Monday, April 27, 2009

Got Murphed Again? - 莫非墨菲?

I never had a slice of bread,
Particularly large and wide,
That did not fall upon the floor,
And always on the buttered side.
~ published in an American newspaper in Norwalk, Ohio 1841

墨菲定律 ~指詼諧的經驗之談,其要點為:任何事情都不象看上去那么簡單;任何可能出錯的事將出錯。

What a busy week I had struggling with the crazy weather! The period of April to May are the seasonal hot spells in Singapore with temperature reaching a high of 34 degrees celsius. The afternoon is often very warm, extremedly humid and windless, there may be sudden rain but it usually provide no respite for both people and fishes. I do not feed my fish in the afternoon and I provide more shade on the ponds to keep the water temperature cool. It is so unbearable in the outdoor that I would only work on the ponds in the cooler early morning or the late evening.

Sometimes, I can't help but marvel at the mischiefs of Mr. Murphy. The day I forgotten to shade one of the ponds, the sudden surge of temperature to more than 34 degrees celsius had caused most of my fries to change colour too early. I also got a "hand slip" scrubbing a pond and injured my neck and shoulders. Immobilized for a few days, some fishes got sick from overcrowding because I couldn't cull fast enough and change water. Two of the fishes I earmarked before were confirmed to flunk as show fishes - one with nice tail has a bent head while the other with nice head has a bent tail :( What luck! Anyway, these two fishes will be my seed fish candidates.

Come next year, I will breed more so that Mr Murphy would not have time to sabotage all the fishes :)

1) Fries that change colour too fast due to the warm water.
2) BBR with a bent head alignment.
3) BBR with a bent and overlapped caudal tail.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


A clumsy bird has to fly first to get to the forest earlier
~ A Chinese proverb

A pair of Collared Kingfisher has been stalking me whenever I do water change or culling every morning. This is a sign that my place is looking like a fish farm. Today, I have decided that I have enough TVR fries for the year. Besides the smallest batch that is 5 days old now, I still have 6 batches of fries including 1 batch of calico TVR. I reckoned that with my space and time constraints, I can only manage this number of fries. Anyway, I have fulfilled my goal to complete the collection of TVR fries earlier so that I can focus on the Aquarama 2009 Goldfish Competition and the breeding of my new variety Pearlscale.

I am puzzled why the pearlscales are much more prolific than the TVR. Some of my Pearlscales had spawned 2 days ago. If the hatching is good, I would have more than 20 thousand fries. Pearlscales normally peaks in 1.5 to 2 years old so the spawn today is to prepare for Aquarama 2011.

1) One of the Kingfishers which has been stalking me.
2) Culling the Calico TVR - black background is easier to see the tail shape.
3) Smaller batches of TVR fries

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Backup Plan - 未雨稠缪 [wei yu chou mou]

It seems to me that everything that happens to us is a disconcerting mix of choice and contingency.
~Penelope Lively

As I relish the joy of creating my own bloodline of TVR and the new variety Pearlscale, I was soon living in constant fear that something untoward may happen to my seed fishes. A bad epidemic breakout or catastrophe could wipe out all the years of hard work. Soon, I was brainstorming about all wild ideas of incorporating contingency into my breeding plan.

In the game of serious livestock breeding, it is very important to have backups of the pure lineage every time we move on to the next iteration. A wrong track can be abandoned and a new track restarted only if the original bloodline is kept pure. Moreover, not all the fishes will spawn successfully. To make things more complicated, luck is a crucial element where different breeding pairs may result in very different results. As such, it is essential to keep many seed fishes to increase the odds of good breeding matches. All these just mean more time and space needed to prepare for contingency.
The best way to avoid the single point of failure is to spread them out into multiple locations. It would even be better if someone can help to breed them. In this way, the bloodline can be recalled if my own collections are wiped out without having to restart from square one again. I documented the bloodline of important spawns and distributed some fishes locally and abroad to my avid goldfish hobbyist friends for keeping.

Besides exchanging TVR seed fishes with my Hong Kong friend every year, I also help to backup and breed his Calico TVR while he backed me up on my new variety of Pearlscale. Though I have been prepared for the tedious journey of goldfish breeding, I had under-estimated the scale of the backup plans. It is very difficult to believe the extent with which we went through just to provide contingency plans. Even both of us agreed that we have gone bonkers.

1) New Pearlscale variety project: pure bloodline of the Calico Short Tail Dragon Eyes to backup the original line.

2) Breeding my Hong Kong friend's Calico TVR bloodline: 25 day-old F7 Calico TVR bred this year.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Disrobing the Tiger - 虎剥げ [tora hage]

Colour is my day-long obsession, my joy and my torment.
~ Claude Monet

In the tropical weather, most of the BBR (Black Baby Ranchu) starts to change colour from 45 days old onwards. One by one, the BBR changes from dark green to dark stripes and pumpkin colour like the patterns of a tiger's stripes and finally to their adult color of red, white or red white. At this stage, the fries are known as 虎禿 or 虎剥げ [tora hage] - "disrobing of the tiger'" was coined to describe this transitional stage.

The Japanese masters believe that colour change is a very important milestone and vulnerable stage of a baby ranchu's life. Very much like the metamorphosis of a caterpiller, it takes a lot of its energy to tranverse this stage as many BBR will see stagnant growth, prone to constipation and gill diseases. Besides extra care on managing water quality, feeding should go slower as fishes generally do not have very good appetite. The black baby stage is also very important to build the foundation of future head growth. It is desirable that the 目先 [me saki] or front cheeks be developed before they change to adult colour.

1) 48 day old
虎禿, some already almost orange in colour. This is still not the stable adult colour.

2) BBR showing development of the front cheek.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Drizzle of Qing Ming? 清明時節雨紛紛?

Thatch your roof before rainy weather;
dig your well before you become parched with thirst.
~Chinese proverb

he Qing Ming Festival or "Tomb Sweeping Day" falls on the 4th of April this year. It is a traditional festival observed by the Chinese race in many parts of the world to honour their ancestors at grave sites. In Singapore, where Qing Ming is not a national holiday, most Chinese would visit their ancestor's grave sites within a period of about 2 weeks before and after Qing Ming.

Miraculously, the solemn mood of Qing Ming is also marked by a period of intermittent rain and groomy weather. This phenonmenon has persisted for centuries as depicted in the ancient poem by the poet Du Mu (803 ~ 852)

The erratic weather means that the Qing Ming period is also the goldfish breeding season. However, the intermittent humid weather and rain also pose a huge challenge to outdoor goldfish keeping with common outbreaks of diseases. The biggest batch of fries are now more than 40 days old. Though they are bigger and much more resilent to diseases, the technique of using shallower water to groom these fishes makes it even more challenging to keep them outdoors in this haywire weather.

The torrential rain yesterday had disrupted the Malaysian Grand Prix and caused many floods in Singapore. I recorded more than 6 cm of rain in less than 2 hours.

1) The rain of yesterday that causes many fresh floods in Singapore.

2) 41 day old BBR hunting for daphnia.

fries at 41 days old

Friday, April 3, 2009

Goldfish Evolution 金魚的演化

Change is the very core of evolution and without it, all creatures will look alike and behave in the same way.
~ Martin Dansky

Check out 2 informative goldfish documentaries about the origins and evolution of the fancy goldfish. The videos are produced in Hong Kong and narrated in Cantonese. However, in most scenes, pictures speak louder than words :)


Part 1:

Part 2:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Plan to Rush

A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
~ George Patton

Life is getting very busy with my day job ramping up, ranchu breeding and family commitments for the pass weeks. A typical day for me starts at 4.30 ~ 5.00am to check for spawning, culling fries, routine pond maintenance, driving to collect and sieve the daphnia, feed the fries and than rushing to work in time. After work, it is another round of pond maintenance, culling and hatching brine shrimp to backup the daphnia supply. Not to forget the bigger ranchus and pearlscales to take care of. Finally, I will contemplate and write down my day plan for the following day. By 10~11pm, it become too physically and mentally tired for me to stay awake. Sometimes, I will fall asleep while reading long stories to my kids, much to their bewilderment.

Proper planning is important in this mad and tiring schedule as any unforseened circumstances would usually cause a domino effect on the day plan. In which case, a plan ensures priorities for the day are clear so that I can react to any situations efficiently.

The oldest batch of fries are 37 days old and left with about 44 pieces. They will be changing their baby colour very soon. Due to the warm waters of the tropical climate, baby goldfish change colour about 3 to 5 weeks faster than in temperate climates. While it is important to grow black baby ranchu slowly at this stage, I am also wary that colour change will happen when they are still too small in size. Most will not develop well if they change colour too fast.

Taken when fries are 35 days old.

Water change and culling at 5:00am with a spotlight.

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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