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COMMON GOLDFISH AND LONDON SHUBUNKIN
A very large proportion of common goldfish breed true to type, which makes
this fish good for beginners, but it is a difficult fish for showing because
it is such a relatively simple fish (which makes it difficult to develop a strain
that stands out above the ordinary); intensity of colour is the key to doing
well at shows. This fish is more popular in other British goldfish societies
than BAS. Young fish are very dark, if not black, and gradually develop the
ornamental red (or orange, etc) colour over 1-2 years.
The common goldfish is metallic, either self-coloured or variegated. The calico version of this fish is called the London shubunkin and has the same body and fins as the common goldfish.
The common goldfish is known as the gold carp in the Far East and as the hibuna
The common goldfish and London shubunkin standard is as follows:
- Depth of body to be between 3/7ths and 3/8ths of body length
- Pectoral and pelvic fins to be paired, dorsal and anal fins to be single
- Caudal fin to be single and width of spread not greater than 1¼ body depth
- Length of lobes of caudal fin to be no greater than 1/3rd of body length
and to be slightly rounded at the ends
- At least 25% of the body to be blue (London shubunkin only)
- Minimum body length to be 7.5 cm (3 inches)
The fish should be bright and alert. The body should be strong and sturdy with
a smooth outline. The caudal fin should be short.
- Common goldfish:
- Metallic self-coloured (red, orange, yellow, blue, brown or black) or
variegated (any combination of these colours, including silver, in a pleasing
pattern similar on each side), the colours to appear as burnished metal
and extending into the fins.
- London shubunkin:
- Calico only (blue background with patches of violet, red, orange, yellow
and brown, spotted with black); quality fish will have high colour intensity
extending into the fins.
Ideal profiles are illustrated below:
Mature red goldfish
These are the finest red common goldfish in UK and regularly win at all the
major shows (here seen at BAS 2000).
Winners of the breeders' pairs at BAS 2003.
Mature yellow goldfish
A very fine lemon yellow common goldfish, shown at BAS 2000. The website author had such a fish which
lived in good health for 33 years (although after 20 years the colour gradually
faded to silver).
Two more fine fish, shown at BAS 1999 on the left and BAS 2007 on the right.
Tancho colouration goldfish
Common goldfish with tancho colouration (silver-white body with a red patch on the head, a colour scheme found in koi). Shown at BAS 2007.
Black common goldfish
These fish are black common goldfish, developed in China, and seen in Hong Kong in 2014; such fish are available from aquatic outlets in UK. (We apologize for the poor quality of the photographs; the fish were fast-swimming in a low-down, poorly lit tank - the fish photographer's nightmare - and no better pictures have been obtained since).
Only one BAS member regularly breeds the common goldfish: his strain is a very
deep red with colour extending throughout the fins and with fairly deep bodies.
Three of them are pictured above and are very similar in outline to the wild
ancestor (see About Goldfish),
which is hardly surprising.
The original fish were bought from a water garden centre 30 years ago: a thin
but very red male and a deep-bodied yellow female. In the early years there
were two successful outcrossings using fish from other members, for colour and
shape enhancements; since then the line has been isolated from outside influences
and consistently wins the common goldfish class at all the major shows.
About 30 mature fish are kept for breeding, with an even balance between the
sexes. Two spawnings are made per season totalling about 4,000-5,000 fry of
which about 100 are kept, giving a return of about 45:1 (i.e. 1 in 45 fry is
kept until adulthood), a ratio which compares very favourably with other types
such as fantails and lionheads. These 100 are kept for two years as it takes
that long for the quality of the body colour to become apparent - it is difficult
to produce good colour in young fish; eventually the very best 20 of these are
kept, giving a return of about 250:1 to achieve show quality fish. These ratios
well demonstrate the ease of breeding good common goldfish compared with other
types, but the difficulty of breeding the very best, show-winning fish.
No particular breeding scheme is used; rather, the best-looking fish are chosen.
Once a high quality strain is achieved then it is relatively easy to maintain,
although in this strain the depth of colour has slowly declined over the last
10 years (although you wouldn't think so when you see the fish!) and it may
perhaps be time for another outcross to re-fix the colour.
The breeding season starts in May. The fish are conditioned on earthworms and
if it is a cold Spring then the tanks are heated to 65°F. The sexes are
separated for 2-3 weeks and put together the night before the chosen spawning
day, although sometimes spawning takes 2-3 days. The fish are left to it, there
are always enough fertilized eggs in the tanks for maintenance of the strain.
Thereon the adults are fed carp pellets whilst the fry are fed LiquiFry, Tetra
Baby Food and then Bemax. Little culling is necessary as the common goldfish
has a simple shape and defects are slight, it's just a matter of keeping the
best and finding homes for the rest.
The fish house is only ever heated to prevent freezing over in the all-glass
tanks; in the years of metal-framed tanks they were allowed to freeze over -
common goldfish are very hardy (provided the water is not too shallow). No filtration
is used as water changes are 75% in the Winter months rising to 100% in the
Summer months; for beginners, however, filtration is recommended. The tanks
are cleaned in the Spring for spawning. No pests or diseases have been seen
for many years as the fish are not brought into contact with any other fish;
this experience contrasts with that of veiltail breeders, whose fish seem to
pick up gill flukes from tapwater sometimes.
The common goldfish is an easy, hardy fish (obviously, provided that you follow
the basic rules of fishkeeping - thousands of goldfish purchased from shops
or won at fairs die each year) and lives for 10-12 years, although they can
live for over 30 years (and according to some are good for 60 years). However,
it is easy to knock off scales through mishandling which is a setback at show
time, but they regrow.
© Bristol Aquarists' Society