Shubunkin Goldfish

Calico Goldfish, Speckled Goldfish, Harlequin Goldfish

Family: Cyprinidae Shubunkin Goldfish (London type), Calico Goldfish, Speckled Goldfish, Harlequin Goldfish, Coronation FishShubunkin Goldfish (London type)Carassius auratus auratusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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Hey I have a 2 1/2' 9month old London Shubunkin.. We bought him/her in July was sold to us as a 5month old.. We put in into an already established tank with a... (more)  Sami

The Shubunkin Goldfish have a wild calico patterning set on a blue background... a color which is quite rare in goldfish!

The Shubunkin Goldfish are beautiful fish that are almost always speckled or have a variegated color pattern. The unique characteristic of the Shubunkin Goldfish is not their wild calico patterning, but that its pattern is set on a blue background. This is a color which is quite rare in goldfish. They are called Chuwen-chin in China. But in Japan, where they were probably developed in about 1900, they are called Shubunkin and this is the name that has stuck with them throughout the western world.

A Shubunkin Goldfish can have so many colors to its pattern it is often referred to as the Calico Goldfish. These colors include yellows, oranges, reds, browns, blacks, purples, grays, and whites; and they are set on a blue background. Other descriptive names for this fish are Speckled Goldfish, Coronation Fish, and Harlequin Goldfish. The color blue is quite rare, which makes the Shubunkin a more valuable goldfish.

There are two types of Shubunkins, the London type and the Bristol type. The London type is much more common than the Bristol type and is usually what you will find at pet stores. Both types of Shubunkin Goldfish, especially the London type, as seen above, are recommended as a beginner fish.

These fancy goldfish are one of the hardiest of the gold fish varieties. They are an easy fish to keep as they are not picky and will readily eat what is offered. They are active and strong swimmers. They are also very social and thrive well in a community. Other goldfish recommended for beginners include the Fantail Goldfish, Common Goldfish, and the Comet Goldfish.

For more goldfish information, see:
Goldfish Care: Fancy Goldfish and Goldfish Diseases

Geographic Distribution
Carassius auratus auratus
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cyprinidae
  • Genus: Carassius
  • Species: auratus auratus
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Shubunkin Goldfish - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 18.0 inches (45.72 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 65.0 to 72.0° F (18.3 to 22.2° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The goldfish of today are descendants of a wild carp fish, known as the Prussian Carp, Silver Prussian carp, or Gibel Carp Carassius gibelio (syn: Carassius auratus gibelio) which was described by Bloch in 1782. For many years it was believed that goldfish had originated from the Crucian Carp or Golden Carp Carassius auratus auratus described by Linnaeus in 1758, but more recent research is pointing toward the former.

These wild carp originated in Asia; Central Asia (siberia). They inhabit the slow moving and stagnant waters of rivers, lakes, ponds, and ditches feeding on plants, detritus, small crustaceans, and insects. In the early 1500's these fish were exported first to Japan and then to Europe and were developed into the wonderful colors and forms of gold fish we see today.

The Shubunkin Goldfish, one of the more than 125 captive bred varieties, was probably developed in Japan around 1900. Other common names they are known by include Calico Goldfish, Speckled Goldfish, Harlequin Goldfish and Coronation Fish.

  • Scientific Name: Carassius auratus auratus
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: NE - Not Evaluated or not listed - There are no wild populations of this captive bred variety.


The Shubunkin Goldfish is an elongated, flat-bodied variety of goldfish. The head is wide but short and it has a smoothly tapering body shape from its back and belly to the base of its caudal fin (tail fin). The caudal fin is forked. Its fins generally stand fully erect and the edge of the dorsal fin is slightly concave. The average goldfish lifespan is 10 – 15 years, though living 20 years or more is not uncommon in well maintained goldfish aquariums and ponds.

There are two types of Shubunkins, the London type and the Bristol type. The London type is very similar to the Common Goldfish with virtually the same body and fin shapes. The Common Goldfish however, has a totally different body color, being a solid bright orange and it is also larger. The Bristol type Shubunkin has an enormous tail fin that is very wide, moderately forked with well-rounded lobes.

The Shubunkin Goldfish is somewhat smaller than a common goldfish. The environment it is kept in is a determining factor on whether your pet grows to its full potential size. In an average 15 gallon tank, if well cared for and not crowded, they will grow up to about 5 inches (12.7 cm). In a bigger uncrowded tank they can grow larger generally reaching about 6 inches (15 cm), though some hobbyist report their Shubunkins reaching up to 13" (33 cm), and they could actually reach a whopping 18" (43.7 cm).

Shubunkin Goldfish can have so many colors to its pattern. These colors include yellows, oranges, reds, browns, blacks, purples, grays, and whites; and they are set on a blue background. The color blue is quite rare, which makes the Shubunkin a more valuable goldfish.

  • Size of fish - inches: 18.0 inches (45.72 cm) - About five inches is a more likely adult size for the Shubunkin Goldfish. But 18 inches size is possible for fish in exceedingly well maintained large tanks and ponds.
  • Lifespan: 15 years - The average goldfish lifespan is 10 – 15 years, though living 20 years or more is not uncommon in well maintained goldfish aquariums and ponds.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Shubunkin Goldfish are some of the hardier species of goldfish. They are very undemanding of water quality and temperature. They can do well in a goldfish aquarium, or even a pond as long as the environment is safe and their tank mates are not competitive.

Many people will keep goldfish in an aquarium with no heater or filtration, but for the best success provide them the same filtration, especially biological filtration, that other aquarium residents enjoy.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

Since they are omnivorous, the Shubunkin Goldfish will generally eat all kinds of fresh, frozen, and flake foods. To care for Shubunkin goldfish, keep a good balance by giving them a high quality flake food everyday. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen), blood worms, Daphnia, or tubifex worms as a treat. It is usually better to feed freeze-dried foods as opposed to live foods to avoid parasites and bacterial infections that could be present in live foods.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day

Aquarium Care

Regular weekly water changes of 1/4 to 1/3 is strongly recommended to keep these fish healthy. Snails can be added as they reduce the algae in the tank, helping to keep it clean.

  • Water Changes: Bi-weekly

Aquarium Setup

Setting up a goldfish aquarium in a manner that will keep your fish happy and healthy is the first step to success. The shape and size of the aquarium is important and depends upon the number of goldfish you are going to keep. These fish need a lot of oxygen and produce a lot of waste.

Good filtration, especially biological filtration, is very helpful in maintaining the water quality of the aquarium. Filtration systems remove much of the detritus, excess foods and waste. This in turn helps to keep the tank clean and maintain the general health of the goldfish.

Goldfish are freshwater fish, but they have some tolerance for slightly brackish water. Any salinity for must be kept low, below 10%, a specific gravity of less than 1.002.

  • Tank parameters to consider when choosing a goldfish aquarium:
    • Tank size
      Fifteen gallons is the suggested minimum required to house a Shubunkin Goldfish. It's best to start with a 20 - 30 gallon tank for your first goldfish and then increase the size of the tank by 10 gallons for each additional goldfish. Providing a large amount of water per fish will help dilute the amount of waste and reduce the number of water changes needed.
    • Tank Shape
      Always provide the maximum amount of surface area. A large surface area of water will help minimize goldfish suffering from an oxygen shortage. Surface area is determined by the shape of the tank. For example an elongated tank offers more surface area (and oxygen) than a tall tank. In an oval or round shaped tank the middle offers more surface area than filling it to the top.
    • Number of fish
      For juveniles a general rule of thumb is 1 inch of fish (2.54 cm) per 1 gallon of water. But this rule only applies to young fish and is not adequate as they grow. Larger gold fish consume much more oxygen than young fish so maintaining this formula for growing fish will stunt them, and can contribute to disease and even death.
    • Fish size and growth
      To allow for proper growth, either buy fewer fish than the maximum number or be prepared to get a larger tank. To prevent stunted growth and other health problems, don't overstocking the aquarium.

Goldfish are a cold water fish and will do best at temperatures between 65 - 72° F (18°- 22° C). The Shubunkin Goldfish are one of the most hardy varieties of goldfish and can tolerate temperatures a few degrees above freezing, as long as the cooling drops only a few degrees a day. A quick temperature drop can kill them, so if you live in a very cold climate a heater is advisable.

Provide a gravel substrate to help create a natural and comfortable environment for your fish. You can add some decor, but make sure that all ornamentation is smooth with no protruding points or sharp edges. Smooth rocks or driftwood should be used sparingly if at all. Aquarium plants would be the best choice of aquarium decor for goldfish, but unfortunately these fish are diggers. Consequently live plants may be uprooted. Artificial plants make a good substitute and silk plants are safer than plastic ones.

Most aquariums come with a cover that includes lighting. A cover for the tank is desirable as it reduces evaporation and though they are not prone to jumping, on occasion some gold fish will jump out. Lighting is not essential for goldfish, but does make the aquarium a nice show piece and lighting will help if you have live plants.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L) - This fish is very active and very messy. It requires a lot of room to swim in and excellent filtration to keep it healthy.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes - A Nano tank is fine as long as it is 15 gallons or more, a larger tank will be needed for a community.
  • Substrate Type: Any - Any A medium sized gravel works best.
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 65.0 to 72.0° F (18.3 to 22.2° C)
  • Range ph: 6.0-8.0
  • Hardness Range: 5 - 19 dGH
  • Brackish: Sometimes - Goldfish are freshwater fish, but they have some tolerance for slightly brackish water. Any salinity for must be kept low, below 10%, a specific gravity of less than 1.002.
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All - These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

Goldfish are very social animals and thrive in a community. Not only are they a great community fish but they are great scavengers as well. It is really not necessary to add other scavengers or other bottom feeders to the aquarium when you have goldfish. LIke most fancy goldfish, they will thrive in both freshwater and tropical aquariums as long as there are no aggressive or territorial fish in the tank. Some good tank mates for fancy goldfish are the Chinese Blue Bitterling and the Northern Redbelly Dace.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Threat - Goldfish will eat many kinds of aquatic plants, and their constant search for food can end up uprooting plants that they don't eat.

Sex: Sexual differences

During the breeding season the male has white prickles, called breeding tubercles, on its gill covers and head. Seen from above a female will have a fatter appearance when she is carrying eggs. It is impossible to sex Goldfish when they are young and not in breeding season, but generally the male is smaller and more slender than the female.

Breeding / Reproduction

Shubunkin Goldfish are egg layers that spawn readily in the right conditions. See Breeding Freshwater Fish - Goldfish for more information on breeding Goldfish.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

Goldfish are subject to the same diseases as tropical fish. A couple of the more common problems are Ich, Swim Bladder Disease, and external parasites including flukes, lice and anchor worms. For more in-depth information about goldfish diseases and illnesses, see: Goldfish Care; Fancy Goldfish and Goldfish Diseases.


The Shubunkin Goldfish are readily available in fish stores and on-line, but sometimes costs a bit more than other fancy goldfish.


Author: David Brough CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Shubunkin Goldfish

Sami - 2014-10-09
Hey I have a 2 1/2' 9month old London Shubunkin.. We bought him/her in July was sold to us as a 5month old.. We put in into an already established tank with a common goldfish and 9 little/mini red minnows and a few others not sure of there naming.. Basically the Shubunkin was chasing the common yellow goldfish around.. Looked as though he was pushing her/him about... (We changed the tank around before adding our new fish, so the habitat would be different for all of them ) basically after a couple weeks the little ones started dying off ... And we noticed the shubunkin has an abnormal growth under his belly where he poops from.. It's very weird looks like a prolapse?!?! So we bought him a new tank (the nemo ward we call it) and transferred him into the new tank once it was ready (two weeks after it was up and running with filter) the little fish kept dying off ( still not sure if it was because the fish were old and due to natural causes or because of disease..). I tried everything there was no sign of actual disease in the fish and the common goldfish is fine .. I now have two red minnows left in the tank with the common yellow goldfish and the bully shubunkin is in a tank by himself and his behaviour is becoming more alarming.. Rubbing against tank objects.( has now stopped this (haven't seen him do it in a while). Once he moved the filter a good few inches.. And was swimming into the bubbles coming out of the filter for hours when first moved into the tank.. He seemed to settle and now For the last week he has been very scared and jumpy ...What is wrong with him? I follow all the rules that I am aware off water changes .. Cleaning the filter.. General tonic etc .. Please help!! Also he ate a Hong Kong cleaner I put into the tank :( .. I can't keep on watching them die.. I have brought numerous books .. But none have helped ... Please any advice?!?! Ta

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-10-11
    It's really hard to say what's going on, with either of your tanks. Yes, old age could be the culprit for the minnows. I would look at the decor, and make sure I had lots of plants (plastic ones work fine) to help with comfort and security.
Fiona - 2014-09-15
It was Christmas time and i had changed the tank water almost to the brim.i was in another room vaccuuming and when i returned to the loungeroom i saw a small orange bauble on the first thought was it was an ornament that had fallen off the Christmas tree.when i bent down to pick it up i realized it was my spritely little shubunkin that had jumped out of the tank.i brushed him off and quickly returned him to the water.He spent the next few hours at the bottom corner of the tank. I think he had totally freaked himself out.after a while he recovered and was no worse for his little adventure...

RonRon - 2011-01-20
Need some many shubunkin/comet can I put in my 3ft x 1.5ft x 1.5ft tank..? Thanks...

  • Anthony - 2014-07-18
    In your 50 US Gallons you could hold 25.... try 10 and let them breed!
  • Sharon Jones - 2014-07-23
    I think 25 is far too much for that size tank they grow very big I have one in my 90 litre tank and a phelc my shubunkin is about 7" now ...two in there would be too many ...they produce a lot of waste ...there big fish ...Sharon...

Laura - 2014-06-15
Hi,I have a 3 year old shubunkin who until recently has never been ill. She currently has ich, which I am treating with aquarium salt and treatment - that seems to be improving. Now she seems to have a curved tail and a swollen underneath. Can anyone please advise?

Hou - 2010-07-14
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