HIGH RANCHU MON

HIGH RANCHU MON
Art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2017

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

WINTER WATER CHANGES

Winter time! Elsewhere it might mean cold and snow, but here in Washington, DC it is still mild, camellias are in bloom. Outside temperatures have been fluctuating between 30s, high 40s and low 50s (0-10 C). With the water temperature in my pond at 62-63 F (16.5-17 C), I feed Azayaka pellets once a day, the rest of the time the ranchu graze on algae and rest. Although, the water temperature isn't as low to allow hibernation, my ranchu have noticeably slowed their activities. In a week, I am going to start again feeding them frozen bloodworms, supplementing with a smaller amount of Azayaka pellets until warmer time. Hopefully by then the spawning will begin, which is usually spring in my case.

With less feedings the water change regiment is adjusted. In the winer, I perform 100% water change only every second week, instead of every week like I do the rest of the year. The bio filter is working well and the UV sterilizer is always on, maintain a good water quality. In addition, I remove poop from the bottom of the pond each morning. Clay is added once a week. 

For those of us whose ranchu aren't covered in snow and hibernating, it is a good time to enjoy them more and contemplate their beauty. Now is a less laborious time, but also the time to make sure that everything is in check, as the spawing season is just around the corner. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

FEEDINGS, FEEDERS AND SCHEDULES

Feeding schedule and portion size are important parts of ranchu grooming. Both depend on the season of the year and the age of ranchu along with the goals of the keeper.

Ranchu are coldblooded animals and their metabolism is directly correlated with the water temperature. It is important to observe seasonal temperature fluctuations and adjust ranchu feeding accordingly. Below is a table showing different temperatures and their effect on ranchu:

32-43 F (0-6°C) - hibernation state
44-54 F (7-12°C) - semi-hibernation state
55-64 F (13-18°C) - intermediate state between hibernation and active states
65-75 F (19-24°C) - ranchu are ready to spawn
76-86 F (25-30°C) - ranchu grow actively 
87-97 F (31-36°C) - ranchu growth slows down
98-100 F (37-38°C) - upper temperature limit for ranchu

It is beneficial for ranchu to hibernate. However, in my case, bound by the indoor set up, the water temperature doesn't drop below 55-64 F (13-18°C) keeping my ranchu in the intermediate state, between hibernation and active states. Their digestive tract works noticeably much slower as their activities calm down. At this time, I feed them only once or twice a day, depending on the temperature. In the spring the temperature rises and when "the stars align" the ranchu will spawn. I increase the amount of feed from two to three times per day. In the summer months keeping ranchu indoors has its advantage. With my temperature controlled environment, I don't have to worry about high temperatures above 86 F (30°C). The feeding is three to four times a day.

I feed as much as my ranchu can collectively eat in five minutes. Although, regardless of the method by which the amount of food is determined, observing ranchu and adjusting the food amount according to their appearance is a must. Overfeeding is not good for ranchu, as for anybody else, it shortens their life span and may prevent them from breeding.

I use the above schedule for my nisai and will continue using it when they turn oya age. On the other hand, it is very different with the fry, BBR, CBR and tosai. In upcoming months, I will share my feeding schedule for the young fish, but for now I will say that correct feeding regime is crucial in the first year of ranchu development.

For its very convenient and consistent way, I have been using automatic feeders to feed my ranchu with high quality dry pellets. It is especially helpful when I have to feed three or four times a day and my timetable doesn't allow me to be around. Ranchu appreciate the schedule and quickly learn at what time the food is given and gather around the feeding area. Afterwards, they can "plan" their time, whether to forage for algae, promenade back and forth in the tank or nap. I find that automatic feeders are actually helpful in preventing overfeeding. The many temptations I have had to give an extra pinch or two of pellets to my ever hungry ranchu are now prevented by the feeder.

Among the several automatic feeders available, I have chosen Eheim Everyday Fish Feeder. It is reasonably priced for what it can do, programable for up to four meals a day, has sizable food reservoir and long battery life. One unfavorable feature of this feeder is that it doesn't dispense exact amounts of pellets each time. As the pellet reservoir empties, the portions may become irregular. This is, however, not a big concern of mine. I learned to keep the reservoir full and don't let it get completely empty. It works best with pellets larger than 1.5 mm in size.

For smaller pellet size and granules to feed the fry, I found that Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Fish Feeder is the best. It has 14 compartments and can dispense food for up to four times a day. I use this feeder to supplementally feed the fry with granules size of 360-650 microns. I especially like that it slowly dispenses food for over a period of time, giving every fish a chance to eat. An air tube can be attached to the feeder to keep the food from clumping. One thing about this feeder is that you have to refill it quite often, but its overall convenience beats that.

Eheim Everyday Fish Feeder
Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Fish Feeder


Thursday, November 20, 2014

IT IS BETTER TO TRAVEL WELL, THAN TO ARRIVE

Today is exactly one year since starting "High Ranchu" blog. First and most of all, I would like to thank all of you readers for following. Thank you for your kind words, encouragement and questions that I have received. Today, the blog is approaching 28.000 page views, thanks to all of you! I hope to continue to write and illustrate my journey with ranchu, keeping the blog fresh, educational, fun and visual.

Although, I have been interested in ranchu for a long time, I only started to seriously pursue this endeavor since October, 2013, when I purchased my group of fish. As you can tell, it has been an exciting year for me, packed with activity. I made mistakes and corrected them, I have adopted others' great ideas and came up with my own solutions. I learned a great deal to only realize how much there is still to learn.


Original artwork by A.Vasiljev © 2014
                       
Thus ranchu became my teachers and not just for ranchu keeping sake, but in a broader sense. Patience is what may have been the most important lesson that I learned from them; and am still learning. It is a great quality that I often lack. Not only rearing ranchu requires patience, the ranchu themselves are unhurried and measured animals, with a demeanor that will unavoidably effect the keeper. In my instance, they offered me calm, thoughtfulness and the need to be patient.

Another important lesson I learned is to focus on appreciating anything positive, instead of focusing on the negative. I could have easily accepted that there is no perfect ranchu, and be automatically dragged into finding what's "wrong" to be never satisfied with ranchu appearance, looking for that "greener grass on the other side" instead of enjoying them and myself. That however, shouldn't take away the urge for improvement. Traditional ranchu keeping is founded on this principle. While enjoying ranchu looks, we have to constantly work on improving our grooming techniques. Apart from genetics, it is all about grooming that shapes the ranchu the way we desire and maintains them the way we want. This process echoes with a quote from Buddha's teachings: "It is better to travel well than to arrive". With this in mind ranchu keeping can become very rewarding. Each fish will "blossom" at its own time, some when they are tosai or nisai, and some when oya. Once ranchu reached its peak, it becomes even more chalenging to maintain.

Being considered a "living sculpture", ranchu keeping is very similar to bonsai in terms of required determination and discipline. To keep ranchu as ranchu and bonsai as bonsai, constant training and improvement is needed. It also requires improvisation and ability to recognize and uncover the subject's potentials.


Cotyledon tomentosa ("Bear's Paws") as a year old bonsai, trained by A.Vasiljev
Suiseki, by A.Vasiljev 

My tosai are now seven months old. They have presented me with a chance to observe how a fish egg turns into a beautiful ranchu. But figuratively speaking, my train has only begun to move and my final destination has not yet been announced. I am settling in for "traveling well".







Saturday, November 8, 2014

I DISCOVERED A CLAY

Reading through Goldfish Keepers Forum, I stumbled upon David Lains' post, where he referred to an article "Using Clay to Protect Catfish" published in Aquaculture North America. Being quite fascinated with this information, I searched the internet for more, and quickly became convinced of clay's undeniable benefits. Previously, I didn't know that clay had been in use for koi keeping for a very long time and is a standard practice for many koi breeders.

Of course not every clay is made equal. Out of several main clay groups, smectite group is of interest to us. It includes montmorillonite clay, also known as bentonite clay. Essentially, montmorillonite and bentonite clays are the same, with the first named in 1847 after a small town Montmorillon in western France, and the second after Benton Shale in Wyoming, USA in 1898. As montmorillonite clay was described and named first, it claims to be the valid name. This clay besides Montmorillon and Wyoming is mined in many other parts of the world and, depending on the deposit and location, have various mineral compositions. For the fish pond, however, only calcium montmorillonite clay is used.


Erosion formation in the soft bentonite clay, Cathedral Gorge State Park. Nevada, USA (open source image)

What are the benefits of using it in our fish tanks and ponds? The first main benefit of this clay is in its high mineral content that provides well over 50 macro, micro and trace elements "remineralizing" the aquatic system. All living organisms, including goldfish, require a constant supply of these elements for various biological processes to function normally. It also improves fish digestion. Second, is its detoxifying effect. The clay's particles are so small that the action of water molecules is enough to keep them in suspension or colloidal state. The surface area of particles in one gram of clay can reach almost 10,764 sq.ft (1000 sq.m). Negatively charged clay particles have the ability to "trap" or flocculate heavy metals, pesticides, free radicals and even virus cells, etc., making them easily removable with mechanical filters and water changes. Third, it accelerates bio filter work by positively affecting nitrifying bacteria, at the same time, based on the article mentioned above, it can protect the fish from certain pathogenic bacteria causing skin and gill tissue damage.

Properties of clay go well beyond described above. In fact, "montmorillonite is also known to cause micelles (lipid spheres) to assemble together into vesicles. These are structures that resemble cell membranes on many cells. It can also help nucleotides to assemble into RNA, which will end up inside the vesicles. It has been demonstrated that this could have generated highly complex RNA polymers that could reproduce the RNA trapped within the vesicles. This process may have led to the origin of life on Earth" (courtesy of Wikipedia). Interestingly, according to Old Testament, the first man was made of clay (earth, dust).

Now back to goldfish. There are several brands of calcium montmorillonite clay on the market for use in ponds - Ultimate Koi Clay (USA), Microbe-Lift CMC (USA), Terra Pond (USA), Thrive (USA), Kusuri Klay (UK) and Refresh (Japan) among a few others. Also, there is a human grade, edible calcium montmorillonite clay that is suitable for using in the fish tank, one of the known brands is Terramin. And yes, this clay is edible and is consumed as a food supplement by various animals, wild and domestic, including humans.


calcium montmorillonite clay

I started using calcium montmorillonite clay in my ranchu pond a month ago. Although, there are no obvious effects on my ranchu that I notice at the moment, I know that I am supplying important minerals and trace elements back into the system. In my case, municipal water is used, which based on published analysis contains only some of the necessary minerals. This, however, would'nt compare with the rich mineral content of calcium montmorillonite clay. Besides, the minerals must be in constant supply, as they are being used up by the living organisms.




I use half a teaspoon for my 100 gal pond once a week, by first "dissolving" clay in a bottle of pond water and then pouring it back into the pond. The water gets cloudy only for a few hours before it clears up, depending on the amount added. As I mentioned earlier, mineral composition of this clay greatly depends on the source. This is also true for pH and hardness that the clay will add to the pond water. Based on the tests provided in "Consumer Report: Koi Clay Mysteries Revealed" (see below) the pH of different clays ranges mostly from 7.65 to 8.7 and hardness from 31 to 74 ppm. In my case, added clay did not change the pH and it remained at 8.2. It is important, as in everything, not to overuse the clay and follow the recommended instructions. I would also recommend testing the water regularly, until it is clear how the clay effects the water environment. And as always, regular water changes are mandatory.

FURTHER READING: Consumer Report: Koi Clay Mysteries Revealed by Michael D.Cox, Koi Clay Article by Wayne Smith, Montmorillonite by Chris Neaves, Understanding Clay by Manky Sanke




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

POOPIE MONSTER.

I came across some interesting information and thought it would be suitable to share on Halloween. Many of us have see our goldfish eating their excrement. As appalling as it sounds or looks, it has its explanation and purpose.

Goldfish have no true stomachs, instead part of their gastrointestinal tract has a slight widening. The food doesn't held long enough for the nutrients to become complete absorbed, unlike in animals with true stomachs like us. Therefore goldfish poop still has some nutrients left. I have read that it could take up to three times for the food/excrement to pass through goldfish' gut to be fully digested. Also, sharing their poop with each other helps them to share their beneficial bacteria. Obviously, parasites, bad bacteria and viruses use this as well, but that is entirely different subject.


Original artwork by A.Vasiljev © 2014


This is not an uncommon phenomenon in nature. For example, female koala feeds their newborn with her own excrement containing a cocktail of beneficial bacteria, to prepare their babies to digest toxic eucalyptus leaves.

Happy Halloween everybody!!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NOTES ON FOOD REVISITED

It has been almost a year since I posted "Notes on Food". During this time, a couple of new brands of ranchu food have became available and I have gained a better understanding of goldfish nutrition and requirements, so it is time to reevaluate.

I have been experimenting with several brands and diets and glad to have found one that yields good results and fits my requirements. But first, let's talk about what is good on the market today and most of all what these foods are made of. Here, I will be focusing specifically on dry pellets as my chosen staple food for ranchu (read "Ranchu Food: Soft Vs. Hard Vs. Flaky").

There is an abundance of goldfish food available in the U.S., of which I chose only a few, based on their popularity among goldfish (ranchu) keepers and breeders and my own experience. These brands include well known Hikari and Saki-Hikari by Kyorin, Co; Omega One by OmegaSea, LLC and less known in the U.S. Ranchu Kizoku Sinking Pellets, Hatori Ranchu Food and a new "face" on the market since May, 2012, Azayaka Ranchu Sinking Pellets by Mishiro. More variety is great, but it also means more difficult to choose. In fact, selecting the right dry pellet brand for ranchu was as time consuming for me as choosing a cereal for my breakfast. It takes time reading labels on boxes with cereal, comparing sugar content, along with fiber, etc, and then looking at the list of ingredients for its simplicity and value. I do the same for my ranchu.

Fish, squid, shrimp and krill are the sources of marine animal proteins and are the prime ingredients that I am looking for in ranchu food. At the same time, I do not always look for food with the highest protein content. Here is why: goldfish, much like any other organism require high calorie intake when they are young and active and less when they are older. In addition, since goldfish are ectothermic (cold blooded), their digestion and absorption of nutrients are directly linked with water temperature. Lower water temperature - less activity. Also, one must be aware that food high in protein results in more ammonia being secreated by the fish as byproduct and may affect the water quality.

Ranchu fry and BBR must be given food with highest amounts of marine animal proteins, of up to 50-70%; CBR, tosai and nisai ranchu also require food with high level of these proteins, of up to 50%. But when ranchu transition to an oya age, they must be given food with lower protein content of only 30-40%. In addition, when the water temperature drops below 64 F (18 C) all my ranchu regardless of their age, do get pellets that are lower on proteins and fats, making sure that these proteins are from marine animals and are easily assimilated.

I keep reiterating "marine animal proteins" derived from fish, squid, shrimp and krill as oppose to hard to digest by goldfish "land animal proteins" from chicken or beef, or "plant proteins" from soy, corn, rice, barley or wheat. Proteins are not equal. Marine animals like fish and squid are the best sources of essential and most digestible by goldfish proteins.

Fat is another important component in goldfish diet. Dietary fats or lipids are a major source of energy and essential fatty acids are necessary for a number of biological processes. But again, the amount of fats given to the fish must depend on their age, activity levels and the water temperature.

Plant ingredients and cereals apart from proteins contain carbohydrates, a necessary energy source for goldfish, although carbohydrates have to be present in moderation. In fact, excess of carbohydrates and sugars in particular, could cause internal organs damage and failure. There is also fiber as part of the carbohydrates, that provides roughage. Too much fiber will move the gut content faster, preventing normal absorption of nutrients. Furthermore, digesting complex carbohydrates like starches requires bacteria that lives in the goldfish gut. Some bacteria will release gases during the process, which could affect buoyancy or even aid in developing a swim bladder decease (SBD). Floating excrement with gas bubbles trapped inside is likely indication of digestion problems. That is why, I am very careful when looking at the amounts of wheat, rice or soy products in the dry pellet formula, and I definitely do not want to see grains as the primary source of proteins, as these proteins are less suitable for goldfish.

Considering the above, let's look at some choices. Below are descriptions and nutritional information that I could find on the products that I think worth comparing. They are rated (★★★★★) according to their ingredient composition and based on my own experience. I also rated ($$$$) these foods on how expensive they are if purchased in the U.S.

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★★★★★ AZAYAKA RANCHU SINKING PELLETS












Four different formulas and several pellet sizes, sinking. Product of Japan. 
$$$$ Juvenile formula for fry. Ingredientskrill meal, whole fish meal, squid meal, starch, krill extract, squid liver oil, yeast, soybean lecithin, calcium phosphate, paracoccus beneficial bacteria, vitamins, minerals. Analysiscrude protein min 52%, crude fat min 8%, crude fiber max 4%, crude ash max 19%
$$$ Growth formula for young fish. Ingredientswhole fish meal, krill meal, shrimp meal, squid meal, starch, flour, soybean oil, yeast, fish oil, shell fossil powder, calcium phosphate, seaweed, paracoccus beneficial bacteria, garlic powder, turmeric powder, vitamins, minerals. Analysiscrude protein min 51%, crude fat min 8%, crude fiber max 5%, crude ash max 17%
$$$ Balance formula for adult and breeding fish. Ingredients: whole fish meal, krill meal, wheat germ, beer yeast, soybean oil, flour, alfalfa meal, garlic powder, fish collagen, calcium phosphate, seaweed, chitin-chitosan, plant polysaccharide, vitamins, minerals. Analysiscrude protein min 38%, crude fat min 4%, crude fiber max 5%, crude ash max 13%
$$$ Color enchanting formula. Ingredientswhole fish meal, spirulina, krill meal, wheat germ, beer yeast, soybean oil, flour, alfalfa meal, garlic powder, fish collagen, calcium phosphate, seaweed, chitin-chitosan, plant polysaccharide, vitamins, minerals. Analysiscrude protein min 40%, crude fat min 4%, crude fiber max 4%, crude ash max 13%

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★★★★ RANCHU KIZOKU D SINKING PELLETS (a.k.a. Japan Ranchu Lord Type D Pellets)














$$$ One pellet size, sinking. Product of Japan. Ingredients: whole fish meal, squid, seaweed, soy, krill, yeast, vitamins and minerals, EPA and DHA essential fatty acids. Analysis: crude protein - min 48.1%, crude fat - min 8.4%, crude fiber - max 4.4%, crude ash - max 14.1%

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★★★★ OMEGA ONE GOLDFISH PELLETS














$$ Three different pellet sizes, sinking. Product of the USA. Ingredients: whole salmon, whole herring, whole shrimp, wheat flour, wheat gluten, fresh kelp, lecithin, astaxanthin, vitamins, natural and artificial colors, preservatives. Analysiscrude protein - min 33%, crude fat - min 8%, crude fiber - max 2%, crude ash - max 8%

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★★★ SAKI-HIKARI












Three different formulas, three different pellet sizes, sinking. Product of Japan. 
$$$$ Saki-Purple color enhancing formula. Ingredients: fish meal, wheat germ meal, soybean meal, wheat flour, brewers dried yeast, starch, dried bakery product, gluten meal, fish oil, spirulina, vegetable oil, rice bran, seaweed meal, astaxanthin, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein - min 45%, crude fat - min 7%, crude fiber - max 3%, crude ash - max 20% 
$$$ Saki-Green growth formula. Ingredients: fish meal, wheat germ, flour, beer yeast, starch, gluten meal, soybean meal, fish oil, vegetable oil, seaweed powder, probiotics, carotenoids, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein - min 45%, crude fat - min 5%, crude fiber - max 3%, crude ash - max 20%  
$$$$ Saki-Red extreme color enhancing formula. Ingredients: fish meal, spirulina, wheat flour, wheat germ meal, soybean meal, brewers dried yeast, dried bakery product, gluten meal, fish oil, phaffia dried yeast, extracted marigold flower meal, vegetable oil, astaxanthin, rice bran, seaweed meal, probiotics, vitamins, minerals. Analysis: crude protein - min 46%, crude fat - min 7%, crude fiber - max 2%, crude ash - max 19% 

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not rated HATORI RANCHU FOOD














$$$$ I have not had the chance to use this food and can not grade it based on the inconsistent ingredient list provided by the seller. As this food is very high on protein, I would feed it to only young fish like fry and BBR. However, listed pellet size 1.6 mm thick and 2-5 mm long would prevent from feeding very young fish without crushing the pellets. Sinking pellets imported from Thailand. Ingredients: "pepper squid", fish meal, vitamin A and B, "fiber", soybean, wheat, lecithin (on the label misspelled as levithin), cod liver oil, minerals, "alga deep". Analysiscrude protein min 69.2%, crude fat min 3%, crude fiber max 8%, crude ash max 10%

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After learning and trying and observing most of the above foods and their affects, I leaned toward Azayaka Ranchu Sinking Pellets. So far, I have been getting great results feeding this brand to my ranchu. My tosai growth rate is increased with the use of Azayaka Growth Formula. At five months they have reached over 4 in (10.2 cm) in length, their excrement is not as large and does not float, which indicates good nutrient absorption and healthy digestion. So far these are the best digestion results I have noticed. I also like that I can switch between different formulas and different pellet sizes, knowing that I feed quality ingredients and not too much protein of plant origin (read "Amino What??"). Being not the cheapest food, Azayaka is not the most expensive either. It was a surprise for me to find out that Saki-Hikari (purple bag), which I was buying for years, cost me more ounce per ounce than Azayaka.

Concerning other brands. Although, I do like Omega One Goldfish and Ranchu Kizoku Sinking pellets and still use them for added variety, I noticed with some of my ranchu that these pellets cause some buoyancy problems if fed as a staple. The problems go away after changing the diet. Especially, it is noticeable with Omega One Goldfish Pellets and Omega One Sinking Super Color Kelp Pellets, which are not mentioned in this review. Because of that, I use them only to supplement. As far as Hikari and Saki-Hikari, I stopped using these brands. Apart from being fairly expensive, their formulas contain too much wheat and soy products (read "Amino What??")

After all, I believe that Azayaka is a perfectly balanced ranchu food that is also suitable for any variety of round bodied fancy goldfish. This made me to pursue the idea of making it available to goldfish keepers outside of Japan, where it is gaining great popularity. I was lucky to find a supplier directly in Japan and am able to offer a good price on my blog for freshly delivered to your door Azayaka Ranchu Sinking Pellets.

In conclusion, regardless of the goldfish food choices you make, remember to feed them with a variety of foods. Make it a combination of different dry pellet brands, gel food, bloodworms, few vegetables and definitely your own grown wall algae. All this will ensure a complete diet for your fish, stronger immune system and longevity, and definitely a sense of accomplishment for you.



Sunday, October 19, 2014

UPDATE ON PANDANUS PLANTS

Pandanus amarillifolius plant that I acquired 8 month ago is now officially "rooted". It took awhile for the plant to overcome dividing and its root system being sterilized with Clorox ® solution. Today, the plants are flourishing. By the way the leaves look and their growth rate, it seems that the plants are getting enough nutrients from the ranchu pond. Although, there is no significant effect on reduction of nitrates yet, I hope in the future as the plants get bigger and grow more roots, it will become noticeable. Just to remind, that the pandanus plants are suspended above the surface of water with their roots developing in the water with no substratum.




For now, it is an attractive addition to the pond and my ranchu seem to like to swim up to the roots and pick an algae growth from them. Oh, and did I mentioned that rice cooked with pandanus leaves tastes so much better!


Saturday, October 11, 2014

SLOWER THAN SLOW

May be because ranchu are slow swimmers, it is so calming to watch them. While very active during feedings, the rest of the time, ranchu will roam the pond with no rush looking for nibbles or just swim leisurely back and forth. Here is the video of my ranchu swimming in slow motion. With this filming technique every move is accentuated and fun to watch. Enjoy my tosai and nisai swim slower than slow.





Friday, October 3, 2014

BEFORE THE S.O.S.


It is time to write about the medicines that I have in my "M" cabinet. First off, I have to admit that I do not have enough experience in diagnosing nor recommending any medications for treating a sick goldfish. Likely, my ranchu have not given me much chance (and I hope never) to have hands on experience in treating them. I can only write about what I have researched and thought will be important to have, when the need comes. 

I trust that the best strategy in treating diseases is prevention. The first thing I did, as a preventative measure, I bought a UV Sterilizer. If chosen and set up properly, it can be an effective way to sterilize  pond water from many free floating pathogens found among bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. At the same time it has no negative effect on nitrifying bacteria, as they are not free floating. 

Another very important preventive step is a quarantine. To avoid troubles down the road, when you get a new fish, NEVER introduce it to your established stock without proper quarantine. It is a MUST TO rule to follow. Since I raise my ranchu indoors, I always take an extra step in sterilizing anything that will go into my ranchu pond and have been in contact with soil or any other body of water, or have been used in another aquarium. For this purpose I often use Clorox.

As far as "first aid kit" medicines that I have collected, here is the list (not necessarily in the order of importance) :
  • aquarium salt for anti-bacterial and anti-fungal bath and as a tonic
  • hydrogen peroxide 3%oxidizing agent, topical antiseptic for fungal or bacterial skin infections
  • potassium permanganate, oxidizing agent for antiseptic bath
  • methylene blue for anti-fungal bath and as topical anti-fungal, detoxicant for ammonia, nitrite, and cyanide poisoning
  • praziquantel (PraziPro), anti-parasitic medicine, optional
  • medicated food with metronidazole (Anti-Protozoan Flake), anti-protozoan, optional
  • anti-bacterial medicines and medicated foods

Among anti-bacterial and anti-fungal medicated foods I still have Medi-Gold (no longer available) containing broad spectrum antibiotic sulfadimethoxine and ormetoprim sulfa, and Antibiotic Flake with kanamycin, which fights primarily gram-negative bacteria. I also purchased Elbagin, a yellow powder with bactericidal, fungicidal and mild sedative property, containing sodium nifurstyrenate. Elbagin is not readily available in the US, but is widely used in Asia, especially Japan to treat bacterial problems in fish and as an infection preventative and calming agent during transporting.

When ready to stock up on fish medicines, it is important to note their expiration dates and buy the medicines in small quantities, just enough for the first round of treatment. If the treatment is needed it is very important to make sure that you also provide an adequate environment for your fish with all water parameters in check, and all stressors eliminated or greatly reduced. Medicating your fish won't help in many cases if the overall water quality is not addressed and improved. The steps in treating any sick fish would be, first to a analyze the current water quality and improve it if necessary, then diagnose and evaluate the sick fish condition, then chose a proper treatment. 

Two more cents of wisdom - be reluctant and prudent with using any medications, especially antibiotics and have a solid reason when you decide to start a treatment. Learn to diagnose and to choose the right meds and their application. There are tons of information online to guide through this. One of the great sources is Goldfish Keepers Forum, a must site to join and learn!


Sunday, September 28, 2014

RANCHU FOOD - SOFT VS. HARD VS. FLAKY

There is a great verity of commercially manufactured goldfish food that is found in three main forms: gel, dry flakes and pellets.

First off, I would like to say that I reject any flake food as the main diet for goldfish. Although, specialty flake could be given on occasion, as a supplement, in general flake food isn't best for goldfish and can cloud water in the tank, and often contributes to development of swim bladder disorder (SBD). As a side note, SBD is most common in round bodied fancy goldfish verities.












Now, gel food vs. dry pellets, specifically sinking dry pallets. I would leave off floating pellets, as they might also contribute to SBD. Both types are good for goldfish and provide necessary nutrition, but each has its own pros and cons. There are many goldfish keepers that would swear by gel food, both commercially manufactured and homemade. And there are others that would recommend specifically sinking pellets. At one point, I had to make my own choice and I tried both to make up my mind. Here are my thoughts about what, why and why not.

Gel food PROS

  • is a great preventive of SBD or helps to regress SBD symptoms
  • easily digestible 
  • if stored and used properly is always fresh
  • can be homemade
  • nutritional

Gel Food CONS

  • hard to tell nutritional analyses if homemade
  • not a large variety of commercially produced gel foods are available
  • if homemade and nutritionally unbalanced may contribute to obesity
  • requires time to prepare
  • extra care to store, requires refrigeration or freezing
  • spoils quick, short shelf life
  • you always have to be present to feed
  • depending on the formula, can cloud water if left in the tank uneaten

Dry Sinking Pellets PROS

  • select brands will not cause SBD
  • have long standing expiration date
  • no time needed to prepare
  • nutritional
  • can be dispensed by an automatic feeder
  • usually won't cloud water
  • great variety of commercially produced pellets

Dry Sinking Pellets CONS

  • select brands can promote developing of SBD
  • hard to tell when spoiled 
  • feeding some brands of dry pellets can contribute to obesity

My final verdict was to stay with dry sinking pellets. As I am not always home to feed my ranchu on schedule, I can leave worry free, knowing that they will be fed on time with no compromise. If feeding a properly selected formula for the fish age and observing your fish for any physical changes, pellets are a great choose. If pellets are chosen as a main staple food, it is very important to select only high quality pellets for raising healthy fish. I am very happy to have found Azayaka Ranchu Pellets and being able to offer this fine product for sale outside of Japan. 

In conclusion, still remember, no matter how great your staple food is, whether it is gel or pellets, one of the keys to having a healthy and resistant goldfish is using a variety of different foods including vegetables and algae. In the end, there is nothing wrong with alternating gel food and dry pellets depending on what and when is more convenient.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

FIVE MONTH RESULTS

In five month, my tosai have grown to a size between 3 ¾ and 4 inches (9.5 - 10 cm). Their features are more defined and it is easier to see what good and bad traits they cary and who I can use in my breeding program. While I don't think that any of my tosai will grow to be a show fish (at least by my standards), some of them can be important seed fishes for my breeding program and will help me to reach my goals. Genetically they are set with their core features. My focus now is solely on grooming and revealing their potentials. These tosai still have some way to go (or to swim) until they reach their prime. None of the last, it is a great experience for me to watch them develop. Observe learn and appreciate.


High Ranchu tosai bred in Washington, DC







Monday, September 22, 2014

FEARLESSLY SUSPENDED IN SAMSĀRA


I have just returned from a 10 day photography trip to Nepal. Having absorbed "terabytes" of information and visual stimulation, my sensory system is overloaded and it will take me some time to digest all I have seen, heard, smelled, tasted and felt. It wasn't however, my first time visiting Nepal, and yet it was full of rich experiences, as always. 

In this brief report, I would like to share some of my observations about fish and especially goldfish symbolism in Nepalese culture. Being predominantly Hindu and Buddhist, Nepal's religious and spiritual fabric is ancient and rich, interwoven with many legends, myths and symbols. One of the symbols, equally important for both Hindus and Buddhists is the carp or goldfish. Being one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, fish carry a special significance. Originally, two goldfish represented the two sacred Indian rivers - Ganges and Yamuna and symbolized good fortune. For the Buddhists, goldfish are seen as a representation of being fearlessly suspended in 
Samsãra, the repeating cycle of birth, life and death followed by reincarnation. Buddhists believe that a living being who practices Dharma need not fear drowning or suffering in the ocean of Samsãra and can freely migrate at their rebirth, from place to place and from teaching to teaching, like fish freely swim through the water. Because of their complete freedom of movement, carp is also a symbol of happiness and represents fertility and abundance. Here are a few photographs I took throughout Buddhists Temples in Kathmandu depicting goldfish and various fish design. 


Two goldfish painted on the gates to Shechen Buddhist Monastery

Two goldfish on the metal gate to Shechen Buddhist Monastery


Fish scale design on the window of a Buddhust Temple, 
Swayambhunath


Carp fish locks 


Through my travel, I did stumble upon an aquarium store, while walking between Pashupatinath and Boudhanath sites. A store the size of a small room with several fish tanks was selling few tropical fish varieties and black baby common goldfish in this Kathmandu neighborhood. 





Speaking of my own fish, I left my ranchu for 12 days practically on their own, with the exception of my partner adding fresh water once due to evaporation and cleaning the intake pump's filter a few times. Before I left, I did a 100% water change, cleaned the filter and filled the automatic feeder with pellets. The feeder was set to dispense three small meals a day. In addition, my ranchu had "all you can eat" green wall algae. Upon my return, I checked the water parameters and was pleased to find zero ammonia and nitrites. The pH value was as I left it at 8.3. With no delay I performed a 100% water change, long awaited by the ranchu. 
I watched them being stimulated by the fresh water, swimming actively and effortlessly, making me think of Buddhist symbolism and the flow of life.

If anyone reading this is interested in visiting Nepal with me, I will be leading two tours next year. For more information please visit my travel website  >>  NATURE AND PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS.



Monday, September 8, 2014

AMINO WHAT??

Notes on commercially produced goldfish dry pellet food and its ingredients -  

In the distant past, I used to buy fish food based on the decorative appeal of the packaging. The showier the fish picture the more I liked it. Well, that time has long passed and I learned to read and UNDERSTAND the ingredient list to choose a better quality food, which also applies to the food I eat. High quality goldfish pellets can be quite expensive and it is a good idea to give this matter serious attention and determine whether the claimed quality is worth your money.

Of all major dietary components like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins, proteins deserve special discussion. They must comprise the bulk of the pellet food and are one of the most expensive ingredients. Adequate amounts of protein are also the most important requirement in goldfish nutrition. However, not every protein is equal. The best digestible and easily assimilated by the goldfish body proteins are marine animal proteins derived from fish, krill, shrimp, squid, etc. But, unfortunately, due to the rising costs of marine products, goldfish food manufacturers learned to add cheaper and less desirable wheat, soy or corn proteins to balance the costs. Although, plant proteins are also necessary for goldfish, they should be looked at as supplemental to marine animal proteins due to a different amino acid profile. By all means, pellets where wheat, soy or corn products are listed as first ingredients should be avoided as a staple diet; and pellets where marine animal products are the first ingredients should be given a preference. 


DHA - docosahexaenoic fatty acid (omega-3 group)
EPA - eicosapentaenoic fatty acid (omega-3 group)


But don't be fooled by the label. Manufacturers have learned to tell the customer what the customer wants to hear. For example, how will you mix 2 parts of wheat and 1 part of fish into the formula and still list the fish as the first ingredient? Duh! You split 2 parts of wheat on 1 and 1, and call them different names. So, for example, the list will start with the fish meal as the first ingredient, followed by 2 wheat ingredients, wheat flour and wheat germ meal. In reality it means that you are feeding your goldfish mostly wheat products. 

Look at the label of the popular and not so cheap brand Saki-Hikari. Out of the first eight ingredients of Saki-Hikari Goldfish Color Enhancing Sinking Pellets (purple bag) six are wheat and soy products, with the first ingredient "fish meal". It makes you think that Saki-Hikari (purple bag) pellets have fish meal as a main ingredient, while the true bulk ingredient is wheat and its products. 

Furthermore, "fish meal" does not necessarily mean the whole fish with all the good parts. Often, fish trimmings, offal, bones and fish pressed for oil are used to produce fish meal for animal consumption, thus resulting in a poor quality ingredient. On the other hand, ingredients listed as "whole fish meal" or when the fish is identified (ex. whole herring or whole salmon) will indicate higher quality goldfish food with better ingredients.

I am always on the search for better quality goldfish pellet food, and especially for ranchu that is hard to come by. So far, in my opinion, Ranchu Kizoku D Sinking Pellets (a.k.a. Japan Ranchu Lord D Sinking Pellets) and better yet Azayaka Ranchu Sinking Pellets formulas are the winners. And surprisingly, the cost of these foods is no greater that of Hikari brand, although, Hikari goldfish food is heavy on wheat products and fillers.

For those interested in learning more about goldfish nutrition and feeding in general, here is an excellent article by Stephen M. Meyer "Feeding Koi and Goldfish" on FishChannel website. 



Friday, September 5, 2014

TEST TUBES. QUICK TIP

Those who use water test kits know how hard it is to fill the glass test tub exactly to the mark. Here is a tip I found on the internet - use a syringe. I bought a needless syringe with 10 ml capacity, which I use to squeeze the tank water into the test tube exactly up to the mark. As an alternative you can use a straw, but syringe still is the most convenient method.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

WHAT DOES YOUR GOLDFISH HAVE IN COMMON WITH THE ALIEN?

There were a few white "scales" laying on the bottom of my ranchu pond today. After I picked and examined them, these "scales" appeared to be pharyngeal teeth shed by one of my ranchu. Goldfish possess four teeth on each of the two pharyngeal arches and use them to breakdown food. Unlike mammals, goldfish are able to replace each tooth many times throughout their life.


A set of pharyngeal teeth of one of my ranchu


For those who did not know that goldfish do have teeth, here is some more information. Technically goldfish belongs to a group of toothless fish, or fish with no jaw teeth. Instead they developed so called pharyngeal teeth attached to the pharyngeal arches located in their throat.


Pharyngeal teeth location in goldfish marked in red, an open source image


As strange as it may sound, teeth predate jaws in their evolutionary development and first appeared in the pharynx of prehistoric jawless fish and possibly marine worms. Today pharyngeal teeth can be found in some toothless fish species, and as a second jaw set in addition to the developed jaw bone with teeth, in such fish as moray eels.


An open source image


This could have been the inspiration in creating an alien character for the classic horror film "Alien" and its sequels. That small set of jaws that would come out of the alien's mouth could be identified as the secondary pharyngeal jaws.

Poster for "Alien 5" movie, an open source image



A LEAP OVER THE DRAGON GATE

Compared to a fairly intense spring and part of summer that I had been busy with the spawn, now it is a "quiet time" for me, time to contemplate. Being constantly self-dragged into evaluating, comparing and nitpicking my ranchu for all their good and bad, I had to remind myself to simply contemplate them. While watching these amazing fish swim around the pond, I often ask myself what is it about them that is so alluring?

Fish-keeping in general, is a fascinating hobby, offering a window into a waterworld and an intimate look at its inhabitants. In my opinion, goldfish, with its many varieties, add another dimension to this hobby. Literally, goldfish are fantasy fish, created after mythical creatures like the imperial guardian lion (shi), dragon or a phoenix.

The Chinese proverb "Carp leaps over the Dragon Gate" (鲤鱼跳龙门) points to a legend about the carp that jumped over a great waterfall at the Dragon Gate on Yellow River and turned into a dragon. The challenge remained so huge, that scarcely any carp could succeed. This made me think that the ranchu might be that "carp" that leaped over the Dragon Gate. The proverb is a metaphor for those who are successful. Persistent in overcoming considerable challenges, Japanese goldfish keepers created the ranchu. Maybe the dragon-like head of a ranchu (tatsu-gashira) is a testimonial to those who triumphed and continue to do so through their hard work. 

Ranchu are a powerful fish, yet they are reserved and their movements are well measured. I watch them swim calmly and elegantly by the water surface making waves, and I am hypnotized by their unhurried motion and feel their calm transferred onto me. 

So, where does this "ranchu" attraction come from? Could it be because I was born under the sign of the Wood Dragon that I am drawn to ranchu? Or maybe it is in the notion that ranchu are more mythical fish than we think. They remind us that one should not waste their life hoping to have it all at a distant point in time, instead one should embrace the joy of the journey itself and learn to appreciate each moment, the path to contentment. Maybe this is the secret to conquering the "Dragon Gate"?



Antique Japanese ivory netsuke "Dragon Carp" by Ryugetsu, early 1900s'



Friday, August 22, 2014

THE RULES OF JUDGING

One of the main successes with ranchu, as a breeder, lies in training yourself to be able to identify and recognize merits of this fine goldfish variety. This very ability of the breeder ensures that ranchu standards will be preserved and further improved. Being under scrutiny for over one hundred years, ranchu were "molded" to fit into strict standards set by high Japanese aesthetics. Therefor, Japan Ranchu Association (JRA) has established a series of rules, by which the ranchu to be judged. These rules are vague and has to be interpreted by a group of most experienced judges on the show.

I found these rules posted by Hugoboss on Arofanatics website in 2008. According to the post these are the rules of Japan Ranchu Association that have been translated to English. With further improvement in translation, I am re-posting these rules here. For identifying ranchu body part click on "Defining What Is What".



One of the quality ranchu in Japan

THE RULES


ARTICLE 1 - Particular Matters of Concern


1. Overall fish shape and balance
Overall shape is defined by the characteristics of the head, torso and tail and their balance with each other and as a whole.

2. Fish to be thick and sturdy
Thicker and sturdier fish in proportion to its size to be graded as superior.

3. Scaling and color
Scales that are neatly lined and small in proportion to the body of the fish to be graded as superior. Fish with deep red or gold colours and high luster to be graded as superior, regardless of being aka (red), sarasa (mottled) or shiro (white).

4. The fish movement must be as graceful as possible

5. Fish maintaining noble grace to be regarded as superior

6. Swimming
Swimming fish must be elegant, with light wagging of tail resulting in fluid movement.

ARTICLE 2 - The way to view fish body parts


1. Head
To have wide mehaba (spacing between the eyes) and wide mesaki (distance between the eyes and the mouth). Part of the head past the mouth, which is adequately wider and longer to be graded as superior (with variety of Tokane, Kamicho, Ryuutou etc.).

2. Back
To have a broad back with a gentle curve and adequate roundness.

3. Stomach
To be well-positioned compared to the back and spaced adequately from the tail.

4. Tail Peduncle 
To chose the fish with more rounded and robust tail peduncle in proportion to the back width. There must be apparent roundness at the point where the tail joints the back.

5. Tail
Tail must be beautiful with bilateral symmetry of its tail lobes and with adequate ozara (under tail plate). This equally applies to yotsuo, sakurao, mitsuo tail types. The tail must neither exceed approximately 90 degrees angle in relation to the tail peduncle, nor rise above the back.

6. Fins
All fins must be uniform in movement and size. Fish to be judged equally regardless whether they have double or a single anal fin.

ARTICLE 3 - Size of fish must not be taken into consideration for judging


ARTICLE 4 - Fish must be judged according to their quality on that particular day

Supplementary provisions. 
Names of color patterns are designated as follows.
1. Red section - Kiniro, Niiro, Shoujou
2. White section - Shiro, Giniro
3. Sarasa section - Taseki Sarasa, Tashiro Sarasa, Koshijiro, Seaka, Shirohara
4. Head pattern - Omoyaburi, Omoshiro, Omosarasa, Tanchou, Ryoudo, Kuchibeni, Mado, Ougashira


ARTICLE 5 - Fish to be disqualified if the respective defects are excessive

1. No judging of fish with dorsal fin, double tail or other deformities.

2.  Uneven or broken back curve or tail peduncle.

3. Pinched, closed, irregular, curled or stripped tail.

4. Extrusion of anal fin(s); head tilted upwards; head tilted downward; tail with one-sided tilt; covered, protruding or indented eyes.

5. Sick fish


ARTICLE 6
Obese or juvenile fish that lacks of grace and poise shall be disqualified

ARTICLE 7
Prizes will be revoked in case of falsifying the age of exhibited fish



Here are some videos of the champion ranchu in each age group (tosai, nisai and oya) taken by Mr.Boss (Boss Ranchu Nursery, Thailand) during All Japan Ranchu Show, 2013. 



TOSAI


NISAI

OYA