Shubunkin: Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Shubunkin goldfish in a tank

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The Shubunkin goldfish is a variety of long-bodied goldfish. They are very similar to the standard Comet goldfish except for their distinctive calico coloration and elongated fins. The Shubunkin makes a great addition to many goldfish and temperate fish tanks.

Species Overview

Common Name(s): Shubunkin goldfish, Speckled goldfish, Harlequin goldfish

Scientific Name: Carassius auratus

Adult Size: 12 to 14 inches (including long tail fin)

Life Expectancy: 15 to 30 years


Family  Cyprinidae 
Origin  Japan
Social  Peaceful
Tank Level  Top, mid-dweller 
Minimum Tank Size 50 gallon
Diet  Omnivore 
Breeding  Egglayer 
Care  Beginner 
pH  6.5 to 8.5 
Hardness  dkH 2 to 12 
Temperature  33 to 85 F (1 to 29 C)

Origin and Distribution

The Shubunkin is a breed of long-bodied, fancy goldfish. They originated in Japan through several generations of cross breeding the standard (short fin) and Comet (long fin) goldfish with calico telescope goldfish. They are not found in the wild since they were cultivated through human manipulation. Their ancestor, the Crucian carp, is found throughout Europe and Asia.

Colors and Markings

The Shubunkin is distinctive from the Comet goldfish in their coloration and more elongated fins. With Comet goldfish varying between white, brown, gold, yellow and red, the Shubunkin is distinguished by its "calico" markings. These fish have a pale white to iridescent body with overlying black or blue markings, splashed with reds and yellows. The Shubunkin has a very recognizable appearance when mixed with other goldfish species. Some other varieties of goldfish can be crossed with Shubunkins to have fancy goldfish body types with Shubunkin coloration.

Some Shubunkins may have very clear scales or patches of skin that are scaleless, like their doitsu koi cousins. All of their fins are slightly longer than Comet goldfish. The fins will often contain streaks of black to match their body markings.


The Shubunkin can have tankmates similar to the Comet goldfish. Being temperate fish, they should not be mixed with any tropical species of fish. Shubunkins are very social fish and not aggressive to other fish. They are voracious eaters, so anything small enough to fit in their mouth can be mistakenly eaten, including small fish and invertebrates.

Comet goldfish in tank
Other Long-Bodied Goldfish (Comet, Sarasa, other Shubunkins)

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Zebrafish School

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Ornamental Minnows (White Cloud Mountain Minnow)

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Shubunkin Habitat and Care

Like all other goldfish, your Shubunkins will require a tank with a filter, not a bowl. They do not require heated water and do well at room temperature. Shubunkins will make a lot of waste, and you will need to keep a close eye on your tank's nitrogen cycle levels to ensure your nitrate stays below 20 mg/L. Be sure your aquarium has strong filtration.

Shubunkins are not very picky about their décor. As long as their tank is large enough, they will be active fish and swim constantly. Try not to add too many obstacles, since this may tear longer fins.

Goldfish are active foragers and will often be seen picking up their substrate and spitting it back out. This is a normal behavior for goldfish and you should not be too concerned about something getting stuck in their mouths. The biggest concern for an oral foreign body are the gel balls containing beneficial bacteria. These can easily get stuck and cause your fish to stop eating. If your fish has an oral foreign body, call your aquatic veterinarian immediately.

Shubunkin Diet and Feeding

Shubunkins are omnivores and can eat commercially available goldfish foods. Stick to a pelleted diet around 32-35% protein and 5-7% fat. Goldfish are not vegetarians and need some animal protein sources for correct development. Reproductively-active and juvenile fish will need increased protein and fat.

Feed your goldfish for 3-5 minutes once a day if the temperature is at or below 70F (21C). Above 70F, you will need to feed your goldfish twice a day. Being ectotherms with a wide temperature tolerance, the warmer the water temperature, the hungrier your Shubunkins will be. Do not let uneaten food accumulate in the aquarium.

You can feed your Shubunkins occasional treats. Veggies, such as shelled green peas, can be fed up to once a day as a treat. Meaty treats, such as frozen bloodworms or brine shrimp, should be fed no more than once a week.

Gender Differences

Unlike the Comet goldfish, not all male Shubunkins will exhibit the classic breeding tubercles on the pectoral fins and sides of the operculum. Females will have rounder bellies than males, but only if reproductively active. It is very hard to distinguish males from females in fish that are not preparing to spawning.

Breeding the Shubunkin

With the correct cues in temperature and light and a supportive diet, even beginners can easily breed their Shubunkins. The males will often be seen chasing the females around the tank in order to get them to release their eggs. Following behind, the males will externally fertilize the eggs which will settle throughout your tank. Often, goldfish will concentrate their breeding efforts on plant material with exposed roots to catch the eggs.

After your fish have spawned, it is critical to remove the adult fish from the aquarium so they do not eat their eggs. This can be easily accomplished by setting up a special spawning tank and then removing the adults to their main tank afterwards. One spawning can produce up to 1000 eggs. Fry will emerge from their eggs in about 6 days and start swimming and eating. Be sure to feed them an appropriate diet for good development.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

If you are interested in the Shubunkin, check out these other fish species profiles:

Check out additional fish breed profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.