Art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2017


Tuesday, June 24, 2014


During the ranchu's early development, active feeding with a variety of foods is essential. Among the many, two foods are of most importance: fresh or frozen bloodworms and green algae. That is what directly effects the overall head growth, including funtan. While frozen bloodworms are readily available at the pet stores, green algae needs to be "cultivated" on the tank's walls and floor. Sufficient light and fish waste will do the trick. Soon enough, every surface in the tank will start getting covered with one of the best food supplements for ranchu - an assortment of algae.

But the job of "building" impressive head growth doesn't end after the ranchu pass through their BBR stage. As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, the head growth continues to develop throughout the ranchu life and can get rather big. It is necessary to foresee what the baby ranchu will look like when they are older by evaluating their head growth and feeding it bloodworms accordingly. For some, the head growth development needs to be slowed down and for some accelerated, by changing the feeding pattern.

Below is an example of one of my female ranchu with lack of proper head growth at three months. Despite her smaller and narrower head shape it was still possible to increase the head growth quite considerably by eleven months. Feeding her bloodworms and high protein pellets did the job. More work is needed. I hope by the oya age she will have a nice and balanced head.

Female at three months old.

The same female at eleven months old.

In the case of my eleven months old ranchu male below,  I might not want to stimulate his head growth from now on, as I would rather see it develop slower and not become unbalanced with his body in his oya age. We will see what happens in a year, but for now that is what I am hoping for.

Eleven months old male.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


Baby ranchu are now 65 days old and are continuing with their color change. Some have almost finished and graduated to CBR, and some haven't started yet. I have been so focused on studying their structural qualities including tail shape and head development, that it is so great for a change to attune to colors. It is fascinating to watch color patterns appear, as black fades away. So far, I have some very cool orange and white combinations.

The BBR and CBR diet now consists of mainly frozen bloodworms with supplement of Japan Ranchu Lord and Saki-Red pellets and what makes me happy, a lot of green algae to forage on the bottom and the walls of the tank. Big changes are on the way, as color baby ranchu will be turning into tosai and start looking more like their parents. But for now, "orange is the new black".

Friday, June 20, 2014


While it may seem like Japanese top view ranchu are scrutinized by breeders for their physical appearance, in reality it is all about their overall presence, character and grace. This in my opinion, is one of the fascinating things about the ranchu, where form and function is one. Contrary to their chubby look, they are powerful but elegant swimmers, agile on turns. It is almost hypnotic to watch them swim through the water and I find it calming and meditative.      

Created to be admired from above, Japanese top view ranchu are not often shown from their side. Yet, when they are, their appearance is alluring. Quality ranchu must look as good from its side as it looks from the top.

Below are two photos of my nisai male ranchu taken from the side.

Monday, June 16, 2014


I made some traditional culling nets. They are quite a necessity during the ranchu culls. The nylon mesh is gentle on the fish and the net allows you to pick the fish up and observe it from the side.

  1. bamboo stick of ½ to ⅝ inches diameter cut to 11-12 inches length 
  2. galvanized utility wire, 14 gauge 
  3. nylon mesh with fine weave
  4. twine
  5. nylon thread for sewing
  1. mold - any cylinder object of desired diameter (ex. coffee mug)
  2. drill with a drill bit 
  3. pliers
  4. scissors
  5. sewing needle

Bend the wire around a cylinder object of desired diameter to make a wire loop. Use pliers to bend the wire ends as shown

Drill two holes of the same diameter as wire in the bamboo handle

Place wire loop over the bamboo handle and insert bent wire ends into the drilled holes

Use twine to wrap over the wire firmly affixing it to the bamboo handle

Cut a circle from a nylon mesh that is ⅜ inches larger than the wire loop and sew it to the wire with a sewing needle, wrapping the mesh over the wire. Make sure that the mesh is not stretched too tight.

Finished culling net

Culling net detail

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I recently identified an odd "pearlscale" ranchu among the rest. Not uncommon, "pearlscale" ranchu appear in offspring once in a while. They are prone to develop more or less rounded body. I will keep this fish and post more on its development.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Every day is something different to observe among growing baby ranchu. At the age of two month without a week and between 1 ½ and 1 ¾ inches long, some BBR are still dark colored, while others soon to be named CBR. Despite lacking of color intensity for the moment, the whites and reds are already recognizable.

As Japanese ranchu masters say "The head is made before the color change",  it is important to achieve that characteristic rectangular head shape and noticeable funtan now. Although, some BBR are showing more and some less developed head, I heavily feed them with frozen bloodworms and supplement of other high on protein foods.

Below are some examples of transitional color stage.

Due to fish constant movement, it is hard to photograph young ranchu in a straight line. The baby ranchu pictured above all have straight and symmetrical bodies and tails. Their bellies are full with food.


As more and more of my BBR are coloring up, I have researched the web and compiled a diagram of various color patterns found in Japanese TVR. This diagram may not cover every color combination and pattern, but I hope that it highlights the most common and identifiable patterns.

Diagram legend: red is red, white is white, yellow is yellow, gray is red or white, or a combination of red and white.

Pattern names in Japanese and English and their descriptions:

1.    Shoujou or Orangutan - all red
2.    Sarasa-aka or Red Mottled with White
3.    Hara-shiro or White Belly - red with white abdomen
4.    Moto-aka or Red Base Tail - base portion of a tail is red
5.    Koshi-shiro or White Lumbar - lower back and tail peduncle is white
6.    Tsutsu-shiro or White Tail Peduncle
7.    Men-shiro or White Mask - white head
8.    Diamond - sizable white rectangle on top of red head
9.    Komado or Small Window - small rectangle on top of red head
10.  Tsura-shiro or White Cheeks - red head with funtan and sides of the head white
11.  Kabuki - white head with funtan and sides of the head red
12.  Ichimonji-shiro or Straight White Line, red head
13.  Ichimonji-aka or Red Straight Line, white head
14.  Kougai or Hairpin - one funtan is red
15.  Kuchibeni or Lipstick - red outlined mouth on the white head
16.  Sarasa-shiro or White Mottled with Red
17.  Azuki or Adzuki Red Beans - isolated red scales on white body
18.  Men-kaburi or Headdress - red head with white body
19.  Tonchou or Japanese Crane - red spot in the middle of the white head
20.  Hinomaru or Japanese Flag - red spot on the white back
21.  Rocuuroko or Six Fins - red pectoral, pelvic and caudal fins with white body
22.  Shiro or White
23.  Ki-gashira or Yellow Head
24.  Kiniro or Golden - golden color body, parts of the head and fins

Monday, June 9, 2014


At a month and a half, my BBR are going through color change. At this time some of the fish are showing signs of future red and white patterns. An important inspection is due in about a month, when I will be looking at the back and peduncle curve, as well as side view placement and shape of the tail. By that time, BBR will turn into CBR with their coloration in place, which will add another dimension in the selection process.

The ranchu are starting to demonstrate their personalities and swimming styles. Observe, observe, learn and observe!

Some of the best BBR from the April spawn

The BBR pictured above might appear not straight or symmetrical. It is only because they are constantly in motion and it is hard to photograph and freeze their body in exactly straight line. All the ranchu I am left with are with straight and symmetrical bodies and tails. All three tail types are present: yotsuo, sakurao and mitsuo (see my earlier post "Variations, Inclinations and Acceptance"). Also, all of the BBR have double anal fins, which is very important for becoming good swimmers.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Reached 1.5 to 1.7 inches at fifty one days, BBR are growing fast and now are entering their color change stage. Each day, I notice more and more lighter or yellowing spots and streaks on their bodies.  Feeding is five times a day consisting of frozen bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp, Wolffia, BSD Freshwater Slow Sinking Pellets and Saki Hikari "Red" Pellets.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


The art of creating and keeping Japanese top view ranchu has come a long way, setting strict standards. Because these standards have been closely followed and refined for over a century, TVR have reached the level of perfection we find today, and at the same time has burdened the breeders and keepers with extreme difficulty to produce quality fish.

Through reading and asking questions, I have found that there are a few variations in ranchu head, body and tail shapes equally accepted according to Japanese standard. In a sense it was a relief for me, as adhering to only one standard would be very difficult due to a great level of deviation in ranchu offsprings.

The shape of the head growth or wen is mainly divided on two types shishigashira and tatsugashira.
Shishigashira or lion head is square or rounded in shape. Tatsugashira or dragon head is rectangular with developed funtan or protruding cheeks. Tatsugashira is more popular nowadays, nonetheless, shishigashira type can be very beautiful. There is also a third type, transitional between the two mentioned above types. The main objective here is to have size and shape of the head in balance with the rest of the body. It is not desirable to have head growth as developed in tosai, as it is found in nisai and oya ranchu.

Shishigashira head
original art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2014

Tatsugashira head
original art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2014

The body length is accepted as short, medium and long. Longer body would be my choice, it balances best the head, especially in nisai and oya fish, when the head growth develops more. The body shape and especially back curve must be reminiscent of traditional Japanese boxwood comb, that can be short or long.

Long boxwood comb

Short boxwood comb

The tail, which we scrutinize at the early stages of ranchu development, continues to be in the center of attention throughout the fish life. Unlike head or color pattern, tail doesn't just presents with ornamental value, it plays critical role in how the ranchu swims. That is why over the century certain tail traits were identified to produce good swimmers. All in all, there are three tail types accepted: yotsuo or ⅔ split in the middle of the tail, sakurao or a small split at the tip of the tail and mitsuo or no split.

Yotsuo tail
original art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2014

Sakurao tail
original art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2014

Sakurao tail is reminiscent of cherry blossom petals

Mitsuo tail
original art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2014

Ranchu personality and ability to swim in elegant and powerful manner can overpower certain imperfections of its shape, turning the fish into a praised possession.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


At 47 days from hatch, the BBR (kurroko) are growing strong. The tail peduncle (otsutsu) and scale bracelet (otsuke) are taking a great shape. The tail shoulders (ogata) are firm and holding the tail's shape well. At this stage, still barely noticeable, cheek protrusions (funtan) are starting to show. After previous culls I am left with 61 BBR. All BBR are now on a frozen bloodworm and brine shrimp diet, supplemented with Wolffia and algae growth. Soon enough I will start adding Saki Hikari purple pellets. For identifying ranchu body parts please see "Defining What Is What"

47 days old BBR

Monday, June 2, 2014


Today is the 46th day since my ranchu hatched. And today, I have noticed the first signs of color change. One of the ranchu has a patch of lighter golden scales appeared on its back and side. As BBR will start to transition into CBR, it will be exciting to see what color patters will appear. Read about ranchu color patterns in my future post.