Shubunkin Goldfish 101: Care, Size, Lifespan & More

Shubunkin Goldfish are a popular and interesting fish that have earned the attention of aquarists all over the world. It’s not hard to see why when you consider their attractive colors, lively personality, and ease of care!

But despite all this, there’s a lot of misinformation being shared online when it comes to this species. Some of the recommendations we’ve seen make us very worried.

So we’re going to clear things up a bit. This guide will go over everything you need to know about Shubunkin Goldfish care and make you ready for ownership. You’ll learn about their size, lifespan, diet, tank size, breeding, and more!

Species Summary

Sometimes referred to as the Calico or Speckled Goldfish, Shubunkin Goldfish make beautiful additions to both tanks and outdoor ponds.

Known for their intense coloration and flowing fins, they’re a sight to behold. Pair that with their active nature and you have a fish that never gets boring!

As a type of Goldfish, the Shubunkin is a product of selective breeding. The fish of today are descendants of the Prussian Carp. While history is still a bit hazy about how these fish came to be, it’s believed that Shubunkins were first developed in Japan around the year 1900.

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Today, Shubunkin Goldfish are a staple in fish stores across the world! They’re readily available to add some colorful life to your aquarium.

Average Shubunkin Goldfish Size

Like other goldfish species, Shubunkins will grow based on their environment. In a standard aquarium, you can expect the average Shubunkin Goldfish size to reach five or six inches when fully grown.

Author Note: However, when they have access to a spacious pond, they can grow to lengths of 12 to 14 inches. Some Shubunkin Goldfish have even surpassed that, measuring upwards of 18 inches long!


With proper care, the typical Shubunkin Goldfish lifespan is 10 to 15 years. That’s assuming they’re kept in a habitat with proper water conditions and a good diet.

If you’re lucky, your Shubunkin Goldfish could have a lifespan that’s even longer. It’s not uncommon to see these fish living for more than two decades in well-maintained ponds.

Like any other species, keeping these fish in habitats that aren’t right for them can lead to illness and premature death.

Appearance & Types

Shubunkin Goldfish can be categorized into three different types. These are America, Bristol, and London Shubunkin.

While they all have similar care requirements, there are some subtle differences in appearance.

London Shubunkin Goldfish are the most common. They typically have a short tail and a slender body. The fins are usually more rounded, too.

The American Shubunkin Goldfish has a longer tail with a deep and dramatic fork. It looks similar to the tail on a Comet Goldfish. Some believe that the American variety is closest to the original Japanese Shubunkin.

Shubunkin Goldfish near the surface of the water

Finally, there’s the Bristol Shubunkin. It has a fuller tail that looks like the letter “B.” It’s a distinct shape that you can’t miss. Bristol Shubunkins are rarer and often come with a higher price tag as well.

Beyond those varying traits, all Shubunkins have a couple of shared features. The head of this fish is typically wide but short. Their bodies have a smooth taper while the expansive dorsal fin is almost always standing erect.

The most notable feature of the Shubunkin is its color. They take on shades of yellow, red, orange, white, grey, and even blue. The blue spots are the most special, as it’s rare in Goldfish.

These colors combine to create a distinct Calico look. Most Shubunkins are also heavily spotted, making each one unique.

Shubunkin Goldfish Care

If you’re thinking about owning one of these fish, you have a lot to look forward to! Shubunkin Goldfish care is fairly straightforward since they’re quite hardy. They do well in captivity and can thrive in conditions that other fish cannot.

That said, you still need to be committed to providing the best conditions and overall care  as you possibly can. To help you do that, below are some need-to-know care guidelines.

Tank Size

You’re going to see a lot of contradictory information out there about the ideal Shubunkin Goldfish tank size. The truth is, these fish can adapt to smaller habitats. However, they do best in larger ones.

Some aquarists will tell you that your tank should be at least 15-20 gallons, and they’re technically right. That tank size is enough to keep a single Shubunkin alive, but you can do better.

Instead, we recommend raising these fish in 75-gallon tanks if possible. A 75 gallons will provide much more swimming room for the fish, which is very important for their health and overall happiness.

Author Note: If you want to provide the best environment you can, use an outdoor pond. While not a requirement, Shubunkin Goldfish do best when they have expansive habitats to roam.

Water Parameters

Like other types of goldfish, Shubunkins generally need cooler waters than tropical fish. They prefer to live in well-oxygenated waters with a relatively neutral pH.

The interesting thing about Shubunkins is that they can tolerate a few degrees above freezing temperatures. That’s why they’re such a good choice for ponds. Of course, we always recommend using a heater to avoid those extreme temperatures. But if a temperature shift is gradual and drops only a few degrees per day, they shouldn’t suffer any ill-effects.

Here are some water parameters that you should work to maintain throughout your fish’s life.

  • Water temperature: 65°F to 72°F
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 8.0
  • Water hardness: 5 to 19 dGH

What To Put In Their Tank (Or Pond)

The most important thing you’ll need in the tank or pond is a good biological filtration system.

Shubunkins can produce a lot of waste, which will quickly increase ammonia and nitrate levels if you don’t have filtration. The system should be powerful enough to cycle the entire tank or pond.

It’s also good to have some water movement. Generally, the outlet of the filtration system will do just fine. However, you can install some air stones to keep oxygen levels up.

As for decorations, Shubunkins aren’t too picky. Use medium-sized gravel for the substrate. Then, add plants to create a natural habitat.

A Shubunkin Goldfish swimming with a tank mate

Shubunkin Goldfish are notorious for uprooting live plants. You can still use them, but you’ll need to anchor them down securely. Silk and plastic plants are a good alternative.

Smooth rocks and pieces of driftwood are acceptable but don’t go overboard. Keep the large decor to a minimum. Open swimming space is what’s most important to Shubunkins.

Disease Potential

Despite their overall hardiness, Shubunkin Goldfish are not immune to diseases. They can experience many of the same common health issues that other freshwater suffer from.

The most common is Ich (which is the case for most freshwater fish). This parasitic disease is highly contagious and can result in white spots over the entire body. If not treated, it can ravage an entire tank and kill fish.

External parasites and infections can affect Shubunkins too. Skin flukes, fin rot, and fungal diseases are all possible. Internally, Shubunkin Goldfish can also suffer from problems like dropsy and swim bladder disease.

Author Note: While that sounds like a lot to be scared of, most of these health issues are easily avoided! Fish are more prone to disease when they’re living in poorly maintained environments.

Keep the tank or pond clean and stay on top of water parameters! With proper care, your fish should have no problem staying healthy.

Food & Diet

As omnivores, Shubunkin Goldfish are not picky. They will eat pretty much anything you drop in the water.

A regular diet of high-quality dried foods is best. Nutritious pellets and flakes are just fine. Simply pick your favorite brand and go!

Occasional live and frozen foods are great things to add to their diet as well. You can provide bloodworms, brine shrimp, Daphnia, and tubifex worms as enriching and healthy treats.

It’s worth pointing out that due to their large appetites, it can be very easy to overfeed these fish. They will seemingly scarf down food no matter how much you give them!

To keep this in check, only give them as much food as they can eat in 2-4 minutes. This will depend on the size of the fish a bit, but this general rule will prevent you from drastically overfeeding them (you can always make smaller tweaks as you go).

Behavior & Temperament

Shubunkin Goldfish are social and active creatures. They will spend most of their day exploring the tank.

Oftentimes, you can find them scavenging for plant detritus or leftover foods at the bottom of the tank. They’re so good at scavenging that many don’t even bother keeping bottom-dwelling fish with Shubunkins!

When they’re not doing that, you’ll find them darting around the tank or pond. These fish are fast and agile swimmers!

In terms of temperament, Shubunkins are quite peaceful. They prefer to stay in groups and can thrive in a multi-species tank.

Author Note: The only form of aggression you’ll have to deal with is food-stealing! Thanks to their strong swimming abilities, these fish can take away food before slower fish get the chance to eat.

Tank Mates

You have several options for tank mates. Avoid any aggressive fish. Shubunkins are far too peaceful to deal with fighters.

It’s also a good idea to avoid any slow fish. Shubunkin Goldfish are too active and hectic for slower species that need some extra time to eat.

The biggest challenge you’re going to face when finding suitable tank mates is matching environmental needs. Because Shubunkins prefer cooler waters, you’re going to have to find species that don’t mind a lower temperature.

Here are some good tank mates to try out:


Shubunkin Goldfish breeding is actually quite easy if they’re kept in the right conditions. They’re egg layers that like to breed during the Spring. You can easily promote spawning with a bit of environmental manipulation.

Set up a separate breeding tank and separate the males and females. These fish like to breed in groups of at least five.

It’s impossible to differentiate the sexes when the fish are young. But when they mature and are ready to breed, males will develop breeding tubercles on their gills and head. Meanwhile, females will plump up.

Fill the breeding tank will fine-leaf plants. You can also use spawning mops and smooth rocks to give the eggs something to adhere to.

Add all of the fish into the tank at once. Then, slowly drop the temperature to 60 degrees. When you hit that benchmark, start raising the temperature again. Do this slowly, raising the temperature only three degrees every day.

This process simulates the shift from winter to spring. Eventually, the fish should spawn. You’ll know when they’re about to breed because their color intensifies. Males will also start chasing the females around.

When they’re ready, the females will lay thousands of eggs. The males will follow behind to fertilize them.

You must remove the adult fish after breeding. They will quickly try to eat the eggs. Put them back in their normal tank and let the eggs develop.

Typically, eggs hatch in four to seven days. The baby fry will emerge from and absorb their egg sack. After that, you can provide powdered or liquid fry food until they can eat baby brine shrimp.

Babies will look black or brown for the first several months of life until they start developing their color.            


Shubunkin Goldfish care is honestly a piece of cake once you have the right information. These hardy freshwater fish can handle pretty much anything!

We hope this guide helped clear up some of the misinformation we mentioned initially. As long as you stick to our recommendations, your Shubunkin will thrive.

If you have anything you think we should add to this guide or questions you still need answered, don’t hesitate to send us a message directly. The best ways to reach us are through the site or on our Facebook page.

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