bristol is the rarest of the 3 making it more expensive. Its body is slenderer than the rest and has a very packed tail that looks a bit like the letter “B”.
  • The London has the shortest tail and their fins are more rounded. Its is the most common of the 3.
Shubunkin Goldfish, Calico Goldfish

Size

As with other goldfish, the maximum size a Shubunkin Goldfish attains depend largely on the available space. In most cases, their maximum size ranges in home aquariums is between 5 to 6 inches. 

Where they have access to abundant space like in outdoor ponds their maximum size range is between 12 to 14 inches.

In very rare cases they grow up to around 18 inches long in spacious ponds. Food is another factor that determines how big they get. 

Shubunkin Goldfish Lifespan

In ideal conditions and with proper care, the average lifespan of a Shubunkin Goldfish is between 10 to 15 years. 

If you are really determined to keep these fish around for that 15 years or even more, you have to make sure you provide them with a spaciously adequate tank or pond, feed them a healthy diet and keep their water conditions always in the zone. 

Goldfish generally are very sturdy species and have one of the longest lifespans among all freshwater fish. 

There have numerous instances where owners have been able to keep theirs for up to around 20 years in their ponds. 

But like any fish, they too have a vulnerability that can shorten the lifespan, the biggest one is poor water conditions. 

A shoal of Calico Goldfish in an outdoor pond

Temperament and General Behavior

Shubunkin goldfish are very peaceful animals just like the rest of goldfish. On top of that, they are incredibly social and love hanging out in groups with other similar species. 

Unlike the Black Moors, Orandas or Bubble Eye Goldfish they are very agile and expert swimmers. You will find them darting from one part of the tank to next.

Therefore, when keeping them with other goldfish avoid the slow-moving ones, instead go for ones like the Comet Goldfish. 

Because they are agile swimmers they don’t joke around while feeding and will finish any food they find as quickly as they can.

They hug all the food unless they have no need for it at the time, so it’s not a good idea to house them with slow species. 

These goldfish are also good scavengers. So good that you are probably better off without keeping any bottom dweller as they will scavenge and clear out any leftover food at the bottom of the tank.

Tank Size

Although these fish can survive in a way smaller tank than they actually need, they do much better when kept in a spaciously adequate tank or pond.

This is why you may see some aquarists recommend tank as small as 20 gallons for them. While others recommend 75 or even 100 gallons. 

But for me, I recommend keeping them in at least a 75-gallons tank if at all possible considering how fast they grow. A tank this size will sufficiently accommodate 1 to 2 Shubunkin Goldfish, but don’t attempt to keep more than this number. 

These are fish with huge growth potential and due to their activeness need a lot of swimming room to be happy. They constantly move around and search for food wherever they can. 

Their need for large space is the main reason why they are kept in outdoor ponds very often. 

Tank Requirements

After securing a spaciously adequate tank or pond you need to equip it with all they will need to stay healthy and feel very much at home. 

Substrate

You have lots of choices on which substrate to use for their tank. The best one, however, is a medium-sized gravels as it is much easier for them to shift through and find specks of leftover foods. 

Calico Goldfish

Plants

Live plants may be tough to keep when you have a Shubunkin Goldfish because they will continuously be disturbed and snacked on.

While searching for food they may uproot any plant that’s in their way. So the best you can do is choose a fast-growing plant such as Hornwort, Java Fern, Anacharis and the like. It also helps if you anchor the plants securely with very stable objects. 

If you are having problems with live plants an alternative is silk or plastic plants. 

Filtration

This is the most crucial element of their tank because of how messy they are. You need a very good biological filtration system to take care of all the waste they produce by preventing a harmful level of nitrates and ammonia from building up.

Also, make sure to conduct frequent water changes to keep the water clean.  

As for the water movement, keeps it low to moderate since high water movement will stress out your goldfish. 

Tank Decoration

A heavily decorated tank isn’t going to work well for the Shubunkin Goldfish because they need space to roam about more than anything.

Therefore, if you want to decorate the tank do it lightly and avoid using large rough objects such as driftwood or rocks. 

Shubunkin Goldfish Water Parameters

Shubunkin Goldfish are remarkably hardy and can tolerate parameters changes more than most fish and by most, I mean nearly all freshwater fish.

Goldfish typically are “cold water” fish which means they require cooler waters than tropical fish. 

Shubunkins are so extreme in this regard that they can survive temperatures a few degrees above freezing.

This is the reason why they do pretty well in outdoor ponds. Lots of hobbyists prefer the outdoors ponds over tanks as they offer more space. 

That said, if you want to try them out I recommend using a heater so the temperature doesn’t drop to very low levels.

Even though they can survive, it doesn’t mean they prefer it. Plus, they respond very badly to drastic temperature fluctuations. 

Regarding pH, if you can remember, I mentioned that Prussian Carp live in areas with slightly neutral pH. Shubunkin Goldfish also require that pH range.

To simply things these are the water parameters you should always maintain for your Shubunkin Goldfish. 

  • Temperature: 65°F-72°F
  • pH: 6.0-8.0
  • Hardness: 5-9 dGH

Food and Diet

Like their ancestors the Prussian Carp, Shubunkin Goldfish are omnivorous. In the wild, they eat almost anything they find in the water. This includes insects, crustaceans, detritus, leaves and other plant materials. 

Likewise, in captivity, you won’t have any challenge finding them what to eat. They will gladly gobble up anything that can’t fit their mouth. 

Goldfish usually spend a good portion of their time at the lower section of the tank scavenging and eating any leftover they find.

This is why in most cases it’s best to not keep any other scavenger in the tank as they are also good at cleaning out tanks. 

But like I keep saying- just because your fish can eat almost anything doesn’t mean you should skimp on their diet.

You still have the responsibility of making sure that the diet is as varied as possible and high quality.  

Pick their main diet and offer them some variations occasionally.

Some good main diets to choose are flakes and pellets because of their nutritional composition. That is, as long as you choose qualitative ones from well-known brands. 

For the sake of diversification and nutrition, you can feed them live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, Daphnia and tubifex worms. 

They also appreciate plant-based diets such as cucumber, peas, blanched greens and the like. Giving them plant based diet at times can help lower their cravings for the plants in your tank which is Obviously a good thing.  

These fish will never get tired of eating and will have no problem overfeeding themselves. 

You can probably imagine the kind of problems that can arise if they are constantly being overfed.

To avoid that you should control their eating by feeding them twice a day. Make sure to give them as much as they can take in only 2 to 3 minutes each time. 

Shubunkin Goldfish Tank Mates

You can come up with the ideal Shubunkin Goldfish tank mates by considering their temperament, activeness and water conditions. 

Starting with temperament, shubunkins are very peaceful and will not do well with aggressive species whether big or small.

Consequently, you should avoid keeping them with species such as Bettas, Tiger Barbs, Pea Puffer, Arowanas, aggressive Cichlids such as Convict CichlidGreen TerrorJack Dempsey to mention a few. 

On the activeness side, they are the exact opposite of goldfish like Black Moors. They never stay in one place and are very feisty even while eating. 

This is why its not recommended to keep them with slow or timid species as they will out-compete them for food pretty much all the time.

For this reason, you should avoid species such as the Bubble Eye goldfishBlack Moors goldfish, Discus, Angelfish, Kuhli Loach and so on. 

The last to consider is water conditions. We have already learned that Shubunkin Goldfish prefer cooler waters. As such, any species that can not tolerate lower temperatures will not be able to survive with them. 

So, in a nutshell, the most ideal tank mates for these fish are peaceful, active species that don’t mind lower temperatures. 

Going by this rule, these are some of the most ideal tank mates for the Shubunkin Goldfish.

  • Comet Goldfish
  • Nymph Goldfish
  • Wakin Goldfish
  • Ryukin Goldfish
  • Koi
  • Killifish 
  • Guppies 
  • Most Tetras e.g Cardinal, Neon, Glowlight, Ember, Rummy Nose and so on.
  • Cherry Barbs
  • Amano Shrimp 

Notice that I didn’t recommend all fancy goldfish because many of them are slow swimmers and will absolutely be outcompeted for food.

However, if you still want to keep some of them there is a way to achieve that. 

You can do that by feeding your slower fish at different times and in a different section of the tank from the Shubunkin so that they can properly eat too.

Having said that, know that these can be a bit tricky and if you are a beginner I do not recommend that. Don’t do it also if you aren’t preferred for the hassle. 

A shoal of Shubunkin Goldfish

Breeding

Breeding Shubunkin Goldfish is pretty straight forward. In the right condition, these fish will spawn without much intervention on your part.

To initiate the process, you need to have a separate breeding tank and introduce at least 4 to 5 of them. 

Shubunkin like all goldfish are highly social animals and need to be in a group before they can spawn.

Make sure you can confidently sex them so you can be sure you have both male and female in the group. 

The major difference between the sexes is that males develop what’s called breeding tubercles on their head and gills during breeding period. The females on the hand become bulbous because of the eggs they carry. 

It’s highly essential you introduce lots of live plants into the breeding tank where they can lay the eggs. Artificial plants will also be just as good in this regard, so you can try them out if you prefer. 

In most cases, breeding can be stimulated by raising the temperature of the water luckily the same works for these gold. 

Rising the temperature gradually mimic the shift from winter to spring which is when goldfish usually spawn. 

You can start by gradually lowering the temperature to around 60°F and then raising it by 2-3 °F per day till it reaches around 72°F.

Feeding them protein-enriched foods such as bloodworms or brine shrimp during this time also helps greatly.  

More often than not, this will trigger them to spawn. At this stage, their color will intensify and the males will start chasing the females around but non aggressively. This chase can take a few days. 

When they are ready to spawn the male will push the female against plants and this will make her release the eggs for him to fertilize. The spawning can result in up to 10,000 eggs and can take a couple of hours. 

Relocate the parents to the main tank as soon as the spawning is completed otherwise they will eat the eggs.

The eggs normally hatch in 4 to 7 days after which they will absorb the egg sac. 

Feed them liquid or powdered fry food until they mature a bit and then switch to baby brine shrimp. 

Transfer them to the main tank when they reach an inch or so. 

Common Diseases

Although the Shubunkin goldfish are impressively hardy they are still not above catching common freshwater diseases such as bacterial, fungal and parasitic infection.

Ich is one of the few diseases you have to keep an out for because even though it’s easy to treat it spread quickly from fish to fish like wildfire. 

This disease is caused by a parasite which attacks the fish body and gills. Afflicted fish develop white spots on their body which look like sprinkled salt. 

It also causes the feeling of you guessed it “itch” which is why you will see the fish become restless and attempting to rub itself against objects.

If not treated quickly ich can overwhelm the whole tank in no time and even kill some if not all the fish. 

The main cause of this disease is a dirty tank and poor water conditions. This is why keeping a clean tank cannot be overstated especially if you consider how messy Shubunkin goldfish are.

Do not skimp on filtration system as recommended earlier and always perform the scheduled water changes. 

Two other diseases that these fish are commonly susceptible to that you should know of are swim bladder and fin rot.

Swim bladder is a critical problem as it causes the fish to lose the ability to control its buoyancy.

Depressingly, you could see your fish sitting at the bottom of the tank, swimming sideways or floating at the surface like a log.

 Unlike ich, this disease is mostly caused by constipation due to poor quality food. 

Fin rot however just like ich, is mostly caused by poor water conditions. It a bacterial disease and because shubunkins have large fins they are more susceptible to it than other goldfish with smaller fins. 

By now we can confidently deduce that the key to keeping a healthy Shubunkin Goldfish is a clean tank, good water condition and excellent diet.

Closing

Although fancy goldfish generally are easy to care for, the Shubunkins have some extra level of easiness.

Think about it, many fancy goldfish have some sort of deformity often leading to challenges like poor eyesight and or poor swimming capability.

If you have kept goldfish like the Bubble Eye or the Black Moors you will know what I mean. They are a bit fragile and one has to be cautious when fashioning their tank.

Another advantage that Shubunkin goldfish has is, their ability to tolerate low temperatures. These are just a few of the reasons why they are ideal for even absolute new fish keepers.

To keep them, all you mainly need is a tank big enough to support their quick growth and that’s start from 75 gallons. If you don’t have access to a tank this large an outdoor pond will suffice.

But if the temperature drops too low or if it fluctuates drastically you have to provide it with a heater.

After this, you need to set up the tank with the recommended water parameters and invest in a qualitative filter.

This, plus conducting scheduled water changes will significantly reduce the chances of your fish getting sick. In terms of feeding be sure to diversify their diet and avoid low-quality foods.

This virtually sums of the Shubunkin Goldfish care. Hopefully, this guide has cleared any question you might have heard regarding keeping these goldfish.   

Please feel free to rich out if you have any question we haven’t covered or if you have any info you think will help improve this guide. We’ll be more than happy if you do.

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