Koi or Shubunkin: Which Fish is Right for your Backyard Pond?

Many people with backyard ponds add fish as a way to enhance the pond’s beauty and create excitement. Fortunately, there are two common pond fish available at Great Lakes Pondscapes that can not only live, but thrive, in different temperatures and environments. In this post, we will discuss the differences between koi and shubunkin, so that you can decide which fish is right for your backyard pond.


While both types of fish can live in the same backyard pond environment, and often look alike to the untrained eye, they are completely different species of fish. First, all varieties of koi are from Japan and have been bred for a very, very long time. Shubunkin are from China and are very similar to goldfish and tend to be hardier and more resilient than koi.


In general, shubunkin are smaller than koi and can be raised in a large aquarium. Shubunkin usually grow to 12 to 20 inches in length, depending on their environment. Koi, on the other hand, get much larger, growing up to 36 inches in length! This larger size obviously means koi need more food, so feeding them is more costly.


Koi fish have a longer lifespan than shubunkin. Shubunkin can live up to 15 years while koi can live up to 35 years with some being known to live for much longer.


Like catfish, koi fish have whiskers while, like a goldfish, shubunkin have a rounded nose. Shubunkin are what is known as calico and have a mix of metallic and translucent scales that are typically grey, red, white, and speckled black. They can also be found in different colors depending on your preferences. Koi fish have many different patterns and color combinations and are all very unique.

At Great Lakes Pondscapes, we have healthy and beautiful koi and shubunkin fish for your backyard pond. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us!