Bristol Shubunkin Goldfish

Shubunkin Goldfish are long-bodied Goldfish belonging to the Cyprinidae family, just like common Goldfish and carp. There are three varieties of Shubunkin Goldfish: London Shubunkin, American Shubunkin, and Bristol Shubunkin. Bristol Shubunkin are known for their flowing fins and characteristic rounded tails. These special fish are hard to come by, making them a cherished addition for any hobbyist. In this guide, you’ll find out exactly why a Bristol Shubunkin is perfect for you.

History of Shubunkin Goldfish

The Shubunkin is thought to have been first created in 1892 by crossbreeding the Calico Telescope Goldfish, the Common Goldfish, and the Single Tail Wakin. Americans developed the fish further, producing Shubunkin with long tails, which are the most common type of Shubunkin. Hobbyists in Britain discovered that Shubunkin were the ideal coldwater fish, both colorful and hardy. Members of the Bristol Aquarist Society produced the Bristol Shubunkin in 1934. Bristol Shubunkin are known for their long, flowing fins and distinct, rounded caudal fin.

Bristol Shubunkin remain very rare, and the number of Bristol Shubunkin worldwide remains low. Some evidence suggests that this may be due to higher water temperatures in places like China, which makes producing this unique variety difficult. When Bristol Shubunkin are available for sale, they tend to go quickly, so it’s best to act fast if you’re interested in one of these unique fish.

Appearance of Shubunkin Goldfish

Like other varieties of Shubunkin, Bristol Shubunkin are calico and have nacreous scales. Blue is the preferred primary color, with patches of purple, red, orange, yellow, brown, and white, along with spots of black. Other shared features among the different types of Shubunkin include a short, wide head, flowing fins, and an erect dorsal fin.

Bristol Shubunkin are long-bodied and can grow more than 12” in length. The most notable feature of Bristol Shubunkin are their large, full, moderately forked tail, which is rounded at the end to create a shape resembling a heart or the letter “B.” The highest quality Bristol Shubunkin Goldfish adhere to the standards set by the Bristol Aquarist Society, which are primarily created as guidelines for show-quality fish. The breed standards are:

  • A body depth between 38% and 43% of its body length
  • A single caudal fin that is well spread with rounded lobes
  • Single dorsal and anal fins
  • Paired pectoral and pelvic find with slightly rounded extremities
  • A body that is at least 25% blue
  • A minimum body length of three inches

Caring For Bristol Shubunkin Goldfish

Bristol Shubunkin are hardy fish, especially compared to fancy Goldfish varieties. Their bodies’ structure and greater resistance to disease allow them to live longer. Bristol Shubunkin can live 10-15 years with proper care and a healthy environment.

Pond Setup

Bristol Shubunkin thrive in wide-open spaces with plenty of room to swim, making them excellent pond fish. While they can be kept in aquariums, they’ll need a minimum tank size of 50-75 gallons to accommodate their size. Plus, the tank will need 10-15 additional gallons for every fish added. For this reason, a pond really is the best option for Bristol Shubunkin. Koi and other types of Goldfish make excellent pond mates for Bristol Shubunkin. Shubunkin are considered athletic fish, and ample swimming space will help prevent muscle atrophy.

The pond equipment needed for Bristol Shubunkin is no different from the equipment required for any Koi pond. To prevent overcrowding, your pond should hold a minimum of 1,000 gallons plus 200 gallons for each additional fish. If you’re unsure how much water is in your pond, there are a few different methods you can use to calculate water volume.

A pond pump is essential for circulating your water and adding oxygen, which helps keep fish healthy. Pond pumps are sized by gallons per hour (GPH). This guide to sizing pond pumps can help you find the right pump for your pond. You’ll also need a pond filter to remove dirt, debris, and other pollutants from your water. The two different types of filtration are mechanical and biological. Mechanical filtration removes larger, solid matter from your pond, while biological filtration removes ammonia and nitrates. For ponds containing Koi or Goldfish, choosing a filter with both mechanical and biological filtration capabilities is recommended. Your pond filter should ideally be able to process the volume of your pond two to four times every hour.

Water Parameters

Bristol Shubunkin, much like Koi and other varieties of Pond Goldfish, can tolerate changes in water temperature and conditions better than Fancy Goldfish and Tropical Fish. The ideal water temperature for Bristol Shubunkin is 65-72℉, though they can tolerate temperatures much lower.

The pH in your pond should be between 6.5 and 8.5. Carbonate hardness (KH) should hover around 125 parts per million (ppm), but a fluctuation of up to 20 ppm in either direction is still acceptable. To keep your pond water as healthy as possible, perform a 10% water change every week, a 20% change every two weeks, and a 30% change every three weeks.

Water parameters






KH (carbonate hardness)

6-8 dKH or 105-146 ppm


0 ppm


0 ppm


Below 80ppm; 20-60 ppm


Like all Goldfish, Bristol Shubunkin are omnivores. Their diet should be low in fat and high in protein, ideally 30%+, with at least some animal protein sources such as anchovy meal, fish meal, and krill meal. Look for a high-quality feed that is high in vitamins and minerals and contains ingredients like spirulina, which helps enhance color, improve digestion, and boost the immune system.

The metabolism of Goldfish and Koi is dependent on water temperature, and their diet should be adjusted accordingly. In the summer months when fish are more active and water temperatures are above 73℉, they should be fed 2-3 times a day. Reduce feedings to once or twice daily when temperatures are between 72℉ and 65℉, once daily when temperatures are between 65℉ and 59℉, 2-4 times a week when temperatures drop below 59℉, and stop feeding them completely once temperatures reach 50℉. A proper feeding routine is one of the best ways to keep your Bristol Shubunkin healthy for years to come.

Interested in adding a Bristol Shubunkin to your pond? Our selection of this rare, beautiful fish won’t last long! Shop now on our website.

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