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