The shubunkin (Carassius auratus) is a fish from the Cyprinides family with a shape similar to that of the common goldfish. It is however smaller and more colourful. It is of Chinese origin and likes living in still freshwater and in waterways with little current.
Shubunkin are callicos, mostly bluish with long red markings and with smaller black markings scattered throughout their body. There are three varieties of shubunkin : the Bristol, the American (more slender and with shorter fins than the Bristol) and the London shubunkin, slightly smaller again than the Bristol. It has a shorter tail fins, narrower and less lobed than its Bristol cousin, whose fins can be up to half as long as the fish itself. The pectoral and pelvic fins are even in number, whereas the dorsal, anal and tail fins are uneven. Those of the female are generally more voluminous.
In its country of origin, the shubunkin lives in calm freshwater. Its is resistant to the cold but not to strong frosts. In suitable regions you can install it in your pond where it will feed on small elements found it the foil, which it loves exploring. It is omnivorous and delights as much in mosquito larvae as in algae. In cold regions it should be put into the aquarium in winter, making sure to provide a minimum of 20 litres of water per fish. Feed it with pellets and chopped cooked vegetables.
When the weather warms up in spring, the spawning season begins for the fish which have reached sexual maturity, that is, those aged about two years old. The male is adorned with small white spots on its operculum as well as on the first stripe of its pectoral fins.
After a few encounters between male and female, the female leaves her eggs where she can and the male fertilises them by releasing his soft roe. The eggs stick to nearby plants and surfaces. Incubation can now begin and after three to six days, depending on the temperature of the water, larvae appear and the swim bladder is allowed to develop. This takes about 2 to 4 days. The small fish will gather up enough strength to swim in order to look for food. If the conditions are right it can live a long life, up to 20 years.
Having batrachians in your garden could quickly lead to complaints from your neighbours, as they tend to make quite a racket. Their presence in a town garden is particularly unadvised.
As frogs, toads, tritons and salamanders are protected species, it is strictly forbidden to collect their eggs or to capture adults in the wild. It is also illegal to introduce exotic species, sold in pet shops, into your garden.
In any case, adult frogs tend to return to their place of birth to reproduce and lay eggs. If you wish to have frogs in the garden, you just have to wait until they come themselves. They require a particular biotope, such as the presence of a second source of water to migrate to, and a pond with plenty of sunlight, rich in insects. If you have these installations, they will come themselves. In winter, they bury themselves beneath the mud to hibernate, so you require a pond at least 60 cms. deep with a good layer of mud at the bottom. This is sufficient for their hibernation, except if the winter is extremely cold.
You may also find that tritons, salamanders and toads come to colonize your pond. Again, don’t install them yourself, as they will not stay.
Cats love to hunt batrachians, so install the necessary protection around the pond, otherwise straying cats will have a feast !