How to show your fish at fish shows
About fish shows
You’ve learned to keep your fish from dying. You have managed to breed your fish. Now what? Entering your fish into a local fish show is a great next step in taking your fishkeeping hobby to the next level.
With experience you can win trophies, ribbons or prizes such as aquarium equipment or money.
You can show off your prized champion fishes and your skill at raising and breeding your fish.
Fish shows are a good place to keep abreast of new products. Many new products and different interesting species are usually on display.
Usually there are door prizes giving the entrants many chances to win fishkeeping equipment such as heaters, filters or lighting.
You will certainly meet fellow aquarists who will be expert in various fields of fishkeeping. You can learn a lot by asking questions. These experts always take great pride in answering questions, so that they show show off their great expertise on their favourite subject.
You can also ask company representatives of manufacturers about any equipment that they have on display and advice on equipment in general.
You may have to attend shows a few times to see what your competition is like before you will be ready to start entering your fish into the show.
It is only when you start showing off your fish that your fishkeeping skills will really improve and you will become a real expert.
Only through research, and putting into practice what you pick up will you be able to consistently high quality show grade fish.
Different types of fish shows
Most aquatic competitions are organised by aquarium societies. Some are very large such as the International Betta Congress (IBC) or local to large towns or cities.
Small fish shows
Small fish shows are sponsored by local clubs. To enter a fish into one of these shows you do have to be a member of the local club.
Regional fish shows
These are shows where different clubs compete against each other. A regional show forces you to cooperate with other members of your club in a team effort.
Open fish shows
Same as regional shows except that these are open to the general public and not just members of any particular fish club or aquarium society.
Fish exhibitions or Aquatic Conventions
These are the largest shows that you can enter. These types of show are hosted by tropical fish magazines and international societies.
Many aquarium equipment manufacturers will be present. They usually showcase their latest product line in aquarium filters, lighting, aquariums and aquarium equipment. They will try to sell you something if you look like a prospect.
How fish shows work
Understanding classes in fish shows
Fish shows put fish into classes so that similar fishes will be judge against each other. Fish shows have many rules for a fish class. You will have to make an effort to understand these rules and comply with these rules to have a decent chance of winning.
Fish have to be compared like for like to make it fairer and easier for the judge to make a decision. That is why you have to enter your fish into a specific class. Make sure you put your fish into the correct class. Classes are grouped by similar species. Groups such as livebearers, central american cichlids, dwarf cichlids and the like are examples of classes and should be easy for you to decide which class is best for your fish to be entered into.
Classes can be further divided into sub-classes. For example a livebearer class can be divided into guppy, platy, molly and swordtail classes. Then guppy class can also be further sub divided into tail type classes such as spade tail, round tail, lyretail, etc. Make sure your fish is suitable for the class you intend to enter it into.
Increasing your chances of winning a fish show
Try to prevent or discourage people from looking at your fish before the judges arrive. You don’t want your fish to be unnecessarily stressed before the judges have arrived. Stressed fish may lose their colour.
You can actually train your fish not be be spooked out by strangers coming to inspect them. What you need to do is recreate competition-like conditions for your fish at home.
Place your fish’s holding tank somewhere lots of people will pass to and fro in front of, with the occasional person peering into the tank. Or arrange for several members of your family to pace back and forth near the tank several times a day. And also tell them to peer into the tank, while you observe your fish’s behaviour. When the fish becomes accustomed to this attention then you can train less often. Also you can try shining a torch at the fish occasionally so that when the fish is at the show the fish will not be startled by a judge with poor eyesight flashing a torch at your fish to better see it.
Never present ill fish at shows. Only take fish that are in tip-top to the show. The stress of the show and the travelling to and from the show does put a fish under stress. Such stress can kill or make ill a weak fish. You will not be popular at the show if you bring a sick or weak fish.
A small holding tank can be used to keep your fish safe and well before the show so that your prize fish can avoid getting into a fight or injured with other fish. You can also keep a close eye on your fish’s health. Feed live food and vegetable tidbits in preparation for the show. Make sure you clean the tank with water changes and syphon off any waste matter daily.
Don’t include decorations in the holding tank that may injure your fish. You can however include floating plants and some java moss or java ferns. Have a bare bottom or a thin layer of sand at the bottom of the holding tank.
Your fish needs to be relaxed and stress free in the holding tank. And maintenance and observation will be easier.
Exhibiting your fish in a professional manner
Get hold of a copy of the rules for the class you expect to show your fish in. Study the rules carefully before you fill out an entry form so that you can familiarise yourself with the rules of the contest you want to enter your fish into.
Take your fish to the show early so that your fish has time to settle down. Stressed fish may have washed out colours. Adding a little salt to the holding tank can help your fish regain its colour.
Always take water from home with you to the show. Do not use water from the show, which may be markedly different than the water you have at home. Many owners who ignore this end up with sick fish after the show. Also for a day or two before the show stop feeding. This will not harm your fish, but will reduce any toxins in the water and your fish will become more active.
Always use a show tank that is the appropriate size for the size of fish that you will be showing. A small fish in a large tank will look lost, while a large fish in a small tank will look cramped.
Make sure you read the rules in regards to the set up of the show tank. Some shows don’t allow gravel. Make sure you clean the glass throughly on the outside of the tank and inside.
When your show tank is all set up then stand back and look at the whole set up with the fish inside. Look at it with the eye of a judge. Make adjustments where necessary.
Show guidelines for showing fish
Judging guidelines are usually very strict. Contestants are usually not allowed near their tanks when the fish are being judged. So, be patient.
Each class has a single judge who will judge and score your fish on its own merit and not in comparison to neighbouring fish.
After all the fish in all the classes have been judged, a best of show award is given to the best fish in the show overall.
Aquarium societies have set up benchmarks or standards that each fish can be directly compared to. Obviously the fish that is closest to the benchmark is usually judge to be the winner.
Most fish are judged on a point system. Points are allocated in sections. Some points for size, some for shape, some for colour, finnage and deportment. Some sections are appointed more points than others, so be aware of this. The fish with the most points altogether is the winner.
Size and body weight of show fish
Size is a consistently high scoring factor. Bigger fish score more than smaller fish.
The fish’s body must be fully intact. No bumps or growths or deformities. They are not tolerated well by the judges. The fish’s body must be of the correct shape and correct proportion. The fish should not look bloated or anorexic.
Colour and fins of show fish
A fish’s body colour is determined by various layers of pigmentation that is found in the scales and the flesh underlying the scales of the fish. In the wild, colour is used for camouflage, display, mating and for shoaling purposes.
In shows, the fish must meet the the show standards for colour which might be markedly different than wild colours. Many show fish have colours that have been mutated over many generations away from the original wild colouration. Colour can be a very important factor in scoring for a show and a lot of points out of the total go to good coloration.
Fish do have some chameleon like abilities when it comes to colour. They can adjust their colours to better blend in with their surroundings. In bright tanks they can become washed out while in dark tanks they can darken.
Your fish’s coloration should be even all over the body and fins. The colour should not look washed out or be in patches unless it is a patterned fish.When 2 or more colours appear on a fish the borders where 2 colours meet each other should be well defined without colour bleeding.
Do not be tempted to use artificial colouring methods to improve the colour of your fish. These techniques leave the fish looking artificial and most judges will instantly recognised an artificially coloured fish and disqualify it.
Fins should all be present and well formed. Any missing or deformed fins are severely frowned on by judges. It is better to not enter such fish because you want to build up a good relationship with the judges for future shows. All fins must be in good condition with no tears, splits or frayed edges. The fins should all be held wide open and properly coloured. The fins should all be symmetrical in shape and size.
Overall condition of show fish
There should be no missing or damaged scales. Eyes should be bright and clear and symmetrical. The eyes must not be bulging or look sunken. The fish must be in perfect health and have a healthy and alert appearance.
Transporting fish to and from a show
Transport the fish’s display tank in an insulated wooden box. Darken the tank by covering with a cloth. Cushion the tanks so that vibrations and jolts are not transmitted to the tank and the fish. Make sure you arrive early to set up your show tank and give your fish time to settle after their stressful journey. Relaxed fish always display better and always score better than skitty fish with stressed colours.