Art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2017


Monday, November 2, 2015


Finally, I got around to photographing my nisai. They have grown a lot and shaped nicely. The color is brilliant and I already can see several characteristics that I would like to keep and pass in my ranchu breeding program. These are my breeding ranchu for the next spring.

High Ranchu nisai 

High Ranchu nisai 

High Ranchu nisai 

High Ranchu nisai 

Friday, October 2, 2015


From time to time, l receive questions from fellow ranchu enthusiasts regarding various aspects of ranchu keeping. Some of the questions bring up interesting topics and spark interesting thought and conversations. I will be posting here what I think is worth sharing and learn from. Here is a great question I received from Doug followed by my answer.


Hi Alexander- First I would like to thank you for writing and sharing information on top view ranchu husbandry through your blog. From what you mentioned in your blog you raised tvr with filtration and i'm raising my ranchus with filtration as well. However, a lot of tvr breeders put emphasis on how important it is to follow the traditional Japanese 100% water change method with NO filtration.

I have done some research about this traditional method. I'm aware that it is done for grooming purposes. It is my understanding that with 100% new water, ranchus are more active and will put on muscles and body growth and as the water fouls, ranchus will be less active and put on head growth. However, why is it that side view ranchu or lionchu or lion head still put on head growth despite being raised in aquariums with filtration? The claim for using traditional methods seems to be based on inconsistent evidence, and might be more due to strict adherence to tradition rather than fact.

What is your view on this topic?

Thanks, Doug (USA)


Doug- Thank you for reading my blog and your question. As you probably noticed I use bio and uv filtration on top of 100% weekly water changes. It's more what a traditional method requires, but with my often busy schedule and traveling it is necessary. Good biological filtration paired with uv and good water circulation and aeration is quite important, when water is not going to be changed for 3 weeks, while I am away. The choice I made marrying ranchu keeping with my schedule.

Much like bonsai, you create and maintain TVR. It is not all about the headgrowth and its size. The essence of a great TVR is in its BALANCED appearance and powerful yet elegant swim, very different from other goldfish with headgrowth. TVR are the most standardized among goldfish. To achieve this balance, besides breeding, we employ different techniques based on food, water quality, water depth, amount of exercise, etc. The beauty of raising ranchu is in improvisation, when various techniques are implemented to achieve breeder's / keeper's personal goals and to materialize their vision. Everyone's approach is slightly different and some even protected with trade secrets.

I try to adhere to a traditional Japanese method as much as I can. Besides, it is an honor to continue this over 100 years old tradition.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I just realized that my most used tool in ranchu keeping is a fine metal mesh strainer, the one commonly used in the kitchen. The strainer that I have is 4 in (10 cm) in diameter and is made of staines steal.

One main use is to rinse and drain bloodworms. I usually thaw bloodworms in the cup of pond water and rinse under the running faucet in the strainer. Very convenient! I also use the strainer to skim the pond surface from anything floating. Especially after feeding bloodworms, as their undigested casings will float to the surface.

It is very easy to clean and sterilize!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


It has been a while since I posted a video of my ranchu. Here is one I made yesterday during the water change. All are nisai age, all happy and growing, but ...

As sad as, I gave up on having any spawns this year. Instead, I will be concentrating on grooming and conditioning my "lazy" ranchu for the next year. I will be working on their feeding schedule and diet and keeping their water in the top shape condition.

For now my fishing net remains dry and my baby ranchu food is sealed and stored in refrigerator. Once more, I have the proof of how unpredictable and uneasy raising ranchu can be.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Yes it is coming! AZAYAKA ASTAXANTHIN, the new color enhancing formula will not contain spirulina (one of the common ingredient in color enhancing fish foods). Instead, its main color enchanting ingredient is astaxanthin.

This new formula's list of ingredients stays simple and wholesome as with all Azayaka products and will contain - whole fish meal, krill meal, shrimp meal, soybean oil, gluten meal, corn starch, beer yeast, fish oil, calcium phosphate, fish collagen, zeolite, shell powder, seaweed, garlic powder, turmeric powder, calcium carbonate, astaxanthin.  Analysis: crude protein min 43%, crude fat min 8%, crude fiber max 3%, crude ash max 17%, calcium max 3%, phosphorus max 2%.

I am very excited to announce that it will be available soon!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Unlike the plan I had, my ranchu had one of their own. As the temperatures warmed up in March, I was expecting the spawning to begin, but it didn't and it is still hasn't happened.

The problem is with the females. Some of my ranchu females appeared to be too young and some wouldn't release their eggs. In order for the spawning to begin, the female must be ready and send out pheromones to "activate" the males to start chasing her. The female that I was hoping to breed isn't cooperating at all this year. My male ranchu, on the other hand, are ready and full of milt, when I checked them. They are waiting for a signal that is yet to come.

As much as I was looking forward to raising a spawn this year, I might have to wait till next spring. This is the down side of having a small set up and fewer fish. But, I still get where I want to go with my ranchu breeding, it's just going to take a bit longer.  

The summer has just begun, I wouldn't count out late spawning. Hopeful? Everything is possible!

Saturday, May 16, 2015



Aor is a top view ranchu line-breeder. He uses the same method for creating and maintaining ranchu bloodline, as it is done in Japan. Line-breeding is when animals are selectively bread for desired features by mating closely related individuals. Over time this creates a bloodline with breeder's desired characteristics. This method requires great dedication and skill. Bloodlines can be line-bred for decades to continually improve and develop characteristics that sets them apart. On occasion, line-breeders will introduce ranchu from a different, but often related bloodline to boost vigor and to minimize the negative effects of inbreeding. 

Over six years that Aor has been involved with ranchu, he has achieved a tremendous success and respect among ranchu keepers and breeders in Thailand, as well as Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and here in the USA. 

We were visiting Aor after his big sale, when most of his 2 month old CBR were already sold and waited to be picked up or shipped. 

BBR are growing fast. All are almost perfect at this stage!

Some of the Aor's CBR for sale

A couple of tubs were housing Aor's potential seed ranchu, selected from this year's spawn. They are CBR of 2.5 month of age. Please observe beautiful proportions of these promising, but still very young ranchu.

One of the future seed CBR. Great swimmer too!

Aor's future seed CBR

Given Bangkok's hot tropical climate, with an average year round day temperatures lingering over 91 F (33 C) and night temperatures often above 74 F (23 C), ranchu develop very fast. They reach their sexual maturity quick, with their life span extending three to four years. 

Based on Aor's answers below, he goes on average through 45,000 fish each year to continue working on his bloodline. This requires very hard work, thus Aor's family is involved in this venture as much as he is. Being able to process and cull through such quantity of ranchu is only a part of success. The masterful grooming complets the cycle. Even a perfect BBR can be ruined by improper  techniques. Swim too much and the tail is gone, eat not enough and the ranchu goes undeveloped, etc. And the most challenging part of all is that you must improvise based on what you have. It is never set in stone, all techniques serve only as guidelines.

Aor employs breeding and grooming techniques suitable for his location. Here are some Q&A with Aor regarding his breeding methods and ranchu quality:

Q: How many spawns do you collect per year?
A: Three times a year, each time 4-5 batches.

Q: How often do you cull?
A: Every time I do water change.

Q: What is an outcome from one of your average spawns? How many final keepers do you end up with on average?
A: Approximately 10 fishes from one batch of 2000-3000 fishes.

Q: Do you hand spawn?
A: Yes, only hand spawn. Usually one female with one male.

Q: How often do you introduce seed ranchu from other breeders to continue working on your line?
A: Not often, only to prevent inbreed, because I use line breeding system.

Q: What is the main characteristic(s) of your line of ranchu that sets them apart?
A: When I cull, I focus on the balance of my fishes.

Q: What are the main qualities that you try to preserve or develop in your future ranchu?
A: I intend to develop tail structure to be stronger, because temperature in Thailand makes them more active and swim a lot.

Q: How many times have you won ranchu competitions and in what categories?
A: I won many times various categories from every club in Thailand. Two consecutive years, 2012 and 2013, best in show at the Siam Ranchu Club, and #1 ranking in Thailand for 2012 - are my remarkable prizes that I am proudly presented with.

Q: What suggestion(s) will you give to a beginner ranchu keeper?
A: You need to understand basic needs of ranchu such as container, water, food and air.

Q: Do you have the ability to sell/ship your ranchu internationally?
A: Yes, I can ship my ranchu almost everywhere. Although, please check custom procedures for your country.

Here are some of Aor's older ranchu. At the time of our visit he had no oya left. I was happy to hear that his 8 inch (19-20 cm) oya! were sold to a ranchu connoisseur.

I will always remember this visit to Aor. What a guy, what a fish, what a visit!

Thursday, May 14, 2015



Jun Luk, my friend and neighbor ranchu fellow, and I had a privilege of visiting ranchu master Nuttavut Prueksiri (aka Aor) in Bangkok, Thailand. Many thanks to Jun for setting up and coordinating this visit. Aor's ranchu business is known under the name of TG Ranchu (Facebook page - TG Ranchu, YouTube - aortaoaortao). 

Having returned from a long flight the morning of our visit, Aor was very kind to show us around his farm and his work with ranchu. Energetic and with a great sense of humor, Aor is fun to spend time with and have conversation. During a few hours of our visit, we learned and shared a lot about the ranchu.

Aor is posing proudly in front of his trophy wall.
I think, it is time for a bigger wall. Not all of Aor's trophies could fit here.

Jun and I couldn't resist posing next to Aor and his trophies.

My first impression of the place - how perfectly organized everything is. Aor employs a traditional Japanese method for raising and grooming ranchu. Fiberglass tubs of different sizes are used to house his ranchu. The tubs are protected from the sun by the overhead shades and by the net enclosure from the hungry birds and such.

Aor is a mentor and promoter of top view ranchu. It is amazing how readily and eagerly he shares his vast knowledge and experience. He is also a ranchu judge.

Inspecting the quality of one of Aor's nisai ranchu

Hand spawning demonstration

Here are some Q&A with Aor regarding his grooming techniques:

Q: How often do you change water?
A: Every four days.

Q: How does your "new" water get prepared?
A: Tap water is collected in the cistern and aerated for 1-2 days. No chemicals or dechlorinators are used. The fresh water is pumped from the cistern to the tubs.

Q: Do you use "green water" and if you do for what reason?
A: No, In my opinion, temperature in Thailand is not proper to use green water.

Q: What is the feeding regiment for BBR and CBR?
A: To develop funtan and keep up with rapid growth - five feeding per day, three of which with bloodworms and two with pellets.

Q: What brand(s) of pellets do you use?
A: Saki Hikari

Q: Is there any other supplemental food given to your ranchu?
A: Watermeal, aka Swamp Algae or Wolffia.

Q: Is feeding regiment different for your nisai and oya fish?
A: For younger ranchu I feed more often with high protein food. For nisai and oya the same feeding regiment.

Q: Do you use any prophylactic drugs or treatments for your ranchu?
A: In case they get sick only.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015


While in Vientiane, Laos, I stumbled upon a great find. A little antique shop filled with odds and ends got my attention. As I looked through shelf after shelf of stuff, my eye got caught on a stone carved ranchu sculpture. Yes, not just a goldfish, so common in Asian art and crafts, but ranchu! I grabbed it from the shelf and in my hand it separated in two halves, revealing something unexpected inside. An erotic ranchu?!

The owner of the shop couldn't tell me anything other than this is an old stone carving from China. Well, I haven't seen anything like it and I definitely haven't thought of ranchu being associated with erotic art. But why not! Ranchu are fertile and might have inspired the artist. Here are some photos of this provocative ranchu!

Friday, May 8, 2015


Finally, I was able to purchase proper enamel bawls for my ranchu, exactly the same bowls that are used for ranchu competitions throughout Japan. Even in Thailand, you have to know where to go to find them. If it was't for Aor's, Thai ranchu master, generously taking us to the right place, I would have not fond them on my own.

It was at the local market on the north side of Bangkok that has a vendor selling them. However, knowing that wasn't enough to locate the bowls without Aor's assistance. There was no way that I would have found these bowls at the small stall stuffed up to the roof with many goods and home utensils.  As we pulled the bowls from the stacks, there were several sizes available. Notice my new enamel bowls in the previous post. Thank you Aor!!

Buying enamel bowls for my ranchu at the Bangkok's local market

Thursday, May 7, 2015


This blog was quiet for a while, partially due to a fairly uneventful time at the end of winter and partially due to my travels for most of April in South East Asia.

That said, I am anticipating a series of posts about my goldfish findings in Laos and Thailand, including a memorable visit to ranchu master, Mr. Aor in Bangkok.

All this, while my ranchu were left alone for the entire three weeks during my travels! A true test to my set up. During my absence, the automatic feeder was set to one meal of Azayaka Pellets a day, while the rest of their food was algae. This is not the best diet, when you want to condition ranchu for spawning, but I had no choice. Although, I can't tell whether they have been spawning in my absence, from now on I am keeping a close eye. The ranchu diet is back to frozen bloodworms three times a day, one meal of Azayaka Pellets and Wolffia. Water change schedule is back to 90% weekly.

As you may imagine how worried I was during these past three weeks away. To a pleasant surprise, I found my ranchu active, healthy, grown and with increased head growth, and increased appetite too!

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Hopefully we had the last snow storm and the spring will now prevail. This year's winter in DC was cold and the water temperature in my indoor pond lingered between 58-62 F (14-17C). The ranchu were slower and were fed only once a day with Azayaka Balance Pellets, free ranging the rest of the time on algae.

It's warming up now and I have increased the feedings to two times a day, with Azayaka Growth Pellets and frozen bloodworms. Occasional Wollfia is added as a supplement. Again there are plenty of algae to eat for the ranchu between the meals, which they graze off of the walls and bottom of the tank. It is noticeable how much more active the ranchu became, especially on sunny days, when the sunlight hits the tank.

There is no display of spawning beheiviour yet. But with a steady warming and longer sunny days it is a matter of time. First spring thunder storm and a water change will assure spawning motion at once.

Looking back after a long break, it seems that I have forgotten how much work it was to raise the fry, BBR and CBR. Despite that, I feel excited about going through this again, but this time with more knowledge and more purpose.

I had enough time to think about my breeding goals and the seed ranchu, creating a plan of action. My choice of ranchu have widened and I have determined a combination I would like to try in producing even better quality ranchu this year. The time will tell soon enough. Patiently awaiting the storm ...

High Ranchu video in slow motion

Monday, February 9, 2015


As I learn about ranchu standards and grooming techniques, I train my eye to recognize qualities of a good ranchu. In Japan, each ranchu master works on its own line (bloodline) that will ultimately reflect the master's vision for a "perfect" ranchu. Through a scrupulous process of selection, the breeder seeks fish that carries one or several desired qualities. By carefully selecting parent fish with such qualities and breeding them, followed by many years of selection, the goal can be reached. It truly is a "living sculpture".

A preference for my own "perfect" ranchu is now more clear. My vision is shaped by studying the many looks of ranchu and recognizing what is most pleasing to my eye. These are as follows (looking at the ranchu from above):
  • long rectangular body outline
  • rectangular head outline with funtan slightly protruding on the right and left of the head (I call it a hammer shark look)
  • not much headgrowth development on top of the head
  • thick tail peduncle and bracelet
  • triangle shaped tail with supportive shoulders, that are only gently curved, with side lobe tips curved slightly more
  • when swimming the tail must take a rounder shape and return to its original shape when fish isn't moving
  • small uniform scales
  • bright reds

Early bloomers might not look as good at an older age, with their headgrowth overdeveloped, ruining the overall balance. Vise versa, those not fully developed tosai can turn into a beautiful fish when older.

All of the above must be in balance. Proportions between head, body and tail are very important and rely on personal perception. I am very interested in creating a ranchu that blossoms slowly, reaching its desired shape by the end of nisai and maintaining that look through its oya years. This, in my opinion helps to raise a healthier fish, that can live longer. In most cases, ranchu that are judged at the All Japan Ranchu Show, are groomed for a specific age category - tosai, nisai or oya. In all of the competition's history, it is very rare that a single ranchu is able to win the grand prize in all three categories tosainisai and oya in three consecutive years.

Ultimately, my "perfect" ranchu must be a great swimmer, projecting calm, power, strength and balance.

Through digital manipulation, I have created an oya ranchu of the shape and proportions I desire. To make this composite, I took various parts from several of my ranchu and exaggerated the parts that I still need to work on. Hope one day, I can match my drawing board fantasy with an actual ranchu in my pond. The vision in the making.

Friday, February 6, 2015


At eleven months my High Ranchu are developing well. Although, faults are present, there is a lot of positive traits that I really like and want to use in my future breeding. In each of these nisai there are qualities that I am thrilled to observe. Besides good body shape and uniform scaling, the red color is very intense. The "white" female nisai is acquiring a light canary yellow sheen. I am curious to see what she is going to be. It could be my first yellow ranchu. I have never seen one before.

High Ranchu nisai 

High Ranchu nisai 

High Ranchu nisai 

High Ranchu nisai 

It is very educating to rear them, learning and polishing my grooming techniques along. They are under my constant watch with their diet, water quality, light, etc. In return for the tremendous amount of attention I have given them, I get tremendous joy watching them evolve.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


"Today again Mataichi scooped the tiny fish one by one into a shallow bowl and examined them carefully under the magnifying glass. Their colors had finally began to change, but it looked as if he had failed this year as well. Once more he had failed to breed the goldfish he had hopped for. Mumbling his disappointment, he tossed the bowl and magnifying glass onto the veranda and flopped down blank-faced with a thud."
Excerpt from "A Riot of Goldfish" by Kanoko Okamoto, translated by J. Keith Vincent

Although the story of goldfish in Japan starts back in the Edo Period (1603-1868), or by some accounts as early as the 1500's, the popularity of Japanese goldfish culture does not culminate until the 1800's, when goldfish no longer remained a privilege of the aristocracy and became accessible to the general public. At that time goldfish became firmly established in Japanese culture, many distinctly Japanese goldfish varieties were created and the goldfish motif spread deep into the art and design. 


In Japan, as in all of the Orient, carp carries a strong symbolic meaning. It is highly possible that the roots of this symbolism began with Buddhism, where carp symbolize happiness. As Buddhism expanded throughout Asian countries, it brought along a reverence for carp. Along with carp and koi, goldfish inspired the visual depictions of the mythical phoenix and dragon, prominent symbols of the Orient. Many goldfish varieties that we see today are the result of enormous dedication and skill, honed by the centuries. The excerpt from Kanoko Okamoto's "A Riot of Goldfish", at the beginning of this article, describes the laborious and not always satisfying outcomes when raising goldfish.  

Of all goldfish, top view ranchu arguably are the most standardized variety. Besides the strict physical requirements and color patterns, one must also consider how the ranchu swims. Equally important is the fish's personality. There are just too many variables that have to come together to form a perfect ranchu. Very rare indeed. Striving for perfection, so ingrained in Japanese culture, is fully reflected in high quality top view ranchu. My guess is that it is a certain character type who becomes fully fascinated with this endeavor. And for those of us it becomes an infectious passion. Top view ranchu keeping has spread from Japan to many Asian countries, most notably Thailand and Singapore. It is at its beginning stages in the USA, but even on my very short watch, I have seen the growth of interest in these fascinating fish. From receiving the many comments and questions from the readers of this blog I can attest to ranchu's popularity increasing far outside from their place of origin.         

Monday, January 12, 2015


If municipal water is used in ranchu keeping, water conditioning is very important. When water has to be replaced all at once and be instantly ready for ranchu, water conditioner is required to neutralize deadly chlorine. Besides chlorine some municipalities use chloramine, which is also harmful to the fish. Of all aquarium water conditioners available, I have selected and used those with broad neutralizing spectrum. Of these, I prefer ULTIMATE distributed by Hikari Sales USA, Inc. and PRIME manufactured by Seachem. Both will remove chlorine, chloramine and ammonia; detoxify nitrite and heavy metals; replace fish's slime coat. In addition PRIME will remove nitrate.

PRIME by Seachem
ULTIMATE by Hikari Sales USA, Inc.

Although both work well and I highly recommend them, my choice is PRIME due to its economic usage. A 16.9 FL OZ (500 ML) bottle of PRIME will treat about 5000 US GAL (18927 L) of water. Whereas, 16 FL OZ (473 ML) bottle of ULTIMATE will treat 960 US GAL (3634 L). Although the initial price of PRIME could be higher, the cost per water treatment is a bargain.

Quick tip - to easy dose water conditioner I use syringe with 10 ml capacity.

Friday, January 9, 2015


Arguably, ranchu are the most handled fish I know. With frequent mandatory water changes, they have to be transferred by hand every several days. More so, young ranchu are picked up constantly, almost daily, to evaluate their development and for selection purposes. Often in the videos ranchu are presented in the hands of a keeper to show their outline, fins and overall quality. By the time ranchu matures, it has been held a great deal. My ranchu, for example, are so tame, they don't even try to swim away when I pick them up.

For all ranchu keepers and handlers, I would like to give a few recommendations to assure that your ranchu are minimally stressed when handled.

Hands must be cleaned, but NOT with soap. I wash and rub my hands under warm water for a few minutes before handling the fish. It is good to use a brush to scrape hands under water. NO lotions or hand creams can be used. If I have handled someone else's fish, I sterilize my hands with alcohol and wash them under water before handling my own fish to prevent contamination.

Right before touching ranchu, I dip my hand in the tank with ranchu to chill it. It is especially nessesary when the water temperature is low. Under normal circumstances, my hand's temperature is 90-93F (32-34C) and the fish temperature is about 1 degree higher than that of the water. Holding your hand in the colder water will minimize distress. Imagine a masseur with cold hands giving you a back massage.

Ranchu must be held properly to avoid any damage to the fish body, fins and tail. Their tail must be positioned away from you and their belly must be supported by four fingers cradled together and contouring fish's belly. A thumb placed over the fish's back will secure and prevent it from slipping out. Hold it softly, creating a loose "hand harness" around the fish as in two images below. This handling technique is used when transferring ranchu from one container to another.

When inspecting or showing off your ranchu, softly but firmly hold ranchu between the thumb and four fingers as shown on the picture below, keeping the ranchu submerged.

It is unavoidable to take ranchu out of the water to transfer them during the water change. But, taking ranchu out of the water during check ups or demonstration is unnecessary. After ranchu is in your hand, hold it right under the surface of water, so the fish is submerged (picture above). If topical medication must be applied to the fish's body, I try to keep at least the fish's head in the water. Although ranchu isn't a deep water fish (in which case surfacing would be devastating) the pressure change between being under water and in the open air is stressful and could affect the swim bladder, especially if it is already compromised. At all times avoid or minimize the time when ranchu are kept out of the water.

Happy handling!