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Size matters? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andy Pearce   
Tuesday, 09 June 2009 14:48



First Published in Association of Aquarists Magazine November 2007



Size matters! Well, in some ways it does! Having said this, it is all a question of degree: for degree read percentages. Twenty-five years ago, the judging points for size were a possible maximum of twenty out of a total of one hundred for each entry. The remaining points were split between body, colour & condition, finnage and deportment & presentation. Mathematically speaking, this placed a potential 20% emphasis on size. This gave a proportionally higher advantage to full size fish compared to the current system and reduced the importance of other qualities.  About twelve years ago, it became clear this needed revision. After a period of consideration, combined with comparison tests and discussions with our senior judges, a decision was taken to revise the allocation of judging points for individual fish entries to the system currently in place. This is as follows:


  • Size 10 points =10%
  • Colour 20 points =20%
  • Body 10 points =10%
  • Condition 20 points =20%
  • Finnage 20 points =20%
  • Deportment 10 points =10%
  • Presentation 10 points =10%
  • Total 100 points =100%


This revision shifted the emphasis away from size to the overall quality of an exhibit. It directly reduced the odds of a poor quality, full size fish winning a class over a better quality, three-quarter size entry. It has also encouraged exhibitors to display more half to three-quarter size fish as the penalty is minimal and is easily won back on the quality aspects. So size does matter, but full size is not essential. To the uninitiated, the size we relate to is the show size in our listings. This comprehensive index includes all of the popular species we regularly see - and many more. It is currently under revision and out of print, but the majority of classes will be available for next season. The sizes listed are for the standard length of the species: standard length is measured from the tip of the snout to the base of the caudal peduncle. Unlisted species, in the absence of supporting information, will be given seven points for size.

As we have examined size, here are a few words about the rest of the judging exercise.:-

Body is pointed, as you can see in the chart above, out of ten points. In this, we consider what we would expect to be the perfect body shape and contours for the species. Where appropriate, this will take into account the gender of fish as the male and female body shapes differ in most species. A good body shape will receive around seven or more points. Points will be reduced by poor shape, twisted body or a hollow belly. In livebearer classes, heavily gravid females are not encouraged and will be down pointed accordingly. Blemishes and body damage are dealt with under condition.

Colour is marked out of twenty points. This is the expected colour for the species concerned and not the highest points for the most colourful fish! Again, allowance will be given for difference in colouration for male or female as these differ - the male is generally the more colourful, but there are exceptions to this rule. Consideration will also be given to older fish which generally exhibit less colour for the given species. A reasonable colour will receive approximately fourteen points; better receives fifteen and more. Poor colouration will receive reduced points. Albino species should exhibit a white or pink body, as appropriate, and pink eyes. Any other colouration may be considered a fault and dealt with accordingly.

Condition is pointed out of twenty. Here we examine the general condition of the fish. We look for any signs of damage (excluding finnage). This might be scale damage, traces of heater burns, or a rubbed snout or mouth. We also look for any signs of disease bearing in mind that this can be grounds for disqualification. We also look for cloudy eyes or fin congestion. We include in this category the number, shape and condition of barbels where they are appropriate to the species we are judging. Damaged, deformed, missing or badly worn barbels would all be reasons for down pointing an exhibit.

Finnage again scores a possible twenty points. Has the exhibit the correct number and placement of fins? Are these the correct shape and size for the species? We examine the fish closely for split or damaged fins. Small fish pose a real challenge in this respect. The magnifying glasses we carry are not just because of our poor eyesight! They actually help us find the smallest damage or split that would otherwise go unnoticed. Some species naturally exhibit ray extensions or feathering of fins which will also be considered as will split, damaged or truncated ventral fins, especially in angel fish and the threadfin gouramis.

Deportment can achieve a maximum of ten points. Here we consider how the fish is behaving and its bearing. Is the fish a top, middle or lower strata swimmer? Is it behaving correctly? Is it swimming or holding itself correctly? For example, a top or middle swimmer should not be sitting on the bottom of the tank and would be down pointed. A headstander characin would be expected to deport nose down towards the bottom of the tank. Most other species would receive low points for this posture.

Presentation is a possible maximum score of ten points. Here we consider how the exhibit is presented. The size and condition of the show tank must be adequate for the entry to swim and turn freely. The sides and tops of show tanks must be flat and clear. The bases may be clear or black. Tinted glass will be penalised as will any sharp edges or points that might harm the exhibit.  Is the water clean or does it contain debris? Is the tank clear of air bubbles? Has the exhibitor taken the trouble to wipe and clean the tank glass? These points are easy to achieve with a little forethought and effort. Many exhibits achieve nine points but conversely some exhibitors make little effort to earn these points possibly believing that they can make them back elsewhere. Presentation is as much about the welfare of the entry as producing a good looking exhibit.

The remarks and observations that I have made are not exhaustive and there are many other issues that require a judge’s attention before and during the judging process and in the course of a show. It all starts with examining the fish to be judged in a class. Are they in the correct class? The next challenge is to identify any unnamed or incorrectly named entries and establish the correct show size for each. Please also consider that our judges will each examine approximately fifty to sixty entries during a show. We are at times open to criticism for missing something or a questionable decision, but we do our best within the time constraints to our knowledge and ability. If you would like to try judging for yourself, then please contact any of our team or committee. Most of us are poachers turned game keepers! Even if you have little or no experience, we are happy to give training. The only qualifications required are an open and enquiring mind and some attention to detail.


Andy Pearce



Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 19:34

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