Art by Alexander Vasiljev, Copyright © 2017


Friday, December 30, 2016


For some time, I have wanted to do an interview with my good friend Jeff Thompson (Ranchu Notes). Finally, we got around to it and despite our busy schedules made it happened.

Jeff Thompson of Oregon

Jeff is a professional TVR (top view ranchu) breeder from Oregon. What strikes me most about him, is his total devotion to this amazing breed of goldfish. For over a decade Jeff has groomed and bred TVR, employing traditional Japanese method, to become one among the most respected ranchu experts in the USA.

Successful ranchu breeding and keeping isn't something that you can achieve all at once. The more you devote yourself to this craft, the more you will find yourself presented with the shear complexity of ranchu! A perfect ranchu, in my opinion, is a mythical fish. There is always more to improve in the fish quality! Thus the entire pleasure of ranchu keeping is in chasing a dream, a journey. Jeff is quite successful in his journey. He has become more determined in his culling and his results are more consistent. Pictures below are a testament to that.

Breeder ranchu, 2015

Thompson's tosai, 2016

Thompson's tosai, 2016

Sorting tosai, 2015

Here are Q&A with Jeff Thompson:

Q: How often do you change water?

A: There is no hard and fast rule for exactly when to perform a 100% water change. Based on the season, stocking density and feeding levels and the age of the ranchu we must learn to 'read' the water quality by looking at, smelling and touching the water. If the ranchu have been in the pond for 2 days and the water begins to look too thick I will go ahead and perform the change. Typically the range is 4 to 7 days between water changes. During the late fall and winter it may be several weeks between changes as the ranchu hibernate.

Q: How does your "new" water get prepared

A: My process is simplicity itself due to the high quality of water I get here in the High Desert of Oregon: After moving the ranchu to their fresh pond I drain the old water and scrub the pond walls and floor, being sure to leave a bit of wall algae behind to seed the new wall algae. I refill the pond and allow the water to 'rest' for several days. It is now ready for the ranchu. Other keepers may need to modify this regiment by adding water conditioner to the fresh water.

Q: Do you use "green water" and if you do for what reason?

A: I never seek to cultivate green water but it sometimes develops on its own. When I transfer the ranchu into their fresh pond I will just drain away the green water.

Q: What is the feeding regiment for BBR and CBR?

A: BBR are fed buckets and buckets of freshly hatched brineshrimp. It is a full time job feeding BBR as they need to eat every 4 hours. Once they have grown a bit I will add a fry food such as Golden Pearls into their diet of brineshrimp, but it is still mostly brineshrimp. Once they are around a half-inch long I will add frozen bloodworms to the mix. CBR are fed a high quality pellet and lots of high quality frozen bloodworms.

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

A: All my best quality ranchu receive the Azayaka pellet. I also like the Japan Ranchu Lord pellet. For my retired breeders and other various ranchu I will feed them the Omega 1 Goldfish pellet.

Q: Is there any other supplemental food given to your ranchu?

A: The single most important food for my ranchu is the algae that grows on the walls and floor of the ponds. They will graze on this food all day long. Algae helps keep the dense pellet foods moving thru the gut and it also provides beautiful colors in the ranchu.

Q: Is feeding regiment different for your nisai and oya fish?

A: Yes, different ages of ranchu will require feeding regiments. We must always observe and react to what the ranchu are telling us and vary our husbandry accordingly.

Q: Do you use any prophylactic drugs or treatments for your ranchu?

A: Yes, twice per year I will treat all my ranchu with prazi. Flukes are present in both healthy and sick populations of goldfish and prazi is a very safe way to address the flukes.

Q: How many spawns do you collect per year?

A: I have learned that with my current set-up I am limited to four spawns per year. Any more than this and the fry suffer. I would rather have four great quality spawns that a bunch of bad quality spawns.

Q: How often do you cull?

A: I cull as often as I can. The first cull will typically be around 2 weeks. After that I will cull whenever I perform a water change. Culling as soon as possible, as often as possible, and culling vigorously gives a huge huge HUGE! boost to the remaining fry. It is so important to do everything within our power to boost the growth rate of the good fry. It is like a race: The moment the fry begin to eat it is a race to get the fry grown up as big and strong as we possibly can. This is how you get strong beautiful bodies and a good foundation for head growth.

Q: What is an outcome from one of your average spawns? How many final keepers do you end up with on average?

A: It varies a lot. The quality of the eggs and the quality of the milt.... the skill of my pairings..... the quality of my husbandry of the fry..... there are so many factors that affect the outcome of a spawn. I feel lucky if I get 50 good quality BBR from a spawn. I try to keep 8 to 12 top-quality ranchu from a spawn to potentially use as breeders in following years.

Q: Do you hand spawn?

A: Yes, only hand spawning. Hand spawning can only occur after the female has already begun to release the eggs on her own.

Q: How often do you introduce seed ranchu from other breeders to continue working on your line?

A: I try to create parallel lines with cousins to use for my own outcrosses. I may import some new ranchu from Japan in 2017 or 2018 to increase my gene pool.

Q: How close are you to establishing your own line?

A: This is tricky because as soon as a ranchu keeper has bred the ranchu the offspring can no longer be called by the original bloodline. This is because only when raised by the hand of the Master may the ranchu be called by the Master's name. For example, I have used ranchu directly from the hand of Mr. Kashino for some of my 2016 spawns. Can I call these BBR that I created 'Kashino ranchu'? No, I can not call them Kashino ranchu because the eggs and fry were raised under my hand.

Q: What are the main characteristics of your line of ranchu that sets them apart?

A: Above all I seek a powerful and graceful movement as my ranchu swim. I hope they exhibit this feature.

Q: What are the main qualities that you try to preserve or develop in your future ranchu?

A: After a powerful and graceful movement I look for a thick peduncle, thick backbone, beautiful and wide tail spread, thick and strong body and of course a dynamic head. Also I need ranchu that can survive a rather long and cold hibernation period during the winter.

Q: What suggestion(s) will you give to a beginner ranchu keeper?

A: Ranchu are a Japanese fish and must be kept according to traditional Japanese methods to express their full potential. Japanese ranchu are kept in large shallow ponds with NO filtration, only an airstone and 100% water changes (performed by moving the ranchu into a fresh pond). With ranchu the water quality is one of our grooming tools: In fresh water the ranchu grows it's body and as the water becomes older the ranchu then puts on headgrowth. This is the fundamental process of ranchu that is being ruined by Americans using sponge filters, uv filters and other bits of technology. Remember that the Japanese have invented and shared with the rest of the world all of the most cutting edge technologies from medical, electronics, robotics, automotive, etc...... if there was a better way for raising ranchu would not the Japanese have developed it? The fastest path to success with ranchu is to follow the path laid before us by the true ranchu masters. Use the internet to research how the Japanese ranchu masters keep their ranchu and then emulate that.

Q: Do you have the ability to sell/ship your ranchu outside of USA?

A: No I only ship domestically right now.

**All photos used in this article are by Jeff Thompson

Saturday, November 26, 2016


Although, it is not cold in south-west Florida right now, the night temperatures are in the 60s F (15 C). During November, the water temperature in my ranchu pond fluctuated between 59-72 F (15-22 C). Pumped out of the ground well water is at 75-76 F (24 C) and comes much warmer than the water in the pond. The challenge becomes greater to perform water change, as the water in the pond is colder.

This temperature difference can have a negative effect on ranchu if exposed suddenly. Floating tubs with ranchu in the pond, brings the two temperatures closer together very quickly. As soon as the difference becomes less than 3 degrees F, the fish are good to go in the warmer water. Temperatures can be instantly checked with IR thermometer.

Monday, October 31, 2016


I have two old bamboo clumps on the property, each with 50-60 ft (15-18 m) tall stalks. An endless bamboo supply for all the things I would like to make. One of them - kakei or bamboo spout. A great feature that I recently added to my ranchu pond.

A small pump supplies water to the kakei. Not just visual, it makes a beautiful sound and in addition, aids in water circulation. It makes the ranchu pond complete.

Amidst the daily chores, I need to find more time to succumb to the tranquility of the setting and contemplate the motion of ranchu!

Friday, October 21, 2016


One of my female ranchu had recently damaged her tail. I have no idea how the side lobe of her tail got torn, and I have to admit it is quite upsetting to see a beautiful tail messed up.

Fortunately, goldfish have a great ability to regenerate damaged fins and tail quite fast, as well as their scales. While my ranchu "half tail" looked horrible, it is already healing, making a week old damage less noticeable each day. Although, it may not regenerate to its original beauty and the new tissue may not be as translucent, it will look normal and become functional again.

Healing tail side lobe of a nisai ranchu

The main key of the healing process is to have strong, well fed fish and VERY clean water. I don't use any medication or prophylactic treatment. Quality of the water is crucial and that is what I am focused on.

So, next time your goldfish turns up with damage fins or tail, give it a time and concentrate on maintaining exceptionally clean water. Your fish will be happy again in no time!

Monday, September 19, 2016


I just received a familiar package marked "Japan Post" that I have gotten many times. Somehow, it is still as exciting as it was my first time to open it. And here I am sharing the excitement.

I decided to switch to Azayaka brand pellets a year ago and have observed nothing but improvements in my fish: no bloating, no manifestation of swim bladder disease, less poop, cleaner water, stronger color.

This package is for my adult fish and a couple of bags of color enchanting pellets to keep the ranchu more beautiful!

Green bag is Azayaka Basic, pellet size SS (2-3mm) and Purple bags of Azayaka Color Enhancing Astaxanthin, pellet size small grain (1.8-2.8mm)

Thursday, September 8, 2016


It has been a long time since I've posted here. So, I thank you for your patience and understanding! I missed talking and sharing about my ranchu too.

But there were priorities. My new home required many hours of fixing and building and improving, before I could start thinking of my ranchu proper accommodations. It took a little over six months to finally come around to build a permanent display pond for my fish!

Here is what I have accomplished so far. After the screened aluminum cage with a solid roof was erected, and the deck with decorative walls were built, the final steps of ranchu display pond were as follows:

The deck was constructed with a step to accommodate the existing 8ft x 2ft x 1ft (2.4m x 61cm x 30cm) fiberglass pond. Deck step allowed me to have the pond recessed for a more pleasant display.   


Now, the drain. Previously, I have used a pump to move the water in and out of the pond. This time, I wanted to install a drain and let gravity do the job. My objectives were to have the drain that could be SECURELY plugged and to use the simplest plumbing possible. After much deliberation, I ended up with purchasing five components: 
  • heavy duty garden hose 
  • nozzle
  • ¾ garden hose to ¾ NPT brass coupler
  • bulkhead fitting 
  • rubber plug

After the hole in the fiberglass pond was drilled, I fitted it with the bulkhead assembled with a brass coupler.

The garden hose was attached to the coupler underneath the pond and threaded through the hole left in the screened cage concrete header. 

Finally, the moment I had been waiting for - to fill the pond with water and let the ranchu into their new home!

Here are a few comments and technical details. Due to under one inch (2.5 cm) garden hose diameter and less than two feet high gradient between the bottom of the pond and the draining ground, the time to empty the pond with its over 115 gal (435 l) of water is lengthy, about 45 to 50 min. But not a big trade off considering that the drain assembly is super simple, super reliable and very easy to fix. For my display pond I perform 100% water change every two weeks, as I still use bio filtration and a UV lamp. 

On the other hand, to fill back the pond is a breeze. The water comes from the well and as soon as the pond is full the ranchu are in. No additional chemicals are used and the temperature of freshly pumped water is within 1-2 degrees of the water temperature in the tub. In addition, my well water is first pumped in to an aerator and gets infused with some oxygen, further I turn up the air pump during the filling. So far, I haven't noticed any visual distress when the ranchu enter fresh water. The deck and the pond are under the solid roof that deflects heat and protects from direct rain, and since the screened cage is opened on all three sides, there is a plenty of breeze to cool the summer heat. Water temperature stays below 83F (28C) even when the air temperature soars well above 90F (32C).  

I have more improvements on the way and of course I have to start and finish the fishery, BY FEBRUARY! It is going to be a separate structure with a series of ponds and a culling station. But for now, I can take a short brake and enjoy my ranchu peacefully swimming in their new home! The new chapter has began!

Sunday, March 6, 2016


At the end of February, the "Big Move" was approaching fast. To prepare my ranchu for a two day journey, I purchased two plastic storage containers with snap on lids. After drilling several venting holes through the lids, I filled each with about 15 gal (57 L) of water, added Prime de-chlorinator and aeration, and transferred the ranchu into them. We where planning to drive late afternoon on Friday, so I had my fish in containers by Thursday morning. No food was given, to purge the fish from excrements. This helps to keep the water clean and with less ammonia build up. Since goldfish will eat back their excrements (read my earlier post "Poopie Monster") I periodically syphoned any derbies.

After the U-Haul truck was loaded and ready to depart, I combined my eight ranchu into one of the two plastic containers and filled it less than 3/4 of its high with fresh dechlorinated water. Container with fish was placed into another container for strength. Lid on. I had it set up on the middle seat of the driver's cabin.

You really become a good driver, when traveling with fish. Quickly you learn to brake and accelerate smoothly. Still, have a couple of towels on hand if the lid isn't airtight.

We did stopped midway for the night and I brought my ranchu inside the motel room and set it with a couple of airstones for the night. Still no food was given! Saturday early morning we were on the road, arriving to our new home in the evening. I had my friend fill a couple of children's pools with the well water from the property and let it sit for a day.

About the well water that I am going to be using. Some of the parameters are

pH - 7.5-7.8
Hardiness - 55 grains per gallon
TD Solids - 985-1000
Iron - 0.5 per million

A month prior to bringing my ranchu to Florida, I made an experiment to hard test my well water. I bought several goldfish from a local Petsmart and kept them for a two weeks in the well water. The fish were doing great! As I was feeling guilty for using these fishes as an experiment, I fed them well and they grew noticeably.

So, here I was, on Saturday night letting my precious ranchu in the water where they will be living and breeding. I set up their original 8 x 2 ft (2.4 x 0.6 m) fiberglass pond and it has been a week since they are in the well water. The ranchu are doing great! As the day temperatures in Florida are warmer than they were in my Washington DC apartment, ranchu's appetite has doubled.

With all this, I have to get used to one thing - NO WATER CONDITIONERS!!! I no longer have to use any de-chlorinators. The well water gets aerated as soon as it is pumped out and can be used straight as is.

First big step is taken, lot's more work ahead.

Storage containers for transporting my ranchu.
Venting holes on the lid.

High Ranchu purging before the trip.

Necessary equipment while traveling: dozing syringe, water conditioner, digital infrared thermometer, air pump, airstone (not shown).

Storage container with ranchu in U-Haul cabin.

Finally, High Ranchu arrived. Temporary home, before their pond is set up.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


There has been a silence on my blog. The only explanation I can find, is because ...


Yes, a dream come true! I am very excited about the move and the new challenges and possibilities in raising my ranchu in a completely different environment. It's outdoors, it's with the use of well water, it's with employing more traditional techniques.

The climate where I am going to live is similar to southern Japan, with some cooler winter days, averaging daytime 71F (22C) and nighttime 52F (11C). Summers are hot and humid, but proximity to the ocean makes it a bit cooler and breezier.

I have big plants for building my display pond and a small ranchu fishery, where I can continue working on a High Ranchu bloodline. This spring/summer for sure, will be a busy time for me!

Time permitting, I will be posting updates and notes of the progress. In month and a half my ranchu should be swimming outdoors!

High Ranchu on the move