Shubunkin (Carassius auratus)

Shubunkin (Carassius auratus) by Duchess GNU Free Documentation License 26/02/2008
photo by Duchess

The Shubunkin (translated literally as "red brocade") is a hardy, single-tailed fancy goldfish with nacreous scales, and a pattern known as calico. Shubunkins are of Japanese origin.


The shubunkin, nicknamed "Poor Mans Koi", are similar to the common goldfish and comet goldfish in appearance. They are first bred from mutations in telescope eye goldfish (Demekins) back in 1900 in Japan. They have streamlined bodies with well-developed and even fins. However, the shubunkins are calico goldfish; they possess nacreous scales (a mix of metallic and transparent scales that are pearly in appearance). The overlapping patches of red, white, blue, grey and black (along with dark speckles) normally extend to the finnage of shubunkins. Blue is the most prized colour in shubunkins. Calicos originally denoted three colours varieties of goldfish that do not include blue. The best blues are produced from line breeding of good blue specimens of shubunkins. Sometimes good blues may be obtained by breeding bronze (metallic) with pink (matt) goldfish, but a grey slate colour may result instead.

Shubunkin (Carassius auratus)

It may take several months for the nacreous coloration to develop on a young fry(baby fish). Shubunkins are excellent pond fish because they reach a length of 9 to 16 inches (22.86 to 40.6 centimeters) at adulthood. A shubunkin goldfish is considered an adult at 2 to 3 years of age.

Buy Orchard Fisheries goldfish food mix online


Although shubunkins originated from Japan, three distinct types of shubunkins have been categorized in the West, namely: the American shubunkins, the Bristol shubunkins, and the London shubunkins.

  • London shubunkins have stout bodies and short, rounded finnage that is similar to the common goldfish.
  • Bristol shubunkins are slim bodied goldfish with well-developed finnage possessing a tail that is large, moderately forked, and rounded at the end making a shape similar to that of the capitalized letter "B".
  • American shubunkins (pictured in infobox) have a slimmer body shape than the london shubunkin with deeply forked, pointed tail fins, and longer finnage all around.