Showing your fish is a part of our hobby that some people enjoy and others are not really interested in.  Some members of Island Fishkeepers have been known to travel the country in pursuit of fish shows.  We also have two judges amongst our membership who also travel far and wide to officiate at various shows.

The Island Fishkeepers’ Club is affiliated to the Federation of British Aquatic Societies and, as such, it is the FBAS show rules to which we are most accustomed and, indeed, most of the shows we attend are run to those rules.  It is fair to say, however, that occasionally we attend a show that is run to another organisation’s rules.

The show rules are there for several reasons.  Firstly, they protect the fish from unnecessary hardship and mistreatment; they ensure a uniform and high standard of judging and they also help to bring order to potential chaos.

Before showing your fish it is advisable and helpful to have at least a basic understanding of the rules.  The more you show your fish, the more accustomed you will become to these rules but, for the purpose of starting out, there is always someone around who will be more than happy to help you, especially if it is your first time.

The first thing you will need to know is what class your fish should be shown in.  Most Open Shows have sufficient ‘classes’ to accommodate just about every species of fish you are likely to take but you need to be aware that some specialist shows may not.  The best way of finding out if there are classes available at the show for the fish you want to take is to obtain a copy of the ‘Show Schedule’.  A list of classes should be printed in this to help you.  If you are still not sure, you can always ask a club member who is used to showing fish and, if this is not possible, there should be details of the ‘Show Secretary’ for that particular show printed in the ‘Show Schedule’ and if you contact them and explain you are new to showing they will usually be only too happy to help (it is not really fair to contact a show secretary about anything else other than his or her own show).  Further details of show classes can be found elsewhere on this site or on the FBAS site.

Having decided which fish you plan to take to the show, you will need to supply a show tank suitable for them and sufficient mature tank water to fill the show tank.  For many reasons, it is not advisable to rely on tapwater at the show venue - for the sake of your fish, it is much better to use water that it is accustomed to.  The size of the show tank is, of course, dependent on the size of the fish you intend to show.  There is, however, a minimum size of tank at FBAS shows which is 100mm x 100mm x 100mm.  Obviously a tank this small is only really suitable for very small fish such as small tetras etc.  Generally, the tank should be longer than the fish you intend to show and should be sufficiently wide to allow the fish to turn in comfort.  Show tanks can be purchased for a small amount of money or, if you are able, they can be made to suit yourself.  If it is your first show and you are unsure, there is usually somebody at the club who would be prepared to lend you a tank or two for the day.
Most fish at FBAS shows are judged using what has become known as the 5 / 20 point system.  The total points of 100 are split up into five different sections and you can score a maximum of twenty points in each section.

For all tropical fish and for most coldwater fish (excluding Goldfish and Koi) the five sections are:

The FBAS publishes a list of show sizes for all the commonly seen fish.  These sizes are what is considered a maximum size for that particular species which could reasonably be expected to be seen at a show.  When the judge assesses your fish for size he will measure the fish using a reflective rule which will show up as a reflection in the show tank.  He will then compare the measured size of your fish to the current ‘show size’ that is laid down for that species.  It is worth noting that a half size fish will NOT score half points.  This is to reflect the difficulty in obtaining the extra growth required to get the fish up to full size.  Half size is equal to around seven points out of the twenty available.

The judge will be looking at the body of your fish for the correct shape; that there is no damage to scales (where present); he will look at the eyes; that the fish does not appear ‘hollow bellied’; that the contours of the body a smooth, etc. and will give a mark out of twenty accordingly.

This category is obviously all about the colour of the fish but will not just be how brightly coloured it is.  The judge will take into account the correct colouration that is expected for that particular species, he will also take into account the sex of the fish (where possible) and any colour difference there might be between males and females for that particular species.  He will also be looking for a bright, ‘shiny’ colouration and that the colour does not appear ‘washed out’.  In general, a fish that is expected to be all grey will be awarded points for being all grey (providing the grey colour is solid and ‘bright’) it will not lose points against a highly colourful fish just because it is not supposed to be a colourful fish.

In this category the judge is obviously looking at the fish’s finnage to see that it is of the correct shape and size for the particular species, that paired fins are equal to each other, that there are no deformed rays etc.

This category is sometimes seen as two although, generally, a fish in good condition will deport well in the tank.  The judge is looking for such things as damage to the body or fins.  Note that generally points will be deducted for damage in this section, for instance, a damaged fin will lose points for condition not for finnage, a deformed ray in a fin(possibly due to previous damage that has healed up slightly wrongly) will lose points in the finnage section.

Obviously, the marks out of twenty for each section are added together to give a score out of 100 and the fish with the highest score in that class will win the class.

It is worth noting that there are certain circumstances where the judge has to disqualify the fish and the fish will then have to be removed from the show bench.  Judges do not enjoy disqualifying fish and will do whatever is possible within the rules to avoid this.  But there are certain circumstances where a judge will have to resort to disqualification.  For instance, a diseased or severely deformed fish will be disqualified.

There are certain classes where, although the 5 /20 point system is still adhered to, the categories are different.  The main differences are listed out below along with the categories used in that class.

BREEDERS CLASSES: - Achievement & Quality, Matching, Size for Age, Colour, Condition & Deportment.

Breeders entries usually consist of four fish although they can sometimes consist of six fish.  You will be able to find out which is required on the show schedule for that particular show, if nothing is mentioned in the schedule then the default is for four fish.  The fish should be bred by the exhibitor and should also be under 14 months of age on the date of the show.  Ideally, the entry should include an even number of each sex.

SEXED PAIRS OF FISH: - Size & Matching, Body, Colour, Fins, Condition & Deportment.

Pairs of fish should be readily sexable by the judge which will mean that some species where the sex is not easily identifiable are not really suited to these classes.  The judge is at liberty to disqualify the entry if he cannot distinguish the sex.

GOLDFISH: - Body, Fins, Colour, Characteristic, Condition & Deportment.

Goldfish are bred to a standard and several different varieties exist.  The points awarded for the characteristic are given for the particular characteristic of the variety being judged.  For instance, on an oranda, the points are awarded for head growth, on a bubble-eye, they are given for development of the eye sacs etc.

AQUATIC PLANTS: - Size, Colour, Leaves, Difficulty, Condition.

There are also classes for Koi, Furnished Aquaria, Aquascapes and Ponds but the novice to showing need not really bother themselves with these to begin with.

As well as class winners (and second, third & fourth places) most shows have other awards and these will be detailed on the show schedule.  Some of the more common ones include: BEST COLDWATER FISH, BEST TROPICAL FISH, BEST JUNIOR, BEST EXHIBIT, HIGHEST POINTED INDIVIDUAL, HIGHEST POINTED SOCIETY and, of course, BEST FISH IN SHOW.




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