Art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2017


Friday, August 22, 2014


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


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

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

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. 




Tuesday, August 19, 2014


The complexity of a ranchu manifests on so many levels. Through my first breeding experience, just this past April, I started to learn and train my eye for the shape and form of the ranchu. That's when I actually understood the meaning of an old Japanese saying "You get the tail, you lose the head. You get the head you lose the tail". As I have mentioned in my posts before, it is very hard to get all components of a perfect ranchu in one fish. As difficult as it sounds, it is only a part of the whole "perfect ranchu" story. Ultimately, the most important quality of a "perfect ranchu" is its ability to swim gracefully and nobly. Once you see the fish swimming with no effort, gliding through the water with fluent movement, you will soon forget all its little imperfections that might have bothered you before. There is nothing more beautiful than contemplating an awe-inspiring ranchu in its swim. After all the hard work of selecting and raising that goes into a single ranchu, the noble swim is a gift.

Here is the videos of five of my 4 months old tosai. I can already see that some are nice swimmers. As they get stronger and mature, their swimming style will improve or change. One can not know exactly at what stage a particular ranchu reaches its prime. Through patience, one observes and discovers it for their selves.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Having started with a DIY bio filter located in the separate tank (see "Before The Fish") and understanding more on how it works, I later added a UV sterilizer and a fine filter bag to further improve the quality of my water (see "Filter Box Additions And Improvements").

Although, the filtering system have been working perfectly, apart from an accident caused by not cleaning it often enough (see "Distracted, You Must Not Be"), I have been thinking about simplifying my filtration process. I was also looking to reduce additional maintenance apart from 100% water changes. So, I came up with a different design. The new filter design ended up to be a combination of submerged "canister filter" and bakki shower, used in koi ponds.

I started up with making an acrylic box to fit the pond's width. The box is only 3.5 in (9 cm) wide measured inside and 11 in (28 cm) high to fit in 12 in (30.5 cm) high pond. The front and back walls of the box were not joint with the bottom, leaving spaces for the water to escape.

I filled the box with layers of media - Eheim Substrate Pro in the bag on the bottom, followed by Matala black matt, followed by Bio House Cylinders covered with another layer of Matala black matt. All media has a tremendous surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow.

Front side view

Bio House filter media cylinders are made from mineral stones and silica

I placed my new bio filter in the pond and left the to "seed" with beneficial bacteria for three weeks, after that, I could safely replaced my old filtering system with the new one. So, how it works?

On one side of the pond, I placed submergible pump with pre-filter sponge intake to move water through the UV sterilizer to my submerged bio filter box.  

Set up top view

Water than is sprayed on top of the filter, floats down and exits at the bottom of the filter box. Simple.

Here are the benefits I find so far. Due to the wide opening on the bottom of the filter box, where the water escapes, the flow is very gentle and the water is almost still, although it is pumped at 600-700 gph (2500-2650 lph). A big improvement from my previous design. Next, the cleaning has become much more simple. The filter box is accessible from above and the media can be pulled out easily and rinsed in the same pond water before 100% water change, making it a breeze. Having major parts of the filtering system inside the pond have minimized the danger of water leak. I also see a huge esthetic benefit. Freeing the space from 30 x 12.5 x 24 in (76 x 32 x 61 cm) box on the side of my pond in my small apartment is a big deal.

Subsequently, with this change, I lost an extra 30 gal (113 L) of water and 4 in (10 cm) of pond's length. Though, the loss in length is not that important, considering 8 ft (2.4 m) long pond.

After placing the filter box inside the pond, I found gaps on three sides of the filter box due to pond's curved angles. Knowing that my ranchu will venture into these narrow spaces, I filled them with Matala mats, adding more bacteria friendly surface. To avoid stale water between the back wall of the filter box and the wall of the pond, I installed four air stones for circulation. Also, the gap is large enough to place an extra bag with bio media, as seen in the image below. In which case, the water is moved through the media by air bubbles.

All it left, was a cover to make, concealing the filter and voila! 

Friday, August 8, 2014


The summer is in full swing. The temperatures outside often soar into 90s F (32 C ), but lately are staying in the 80s F (27 C). Luckily for me, the water temperature in my pond doesn't get over 78 F (25 C). The benefit of controlled indoors. Still plenty of sunlight and duckweed. The ranchu are most actively looking for food and can easily put on extra weight. I feed three times a day, the rest of the time they graze on algae and occasional Wolffia, that includes the young tosai. The tosai were fed five times a day and grew vigorously in the past three months, reaching over 3 inches (7.6 cm) long. I decided to slow them down for a couple of weeks, then resume their special feeding regiment with the focus on funtan development.

Some of my tosai photographed today.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Now I can look back and reflect on my first breeding experience with TVR. After my nisai, Matsuyama x (Matsuyama x Oishi) bloodline, have neared their sexual maturity, I realized that I had four females and only one male. I also realized that I didn't have good enough quality fish to breed. Each of the five individuals had one or a combination of major faults manifested in asymmetrical tail position, small head frame, poor back and tail peduncle curve, weak tail shoulders among other defects ...

After receiving two additional nisai males, Suzuki x Kageyama bloodline, with some flaws as well (asymmetrical anal fins and tail position), I was left with not so perfect parents. The desire of having that "perfect" ranchu had prompted me to develop my own line, by adding and improving characteristics that I find attractive in Japanese top view ranchu. However, I had to start working with what I had and through selection to achieve my goals.

Selection started with the parents. I had my eye on the best female to be "paired" with my two best males. But even that wasn't completely under my control. The female that possessed the best qualities wasn't breeding. Instead, the two Suzuki x Kageaya males chased and bred with the Matsuyama x (Matsuyama x Oishi) female with the poorest qualities.

Breeding female with poor back and tail peduncle curve, thin tail peduncle,
weak tail and narrow head with late head-growth development

Breeding male #1 with asymmetrical anal fins

Breeding male #2 with asymmetrical anal fins and asymmetrical placed tail

The resulting offspring are hybrids, F1 generation, and as a hybrid they display a vigor and physical superiority compared to their parents. Not all, of course, from the nearly 700 hatched. Only 20-30 BBR had acceptable features, which is more or less to be expected. Limited by space, I kept only six of these ranchu for myself. Collectively, these six had features that I was looking for - wide and more rectangular heads, broader backs and thicker tail peduncles, longer bodies, stronger tail shoulders, symmetrical fins and tail placement. Next spring I intend to breed between the best out of the six siblings and see if I get any further improvements.

I learned so much more about the selection process, which is of utmost importance in creating a bloodline. I also learned that even not so perfect parents will give enough offspring variety to be able to select a good quality fry to work with and improve upon. It is a long process and it takes years to see the results. It can be rewarding and equally disappointing. The chance of achieving that perfect ranchu is slim, but the road leading there is full of wonderful experiences and can be traveled as long as one desires. One thing I am certain of is that there is no dead end in this journey.