Art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2017


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!