Weekend update

That was a really busy weekend.

We've begun spawning, and there have been a few twists and turns. I'll let you know how that's gone in the course of this blog update.

There's news on the ducks situation too, and also I've found a whole new workforce to help Amanda and I with the project - our kids.

Pocket money opportunities = help with koi. Dad is happy.

Our eldest daughter helped me harvest the fry pond outside and we must have caught up around 1 or 2 thousand fry. A similar number to when Amanda and I harvested the other fry pond. So, between 3 and 4 thousand overall. When you consider we reared one baby champion out of just 2.6k fry at first selection in the July 14 spawning - Amanda and I are treating this unexpected spring harvest quite seriously. These fry come from the same parent set as the July 14 ones, and Amanda has been selecting through them this week. We can see the quality is not as good as the July 14 spawning, but there are one or two that stand out and we'll give the keepers some pond space and see what comes from it.

These are fry left over from our late summer spawning last year that were missed by the seine netting last September and they stayed in the fry ponds over the winter. There was a warm week or two back in April, and these fry have grown a bit, and many are pushing 2 inches.

Annabel has also been helping me clear the fry ponds of standing water and waste, and other jobs like counting fry and photographing koi that we're moving on. A few weeks ago she helped me select through the tank of 'shorties' tosai - the koi we've been growing on from mid summer '16 spawnings and that were under 30cm. I'm starting to teach her the basic techniques, like koi handling, so she can have more pocket money opportunities (... translates as... more help for a busy Mum and Dad). Selecting through the 'shorties' was such good fun, partly because I was teaching Annabel the koi handling techniques and she was moving the koi by hand from one net to another. And also, because I think my best show chances this year will come from this batch. I don't think I shared the video of the keepers at the time, and here they are from that selection a few weeks ago:

click - youtube link

And, some pictures from the fry pond harvest:

We prepared a bowl of fresh water where we'd move the harvested fry to - before transporting them into a tank in the polytunnel.

pumping out the last few inches of water, through a netting - so that we just pumped out water and no fish

the fish gathered nicely in the drainage sink.

And, then Annabel and I netting them up.

We came across lots of bugs too...

And then we vacuumed up the remaining puddles so that the liner can dry out before re-use.

Here's me, with the bowl of harvested fry and Annabel vacuuming puddles in the background.. It's a great example of how Annabel's help made a difference because while she was vacuuming, I moved all the fry into the polytunnel. Very soon, I'll have the twins helping out too - and this will help Amanda and I get through all the jobs more easily.

So, onto spawnings. We started last weekend using the new spawning vat outside. We spent time bringing up the temperatures, and cleaning the cage nets and spawning ropes before the big day. then on Saturday we set them off. There wasn't much debate about which pairing to go with - it had to be 'sharkey', with the same males we used with her in the june 16 spawning.

It took two nights before they spawned. And, when she did eventually spawn - there were so few eggs, you could literally count them on the ropes. It was a massive blow.

I think what happened was that 'sharkey' spawned a few weeks ago in the females tank, probably with the 10 month old tosai I put in the females tank. A few weeks ago, when I went to inspect the tanks on the morning - I noted the females tank looked and smelled like there'd been a spawning. but I couldn't spot any eggs, and the females all still looked plump. In hindsight, I am now wondering whether sharkey dropped her eggs at that point. But, it that's what happened - it's almost inconceivable that she would have anything left to be able to spawn with last weekend. So, overall a conundrum - but, definitely a blow because this is yet another year where we have been unable to carry out our primary plan. Another year, where I'm not making full use of our best genetics. It's early days still, and I will have another go with sharkey for a late summer spawning.

We talked through various contingency options, weighing up the risks of pushing on with a new spawning that would take advantage of all the prep work completed ie two tubs of fresh water , ready and waiting for eggs. The fry ponds have been set up , again ready to fill and cycle in line with a spawning now. We have a narrow window, before the water in the eggs rearing tubs goes bad. But, we'd just used up our primary female and also the only two males that we have that have a track record in fertilising eggs.

It was a tough position - half of what we needed was in perfect readiness... and half, in the opposite condition!

We decided to take a risk - and do something we've not done before. And that was to throw in another female and re-use the same males pair - to see if they do could the business for a second time with another female, literally one day after they spawned with 'sharkey'. and, I felt we could add a third male - one of the new high quality ones we bought last autumn, but untested - in order to mix things up a bit, and to take the load off the probably spent males. the risk here, was to use up the eggs from that new female, perhaps with a low or even no fertilisation.

the other thing was, that with me travelling with work, most of the spawning tasks would rest with Amanda.

We left the spawning set up exactly as it was. didn't even clean the ropes or spawning net - there were so few eggs, and general mess... that there wasn't much to clean! ideally we'd have cleaned everything, but we didn't have time to go through all the cleaning process, and start the spawning that day. and, that brief window of opportunity - to be able use all the facilities we had got ready to take a set of eggs was a window of a few days..... if we missed the window, new batches of egg rearing water would have been needed. We had to make a quick decision and get behind it, all in. And, that's what we did.

I examined all the remaining females. and the one that I felt was most ready for spawning was the new momotaro female that I picked up from Yume last autumn. the highest value female, and probably best prospect as a brood fish is our 3 step from takigawa (also from Yume). and she is looking almost ready for spawning but the new momotaro female was I felt, perfectly 'ripe' so to speak. and we decided to go with her - as my best guess of the female most likely to give us a good spawning. In that decision, I prioritised most likely to spawn, over possibly the better brood fish genetics. the risk is that learning the 3 step female in place in the females tank - there's a chance that if I'm right and there's a particularly mature male tosai knocking around in there, that he does the business with her in uncontrolled situation. so, leaving her in place is also a risk - and we will have to think about how to mitigate that risk.

I spawned the new momotaro female for the first time last autumn - literally, the weekend we brought her home. so that when we needed her this year, she would have got that first spawning out of the way and the eggs from subsequent spawnings are usually a better quality. that turned out to be a really useful bit of , what was at the time... extra work.

Because this new momotaro female performed perfectly when we needed her this time :-)

Lots of eggs, and 1 day after the spawning - the eggs are still looking good , and sporting a high fertilisation rate. Amanda pretty much did most of the post spawning wrap up, as I was travelling with work. the eggs are now in 3 separate tanks - and we gave each tank a good hit with malachite green to knock back any fungus ; also remembering there are a small number of eggs from 'sharkey' that are a day older than the new ones. there really were so few eggs from sharkey - but it only takes a few eggs going bad to start spreading fungus to the good ones.

We'll never know how much of the fertilising the dianichi males did, versus our new male from sakai. And that is just one of those things. If we make it all the way with this spawning to second or third selection - there's a chance I will be able to differentiate the fry to a certain degree based on body shapes. that's a long way off.. and lets worry about that if, or when we get there. The other thing is, that there are some eggs there from sharkey. I estimate - 1k eggs from sharkey, and 400k from the new momotaro female. so, for all intents and purposes... we'll regard this batch as coming from the new momotaro female. we're starting to think of a name for her so she's easier to refer to.

Finally, lets talk ducks.

Mum has had her ducklings, and they are living on a neighbours pond. they take a vacation on our waste water pond from time to time. But have so far been unable to penetrate the anti duck defences on the fry ponds. Phew.