Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No Thanks! Mr Murphy

You never run out of things that can go wrong
~ Murphy’s Law

Mr. Murphy visits me every year in the TVR breeding season. Last year, a number of breeders and show fishes were accidentally killed due to my negligence - in my rush to work, I forgot to administer anti-chloramine after water change. The year before, a batch of fries were drained off due to a loose plug in the drainage. Yet in another occasion, I forgot to put back the air stones and many young fishes suffocated. The lists of my silly mistakes goes on… sometimes, I took many days to forgive myself. Every fry means so much hard work that only the avid goldfish breeders would understand.

Just when I hope to complete the TVR breeding earlier this year with an earlier start, most of the spawns do not have good fertility rate. Batches #2 to #4 were bad in quality and none was left after the second culling. There are some decent fishes in batch #1, but they got sick and some had perished in the bad weather. They are now on medication and all feeding has stopped. Tragedies that struck when the fries have grown so big is always a very sad thing tho happen.

This year, the weather in Singapore is particular bad, one moment it was so hot with bush fires and the next moment there will be torrential rain. Drastic temperature fluctuations signify the peak of the spawning season and also causes more outbreak of diseases. Now, who was rain dancing just few weeks ago and complaining about the rain now? :)

It is very easy to cook up excuses to blame Murphy and the weather. However, all these mishaps simply mean that I have to improve on my self-discipline, techniques and facilities.

I managed to collect some eggs again, lets start over and hope for the best.

1) Casualties of chloramine poisoning
2) 21 day old fries.
3) Improvised "Tawashi" to collect eggs

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stage 1: One Way Ticket

When you breed goldfish,
1+1 ≠ 2

~ Louis Chan, Tung Hoi Aquarium Company

The accelerated growth in all-summer tropical climate enables goldfish to attain sexual maturity much earlier than goldfish kept in the cooler climates. However, the law of nature is an equilibrium system -goldfish that mature faster also will have shorter lifespan. Although it is possible to breed 3 generations of goldfish within a year in the tropical climate, it is crucial to wait for them to mature further to review stronger genetic traits to select the best breeders for the next propagation.

In 2006, stage 1 of the project was kick-started with the aim to create a short tail dragon eye pearlscale. I crossed a good bloodline of calico short tail dragon eyes to the highly inbred and stable line of short tail pearlscale from Malaysia. Four batches were spawned using different combinations of related parental stocks. Their bloodline information were tracked separately.

Short tails being recessive and in the first filial generation (F1), all of them are short tails. However, all lack the dragon eyes as it is a recessive gene. The short tail and the dragon eyes are both recessive homozygous genotype following the Mendelian Complete Dominance Rule with the following Punnett Squares :

For the short tail:
Result: All short tail F1 with homozygous recessive alleles for short tail: t

For the dragon eyes: Result: All normal-eye F1 with heterozygous recessive allele for dragon eye: e

For the pearl scale:

The pearl-scale trait follows the Mendelian Incomplete Dominance Rule:

Result: some F1 offsprings exhibit the phenotype that resembles a sort of blending between the normal scale and the pearl scale. The quality of the pearl-scale is inferior to the scale quality of their pearlscale parent.

1) Breeder stocks - short tail pearlscales from Malaysia

2) Breeder stocks - short tail calico dragon eyes from China
3) F1 - all normal eyes with inferior quality pearl scales

4) close view of incomplete dominance - bad quality scales with small pearl features

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

痘痕も笑窪 [abata mo ekubo]

A man in love mistook a pimple for a dimple.
~ A Japanese Proverb

Serious goldfish breeding is an extremely crazy idea in Singapore. The soft water mandates more frequent water changes and live fish food are very expensive. Goldfish spawn by the thousands and fries are very greedy. They grow very fast and seems to outgrow the ponds any time soon. The lack of land space in Singapore and the warm weather that decompose unconsumed food at high rate aggravate the situation.

Why not breed lesser? Compared to most other ornamental fishes, the yield rate for decent specimens in fancy goldfish is very low; it is necessary to collect the biggest spawn size that the breeder could possibly manage with the hope that one or few of the fries will turn out good. I have to be very objective to cull the fries and not fall in blind-love. If there are too many fries, more spaces must be planned to spread out the stocking density. The bad news is, after weeks and months of hard work and I may not even get a decent fish out of thousands!

Besides hard work and patience, perserverance is very important in goldfish breeding. A bloodline takes years to stabilize and many iterative processes of selective breeding to improve. The fancy goldfish could not have existed in the law of nature without human intervention. The attention is so demanding in various stages in the development of the TVR, that the Japanese use the term "making a ranchu". At this stage before the ranchu changes colour, it is known as the black baby ranchu (kuroko) or simply BBR.

1) 9-day old fries
2) 11-day old fries

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Juggling is easy, you throw, you catch, you throw, you catch…
~ Perry Romanowski

The Japanese breeders consider the first day that the fries starts free-swimming as day 1. I usually cull 7 day-old fries (about 1 cm) when their faults become obvious to make the work of culling easier. Culling needs extreme patience and time, it is very important to conserve more space and food for only the best fishes. Moreover, it is very expensive to feed a large school of hungry fries craving for food round the clock. At every stage of growth, various faults becomes more obvious. As the defective fries are culled, the remaining ones are grown larger and new faults will surface. This routine of culling and growing is repeated over many iterations, eventually keeping only the best fishes in the brood. With a full time day job, I always feel like a juggler during the goldfish breeding season. The bad news is, after all these hardwork, there may not even be any good fries remaining in the whole brood! Such is the predicament that any goldfish breeder has to take in stride.

What are the faults that a breeder should cull? The first stage of culling remove major faults like handicapped fries, bent bodies, single tail and bent tail core. The subsequent culling stages look for defects which are less major. The concept of culling sounds easy but it is fundamental that a breeder must understand the specification of a good fish and have a clear view of the standard and traits that he/she is aiming for. Without which, the breeder will not know what to cull and will either under-cull the defective fries or over-cull away the good fries. Experience comes from understanding of the bloodline and studying of how the fries develop at different stages. It is consider a very good yield if we can keep 10% of the fries after the first culling.

1) Queuing for culling
2) 7 day old fries

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's Now Or Never

狂ったの夢 ~新品種の金魚の制作

Though this be madness, yet there is method.

~ William Shakespeare

I love the calicos dragon eyes, I can't resist the pompoms and pearlscales too. Perhaps I was bored, perhaps I was just out of my mind - that very day, I decided that I would put all these kinky stuff into one goldfish. I have never looked back since.

It has been 3 long years but my new variety project is still far from completion. Stay tune in the "New Variety" track as I walk down memory lane to narrate the story of this wild concoction. Now, for some goldfish arithmetic:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

No More Quickies

Ranchu is patience.
~ Geert Coppens, my good friend & one of my TVR mentors

The erratic weather these few days triggered my TVR breeders into a biological overdrive - the females kept laying small amount of eggs almost every dawn. Some females would lay eggs at interval of every 3 days! I reckon that the eggs are not fully matured as the fertility rate is very low.

The sexes are separated for the time being. I will learn to be patient to give more time for the eggs to mature further before attempting to collect a bigger spawn. In the meantime, I can catch slightly more sleep before doing my daily chore of caring for the earlier batches of fries.

1) Translucent newly spawned eggs
2) Opaque unfertilized eggs after 10 hours

* the spawning media is the Japanese brush -
tawashi (たわし)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

魚與熊掌 - Fish And Bear's Paw

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I brought my family for a tour in Hong Kong last November - my second Hong Kong trip. As would any goldfish fanatic, I looked forward to visiting the Goldfish Pagoda and Tung Choi Street (Goldfish Street) again.

It was a great disappointment to find out that the Goldfish Pagoda was demolished to make way for an elaborate panda display! Why can't the goldfish co-exist with the panda? I could only think of how coincidentally it gels with the Chinese idiom: 魚與熊掌不可兼得 (fish and bear's paw, you can have either one but not both#).

Luckily, Tung Choi Street was still as vibrant as ever. I went there almost everyday even though my hotel was quite a distance away :) You can revisit the Goldfish Pagoda and Tung Choi Street in the Vermillion Goldfish Club website.

#"Fish and Bear's Paw" equivalent to the English idiom: "One can't have one's cake and eat it too."

The Chinese philosopher Mencius mapped virtue to an analogy of fish and bear's paw:
I love fish and bear's paw; If I cannot have both I'll forgo fish for bear's paw. I love life and righteousness; If I cannot have both I'll forgo life for righteousness.


PS: I am not advocating bear or goldfish for dinner :)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Nanny Knows Best

Growth begins when we begin to accept our own weakness.
~Jean Vanier

s soon as the fries start to swim, they will be constantly looking for
food. There is an urgency to grow the fries fast to boost up their immunities. On the other hand, good control of water quality is needed to keep them healthy amidst the aggressive feeding regime. If they got sick, it could be fatal and affect their future development, even if they would recover.

Goldfish are very greedy, it is important to provide enough quality food for them. Uneven growth rate is a sign of bad water quality or insufficient food. Without ample food, cannibalism prevails as the bigger fries start devouring their siblings.

Daphnia is the ideal food for goldfish fries, however, brine shrimp is also a good option. Try to feed the fries with newly hatched brine shrimp as they are the most nutritious in the first few hours of hatching. This would mean daily hatching of brine shrimps.

Taking care of goldfish fries is a very demanding task as they are very much like babies - totally dependent on you and always hungry. Under optimal conditions, the fries grow very fast - they seem to grow within a matter of few minutes after their meal!

1) 5 gallon mineral water container used to hatch brine shrimps
2) Day 2 of free swimming

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Water Fairies Of The Orient

Love is like a butterfly. It goes where it pleases and it pleases where it goes. ~An English Love Quote

Behold the dragon eye butterfly as it flutters by. Watch them in action to appreciate its dynamic beauty! Amongst the earliest and most established bloodlines of the dragon eye butterfly are the black and the panda varieties. Not surprisingly, some of the best specimens of the black and panda dragon eye butterflies have very spectacular butterfly-shaped tail fins.

The background music of this video is a beautiful Chinese classical piece (
粱祝 - "liangzhu" ) based on the legendary story of 2 forlorn lovers who died and became butterflies, never to be parted again.

For more information on the dragon eye butterfly, visit the Vermillion Butterfly Show and Alvin's website.

My favorite butterflies circa. 2003

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Joy Of New Life

Each age has deemed the new-born year the fittest time for festal cheer.
~Walter Scott

The 2 spawns on 31st January have completed their incubation period. However, the fertility rate of one of the spawns is quite low. Hopefully, the
female fish will produce better eggs in her subsequent spawns.

For the next 2 days, the newly-hatched fries would not be able to swim; they will rest and devour the nutrients in their embryo sags. Light gentle aeration is important to maintain good dissolved oxygen in this period. Once they start to swim and clamoring for food is when all the madness begins...

1) Size of new born fries relative to a 16mm diameter coin and a strand of hair.

2) Newly hatched fries.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

If Every Egg Is A Dime...

If you really want something in this life you have to work for it. Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers.
~ Dan Castellaneta

I have the same chance of winning the lottery regardless if I bet or not. It had been years since I resigned to fate to work hard and forget all about lotteries but recently, I had to break my oath - this Lunar New Year, they are selling lottery tickets packed in beautiful "Hong pow"# with goldfish designs! Of course, I will always welcome a bonus of windfall too :)

It is day 3 of incubation and the fertility rate seems good. This morning 2500~3000 eggs are collected from another female. How great if every egg is worth a dime...

#Hong pow - Traditional Chinese red packet containing monies given to elders or children for good blessings.

1) Prosperity pack Lunar Hong pow with goldfish design

2) Day 3 of incubation

Monday, February 2, 2009

Goldfish Neverland

Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect!

~Owens Lee Pomeroy

The highly anticipated Aquarama 2009 is just less than 5 months away. This biennial event boosts a high turn out and International prestige in the Aquatic World. It will be my 5th Aquarama event - 10 years since I started getting serious about goldfish competition.

I may not be able to remember all the fishes that I had ever competed in the various goldfish competitions, but I will always relish the moments when all of us put the Vermillion Club spirit to work as a team. It is so amazing how the common love for the goldfish has fostered the close bonding of a group of very serious goldfish fanatics from all walks of life.

As I reminisce over the years of good clean fun with my friends and fishes: the hardwork grooming the fishes for months, the hopes and anticipation in the goldfish competitions, the joy of teamwork rounding up and selecting the fishes from the ponds, the Vermillionian spirit is much more endearing than any trophies that we had won.

I hope for the goldfish hobby to bring respite in these trying times. Let's not forget that the goldfish is an emblem of peace and an ambassador of friendship. The true joy of the goldfish hobby is more than just goldfish competitions. Sometimes, grown-ups have much to learn from young children when it comes to innocent fun, minus the tandrums.

1) Vermillionians helping each other to round up the fishes before competition.
2) Vermillionians enjoying the weekend admiring each others' collection.
3) Children having fun with goldfish.

Breeding the TVR

Breeding the TVR
Breeding and maintaining a bloodline of the Japanese TVR since 2003.

Goldfish Artwork

Goldfish Artwork
Marriage of 2 of my passions - Goldfish and Art.

Creating a New Variety

Creating a New Variety
My dream of creating a new variety of goldfish in 2006 has proven to be more than just an impulsive fantasy.

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