Bristol Shubunkin

Bristol Shubunkin


The Bristol Shubunkin was developed in the United Kingdom. The ancestral fish are believed to be a combination of the Japanese Shubunkin and a black Moor or Demekin. Two variations are in existence today: the heart shaped tail, sometimes referred to as the “Classic Bristol” and the B shaped tail often called theModern Bristol. The heart shaped tail or “Classic” was introduced in the United States during the 1980’s. The “B” shaped tail was also developed in the UK. Due to changing importation laws, the “Modern Bristol” tail is relatively rare in North America, so The Goldfish Council recognizes and allows both tail and body shapes

The above illustration is theModern Bristol. In general, these newer fish have thicker peduncles, are slightly shorter (and carry their fins more erect, Merlin Cunliffe 2016.

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The above illustration is the Classic Bristol. This fish is longer and the peduncle is thinner than the Modern Bristol . In the United States both varieties compete in the same class unless the judge separates them into two sub-classes, Merlin Cunliffe 2016.

Breed Details

Bristol’s are active fish grow exceedingly large. Ten inch (25 centimeter fish are not uncommon. Lake and pond raised specimens acquire approximately 15 inches in length.

Only Calico (nacreous) fish are available for exhibition. Metallic scaled fishes are under development in North America and in England. At this point and time, this variety is not recognized or available.

Color morphs include red/black, red/blue/black, orange/black, blue/black/blue and white/black. Bristol’s are well known for their breeding lines containing a guanine deficiency commonly called “blue belly”. Guanine is the silver reflective material that typically prevents the aquarist from seeing the color beyond the scales. The presence of this mutation allows for pastel coloration that is provided because of the transparent scales, non guanine containing scales. Also, because of the guanine mutation, it is ordinary to have normal eyes and button eyes in these fish. It is not uncommon to have one eye of each type.

“The Bristol 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 well spread with rounded contours
  • Body to be smooth not angular
  • At least 25% of the body to be blue
  • Minimum body length to be 7.5 cm (3 inches)

Only calico fish to be shown, metallic variations are not considered Bristol’s.

The fish should be bright and alert with the caudal fin carried high without drooping or folding. The body should be long and slender with a smooth outline. Quality fish will have a high color intensity with the pigment extending into the fins.

Color: a show fish will have a blue background with patches of violet, red, orange, yellow and brown, spotted with black”1.

The tail can be quite tall obtaining the equivalent of ½ the body length. While this is attractive when the fish are less than a year old, extremely tall tails result in the tail and dorsal fin folding over as the fish age. In order to maintain a rigid and upright tail, breeders select fish with perfect “B” shaped tails that are quite small when the fish color up at 10-12 weeks old. The tail continues to grow as the fish get larger in length, resulting folded fins if early selection is not done correctly. Older fish often do not exhibit well due to this attribute.

The Bristol’s should contain black speckles and there should be black pigment in all of the fins.

The preferred color morph is a blue and black speckled fish with one or more bright red patch. Some judges prefer this red to be located in the head area.


Bristol’s come from a relatively small population. Inbreeding symptoms occasionally show up in adult fish. Typical disqualifications include: a twisted mouth or a turned down moth (carp mouth).

1 Paragraph was modified from the Bristol Aquarium Society

Maximum points that may be awarded are as follows:

Body Color 25
Body Shape 20
Fin Shape 20
Fin Color 15
Overall Condition 10
Deportment 10

Body Color

75% blue,15%black, 10% red 25
65% blue, 35% black, red/other 105 22
50% blue, 25% black, 25% other 20
25% blue, 25%black, 50% other 15-20
0% blue <12

Body Shape

Classic Length of peduncle not more than four times body height. 20
Classic Top of fish is curved, not flat. 20
Modern Length of peduncle 3 to 4 times the height. 20
Modern Top of fish curved, not flat. 20

Fin Shape

Classic Dorsal fish compact and erect,

Tail length is approx. 35% the body length, heart shaped.

Classic Dorsal or tail fins abnormally long, >35% of body 15
Classic Tail fins > 35% body length, or tail or dorsal fin folded or flopped over when fish at rest. 10
Modern Dorsal fin short and compact, tail is more “B” shaped than heart shaped, peduncle thick and tail height about 35% of body length. 20
Modern Dorsal or tail fins abnormally long > 40% of the body, and/or peduncle weak. 15
Modern Tail fins > 35% body length, or tail or dorsal finned folded or flopped over when fish at rest. 10

Fin Color

All fins are black, black striped or speckled. 15
Dorsal or any fin lobe does not match with black pattern. 12
Fin or fins are clear. 10

Overall condition: fish should be active and swimming, eyes should not be dull, fins should not have streaks, deduct 2-5 points for any of these conditions.

Deportment: fish should carry it’s fins gracefully; bottom scooting is a negative five points. Due to Bristol’s long life span, deportment can be compromised when judging an older fish.