Sunday, December 1, 2013

How You Wana Play? ~ 你想怎麼玩?

We're all in the same game, just different levels. Dealing with the same hell, just different devils.

A long hiatus from blogging to take care of some very important stuff both at work and at home. Fortunately, things have worked out fine after a few months of hard work. In the course of which, I was compelled to make some time sacrifices from the hobby and that inspired the current post about different perspectives of playing this game. 

Never have I craved for those beautiful and fantastic cars like the Ferrari or the Lamborghini. I mean, I appreciate the beauty and the ingenious engineering of these performance cars. Besides, I can't afford one and I am also a bit of a tacophobia, the fact is, I really am more than happy to own a simple and low maintenance car that I can commute from point A to B. 

In the context of a car, I am a complete newbie and chose not to be bothered with its engineering or inner workings. Though I have never washed my own car, I have never missed any service schedule because I value safety on the road.

Tosai bred this year, one of the
important seed females
for next year
In the context of fish keeping, I am everything a serious hands-on hobbyist, interested to know all about them: how to make them more beautiful, how to groom them for competition and how to breed them well. While people also keep fishes for various reasons, some would go for the Fengshui (geomancy) aspect but even for most who really love them would be happy to settle for some simple setup that they can maintain easily; not many people would like to spare the time and effort to do what I am doing for the hobby. It is just different levels of play based on personal preferences and priorities. 

No matter what level of play, hobbyists should adapt fish keeping to their lifestyles and not to unduly stress the fishes or themselves. After all, a hobby is where one can feel relax and enjoy. Not everyone needs a competition grade goldfish to enjoy the hobby just as not everyone needs a Ferrari. Besides, there are too many traffic lights in Singapore to really appreciate the real power of this beautiful masterpiece... but, I digress ;-) 

It's time to beef up the Ranchus again for the Ranchu breeding season. This would be my 10th consecutive year of breeding the Japanese Ranchu. Though I have still a lot to learn and improve upon, I feel proud that I have persisted and never looked back since. 

For me, it is all out for the things that I want to do.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Quality vs Quantity ~ 質量與數量

質量是: 當沒人注視時,你做了什麼 ?

Quality is what you do when no one is looking.

~ Henry Ford

Finally, I am relieved from some domestic affairs that kept me preoccupied in recent months. For now, I am busy with picking up what I had neglected in my job. Nonetheless, it's great that I have a more carefree time whenever I am with my fishes and not to worry about what matters more than my fishes - my family.

The yield of the Pearlscale spawn this year is much better than last year's and I will soon be segregating them by gender, making breeding plans for the best seed fishes. Comparatively, the big spawn of TVR in August has rather low yield and I have culled away most of them.
I think I have a better feel of selecting seed fishes for the Pearlscale than with the TVR. The correct seed pairing is the way to achieve many good fishes with a relatively small spawn size.

Anyway, there is always something to learn from a good or a bad spawn. Somehow, I came to expect that the good things in life are seldom in great abundance ;-)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dumb Ways To Die ~ 笨死法

Happiness is nothing more than good health
and a bad memory.

~ Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965)

The other day my son shared with me the video of "Dumb Ways To Die" and I had the instant inspiration to write my next blog post. Through the years keeping goldfish, I have collated a list of silly "fatal errors" by hobbyists that caused the lives of their beloved goldfish. Frankly, I was also a proud contributor of some of these "mis-happenings" :-P

~ forgot anti-chlorine

~ forgot air tube

~ forgot power shutdown schedule

~ water overflow overnight

~ pump sucks water dry

~ faulty heater cooked fish

~ capillary action drained out water

~ watching TV while doing 2% salt dip

~ never quarantine

~ mixed new fishes to current collection directly

~ un-sterilized livefeeds

~ expired food

~ overstocking

~ overfeeding

~ netting the fishes after their full meal

~ adding in different medications, hoping one will work

~ adding salt into tank with zeolite filter media

~ overstretched water change schedule

~ overdosed medication

~ overdosed salt

~ never buffer water

~ incompatible tankmates e.g. pleco prefers slime coat to algae

As I drafted this post, someone dear to me also got the inspiration to compile the dumb ways with which I could have died one day:

~ Sleeping 4 to 5 hours per day during spawning season

~ Rushing almost everyday between hobby and job

~ Culling fishes into the wee hours of the night

~ Skipping lunch to check out the fishes at home

~ Water change in the outdoors under direct afternoon sun or thunderstorm

~ Prolong exposure to chemicals doing quarantine

can't help it :-P 

I am currently tending to two spawns of Pearlscales since last month and 1 spawn of Ranchu on 9th August, Singapore's National Day.

What's the problem with a dumb but happy life?  ;-)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Pinch of Salt ~ 一把鹽

~ 阿福  (以往香港金魚街風水

A handful of salt solved the problem!
~ Ah Fok - ex-owner of a LFS specialized in goldfish in Hong Kong's Goldfish Street

Rock Salt
Many times that I have shared about salt treatment with fellow goldfish hobbyists, that it would be better to document it here for easier reference. Please note that this article pertains to goldfish only. You should consult relevant information about salt concentration and treatment for other ornamental fishes.

Salt (sodium chloride) is a cheap and effective first-line combat against many parasites. The correct concentration of salt is very crucial: too little would be ineffective and too much may kill your goldfish together with the parasites.

It should be noted that some parasites may be resilient to salt and that salt is also not a remedy for fungal or bacteria infection. Salt should not be used as a long term water conditioner - Do we take paracetamol everyday even if we do not have a headache?

There are 2 concentrations of salt of particular importance to goldfish keeping:

~ 2% salt dip (20 grams of salt per litre) - used for short (a.k.a 'shock') dip to kill microscopic parasites like gill and body flukes.
~ 0.5% salt treatment (5 grams of salt per litre) - used for short term acclimatizing and treatment of goldfish during quarantine stage. 

How to measure salt concentration (salinity):

By weight:
- using a kitchen scale, 0.5% salt is 5 grams/litre and 2% salt is 20 grams/litre.

By a Refractometer:
- an easy and accurate way to measure salinity is using the optical instrument known as the refractometer.
- sample 3 drops of water onto the optical surface and close the lead. Look through the eye piece against a light source to see the readings.
- Depending on the model of the refractometer. Use the  (or per-mille) scale on the right hand side and refer to the following picture for readings on 0.5% and 2% salinity highlighted in red.
- Please note that 1‰ = 0.1% and read accompanying instructions of the refractometer for proper usage and calibration.

A Refractometer

Salt as a treatment for parasites:
In goldfish, a very common parasite is the gill flukes (microscopic parasites) and most of them could be eradicated with a few cycles of 2% salt dip followed by 0.5% salt treatment.

Salt as a therapeutic agent:

The 0.5% salinity is a very important concentration use in therapeutic treatment because the blood salinity of many vertebrates are close to 0.5%. Incidentally, salt soothes the goldfish by improving gill functions and reducing osmotic pressure. It also aides in the healing of wounds and induces a healthy slime coating. In this concentration, besides calming the fishes, it is effective against the eggs and further propagation of many parasites. As salt is rather inert against most other commercial medications, it can be safely added to most anti-bacterial and anti-fungal medications. The best practice when using salt concurrently with another drug is to consult expert advises or documentation first (for example, it is widely believed that salt should never be used together with formalin or potassium permanganate, mainly due to the dyhyrating/oxidising properties of these drugs which deplete the already reduced dissolved oxygen in salt treated water).
Salt is indispensable for the Ranchu
~ A local bred TVR 2013

Salt as an acclimatizer when mixing fishes:

When introducing new goldfish to your current collection, even if the new fishes are fully quarantined, extreme caution must be observed to acclimatize the 2 groups together. This is because goldfish from different tanks/ponds are hosts to their residential pathogens found in their habitats. Crossed contamination when they are mixed together triggered an onslaught of new pathogens that their body immune system may not be prepared to counter react. The story of how an introduction of new fishes managed to wiped out the whole community in days is all too familiar. In many cases, either the existing community or the new fishes survived, depending on which pathogen is "stronger".

Just like the common flu bug that is always present in healthy humans, healthy fishes would still be hosting some pathogens. These pathogens exist in equilibrium with the immune system of the host body. Paradoxically, it keeps the fishes healthy by having a busy and active immune system. However, an outbreak can be triggered when the host is excessively stressed or weakened due to external factors, like poor water quality or the introduction of new fishes.

The objective of a proper fish mixing regime aims to eradicate as much of these flukes and weaken their effects so that both communities of fishes can gradually acclimatize to each others' presence.

A salt dip demonstration

Salt dip procedure:

If the goldfish is reasonably big and that you are confident, gently ply open its gill plate a little to look at its gills. The gills should be blood red and that the gill filaments are full and healthy, not dull red, pink or whitish. Those with pink or dull coloured gills should be treated with anti-bacteria gill medications. 

1) Change 80% to 90% of the water in the pond/tank and add in new dechlorinated water. 

2) Use rock salt (please do not use the table salt) to dose the tank with 0.5% salinity (make sure all the salt are melted before taking the readings).

3) Prepare a small container of dechlorinated water with 2% salt solution. If the container is big, you may perform the salt dip for more fishes at the same time, otherwise, you can do it one at a time.

4) Dip all the new and current fishes in your collection that you wish to mix together in the small container of 2% salinity solution from 3 to 5 minutes. The fishes will struggle and may even float sideways and grasp for air. If you are new to this and not so confident yet, you may perform shorter dips in a few intervals.

Routine salt bath also keeps older
fishes healthy, like this pair of 2.5 years old
5) Take out the fish and let them recuperate in a small bowl of clean dechlorinated water for 5 minutes and than transfer it back to their habitat pond/tank that was previously dosed with 0.5% salinity.

6) In this period, do very light feeding and monitor that all the fishes are active. If a water change is needed, re-dose the new water to 0.5% salinity.

7) Repeat steps 4) to 6) on the 4th day, 8th day and 12th day to rid of the adult and larvae flukes that hatch approximately every 3 to 4 days.

If you have lasted through to this part of the article, I am glad that my effort to share has paid off. As with the old adage that we should take things we hear with a pinch of salt, the best way is still to try it out yourself ;-))

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Real & Imaginary ~ 真實與想象

~ 畢加索

Everything you can imagine is real.
~ Pablo Picasso

Master Huang's Zisha clay figuring and my real creation

The aftermath of Aquarama left me with backlogs of work. Garnering whatever free time in these few weeks, I finally managed to sort out the photographs and updated the Vermillion Goldfish Club's website of Aquarama 2013 and the club's 10th Year Anniversary.

Master Huang at work
I am very honoured to know Master Huang, a good friend from Beijing - China, and one of the Aquarama Goldfish judges whom I first met in the 2012 Inaugural World Goldfish Competition. Master Huang impressed me as one with great passion in Goldfish breeding and conservation, he is also artistically inclined and devoted to put his life skills to the Goldfish hobby.

Though I had not shown Master Huang a life specimen of my new Pearlscale variety, he had crafted my dream fish out of "Zisha" (紫砂) clay, based entirely on his imagination. Remarkably, the figuring epitomized much of my dream fish's configuration and provided such a wonderful comparison with a real fish that I bred last year - a jet black Pompom Dragon Eyes Pearlscale. This is just one of the very few fishes that I hope to propagate more of such in the years ahead.

If you are interested in the Zisha figuring of any variety of Goldfish made by Master Huang, you can email me for enquiries and orders. Each Zisha figuring is unique and handmade, and complete with refine packaging in a traditional bamboo box. You may peruse more of Master Huang's creation in the following links:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Golden Decade ~ 萬龍十載


I love things that age well - things that don't date, that stand the test of time and that become living examples of the absolute best.

~ Giorgio Armani

My painting for the Vermillion Goldfish Club 10th
Anniversary Book
2013 has been a good Ranchu breeding year sharing and learning with some very good hobbyist friends. To add to my joy, this year is also the Vermillion Goldfish Club's 10th Year Anniversary. I am relieved to have completed a painting in time to commemorate this great moment in conjunction with the Aquarama 2013 and the launch of the Vermillion Goldfish Club decade book ~ The Golden Decade.

I feel very honoured to be part of a group of dedicated goldfish hobbyists in the Vermillion Goldfish Club. The club has done Singapore proud in the world wide goldfish community, helping to set up best practices and standards in the Aquarama goldfish competition as well as forging alliances with goldfish hobbyists and breeders locally and abroad..

Vermillion Goldfish Club members discussing
about Ranchu appreciation in our outdoor haven.
circa 2005
Forming an interest group or a club is not that difficult actually; the real challenge is standing together through thick and thin in a decade of good cohesion, mutual trust, great teamwork and true friendship ;-)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Customised Grooming ~ 定制培育

子曰: 因材施教。

Grooming in accordance to one's calibre.
~ Confucius

Every Ranchu is unique and merits detail study on how to groom each to the best of its potential. Besides structural differences, each fish has its own character and charisma. Some fishes developed slower and blossomed only later in their Nisai and Oya stages, while some emanates outstanding beauty even as a young Tosai.

Development rate of differs between Ranchus

Varying techniques to "tune" different Ranchu in various stages of their development is a challenging and interesting aspect of the art. It is a dynamic game of patience and control involving much creativity and intuition.

Training to make Ranchu indifference to human presence

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Who's the boss? ~ 誰是老闆?

A funny story many should have come across...

One day, all the parts of the body argued over who would be boss.

Check on balance when pushing for growth
One of spawn C, 2013
picture taken this morning
The brain explained that since he controlled all parts of the body, he should be boss.

The legs argued that since they took the man wherever he wanted to go, they should be boss.

The stomach countered with the explanation that since he digested all of the food, he should be boss.

The eyes said that without them, man would be helpless, so they should be boss.

Then the asshole applied for the job.

The other parts of the body laughed that hard that the asshole became mad and closed up.

After a few days the brain went foggy, the legs went wobbly, the stomach got ill, the eyes crossed and were unable to see.

They all conceded and made the asshole boss.

So the motion was passed. All the others parts did all the work while the Boss just sat and passed out the shit.

This proves that you don't have to be a brain to be boss......

A female Ranchu showing signs of bloating
and egg engorgement.
It is such a joy to pamper our ever hungry goldfish with food and forget about the most important factor after food intake - digestion. A constipated animal with too much toxins accumulated in the body over time is definitely not a healthy animal. 

Goldfish does not have a stomach and thus, they cannot store their food for digestion. If fed too much, most of the undigested food will pass out together with their faeces through their long intestinal tracks. To aid digestion, food has to be broken into smaller pieces by a set of teeth located at the back of their throats. Without feeding them more food than necessary in every feed, goldfish will resort to scavenging for these undigested food in their waste and it may take up to 3 "poo-eating" cycles before all the unprocessed food are completely devoured.

In the tropical climate where the water is warm, the metabolism of the goldfish is high but food also turns foul rapidly. A constipated fish becomes bloated from the gases produced by fermented food in their intestines. To aggravate the situation, the rounder and shorter bodied fancy varieties usually have more problems with constipation as their intestines are cramped in a much smaller area. Allowing a suitable interval in between feeding times for food to be digested minimise the risk of constipation. It also encourages the goldfish to exercise as they scavenged for more food. In a way, it also reduces food wastage and helps to prolong the quality of the water. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fool's Day ~ 愚人節

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. 
~ Chinese Proverb

What an April Fool's Day on a Monday! Checking out some of my Ranchus before setting off to work. Transfixed by these hungry Ranchus swimming happily... What Monday blues?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ranchu Finesse ~ 蘭壽謙禮

Experience is what allows us to repeat our mistakes, only with more finesse!

~ Jessamyn West

Blessed with a cooler weather in the beginning of this year, I was able to spawn all the Ranchu seed-pair combinations according to plan. This year's Ranchu breeding has been my personal best so far. Having more spawns, I kept only a few of the better spawns within the capacity that I can manage. 

In fact, with greater improvements this year, I became more worried if I could repeat the same feat for the subsequent years. Breeding Ranchu for 10 consecutive years do make me more confident, but it also taught me to be humble, for the Ranchu never fails to impart a nasty lesson if one become lax and complacent. 

Spawn C as video on 12th March

Every Ranchu spawning season, all the Ranchu breeders in Japan, even the very experienced Ranchu Masters, starts with a clean slate. Ranchu breeding is like live sculpturing, every stage of a BBR's development requires meticulous attention; one wrong cut and the artwork may be fouled beyond repair. Besides having good skills and bloodline,  there are factors that the breeders can't control, like the weather and whether their best seed fishes will spawn successfully every year. 

After the BBR stage, the young Ranchu's structure are more stable but how they turn out would still very much depends on the owner. It is emphasized by some Japanese Ranchu Masters that to make good Ranchu, 30% is nature (bloodline) and 70% is nurture (owner's skill). Experience hobbyists would not jump to conclusions about the quality of their Ranchu as it changes everyday. A plain looking fish will develop beautifully if given good care; similarly, acquiring a prize winning fish does not mean it would win in every competition as it will deteriorate in the wrong hands. 

Some of spawn C taken on 17 March, always amazed by
their rate of growth and change

Different Ranchu bloodlines also have their merits and demerits and different breeders have their preferences and styles. There is another consensus in the Japanese Ranchu circle : "got the head but not the tail; got the tail but not the head". Nature's Law of Conservation is about balances and trade-offs and no respectable Ranchu keeper can claim that they have the best bloodline or Ranchus.

The art of Ranchu is also about the virtue of respect. As a breeder myself, I have a tacit respect for all serious Ranchu breeders because I feel for the blood and sweat in making every Ranchu. Though there are Ranchu politics in every part of the world and different clubs and groups may have certain degrees of contention, the orthodox Ranchu etiquette expects good finesse and mutual respect among Ranchu hobbyists in public. 

Some of Spawn E, cousin line of Spawn C

One of the bigger fish in spawn C,
head and torso are OK to me but
having a simpler tail configuration.
My BBRs are changing to their adult colour now. Their head wen and funtan have shown signs of development at this stage. A Ranchu that has not develop head growth after colour change will be more challenging to build on good head growth in later part of its life. On the other hand, if head growth is not controlled and excessive, they become "big heads" and grown out of proportion, sometimes when the head (wen) grew too big, it covers the eyes and "blinded" the Ranchu - definitely a big minus for its aesthetics and decorum. 

Going through my recordings in this blog, not every year is smooth sailing. Even when we are most prepared, things could happen otherwise as life has always been unpredictable - not everyday is Sunday :)

Let's all focus on good finesse and just let our fishes do the talking. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Birds of a Feather ~ 同羽鳥

It is better to be alone, than in the wrong company.
~ George Washington

Most people are enchanted by more than one variety of Goldfish, and naturally it is common for hobbyists to ask if they could mix other varieties of Goldfish with their Ranchus. 

Though all the Goldfish varieties are mutated from the crucian carp, they have over centuries of selective breeding, evolved both in physical and behavioural traits distinct from one other. For example, the Oranda and Ryukin are fast swimmers and requires a rather aggressive feeding regime in order to grow the body depth and the muscular hump, while most of the short tail varieties are slow swimmers with lower metabolic rate that does not require such an aggressive feeding regime compared to the Oranda or the Ryukin.

In a habitat endowed with ample food and space, different Goldfish varieties may strive peacefully, but when there is any imbalance, the more regal varieties will loose out in the competition. In the very extreme cases, cannibalism may prevail. Moreover, different varieties require different techniques of grooming and may not be well suited to co-exist in the same habitat.

Thus, it is important to consider what varieties of Goldfish you would mix with your current collection: the slower and more regal varieties like the Pearlscale, Dragon Eyes Butterfly and Ranchu may be kept together while the Ryukins are best to be kept only with other Ryukins. Notwithstanding this, each Goldfish has its own character and in fact, we just need one "bad egg" to screw up the whole harmony of the group :D

For me, I just feel so happy and serene watching a school of cute baby Ranchus swimming and hunting for food :)) 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Contingency ~ 後備


What is deferred is not avoided. 

― Thomas Moore

Auspicious Goldfish decorations
for the Lunar New Year
Since the beginning of the year, I have collected a few more TVR spawns, thanks to the onslaught of alternating rainy days and warm days which drove the Ranchus' libidos gaga. I am now trying to delay the spawning till after the Lunar New Year and as far as possible for the females to accumulate more eggs. There is still another few more combinations that I hope to try out before wrapping up TVR breeding for the year.

The supply of daphnia this year has been unpredictable, and I was forced to activate plan B - the baby brine shrimp (BBS) alternative that I have been deferring for years. The main reasons for not trying out the BBS sooner is my reluctance to mess up my home further and that preparing brine shrimp eggs for hatching every day also eats into my already meagre hours of sleep time. Heck! what to do with so many mouths waiting to be fed?

Some of spawn A, photo taken
when they were one month old.

Improvised beer dispenser
as BBS hatching gadget 
Thanks to Richard who shared his experiences to hatch brine shrimps, I have gotten a good hang of it. The BBS will be my backup plan when I cannot acquire enough daphnia for the baby fishes. I am no longer worried about the supply of daphnia during the critical stages of BBR development, and I can continue to push the BBRs to grow in the few days of Lunar New Year holidays where there are no supply of live daphnia. 

In this blog post, I would also like to wish my readers: A Very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous Lunar New Year!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Year, New Beginning ~ 新的一年,新的開始


The greatest pleasure in life is doing what other people say you cannot.
~ Walter Bagehot

A couple of the better ones
Finally I have completed most of the work of revamping the Oozeki Ranchu Club website to an all-new look-and-feel. For some of you who had enquired, I am sorry for the delay, the updates of the OARS are in place now.

Some updates:

My 3-month-old pearlies are 7cm to 8 cm long. They don't need a lot of my attention now that they are accustomed to bigger pellet food. I am glad that there are more fishes converging to my desired specifications. Pearl-like scaling for some of the better fishes has extended all the way to the peduncle joint.

Some seed fishes this year
I had a few small spawns of TVR so far. The latest spawn was just four days ago while the first spawn was on 27th December 2012. Strictly speaking, by the Japanese classification, the fries in the first spawn should be Nisai this year as they were spawned last Year. What a way to lose their childhood like this :(

Gosh! These are
my Nisai!
The weather seems to take a 180 degree turnaround to be very warm and humid. Probably I could only expect bigger spawns in the later part of February. It maybe difficult to spawn the TVR, but this is the challenge that makes the problem even more interesting to overcome.

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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