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Friday, May 31, 2013

The Bristol shubunkin: A (UK) national treasure

The Bristol shubunkin: A national treasure

Copyright © Practical Fishkeeping
Jeremy Gay highlights a goldfish which can truly be called England’s glory — our very own Bristol shubunkin.
Get into goldfish and sooner or later someone will tell you that the best Ryukin come from China, or the best Ranchu are from Japan. However, if you want world-class goldfish look no further than the UK.
For here in England we have our own breeds, strains and standards, like fantails, veiltails — and the beautiful Bristol shubunkin.
Put simply, a Shubunkin as we know it is a single-tail Calico goldfish and examples are sold up and down the country as popular pond fish. Speak to an English goldfish aficionado, however, and those aren’t Shubunkins, merely Calico comets.
The British goldfish societies recognise two types of Shubunkin: the London, which is a short tailed, stocky fish, and the Bristol, which has flowing fins and a very characteristic rounded, tail.

Like all goldfish the Shubunkin has its origins in the Far East, namely Japan. It started life as a Calico, also known as nacreous, goldfish.
The Americans are thought to have given it the long Comet-type tail and then we Brits, namely members of the Bristol Aquarist Society, bred them and produced their own breed standard.
More than 100 years later we have created the world’s finest Shubunkins and highly priced exports are sent all over the world.
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that in China, for example, high water temperatures prevent breeders there being able to produce fish with that special rounded tail — so numbers of Bristol shubunkin remain low worldwide compared to other fancy breeds.
Buy a Bristol shubunkin from a British breeder and you will be tapping into those proud and original Bristol bloodlines.

Pond size
Single-tail goldfish can grow to more than 30cm/12” in length, putting them beyond the scope of most aquaria and necessitating an outside pond as a long-term home. Bristols don’t tend to grow quite that large, although they are active and will be best in the largest home you can give them.

Breed standards
If you want to show your fish in the UK it must adhere to certain breed standards. Any show potential Bristol shubunkin needs:
  • A depth of body between 3/7ths (43%) and 3/8ths (38%) that of its body length.
  • Pectoral and pelvic fins to be paired, dorsal and anal fins single.
  • Caudal fin to be single and well spread with rounded contours.
  • Body to be smooth, not angular.
  • At least 25% of the body to be a blue colour.
  • Minimum body length to be 7.5cm/3”.
These specifications are from Bristol Aquarist's Society, which stresses that only Calico fish must be shown.
Such fish should be bright and alert with the caudal fin carried high without drooping or overlapping. The body should be long and slender with a smooth outline. Quality fish will have a high colour intensity with the pigment extending into the fins.
A show fish will have a blue background with patches of violet, red, orange, yellow and brown, spotted with black.
Shubunkins are as easy to feed as any other goldfish — readily accepting flake foods, pellets, granules, frozen and live.
Being single-tail goldfish with slim body profiles they don’t suffer from the swimbladder disorders like the fatter fancies, so floating flake and pellets are fine.
As for any goldfish a varied diet is best, combining lots of algae-based foods and vegetable matter with treats like chopped earthworm and bloodworm. Newly-hatched fry should be fed on brineshrimp nauplii.

Leave a group of Bristol shubunkins alone in a pond, with good food, good water and seasonal temperature fluctuations, and they will readily spawn.
Females become plump in the belly, with smaller, slimmer amorous males frantically chasing them, especially in the mornings.
When water temperatures reach 18°C/64°F or more males seek to wedge a female in some marginal plant roots in the shallows, in some filamentous algae, or some oxygenating plants. The exertion in trying to wriggle free will be enough to release her eggs and the males will then dive in next to her and release sperm.
You can spawn Bristol shubunkins artificially too, raising as many eggs as you can under controlled conditions. Most people use a glass tank, or small pond vat, and introduce two males to one female, with clean, wool spawning mops.
If there’s morning sunshine the fish should do it all for you and the parents can be removed at noon.
Experts may hand strip parent fish, using skilled fingers to massage eggs and sperm from each parent fish into a bowl.

Preparing to show
If you manage to breed them or condition them into glorious adulthood, you could show them. It’s a bit like entering a village fete cake competition or showing off your prize vegetables...
It’s also cheap and those involved in showing are always accommodating. As in any competition there will be those who have spent a lifetime perfecting their entrants and take shows very seriously — but there will also be those more than happy to show you how to bench a fish and maybe win a prize!
Where can I buy these fish?
Bristols are rarely for sale in the shops, but juveniles are usually for sale in the auctions at any goldfish society meeting. You can either join, or just visit for the day.
Failing that, contact one of the societies, stressing that you are looking for Bristol shubunkins. Star Fisheries usually sells them all year round.
A detailed profile of the Bristol shubunkin is available on the Bristol Aquarist's Society website — this is the very club that actually created the variety!
You may pick up young fish for as little as £5 each at auction, though they will vary in quality and breeders will always keep the best for themselves.
You may have to pay £75 for a decent pair, or even £50 each for quality fish. Metallic bronze coloured or colourless fish, known as pinks, are worthless, regardless of tail shape.

5 things you didn’t know about Shubunkins
  • They develop more black coloration with age.
  • Shop bought shubunkins are actually Calico comets.
  • A drooping tail in a Bristol shubunkin is deemed a fault in the fish. 
  • Shubunkins should incorporate seven colours, including black.
  • Bristol shubunkins are called sierironisiki in Japan, in reference to that fan-shaped tail.
Why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.

Published: Jeremy Gay Monday 27 May 2013, 4:51 pm
Views: 944 times

Thursday, May 30, 2013

MerLion Arowana Blog 13 - Ranchu Journey V - Judging Ranchu

MerLion Arowana Blog 13 - Ranchu Journey V - Judging Ranchu  

  • During my ranchu-crazy day...I would scour everywhere...hunting for information that would increase my knowledge on ranchu. Simply, because no one could really provide me with an "A-Z" knowledge on ranchu. It was frustrating! It was like I knew the "width" about ranchu through learning from the many ranchu breeders...but not the "depth" about ranchu. 

    However, my thirst was quenched when I chanced upon this book by Yushio Wantanabe San. In it, he has clearly defined how to judge and how to appreciate the ranchu. This formed a basic criteria for any ranchu breeder to follow when considering the final outcome of his breeding effort.

    This book has not only touched on ranchu but also many other goldfish varieties. I believe, for many ranchu maniac like me, we are attracted to many other varieties of goldfish too. To me, this was the best goldfish book among the many other books that I have bought.

    However, the book focus was only on Japanese bred goldfish and has not included the goldfish bred in Thailand and China. These two other countries have numerous avid goldfish fans too. If there is a  book on Thailand and China goldish that can provide similar topics as this book has, it will greatly enhance the knowlege of those hobbyists. At the sametime, provides an overall view of the world goldfish hobby/industry. Maybe, someday I will do it??

    Abstracted from the book...


    The Buffalohead develops the Wen on its head and has no dorsal find and is oftern called the "King of Goldfish".

    (a) Head

    The Wen of the Buffalohead is the result of a thickening of the skin on its head, gill cover and around its eyes. The fish that has equal thickening on these three areas can exactly be called a "Lionhead". The species with the well developed Wen and well balanced face and head is considered good.

    (b) Back and Caudal Penduncle

    The back should be wide and smoothly curved when viewed from the side; when seen from the front it should swell equally right and left. The Caudal Penduncle should be thick and be in the correct position.
    The tail should be attached to its Caudal Penduncle at an angle of about 45 degrees and should neither droop nor stand erect. As for the length of the tail, the shorter the better. While swimming, the lower part of the Caudaul fin flutters but when the fish stop swimming, the tail still shows its whole shape. This variety of Goldfish has either Triple Tail or Quandruple Tail but in both the shape should should be bisymmetrical so that the fish can swim smoothly.

    (c) Scales

    Generally, the scales of the fish should be lined reguarly. Although some enthusiasts believeit is better to have some variation in the arrangement of the scales and this is an important point for evaluation.

    (d) Colour
    The body colour of the Buffalohead shoud be red and white.

    - Japan Baffalohead Association

    Article 1.              

    In judging, special attention should be paid to the following: -

    1. There should be a good balance between the head, body and tail.
    2. The fish should be large and strong.
    3. The scales should be lined neatly and regularly without confusion. Each of the scales should be as small as possible; their colour should be deep and golden with a healthy appearance whether the body colour is red, white or red and white.
    4. The fish should maintain its aristocratic dignity.
    5. The fish should swim gracefully as well as lightly fluttering its tail. There should be no jerk to its movement.

    Article 2.

    How to evaluate each area of the body:-

    1. Head – The fish should have a wide space between the eyes and have also a wide space between the eye and the mouth. It can have various types of Wen referred as “Tokin (Helmet Gold)” and “Tatsugashira (Dragon Head)”.
    2. Back – The back should be wide, round and have a smooth curvature.
    3. Abdomen – The fish should have a good space between the abdomen and the tail.
    4. Caudal Peduncle – The Caudal Peduncle should be as thick and robust as the back is wide. There should be a roundness at the tail point.
    5. Tail – The tail should be attached to the body in an elegant manner and its shape, bisymmetrical. The fish should use its tail skillfully. The tail should rise up at an angle of about 90 degrees to the Caudal Peduncle. There are 3 types: Triple Tail, Quadruple Tail and Cheery Blossom Tail.
    6. Fins – The fins should be well balance in their size and movements.

    Article 3.

    In judging Goldfish, the size of the fish should never be taken into consideration.

    Article 4.

    The fish should be judged by how good or bad they are on the day of judging.
    Additional clause: Names of colour for the goldfish body are ruled as follows:

    1. Red: gold, vermilion, red
    2. White: white, silver
    3. Calico : red dominated calico, white dominated calico, white lower back, red back and white abdomen.
    4. Patterns on the head: “Menkaburi”, white face, calico face, red head, “Ryoyakko”, red mouth, window and “Kigarashi”.

    Article 5.

    The fish too large or immature to any refinement or dignity will receive a cut in marks.

    Reading through all the points mentioned above...makes appreciating and judguing ranchu look easy. But the truth is...very difficult. That is why a japanese ranchu breeder can only be promoted to a local judge after joining the local association for at least 5 years. For any All Japan Ranchu Compeition judge, he must have at least 10 years of judging experience.

    It is easy to comment whether a piece of ranchu is beautiful or not. But extremely difficult to judge why it is different from the rest of the ranchu. Supposedy, if all good ranchu is placed together, how to judge which is superior?  How to see beyond the physical appearance of each ranchu? 

    There are many ranchu breeders but not all of them can be promoted to be the Judge or Judge of Judges. Why? There are many ranchu breeders but only a few top breeders work are being recongnised. Why? There are some question I hope the ranchu and arowana hobbyist can ask themselves and find out the truth!

    1515hrs 26th May 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

MerLion Arowana Blog 12 - Ranchu Journey IV - Naitoh San

MerLion Arowana Blog 12 - Ranchu Journey IV - Naitoh San

  • I spent many hours talking to Naitoh San on ranchu breeding because I was attempting to breed my dream ranchu in Dreamfish farm...for the second time. Before this, I have bred many Thai Red/White and Black ranchu. 

    The Goldfish breeding facility in Dreamfish.

    In Nov, 2004, I went to Japan again for two purposes. The first was to purchase ranchu for breeding and second was to visit the All Japan Ranchu Competition held in Tokyo.

    Haru San knew my plan and introduced me to Naitoh San.

    Naitoh San is a licensed Judge of Judges in the All Japan Ranchu Association. He breed ranchu for more than 40 years. To reach his rank, it will take lots of experiences and recognitions from the Japan ranchu breeder community. He is a teacher to many other ranchu breeder in Hamamtsu. To strengthen the Hamamatsu ranchu bloodline, he continuously, perfecting his ranchu bloodline and share it with the rest of breeders there. 

    I was honoured to be one of his student!

    Naitoh San netting ranchu from his parent pond. These ranchu were to be used as his bloodline parent in the next season. These ranchu had been chosen from the thousands of thousands – worthy to transcend his ranchu bloodline. He was very kind to give up a few pieces for breeding in Dreamfish Farm.

     The above were the "chosen ones". Naitoh San parent ranchu were mostly red. Accoriding to  him...if using red/white parent, there will be many ranchu that would turn out to be full white. Using "more red" parent ranchu, there would be a good proportion of offspring with red and red/white colour.

    After the selection, we went to sit down at a small hut near to his ponds. I started to question him on many topics on ranchu breeding. 

    Naitoh San would wake up 4-5am in the morning during the ranchu breeding season. He practised the "hand press" method as this would provide him the best fertility rate. Every eggs/fries were considered as "potential" because ranchu breeding is a probability game. Apart from good parents, a breeder must ensure the best fertility rate and best survival rate so to obtain the best bloodline combination from the parent ranchu. The best ranchu bloodline would be found in the top 5% of the whole breeding lot. Any drop in fertilty rate or survival rate will greatly reduce this 5%. This is the reason why the breeding and grooming technique of ranchu is very important.

    Naitoh San would choose...not the biggest or smallest ranchu for breeding. He would choose the mid size ranchu as it would pass down the best gene to the next generation ranchu. Too big or too small ranchu might have weak gene or low fertility problem.

    I remembered that I asked him about natural breeding technique. He explained to me that Ranchu is an ornamental fish. Its no longer a "natural fish". Ranchu is bred for viewing pleasure and the the work of ranchu breeder is to breed a ranchu that best satisfy the ornamental purpose. To achieve this, hand press technique is the best.

    This has caused me to think really hard on my arowana breeding work. It has changed my breeding philosophy. I used to believe in breeding only pure bloodline to conserve what is natural. But now, I believe in also breeding for ornamental purpose - conceiving a new bloodline that is superior. This work is found in our MerLion Harmony. However, this belief of "breeding for ornamental purpose" should not be used as an excuse for "junk" breeding. 

    After talking for a while in the hut, Naitoh San has decided to show us his hand press technique.

    Naitoh San and me...he presented me with a gift... the net for culling the defect ranchu fries. Whenever I used the net...I am grateful to his teaching.

    Naitoh San treated us (Haru San and me) to lunch that day...

    This photo was taken from a Taiwan magazine...showing our goldfish facilities. Those concret tanks housed Naitoh San ranchu as shown.

    I failed terrribly in breeding the Japanese ranchu. I could not obtain the "5%" quality. My ranchu breeding work were not delicated enough to ensure high fertility and high survival rate. Due to the commitment  in arowana breeding, I had to give up ranchu breeding after a year of trying. 

    Japanese ranchu and Thai ranchu breeding are different in term of "wastage". Most Thai ranchu of lower quality can be sold easily but not the Japanese ranchu. Thai ranchu is for side viewing pleasure and Japanese ranchu is for top viewing pleasure. Top-view ranchu has higher quality requirment and hence, required higher breeding skill.

    During the time in the hut, I learned from Naitoh San the prodedure of All Japan ranchu competition. How they judge during the competition? I needed to know as I would be going to Tokyo to view the competition. Something that I wanted to do in this life time. What is the All Japan Ranchu competition about? I will try my best to explain it in my next blog...stay tuned!

    1358Hrs 19th May 2013

MerLion Arowana Blog 11 - Ranchu Journey III - Monden San

MerLion Arowana Blog 11 - Ranchu Journey III - Monden San

  • In July 2000, after visiting Fukaim San, I visted one of the most stern ranchu breeder that I ever met! His name is Monden San. I am not able to recalled his ages etc but I knew he was an old warrior  in the ranchu Yatomi.

    Monden San was well respected within the Japan Ranchu Breeder community. He was very quiet and stern looking. He taught that one have to respect the work of breeder. How difficult it was to produce one beautiful Ranchu – a life long pursue. It is a “no joke” business.

    I saw in him that no amount of money could triumph the pride of a breeder! I learned from him that a breeder should have self-worth.

    I went to him with a budget of SGD300.00 - SGD500.00 per piece. He asked, "how many pieces are you looking for?" I replied, "3 pieces". I didn't know how his ranchu quality was and I am afraid to commit. I have learned from Haru San that it is not good to visit a breeder and not purchase any least a few pieces to show respect and appreciation...this is the Japanese culture.

    Why did we have to go through this? ...because he was not going to show me the whole farm just because I wanted to buy some ranchu. He would not risk the health of the ranchu just to cut a deal with me. To him, the ranchu health was much more important than any monetary gains. His priority was not my needs....or maybe, he has seen too many "arrogant" hobbyist who believe money was almighty. From him, I started to question about the ethics of a breeder...and the ethics of a hobbyist...and the ethical way of behaviour between the breeder and a hobbyist.

    ...Guess what? He showed me only 5 pieces and asked me to choose from them! Take it or leave it!...I was shocked! I though he would show me more. This was the first time that I was taught that "Customer is NOT King"!

    I bought 3 pieces...I wished I have more choices to choose from.

    This was Monden San.

    This was Mrs Monden. She was friendly. Ha!


     These were some of Monden San baby ranchu that were net into a round tub while waiting to be transfer into a new cleaned concrete tank. 

    I remember that there were some other photos of his ranchu but I couldn't find the negative. One of the ranchu that I was attracted to...I asked for the price...1 million yen! 

    Monden San ranchu was known to be late developer and usually, his nisai ranchu would win in competition and not his tosai ranchu. This was for me, a lesson about bloodline....and maybe to some "serious" not judge fish by its current appearance...understand the "roots" of its bloodline! An ugly duckling now can turn into a beautiful swan in the future!

    For arowana... Usually is the other way...due to many "improved" way of beautifying the juvenile arowana, they are being mistaken as high quality arowana. Many hobbyist are lacking in knowledge or purely ignorant. The worse is, some hobbyists are "smart aleck" thinking they can outwit the skill of unscrupulous breeders and traders.....(we will discuss all these in detail the future if time permitted)

    In my next blog...I will share with you the breeder who taught me about ranchu breeding...

    1733hrs 18th May 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Green water and big bamboo!

It must be spring. 
This cane will meet or beat my record of 3.5 inches and maybe nearly 4 inches in diameter. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

MerLion Arowana Blog 10 - Ranchu Journey II - Tokutake San

MerLion Arowana Blog 10 - Ranchu Journey II - Tokutake San

  • Behind this house (in Hamamatsu), were the fruits of more than 50 years life dedication of a ranchu breeder - The late Tokutake San.

    Tokutake San was named by many in Japan as “The Father of Ranchu”.  He has dedicated more than fifty years of his life in improving the bloodline and promoting the breeding of Ranchu in Japan. He did so by distributing some of his specially selected Ranchu to other breeders for strengthening the Ranchu bloodline in Japan. Due to his age, Mr. Tokutake has stop breeding for commercial purposes and breed purely for his own enjoyment (during the time when I met him. 

    Sharing of fish bloodline is something that I have not seen happening in the arowana industry. This is understandable as business competitive advantage is important to the surviability of an company. But again, doesn't the ranchu industry face the same predicament? If so, why and how can the Japanese do it and not any other nations?

    The Japanese Koi and Ranchu breeders has clearly proved that only through unity...with intergrity can one country's fish industry truly excel!

    What you are about to see ...I hope you can undertand and appreciate that these ranchu are very special. Why? "these ranchu are liken to be his grandchildren"..quoted Haru San. At the age of 90, you can understand Tokutake San would only took pleasure of what was the best from his many years of breeding.

    Please allow me to present you the Tosai ranchu parent of Tokutake San...10cm -12cm. I was lost of words when i seen them. You can never imagine the joy during that moment and the sense of privilage to be able to be there in person.

    Tokutake San ranchu bloodline was well known to be of very thick “backbone”, wide “eye to eye width”, very strong “tail seat” or “saucer” and large in size. Usually, they were very strong “swimmer”. 

    Swimmer? Is this part of the bloodline? Yes...the body overall structure and inherit ability to propel itself gracefully; and yet able to display its diginity.

    This is something I hope to achieve in arowana.

    I visited him during the Altumn in 2001 (if I remember correctly). His ranchu has already grown to be very huge size. At that time, he has already reduced the food feeding amount to his ranchu.

    This was one piece that he has refused to part with him. It has a special "design" and the "trunk" to the tail was so thick! 

    This piece was packed.

     Look at the trunk and the size of the tail!! ( top ranchu)

     Look at the width of the ranchu!

    This one has a long body.

     This piece was the second piece that I packed! Tokutake San only willing to part with two of his 20-30 pcs of parent ranchu.


    This ranchu....perfect!

    Another shot of that same rachu that clearly display the nice body curvature.

     Nice bending that shows the trunk and tail connection.

     The healthy and shinning scale.

     Look at their Trunk again!

    Tokutake San passed away at the age of 92 years old. But his ranchu bloodline continue to lives in many Japanese ranchu today...especially ranchu from Hamamatsu!

    The lesson that I learned from him is to dedicate onself not only to one fish...but also to one fish community!

    I hope you have not only enjoyed the ranchu photos but also appreciate the work of fish breeders.

    1829hrs 11 may 2013