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Shubunkin Goldfish

Nicole Cosgrove

Who said goldfish have to be golden in color? The Shubunkin Goldfish, while technically a goldfish, has very little gold color on them—if any at all. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worthy of your tank.

The Shubunkin Goldfish—also commonly known as the Calico Goldfish—is a hardy swimmer that is super easy to care for. Plus, they get along with all other friendly fish. Shubunkins are great beginner fish for anyone getting into creating an aquarium.

These single-tailed goldfish are a staple of just about every single assorted fish tank out there. Let’s dive into the specifics of this fish and why they’re so popular.

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Quick Facts about Shubunkin Goldfish

Shubunkin goldfish
Image Credit: Tatiana SP, Shutterstock
Species Name: Carassius auratus
Family: Cyprinidae
Care Level: Easy
Temperature: 65°-72° F
Temperament: Laidback and peaceful
Color Form: Calico
Lifespan: Up to 15 years
Size: Up to 12 inches
Diet: Omnivorous, Pellets and Flakes
Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Freshwater with planted flora
Compatibility: Gets along with other peaceful fish

Shubunkin Goldfish Overview

The Shubunkin Goldfish truly is a fish of a different color. They’re considered calico colored, which means that they’re mottled with many different colors including black, white, red, and metallic colored scales.

It is believed that this fish was created through selective breeding around the turn of the 20th century in Japan. The Shubunkin is a direct descendant of the Prussian carp; however, the details are a bit foggy as to exactly how this happened. They also share several characteristics with carp including not having true teeth. Instead, the Shubunkin has a few rows of pharyngeal teeth in their throat.

These goldfish adapt better to colder temperatures than other similar fish, allowing them to thrive both in aquariums or outdoor ponds.

How Much Do Shubunkin Goldfish Cost?

When it comes to cost, the Shubunkin Goldfish is far from the most expensive goldfish. In fact, it’s very commonly found and can normally be found at your corner pet shop. Shubunkins are extremely affordable fish sometimes only costing a few dollars.

The most expensive part of owning these fish are purchasing the required gear to get their tank up and running. However, once set up, the Shubunkin is very low maintenance and requires little expenses outside of food.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

If you’re looking for an aggressive fish, you’re not going to find one with the Shubunkin. They’re very cheerful and peaceful fish! When they’re not just lounging about the tank, you can find them darting in and out of their tank décor.

They can be relatively swift swimmers as well, unlike other goldfish. This means that they will be able to compete with other fish during feeding time. And since they can be relatively active, they make for excellent fish for children. These fish will give your little one something to joyfully watch.

Appearance & Varieties

lionhead goldfish
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock

Shubunkin Goldfish are calico-colored fish. This means they’re spotted and mottled. And they’ll take on all sorts of neat patterns and colors. However, some Shubunkins will have blue, which is the rarest color they can have. These fish are typically more expensive than other Shubunkins.

There are three main varieties of the Shubunkin Goldfish:

  • Bristol- These fish have a slender body with a distinct tail. They also have the largest and pointiest fins of the three.
  • London- London Shubunkins are also slender fish but have much more rounded fins.
  • American- The American Shubunkin is differentiated by its tail. They have much deeper tail forks than the other two varieties. It’s believed to be the original Shubunkin variety and is often called the Japanese Shubunkin.

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How to Take Care of Shubunkin Goldfish

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

When it comes to keeping Shubunkin, we recommend you have at least a 75-gallon tank for adults. They’re fast growers and require plenty of room to swim around. As such, we also don’t advise keeping more than 1-2 fish in each tank. Overcrowding can be quite detrimental and dirty up a tank much faster than normal.

As far as their tank is concerned, you’ll need to get a good filtration system. They’re relatively messy fish and keeping their water clean is a must. Other than that, a low to moderate circulation is just fine.

Since the Shubunkin is so hardy, their temperature and pH levels are a broader range than other fish. Maintain their tanks between 65°-72° F and pH levels from 6.0-8.0, and they should be just fine.

They’re even easy when it comes to the substrate. Just about anything will work. We prefer using medium-sized gravel though. It helps them to sift through and find any leftovers that may have sunk to the bottom.

Calico Moore
Image Credit: Benson KuaFollow, Flickr

Are Shubunkin Goldfish Good Tank Mates?

One of the biggest issues when introducing new fish to a tank is whether or not they’ll get along with the current inhabitants. Well, you don’t have to worry too much about the Shubunkin.

They’re very likable fish—even to other fish. These are excellent swimmers to keep as part of a community or ecosystem as they aren’t aggressive. Often, you’ll find them swimming in groups with their tank mates. They’re not just social either. Shubunkins can be pretty curious little fishes. They love exploring their surroundings and dragging along a buddy to do so. There are few other fish that have such a jovial nature.

Just don’t put them in a tank with slow-swimming species. They’ll gobble up all the food and prevent your other fish from receiving proper nutrition at feeding time.

What to Feed Your Shubunkin Goldfish

When it comes to feeding time, you’ll want to make sure that your Shubunkin is getting the best nutrition. We recommend feeding them a good pellet or flake as a base source. Since they are fast enough to compete with everyone else in the tank, you don’t necessarily have to feed them sinking pellets.

We opt for TetraFin Goldfish Flakes. These flakes are packed with everything that your Shubunkin needs to maintain a healthy life without putting a strain on your wallet. Plus, their formula won’t cloud your tank, so you can enjoy watching your fish eat.

Also, you should keep some live plants within their habitat. They’ll occasionally nibble on them as well. And if you’re feeling like giving them an extra treat, your Shubunkin will appreciate brine shrimp and bloodworm as well.

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Keeping Your Shubunkin Goldfish Healthy

One of the best things about Shubunkin is how healthy they are. This is one hardy goldfish. When properly cared for, these fish can live up to be 15 years old!  However, like most goldfish, these fish can be quite messy. This means you’ll have to change their water relatively often.

We advise a 25% water change every other week just to keep things clean enough for them. This will help prevent parasites and bacteria from forming and attacking your fish. The most common disease that affects them is a parasite known as Goldfish Ich.

You’ll notice this parasite at a glance as it develops white spots on the fish. Fortunately, this condition is easily treatable through tank additives such as Kordon Rid-Ich Plus Disease Aquarium Treatment. It’s tough on parasites but completely safe for your fish.

Breeding

Calico Goldfish
Image Credit: yzh0_0, Pixabay

To get your Shubunkin to breed, you’ll need to simulate proper conditions. These fish breed in the warmer seasons. However, if you maintain a warmer tank, the Shubunkin won’t know any difference between breeding season and a regular lifestyle.

You’ll need to first slowly lower the temperature to a chilly 60°-62° F before you start the breeding process. Next, slowly raise the temperature by 2°-3° each day until you’re at a temperature of 72° F. Once you reach that temperature, your fish should be ready to spawn.

Males will chase the females around until finally pushing them into the plants where they will lay their eggs. The plants are necessary as they give the females a place to latch their eggs onto. Immediately after egg-laying, you need to remove the adults. If not, they’ll start eating whatever eggs they can. These eggs will hatch in around 7 days.

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Are Shubunkin Goldfish Suitable For Your Aquarium?

Generally speaking, Shubunkin are good for just about any aquarium—provided you don’t put them in with an aggressive fish species. They’re cheerful, social fish that are gorgeous to look at and fun to watch.

Plus, they’re super awesome for beginning fish keepers. They’re not too complicated to take care of and don’t cost a whole lot either.


Featured Image: Noheaphotos, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.