By Joshua McWilliams
The blue egg Phoenix referred as the BEP is from an ancient line of the dorsal-less variety of goldfish called the Eggfish “dan yu”, they go back about 800 years in the history of goldfish breeding in China. Popular varieties today like Celestials, Ranchus, and Lionheads are believed to be linked or derived from the classic Eggfish. The Eggfish was almost lost due to the Chinese Cultural Revolution and swings in the popularity of newer varieties in the goldfish market. The BEP was one of the varieties being preserved by Goldfish Pagoda, inside Ocean Park in Aberdeen, HK, China. In 1995 a member of the Goldfish Society of America (GFSA) Steve Frowine visited the Pagoda and met with the Director and staff. He arranged for an exchange of Historical lines of Goldfish between the USA and China. Then in 1996, a group of 18 Blue Egg Phoenix was shipped to the USA and a similar number of Blue Philadelphia Veiltails (bred by Al Foster) were shipped to China. The 18 BEP were distributed to senior breeders in GFSA. These few key members and the fry they distributed has kept the line alive here in the USA.
I want to share some of my experience with Blue Egg Phoenix. Fast forward to August 2016, Randy Plona sent a group of BEP Fry/Juveniles to Gary Hater’s Annual Goldfish Breeders Circle. I had only seen Merlin Cunliffe’s portrait of a Blue Egg Phoenix before seeing these awesome little guys in Gary’s fish room. Gary distributed the fry to some of the members of The Goldfish Council (TGC). I was one of the lucky members to fly home with these rare and amazing fish. I was excited as could be to come home with this group of little BEP; all the while also being nervous that I could possibly kill or mess up fish from such a small number of BEP in existence. My goal was just to experiment grooming them and bring a couple to the Central Florida Koi and Goldfish Show in March. After I arrived back in Florida, I placed the BEP Fry in a 20g long glass aquarium for safekeeping until I could build a better grow out for them. Not being able to find much info on grooming or growing out BEP I just tried my best and used my experience breeding and grooming butterfly telescope. I fed them a mix of my homemade gel food, duckweed, bloodworms and high protein sinking pellets. I also moved them from the glass tank to a black tub with overhead UVB lighting. I saw steady growth and development after that and their blue seemed to intensify after adding UVB.
In late January 2017, the BEP spawned to my surprise. The fry hatched after three days, they were small and fairly weak (most likely due to the young age of these breeders). I fed them more often and with freshly hatched baby brine shrimp, they grew stronger and caught up with my average size butterfly fry. After I was able to keep them alive and growing, next up was identifying problems and flaws I needed to cull for. Some of the problems I observed in the adults were fused tails, curled operculum, and single or no anal fins. So, I first culled for crooked backs and fused tails. Then as they got older I culled for curled operculum and no anal fins. Then lastly culled for top-lines trying to only keep fry with smoother top-lines to maintain for my breeding program. I also distributed some of the offspring to other hobbyist and returned to the 2017 Breeder Social with some of my own fry making the full circle of keeping this historic line alive.
After raising my current Blue Egg Phoenix from fry/juvenile I have to say it has been a rewarding and an awesome project. How cool was it to take home those little fish in 2016 and bring back fry I bred myself to Gary Haters 2017 Breeders Social? My future plans are to do some experimental outcrossing, also breeding the pure line of Blue Egg Phoenix. Maintaining and breeding this fabulous line of fish is one of my main goals in my Goldfish Hobby.
1– From an Issue of GFSA’s Newsletter – first discussion of the BEP in the USA
2- Some of the Fry/Juveniles waiting to be bagged up at the 2016 Breeders Social to fly to Florida
3– This figure shows the progress made after moving the BEP to a black tub and adding UVB lighting.
4- BEP fry at 2 weeks old
5– Male Breeder BEP Water Pigs USA 2 years old 6+ inch body
Video of my adult BEP Breeders
In the past 5 years, we have seen a resurgence in the Hobby of Goldfish keeping and breeding. One of the great opportunities this has created for the Blue Egg Phoenix is an increased interest in these rare and beautiful fish. Some of the original all the way to the new breeders and keepers of BEP were asked about their Journey in the Rising of the Blue Egg Phoenix… I have compiled their responses below.
Gary Hater – 1996
I first heard about the BEP when it was reported by Steve Frowine trip to China I helped arrange the exchange for the BEP and Blue Philly’s. I was also one of the senior members of the GFSA to receive some of the initial fish brought here, along with Thomma & Foster. Some of the hardships I first experienced with the original fish brought over was the uneven balance of males to females and some of the adults decolored to white with time. From the original Phoenix, I got several spawns and several people got offspring from me. More recently I was provided fish from Joshua at Water Pigs USA who was successful in breeding fish from 2016 Breeders Social. Compared to other Dorsaless varieties I keep, I admire the BEP for growing to monstrous size 8-10” in body length. Along with their ability to swim swiftly through the water more like a single tail fish My favorite feature of the Blue Egg Phoenix has to be the tail. My future goals remain to breed trying to avoid or cull away from any green / underlying red beneath the blue. For the future of the BEP here in the US a key factor all the breeders must keep in mind is to continue to swap fry, keeping the genetic diversity in check. (Also, someone needs to go to Dave Mandley & talk him out of some BEP from his ponds)
Russ Taylor – 1998
The first time I heard of Blue Egg Phoenix is when Steve Frowine described them in 1995, after seeing them at the Goldfish Pagoda in Ocean Park, HK, China. Originally it was just the exclusivity … the 18 fish shipped in from Hong Kong were distributed among a few senior members of the GFSA, who weren’t sharing (most weren’t breeding either). So there was all this press about the Veiltail-BEP exchange, but no fish available. I actually visited Ocean Park in 1997 and got a tour including their behind the scenes operation for breeding the BEP, which gave me close up looks, finally, at outstanding specimens. When Gary Hater finally bred them and started distributing them I was able to get some and found they had significant charms. I kept Ranchu for decades. The particular strain of BEP originally brought into the US were ribbontails, which is obviously different. The BEP were more graceful, agile fish. Think judo vs sumo. I particularly liked how their caudals would spread and rise when they swam. I did not experience to many hardships when breeding this line. They were very hardy, could overwinter in ponds, and competed well with other fish for food. They also did not require the kind of pampering that Ranchu or Veiltails need. Of all the varieties of goldfish I’ve kept, the BEP have been the least prone to ailments. I have had lots of spawns in the past. Have not spawned in 4 or 5 years now and have correspondingly elderly fish at this point. In 2005 I was the only person left in North America with the fish and I found I only had females … things looked bad until I heard out of the blue from a local fish club guy who had 2 of my fish. One was a male and I borrowed it and spawned my fish. And then distributed a bunch of BEP at Gary Hater’s fall event. My 3 favorite physical features are: I like long flowing fins with no dorsal. I really like that they are agile graceful fish despite this configuration. I like this strain in that the bodies have not been bred to be too grotesquely short and heavy. And finally, they have interesting colors; individual fish change colors based on how they are kept and then breeding throws interesting variants. I also crossed them with an Edo to get reds and calicos. At this point, just enjoy the fish and hopefully impose on others to keep me supplied. Collectively I think we need to get some size back into the strain (I saw BEP in Hong Kong with 6-8″ bodies 2o years ago), probably by bringing new blood into the line. Some key factors breeders here in the USA need to keep in mind when culling or selecting fish for the future is Good size, smooth back, strong fins, not too short a body. And most importantly, we need to keep the vivacity and grace of the original line.
Matt Lyons – 2004
I’m guessing mid to late 90’s is the first I heard about BEP. I believe in the early days of the web from RWT’s goldfish information page. http://goldfish.nova.org/index.html The first thing that intrigued me about BEP was their beauty. Russ (first initial in RWT) had a behind-the-scenes photo of adult BEP in a breeding pond at the goldfish pagoda. That, combined with their long tradition in China, and interesting U.S. history, adds to their appeal and importance for me. I have had two BEP starts over the years. The first was from Russell Taylor and the second from Randy Plona (whose fish came from Russell Taylor). I’m not sure I can pick out just one feature as a favorite. I’d say just their overall grace and delicate beauty when viewed from above. The blue coloration is also interesting, being highly visible from an early age, and extremely stable, except for in older fish. I’m not sure I have any personal breeding goals at the current time, but in general I’d like to see BEP preserved in a physical conformation standard that is as close as possible to our understanding of the desired Chinese aesthetic at the time they first came to the U.S. I’m also generally opposed to outcross efforts that “evolve” or “improve” the BEP’s aesthetic without prioritizing preservation of that original form. So in my opinion, for the time-being, any outcross attempts should have the ultimate goal of returning to and re-stabilizing the BEP as it was being preserved at the Pagoda at the time of the U.S. swap.
Gerard Siew – 2006
The first time I heard of the BEP was from the 1995 Goldfish Report published by the GFSA. I wanted to keep and breed BEP because I have always been attracted by rare and hard to find varieties of goldfish. In 2005, I went to Gary Hater’s Breeders’ Social. Gary was graciously giving BEP fry from Russ Taylor. I didn’t take any cause then I was more interested in ranchu. The next year 2006, I didn’t miss a second chance again at Gary’s. I have had many spawns since receiving my first BEP fry. I’ve been preserving this variety ever since 2006. My favorite characteristic of this variety of fish has to be the steel blue color. My future Goals for keeping/breeding BEP? Is to preserve this historical goldfish as long as possible especially since it’s almost extinct even in China.
6- Gerard Siew
Bo Zhao – 2015
I first heard about the Blue Egg Phoenix when I was 20 years old. I first wanted to breed them because of their rarity and curiosity of this line since it has already gone to distinction in China. Compared to my other dorsal-less varieties I do not see much of a personality difference. All healthy fish are usually active and come to the caregiver during meal times. Their distinctive blue when there is not a dorsal is quite unique when viewed from the top. Blue is less common of a color; therefore it gives much differentiation from other colors. When it comes to spawning, the BEP’s at my farm is quite prolific. I only took half of all the spawns and still ended up with 13 bowls of eggs. My favorite physical feature fo the Blue Egg Phoenix is the tail. The tail would require 3 to 4 years to achieve 1.5 to 2 times the length of the body. It also becomes softer and veil-like which adds to the graceful of the fish. Concerning my future breeding goals; I have several 3 to 4-year-old fish and see how they do with the long tail. Continue to breed out any undesirable traits in the fish such as a fused tail, crooked spine, wavy backs. The blue color is very pleasingly and surprisingly stable.
7- Bo Zhao
Julie Marczack – 2017
The first time I saw BEP was on Bo’s site and then on Instagram. I was captivated. I wanted Blue Egg Phoenix because I loved their grace and beauty and liked the idea of having fish that weren’t so common. After they became available, I purchased one from Bo…and then 2 more. I have had about 4 spawns now but have been unprepared each time. I do have a singleton from the last batch and they spawned again this weekend and there may be a few viable eggs. Most look infertile, but I see a few that look promising. Their grace in motion and the unique color is my favorite attribute. In the future, I would like breed a few times and groom some. Also, I would like to give some to fellow fanciers to perpetuate the line.
Lei Wang – 2017
I can still remember the first time I saw the Blue Egg Phoenix. Their beauty and rarity are what first drew me into wanting to own BEP. My BEP came From Bo Zhao of Zhao Fancies. I have recently had a spawn of my own. My favorite physical characteristic is the tail and color. My future Goals for keeping/breeding BEP is to select for smooth backs and long Phoenix tails.
8- Lei Wang
Gage H. – 2017.
Gosh, the first time I heard of BEP must have been a year or so ago, probably on goldfishkeepers.com. I’m Not sure when I heard about them, but I do remember seeing a video of them in one of Bo Zhao’s ponds and I had to have them. I could try to breed any fish but with BEPs there is a purpose, to spread them around and make them more popular. I have purchased a decent amount of fish from Zhao’s Fancies and harassed them regularly about the BEPs until they became available. I have already had spawns now and as of Jan 2018, about 2 weeks old at this point. My favorite thing about Blue egg Phoenix is the whole package, dorsal-less, blue, beautiful finnage. Their personality is also delightful and was unexpected. They act like a little group of curious puppies. The 4 of them are a tight-knit crew and react to each other. I guess it is shoaling behavior that I don’t see in my other goldfish. My future goals are I would like to work on the rounded back, the flat bumpy back really bugs me (this from a very inexperienced breeder). Keep the line looking good, strong, and share this fish with other goldfish keepers
Favian Rodriguez – 2018
My first-time hearing about BEPs was when it was first mentioned by the TGC. I’ve seen Phoenix goldfish at gold fishnet but never saw or heard of the blue kind before that. I think personally, what drew me to this fish was its history. I also love the simplicity and flows fins. My Blue Egg Phoenix was bred by Joshua of Water Pigs USA. I’ve never tried to spawn BEP, I have not had the chance to get a pair and start a breeding program. I am interested in using the BEP to create a new line of telescope Phoenix. My favorite part of this fish has to be its amazing finnage. My future goal is to get some BEP for my pond to continue the conservation of this truly magical specimens
I hope this article has shed some light on the history and journey the Blue Egg Phoenix has been through. Much like the mystical beast the Phoenix this fish has risen from the ashes and is flourishing once more. This article is dedicated to the many Goldfish hobbyists to has kept this goldfish line alive and well here in the United States. Without dedicated Goldfish hobbyist, many varieties of Goldfish could risk extinction. If you ever meet anyone dedicated to breeding and preserving rare varieties of goldfish make sure to thank them for all their hard work, because without them we would be left with nothing but commercial lines of fish.
9- Portrait by Merlin Cunliffe