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Can Shubunkin Live with Koi?

Shubunkin is a species of goldfish with a beautiful mother-of-pearl appearance. Its metallic scales along with unique spotted red, yellow, orange, blue, black and/or white coloring make it an attractive and welcome addition to any extra-large indoor aquarium or outdoor pond. But can it live peacefully with koi fish?

Yes, shubunkin goldfish can easily live with koi fish, provided they’re of similar size and temperament. Both species tend to like the same aquatic environment – a pond with water plants and plenty of room to swim, forage and explore. While the two are generally peaceful in nature, they can get ‘fin nippy’ or aggressive if stressed, underfed, or overcrowded.

Now that you know you can keep shubunkin goldfish with koi fish, let’s explore this topic further and in more detail. I’ll explain the type of water conditions they need, the kinds of foods they eat, and whether they can be successfully crossbred. I’ll also discuss other types of fish that can (and can’t) be kept with shubunkins in the same tank or pond.

So, if you’re ready to dive deeper into the aquatic world of the carp fish, specifically shubunkin and koi, then let’s begin!

Is Shubunkin a Koi?

Shubunkin are often referred to as ‘a poor man’s koi’ though they aren’t a koi fish at all! In fact, they’re a species of goldfish. Both shubunkin and koi are type of cold-water carp and as such, can live together in the same aquatic environment. Shubunkin goldfish are a great choice for an outdoor pond or water garden and add both color and ‘life’ to any aquascape setting.

Are Koi Fish Compatible with Shubunkin Goldfish?

Koi fish and shubunkin goldfish are compatible under the right physical circumstances. If you want to keep them together, they must be of like size. You can’t house juvenile shubunkins with adult koi (or vice versa) as the smaller fish may get eaten! Both shubunkin and koi are opportunistic feeders with voracious appetites and will feast on almost anything small enough to fit into their mouths!

Since both species grow quite large (shubunkins can reach lengths of 12 inches whereas koi can get as big as 15 inches), you must house them in a big aquatic environment such as a 100-gallon aquarium for juveniles or a 3-feet deep, 1500-gallon pond for adults. This, of course, is just a suggestion and depends upon the number of fish you have. Overcrowding is a key factor in both goldfish and koi fish aggression.

What Fish Can be Kept with Shubunkins?

Apart from koi fish, which likely make the best tank/pond mates for shubunkin goldfish, you can also place them with guppies, tetras, killifish, glass catfish, or cherry barbs. Shubunkins are a highly active, fast-moving fish that like to forage and explore. Therefore, it’s imperative that you keep them well-fed and in a large, planted aquatic environment lest they get aggressive, fin nippy, or eat smaller tankmates.

What Fish Can’t be Kept with Shubunkins?

Shubunkins are generally peaceful in nature but can inadvertently fin the fins of other types of goldfish like fancytails. As they’re aggressive feeders like comets and orandas, they shouldn’t be kept with these species of goldfish either. Therefore, it’s recommended that you keep shubunkins with other fish of like size and temperament such as koi fish.


Will Shubunkin Goldfish Fight Koi Fish?

In a large, planted pond with ample room to swim and explore, it’s unlikely for shubunkins and koi to fight each other. Both species are generally peaceful in nature and easy to care for under the right aquatic parameters. Aggression levels increase with stress and can result from living in poor water conditions, being underfed, overcrowded or during the spawning season when hormones run high.

To reduce tension and hostility in both shubunkin and koi fish, you must test the water regularly to ensure the temperature, pH level and salinity are accurate and balanced. Ammonia is deadly to both species, even in the smallest amounts. The key to happy, healthy fish and a peaceful community tank or pond environment is a clean, stable environment in which to live.

Are Koi Fish Aggressive Towards Shubunkin Goldfish?

Koi fish are rarely aggressive towards shubunkin goldfish. However, they can become hostile if the water conditions are ‘off’ or the pond is overcrowded. Stress levels can also increase for both species during the mating season. Since the two are capable of crossbreeding, a male koi may view a female shubunkin as a potential breeding partner and pursue her intensely by chasing her around and nipping at her fins.

Do Shubunkin and Koi Like the Same Water Conditions?

Both shubunkins and koi fish are types of cold-water carp and prefer to live in cooler temperatures – somewhere around 82-and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. A pH level of 7.2 to 7.5 is best however, both can tolerate a wider range between 6.5 and 8.0. An extra-large aquatic environment (250- to 1,000-gallon pond, depending on how many fish you have) is required since both species grow big and like to swim.

Do Shubunkins and Koi Eat the Same Food?

Shubunkins and koi generally eat the same kinds of food. Both species are omnivorous and like to eat a variety of plant- and meat-based foods including krill, plankton, algae, and plant leaves. Anything that fits into their mouths is fair game which is why they’ll often eat smaller fish as well as their own eggs and offspring.

Can Shubunkin and Koi Breed Together?

Since shubunkin and koi are both species of carp fish, they can crossbreed. If kept in the same pond, chances are good that they’ll mate and reproduce goldfish/koi offspring. The typical breeding season for both is summer when temperatures are warmer (between 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit). Come fall, the hybrid babies will hatch and dwell among the rocks and plants in the pond.

Do Shubunkin Eat Koi Fish Eggs?

Shubunkin are a species of goldfish and as such, will eat other fish eggs – including koi. Since they’re omnivorous in nature, shubunkins ingest a variety of both plant- and meat-based foods. They’re opportunistic feeders which means they like to forage throughout the day and will munch on anything they deem edible. This behavior makes them a threat to new-hatched koi fish offspring as well.

Conversely, koi fish will also eat shubunkin goldfish eggs – as well as their own! Koi, like shubunkin, are omnivores and will feast on almost anything plant- and/or meat-based that they deem edible. This includes both fish eggs and baby fry. If you intend to breed either (or both) species, you must do so in a large, heavily planted pond to provide cover and protection for eggs/hatchlings.

Which is Better Shubunkins or Koi?

It’s hard to say which is better regarding shubunkin goldfish and koi fish. Both exhibit a wide range of colors and patterns. Since they share the same habitat, you can keep them together in a large tank or outdoor pond. Shubunkins are usually smaller than koi when full-grown which is a plus if your aquatic space is limited. Keep in mind however, that koi will likely only grow enough to fit their environment.

*Choosing one over the other is really a matter of personal preference more than anything else.

fancy koi fish


To summarize, shubunkin goldfish and koi fish generally get along well together in captivity if they’re of similar size, fed well, and living in a healthy aquatic environment. Since both species can grow quite big and require plenty of room to swim, forage and explore, they need an extra-large tank or outdoor pond to thrive. If overcrowded, underfed, or stressed, they can get aggressive with one another.

I hope this article has provided you with the information you seek regarding whether shubunkins can live with koi or not. Thanks for reading and good luck with your aquarium hobby.

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