Goldfish, Part III

As promised in this article, I will discuss breeding and shipping of eggs and fry. Goldfish can be very challenging to breed, especially if one is trying to produce certain characteristics or a quality fish.

With every spawn there will be many culls. Fry with deformities, weak, poorly colored, lacking fins, having more fins than they are supposed to, strangely shaped fins and body, as well as other defects. It is very necessary to cull all these unwanted defects or characteristics out to produce any good fish at all. Of course this may not be enough to get quality goldfish if you start with poor parents. It’s very important to start with quality fish and hope for the best. Be satisfied with a few fish that came from your attempts, at least you can say “that fish was hatched and raised right here”. It’s a lot more work and trouble for the hobbyist to breed goldfish than it is to breed tropical fish.

My first attempt at breeding goldfish was pretty funny I have to say. I had about ten pet-shop quality goldfish that I had started out in a 120-liter aquarium (this was not nearly enough room for them, but I was a beginner at the time). Then I moved them to the pond. I really didn’t have any intentions of breeding them. One day when I was feeding them I saw a patch of fungus on the floor of the pond. All the fish were accounted for. On closer inspection eggs were discovered on the side of the pond as well, only these were dried out, instead of being fungused. Okay, so now we knew these fish were breeding. So a water change was done. Then I put two plastic containers in the bottom of the pond. The next morning these containers were covered with eggs. I moved them to the 120-liter aquarium, and soon they were all covered with fungus. For some reason, I didn’t clean this tank out right away. A couple of days later, my husband asked me if I should try feeding the “stick fish” something. I didn’t even know they were there. I hatched some baby brine shrimp (not really knowing what the brine shrimp were suppose to look like) and started feeding these fish two or three times a day before they were even free swimming. I guess what saved me was that I did several water changes. These fish eventually became free swimming and grew. Having had a mixture of fish in the spawning action, (poor quality orandas, black moors, calico, and orange goldfish). I had quite a variety of colors and (Ha!) characteristics. I did not cull one of these fish, and there was about 30 of them. When they were about 3 cm long the local store was willing to buy them, and I was quite proud for having raised them. Watch out! This is how the fish bug starts!!!!

As time went on and I collected more books and information, and I realized that I wanted to find some quality fish. I have found that good quality goldfish are very hard to find. Most pet shops didn’t even know what I was talking about: “We have goldfish, what’s wrong with them?”. Then finally after a few years, I found the perfect goldfish store. I was delighted! They let me handpick my own fish. I was allowed to take the fish out of the tank and put them in another bucket to examine them carefully. It’s easier to check for problems or characteristics such as even bubbles on bubble-eyes, or even for double anal fins, if the fish is separated from the rest. Sometimes this took us quite a while, but we were left on our own, so it really didn’t matter.

I was also invited to go to two different goldfish farms. I don’t think they actually spawned the fish at them; they were more like wholesalers that only carried goldfish. I was also able to handpick some goldfish from these places. As careful as we were when selecting our fish, we still ended up with anchor worms from one of these farms. This will be discussed in part four of this series. It took me a few years but I ended up with quite a nice selection of fancy goldfish. I had two orange and white orandas, three black moors that turned into red telescope-eyed goldfish, several ryukins, and three orange, three orange and white, and two calico bubble-eyes. I also added a very nice small orange and white bubble-eye that I bought for $2.50 from a local pet shop at the time. This $2.50 goldfish won third place in a Koi and Goldfish Show. The competition was very tough in this particular show, so imagine how surprised I was. Okay, so now I had some better stock to work with.

It took a while for these fish to grow and mature. As with the first ones, the first breeding was a surprise. One day I heard a sudden KER-SPLASH, and when I went over to one of the ponds. There were eggs everywhere. I kept some of the different types together, so to collect only ryukin eggs, I moved the other types into other quarters. Then I chose only the ryukins I wanted involved in the spawning. This is called the flock method, when more than three spawners are used. I added several blue yarn mops attached to Styrofoam pieces and left them floating. Within a couple days these mops were full. I filled some buckets with pond water, added an air stone and left the mops floating. By now however I had a little more knowledge with spawning fish, and I waited for the stick fish to get free swimming before I started feeding the baby brine shrimp. Culling had to begin right away. Goldfish have huge spawns and I’m sure there wasn’t even a 1/3 of that spawn in the mops, but there were still too many for us to raise in the space we had available. The fry from this spawn were better than the first ones I raised and again a pet shop was happy to take the 30 or so that I raised.

I raised several spawns using the flock method. It produced a wide variety of color markings. I should add here that the stock I chose was red and white, orange and white, and solid white. Being a member of The Goldfish Society of America at that time I had met quite a few goldfish enthusiasts. I even shipped some of these ryukin eggs to fellow hobbyists.

To ship the eggs, the fish were set up using the above method. When the mops were full, I would take a large bag, put just enough water from the pond to cover the mops and Styrofoam, and tied the bag as if there were fish in there. I put it in a Styrofoam cooler and sent it off on the bus. I was always amazed at how this actually worked. The bus would not except fish, but when I told them it was just fish eggs they looked at me kind of funny but they shipped them anyway. Shipping goldfish is easy as well. Use a large bag and put only three small fish per bag. Fill the bag enough to cover the fish and maybe just a touch more, leaving lots of room for air exchange. When treated like this, they will come through shipping with no problems at all, provided they are not in the bags for more than two days.

The next method I tried used a pair. I chose a solid white male ryukin with a nice humped back, and a red and white female with a smaller humped back, but very nice coloring. I decided to move this pair into the 80-liter. This was not a good idea; I mentioned the mess I had to clean up in previous articles so I won’t go into that here. There were literally hundreds of eggs, maybe even thousands, the next morning. The next day there was fungus all over the aquarium. A couple days later, black stick fish appeared on top of the fungus. This is where I started to do water changes, to get rid of some of the fungus and to try and keep the ammonia down. A couple of days after that the stick fish were free swimming, so I cleaned the rest of the tank and filled it with pond water. I did 90% water changes daily for the first month.

These little stick fish were fed baby brine shrimp three times a day for the first month. Then small sinking goldfish pellets were dropped in. They were not big enough to actually eat these pellets, but the pellets softened and they picked at them all day. They were still getting baby brine shrimp every day, just not as often. They started to really grow quickly after the pellets were added to their diet.

The culling process starts at day 10. I really dislike this part of breeding fish, but in order to raise a few good fish this must be done. Remember it’s better to give goldfish too much room than not enough, especially when raising fry. At 10 days of age, the fry were carefully scooped out into a white bowl, and checked for a double tail and a straight back. If this wasn’t the case they were culled or fed to other fish. We counted out 1000 and spread them around in pools and in aquaria. At 30 days culling was done again. Each fish was placed in the white bowl and checked again for deformities or unusual characteristics. Culling is an on-going process when raising goldfish. Remember that goldfish need lots of room and lots of oxygen so even if there are no defects, culling must he done to fit the spawn into the space available. We continued the process for five months more, which brought us down to about 50 fish. I then sorted through them again and came up with eleven that had potential to be what I was looking for. The remaining 39 were put in a pool outside. This is where they started to get some color. Some were red and white and some were white. The local pet store took all the ones with red. Another store took the solid white ones. I told this store that they were ryukin goldfish, but when I went back a week later they were labeled “Rare China Pearls”. When I asked the person working in there that day about them, I was told that they came from a really exotic place (he couldn’t remember where) and they were very rare. Imagine, I never really considered my fish room a really exotic place. Anyway, the eleven remaining fish were raised a while longer in a pool, and they were weeded out one by one until there were only three left. I gave some of the eleven better ones away to friends. So I ended up with a few fairly good fish and one of the white ones might even have been better than the original male.

I never did raise any fry from the other types, as there just wasn’t any room with all the ryukin fry that I had. They are my favorites after all. I’m not 100% sure but I think to raise the bubble-eyes that they would have to be hand spawned or striped. I think this should be left to the experts, as a hobbyist could do much damage to their fish. I have never tried this because I liked my fish and didn’t want to hurt them. When they didn’t spawn, it didn’t really matter.

Unfortunately my orandas, telescope-eyes, and veiltails were not old enough to be spawning when I had to give them up because we were moving. Unfortunately, these beautiful fish were just given to a local store, where they had no appreciation for the quality of fish that they were. They were just amazed that the fish were so big. ?