Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Art & Science of Top View Ranchu ~ 蘭壽的藝術科學

Scientists investigate that which already is;
Engineers create that which has never been.

~Albert Einstein

The features of the TVR tosais are getting more or less stabilized as they approach 100 days old. After almost 5 months, I could only keep less than 20 fishes this year for show and breeders. Considering the number of spawns that I attempted, I think this yield rate is not very encouraging. Besides my skills problem, it is also partly due to the high casualties and the bad egg qualities.

There is a saying in the Japanese TVR circle: "When you got the head, you lose the tail; when you got the tail, you lose the head". Why is the making of a good TVR so difficult?

For an art that emphasized so much on dynamic beauty - specifically, the grace and balance with which a TVR swims, the structure of a TVR is of utmost importance. The Ranchu, being a short tail fish without the dorsal fin, is likened to a boat without sail and having short oars. Hence, it is important to have a strong peduncle to propel the fish's movement and a good tail structure to maneuver the fish with ease.

Keeping balance is a great challenge for
the Ranchu. The shape of its side view profile also contributes to its overall balance as it "cuts" through the water like an aerodynamic profile in a wind tunnel.

I have also observed that the orientation of the anal fins would affect the Ranchu's balance. Imagine a boat with a rudder bent to one side, it will not move straight given a straight forward push. Maybe that is the reason why the Japanese use the term "rudder" fins for the anal fins. In contrast, a goldfish with longer fin features is analogous to a boat with sail and bigger oars, any problem with balance would be easier to be mitigated with its bigger and more powerful fins.

Unlike a boat, the challenge posed to the Ranchu hobbyist is that a Ranchu is forever changing! As a Ranchu grows, it is constantly changing its width, length, weight and side view profile which all affects the swimming aesthetics and balance. The Ranchu breeder's quest to create a good bloodline of Ranchu with good structure for a beautiful swimmer is very much like the engineer's research on the type of structure, design and material to create a good boat, However, the development of a Ranchu does not stop there - the Ranchu hobbyist has to continuously balance the features of the Ranchu by carefully influencing the Ranchu's growth rate and its environment.

To add another level of challenge to the TVR hobby, the Japanese standard of a rectangular shaped dragon-head funtan and wide open tail are all against the design principles of an efficient swimmer! How can one design a beautiful boat with an almost flat bow and wide stern that glides effortlessly with balance? It is no wonder that the Japanese says that "A Ranchu is made". The making of a good TVR is indeed, both an art and an engineering feat!

Some self bred Tosai 2009.

Monday, June 22, 2009


The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.
~William Faulkner

5 minute Crown Pearlscale: One hot afternoon inspiration
"皇冠 5分鐘" : 一個炎熱的午間靈感


畫金魚其實也並非易事。因為它不是靜物﹔而是活靈活現的水中精靈! 生物畫家得長期觀察生物題材﹐才能在畫作上表達其動感與神彩。已故大畫家陳文希博士最擅長的題材之一便是長臂猿 (您可在每張新加坡的50元大鈔上看到陳博士的成名長臂猿印畫)。陳博士為了畫好長臂猿而經常到新加坡動物園寫生﹐長年累月的細心觀察長臂猿的一舉一動﹐使畫作步入化境而名楊畫界!

同樣的﹐要畫好金魚﹐就得深刻的了解金魚。觀察各種金魚品系的特徵與其婀娜多姿的泳姿﹐才能體會金魚的動感之美﹐從而使金魚畫作更具生動。藝術領域是學無止境的, 我自愧還有很多需要學習與進步的地方﹐如描繪比較有挑戰性的角度﹐捕捉金魚各種姿勢的動態美。是以﹐每年幾個月非繁殖季節的業余時間里﹐我都積極的參考有關金魚書籍與相片﹐嘗試以不同的風格容入金魚的畫作。

俗語說:"畫虎畫皮難畫骨﹔知人知面不知心"。這些年來﹐飼養金魚的嗜好讓我體會到結交一名好友﹐比巧得一尾好魚更為可貴! 就算獲得成千上萬的好魚﹐沒有知交魚友一同品評鑒賞也是枉然﹗可悲的是﹐我熱愛的金魚嗜好﹐也讓我意識到人心險惡的一面。為魚為名為利出賣朋友﹐出賣人格﹐造謠生事﹐背信棄義的人在金魚界里比比皆是。他們的言行舉止在這象征友誼和平的金魚嗜好里﹐相對矛盾格格不入! 所幸的是﹐我也因金魚而結識了不少各行各業的尊師摯友一同分享我的"魚樂世界"。我的日子永不枯燥﹐因為有好多好友同我分享美妙的金魚世界!


Drawing goldfish is easy because we can vary the various features of the goldfish to a great degree of our imagination. Unlike most tropical fishes and marine fishes with uniform features across the same variety, all goldfish are unique even within the same variety and same brood of siblings. Their colours, shapes, body proportions, head and finnage proportions are all variables!

My life-long passions ~
painting and breeding Goldfish

生平兩大愛好: 畫金魚與繁殖金魚

Drawing goldfish is difficult because it is everything other than still life. Artists specialised in a living subjects usually take years to study their subjects in order to portray them well. The late Grand Master Artist Dr. Chen Wen Xi specialised in the gibbon (you can see his masterpiece printed in every $50 Singapore currency). Master Chen visited the Singapore Zoological Gardens frequently to observe their behaviour. When the artists feel the subjects in their souls, the fluidity can then be expressed spontaneously from their works. Hence, to excel in drawing goldfish, the best way is to keep goldfish and study them in great detail. There is no ending journey in art and I am still striving to be proficient in drawing goldfish in all composure to depict the beauty of their dynamism.

There is a Chinese proverb: “it is easier to draw a tiger’s skin than to illustrate its bone’s” (畫虎畫皮難畫骨). The companion phrase to this proverb is the cruel cynical truth of life: “it is easier to know a man’s face than to understand his heart” (知人知面不知心). Through the goldfish hobby, I have benefited from the true spirit of friendship and get to know some of my best friends and mentors in my life. Ironically, I have also witnessed and experienced some of the worst examples of greed and betrayal. Nevertheless, I am very fortunate that I have many good friends to walk my life journey with the goldfish.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Othello Dragon Eye Pearlscales 『オテロ』 出目パール!


Black cat, white cat - the one that catches mice is a good cat.
~ Deng Xiaoping

Othello 黑白配
Last weekend, I was elated to discover a few jet black Dragon Eye Pearlscales amongst the batch of majority grayish-green fries. Finally, after 4 years, I got the black colour that I wished for in my Dragon Eye Pearlscales! Black fishes process a mystic charisma that never fails to captivate me.

This particular sub-line of black Dragon Eye Pearlscales is derived from a stable bloodline of Chinese Short Tail Dragon Eyes, a strain that has very stable black and capable of achieving a good size. I hope that there are both sexes in the few precious specimens and their black colour would not fade to orange eventually. If I am lucky, I should have more black fishes in the next breeding season.

Pearl-fection ~ my favourite Crown
Pearlscale bred in 2003

03 年繁殖的黑皇冠珍珠

Breeding livestock is like juggling - if we become too focus on one feature, we may risk losing another feature. Luck also plays a part because there is always a limited number of combination that the breeder can attempt.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Simple Joys 曾經滄海難為水?

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.
~ Author Unknown

The Aquarama has always been enjoyable, meeting old friends and making new friends. The Internet has made the world so small that it has become a norm for breeders and hobbyists from different geographical regions to compete their fishes in regional shows. As the old adage goes : "competition is the best way for improvement", the development of new goldfish varieties and improvement of existing goldfish strains have escalated to an unprecedented level in recent years.

The aftermath of this Aquarama also left me with many things to ponder upon. Winning with one of my Dragon Eye Pearlscales motivates me to improve this new-breed of goldfish for future competitions. The next 2 years I will be focusing mainly on stabilizing the traits and strengthening on desired features. I am quite excited about the next generation of fries which will be keeping me occupied at least till the end of the year.

For my TVR breeding, I only manage a few so-so fishes after months of hard work. The main problems with TVR this year are the low fertility rate and the high casualty rates. The technique employed with TVR requires keeping them in very shallow water. Shallow water has less dissolved oxygen (DO), pollutes faster and reacts faster to temperature variations. The crazy weather conditions in Singapore this year also aggravates the situation of high TVR casualties. In contrast, I had my Pearlscales spawned in the same period as the TVR and kept in deeper waters without any casualties.

As a breeder, I aim to breed a consistent line of good fishes rather than be contented with the random luck of producing a few good fishes from tens of thousands. How can I improve on my bloodline of TVR to achieve higher yield of show grade fishes? I think I would first need to appraise my current technique of keeping seed fishes so as to improve the egg quality for next year. I would also need to refine my technique of reducing sickness of TVR in our warm tropical weather. Maybe I should even consider out-crossing to a new line of TVR from Japan.

Through all these reflections, I came to realize the things I have been focusing on all these years are mainly about goldfish competition - competing in the Aquarama , the MY Fancy Goldfish Competition (MFGC) and the Ōzeki Annual Ranchu Show. All the fishes I breed and groom are either for seed fishes or for the purpose of competition. Sometimes, I wonder how I had lost the simplest joy of appreciating a goldfish when I was much less experience. No longer can I admire a common grade goldfish like children in the aquarium shop. I have become too critical and picky that not many fish could catch my attention and make me happy.

BTW, I found some free time to sort out the Aquarama photographs to update the Vermillion Goldfish Club website. No wonder my family says that it doesn’t matter if I am free or busy because I am always with my goldfish. I better reflect on this too :P

1) Alvin interviewed by the Canadian crew from a ornamental fish magazine.
2) One of my tosai bred this year... would need to work harder on the wen growth.
3) The Dragon Eye Pearlscale that didn't showcase in Aquarama - it spawn right on bench-in day :(

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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