Art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2017


Sunday, September 28, 2014


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


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


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, 

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


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


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


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


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'