Shubunkin Goldfish Perfect Guide for Beginners

Published on February 13, 2017
Shubunkin Goldfish Perfect Guide for Beginners

The only reason you've come to this page is that you either are an aquarist or starting to be one.

Talking about fish, according to Statista, fish is the 3rd and 4th most popular pets in the UK by 2016. If you are one of them, keep in mind that there are millions other around you.

Some reasons for this increased interest in fish as pets include the fact that people now live in smaller homes (thus less space for larger pets). And because fish require little maintenance, they are the perfect match.

You might have asked yourself: is there any fish that requires low maintenance but looks astonishing?

Well, there is, and that fish is what we will discuss here.

It is in this light we look at one popular fish that people keep not only as a pet, but you can turn the hobby into a huge business:


The Shubunkin Goldfish.

This article will cover various aspects of this popular fish ranging from its appearance, where it originated from, how to take care, breeding, to lifespan.

Why not dive right into it?

First look of the Shubunkin Goldfish

Shubunkin goldfish image source

At first glance, the first thing about this goldfish that will catch our attention is no other than its beauty.

They have a striking blue color. What's so special about it? Well, it's hard to explain in words, but I believe you will understand when you see one in real life.

An important thing for you to keep in mind is the bluer a Shubunkin is, the more valuable it is

To put it simpler: Bluer = more beautiful.

This blue color serves as a background for the various color patterns which people usually identify as Calico.

Colors can range from orange, brown, purple, white, red, black, to gray. These patterns extend to the fish’s fins.

The fish only have one tail, and scales with a pearly appearance.

How do I differentiate between a well-developed (good) shubunkin from the ones that are not?

It's simple. You can distinguish the good ones by looking at the fins, if they are even, they are well-developed. If not, obviously the answer is the opposite.

Also known as...

Thanks to their unique appearance, the fish has various names that people from different cultures used to call them. Some of them are: speckled goldfish, harlequin goldfish, calico goldfish, and coronation fish.

As a fun fact, the name “Shubunkin” is loosely translated as “red brocade”.

Let’s look at where this beautiful goldfish species originated from.

Interestingly, shubunkins are not natural.

They are a cross breed between two types of goldfish: the calico telescope-eye and common goldfish.

calico telescope and common-goldfish breed Image 01 source Image 02 source

The genius behind this creation was a Japanese man known as Yoshigoro Akiyama.

Sadly, if you try to search "Yoshigoro Akiyama" on Google, you won't find him. But instead, Google suggests you an entirely different person who is Yoshihiro Akiyama, a Japanese mixed martial artist, and judoka.

Lifespan - Because the longer, the better

How long do shubunkin goldfish live? According to Pets on, shubunkins can live up to 30 years. That's a long lifespan for a fish, isn't it?

However, an important note to remember is the media where the fish lives also affects the lifespan.

You can expect the ones kept in an aquarium to live up to 10 years, and in ponds to live up to the age of 25 years.

And if you are wondering, we consider them as adult fish when they are 2 to 3 years of age.


Like any other fish species, shubunkins have three different types that might look similar but entirely different.

They are London, Bristol, and American.

Let’s differentiate them.

London Shubunkin Goldfish
By Michelle Jo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The London variety looks more like common goldfish. Their body shape is stockier when compared to the American variety. They do not have flashy fins.

Bristol Shubunkin
image source

The Bristol variety has relatively large tail fins. The fins have rounded edges. They look more like a letter “B” in caps.

American shubunkin image source

The American variety’s body shape is very similar to that of comet goldfish. The tails are larger and droop more.

After looking at calico goldfish facts and features, let us look at how to take care of them:

Taking care of speckled goldfish

To take care of shubunkins, first we need to understand their temperaments and behavior.

Here is a bulleted list that summarizes their behavior and characteristics of the fish:

  • Hardy
  • Fast, agile swimmers
  • Voracious eaters
  • They produce a lot of waste
  • Undemanding of water quality and temperature

Harlequin Goldfish are very hardy and can survive under the same conditions that the common goldfish require.

Compared to the standard Goldfish, Shubunkins are more agile and faster swimmers. And this leads to the question, how big their environment needs to be?

An aquarium is a possible home for them, but only the aquariums that give them enough space to swim freely.

Continue to the next section to find out about tank setup.

The Perfect Tank Setup

What to consider when purchasing a tank:

  1. Size
  2. Shape
  3. Number of fish
  4. Size and growth

We will discuss each in greater details.

1. Size

By now, you know shubunkins are rapid swimmers. The first thing to think about before creating or purchasing an aquarium is to ensure yourself that the aquarium will be big enough to provide the space for the fish to swim for years to come.

15 gallons is the minimum size you would like to choose.

Begin with a 20 to 30-gallon tank. For every additional goldfish, increase tank capacity by 10 gallons.

Simple enough.

2. Shape

Go for the shape that will provide maximum surface area. The larger surface area of an aquarium, the lesser chances of the shubunkin goldfish suffering from oxygen shortage.

But wait.. Why?

The larger surface area means the more water will be in directly contact with the air, thus promoting more oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. The more oxygen comes from the air to the water, the better.

If you prefer to get one with a smaller surface area, you can always add an oxygen pump.

3. The number of fish per tank

A general rule of thumb is 2.54 cm (about one inch) of fish for every gallon of water, for small fish.

As the goldfish grow, you need to expand the tank capacity. Maintaining this ratio will prevent problems like oxygen shortage.

4. Size and Growth

As experts always suggest to every aquarist: place fewer fish than the tank capacity can hold.

Speckled goldfish grow to 23 to 46 cm. Always remember to provide enough space for them to grow. The bigger, the longer their lifespan will be.

How often should I change the water?

We recommend you to buy a 15-gallon aquarium for one shubunkin, this calls for frequent water changes. You also need to change the water every week.

If you don't have time to do that. We have a tip to "extend" the water change cycle, and it's by adding snails to the tank. What do they do is feed on the algae, thus keeping the tank cleaner or healthier for the fish.

Heater and Filtration

Since they are food enthusiasts, they produce a lot of waste. Which means filtration plays a huge role to ensure that your goldfish will grow healthy.

Shubunkin goldfish will do fine even without heaters in their tanks.

Which is the best food for Shubunkin goldfish?

We already know shubunkins are voracious eaters. But what should we feed them?

First of all, Harlequin Goldfish are omnivorous.
They can eat frozen, flake and fresh food.

Give them a high-quality flake food every day. You can include blood worms, tubifex worms, feed brine shrimp (live or frozen), and daphnia.

shubunkin fish food
By michelle jo (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Freeze-dried foods are usually better, since live foods may contain parasites or bacterial infections.

You can include meat foods, vegetables, pellets and tablets in their diet.

Feed them several times a day to ensure enough nutrition for their growth.

Recommended Tank Mates?

If you want to add different spices companion for your shubunkin, it is not advisable to add fish that swim slower than the goldfish.

Why, though? As we know that shubunkins are great swimmers, they will consume all the food before their slower counterparts have had any. Isn't that a nightmare for aquarists?

On the other hand, aggressive tank mates are not the lesser evil.

Breeding, because why not?

As aforementioned, the most treasured color in calico goldfish is blue.

Bluer = better.

To get the blue color we want and need, you need to line breed blue shubunkin specimens. Sometimes, breeding bronze (metallic) with pink, also called matte-scaled, can produce shubunkin with the blue color.

Let's say you have successfully bred your pair of goldfish. You now find your breeding tank full of goldfish eggs ready to hatch, once they hatch, don't panic when you don't find many colors in the babies.

It is entirely normal. The bright coloration could take months to develop on a baby shubunkin. Patience is always the key.

All in All

You now have a general idea about shubunkin goldfish, from being awed by their beauty, to knowing how to take care, what to do to get coronation fish with a lot of blue color, and eventually, their behavior and characteristics.

What do you think? Should you get a Shubunkin for your brand new tank? Or will you recommend the fish to other fellow aquascapers?
Let us know your thoughts.

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