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Why This Fish Win? (Dec 08)

The first article that I wrote using this title “Why This Fish Win?” was early this year, reviewing the winning fish from City Cup. Each competition result will tends to vary slightly due to the different judges personal preferences, judging criteria, competition categories availability and current trend. It’s really interesting how we can study and learn from these winning fish, understand their winning points and weaknesses would really help to create a better in-depth of goldfish appreciation.

Before start writing, I would like to highlight, that judging from photo is very different from judging the actual fish. It is not uncommon that a fish looks fantastic during benching-in, but when come to the judging period, the fish fins were all clamped up and the fish hide in a corner. This usually causes the fish to loss a lot of point. This is what we term as “failed to perform”. On other cases, a pretty common looking fish filled with liveliness, gliding like a Spanish dancer during the moment of judging could easily dance it ways to a placing in the competition! Photo only capture the instant beauty of the fish, hence, judging base on photo has limited creditability.

Not all, but a random selection of the winning fish will be discussed below.

First, let’s look at the 5 special awards winning fish.

Most Stout – In this event there were actually a couple of entries that are well deserve this title, however, due to the sheer size of this approximately 12-inch ryukin, there is no doubt a deserving winner. Big fish like this are common in farm but uncommon among hobbyists. However, with certain keeping skills, nowadays hobbyists are able to achieve such size. Having the luxury of space is one of the requirements to achieve this. Many have asked what is the different between ‘stout’ and ‘fat’, in a nutshell, a ‘stout’ fish has thick or broad back matching the big round stomach, while a ‘fat’ fish usually has a big stomach with thin back.

Most Robust – This is the only award that has to be decided over a period of time, firstly, all active and healthy fish are noted at the beginning of the judging, during the judging, these selected fish were being reviewed, and fish that has become fatigue will be removed from the list, and the third review took place at the end of the judging time. In other words, this fish that won this award has been consistently active through the whole day. Such alertness and activeness is one way of indicating the fish has no problem adjusting itself to the new environment (water parameters). Healthy and fit fish equal to beautiful fish!

Most Graceful – Again in a simple term, this award is given to fish that able to carry themselves in a very compose manner. Personally, I like this fish very much, it has a perfect alert dorsal fin. The caudal fin close slightly while it swims and opens up gently as it stops. It has very nice head growth formation that depicts a ‘fierce’ look which gives an appropriate title of a ‘lion head’. For its swimming style, it takes one stroke at a time, head remains still. No sudden or frantic moment. All these elements earn this fish the deserving title. This fish is the only fish that won a double award (the other award is ‘second placing’ in the Oranda-Amateur class) in this event. However, this oranda is NOT without fault, in my opinion, it is slightly inferior in term of the body shape.

Rarity – The first thing that this word brings to mind, is something that is not commonly see or easily available. However this award should not be misunderstood as a focus of rare variety or strange looking goldfish. A common ryukin like the one that won the Most Stout award was close to winning a double award for its ‘rare to achieve size’. Other oranda and dragon eye varieties with beautiful and unique colour pattern were competing for this award too. Finally this award went to a protruding eye-lionhead goldfish. It has a nice tail spread, losing out in the size, slightly too slim, in my opinion.

Public’s Choice – This is an interesting award. Beauty defines by general public. This calico has a unique colour pattern, usually known as revert pattern, with white covering the back and red covering the abdomen, while most fish pattern have red on the back and white on the bottom. Although it does not consist of all the 5 colours of a good calico, it has nice small black dot evenly spread all over the body. It overall brilliance and stoutness have took the heart of the public.

Above shows the first to fifth placing from the Oranda – Amateur Class.
The fourth placing fish has an attractive black and orange pattern (common known to hobbyists here as – apache). The tail is broad and well spread. High dorsal fin and elastic caudal fin are its unique point. Judging from the body shape, there is still room for improvement. Building up the stoutness of this fish might easily make this fish a strong competitor for the next few competitions.

No doubt, this fish is most deserving for the first placing in the Ranchu – Amateur Class. It has beautiful buffalo cheeks protruding beyond the mouth, which is highlighted in white on the red-coloured head growth. It also wears a very distinct crown. The ‘roll-off’ curve from the back to the caudal tail is smooth. Nice small tail. Most importantly, the fish has a perfect deportment in term of swimming and stationary. In my personal opinion, the weakness would be, not having a more ‘interesting’ back curve and the tail spread is not ideal.

For this Ryukin – Amateur Class, I would like to highlight on the fourth placing fish. It is just a one colour full colour fish, nothing really interesting about it. But on the other hand, there is no much point can be deducted from it too. It has a reasonable nice hump, alert dorsal, well spread tail and good deportment. So when come to entering for competition, one don’t have to always seek out for the special feature of the fish. Simple look out for a fish with minimum fault could be, sometime, the answer of securing a placing in a competition.

Surprise and yet deserving winner in the Open – Professional Class is the bubble eye goldfish. In fact, this is the only winner in this competition that is voted anonymous by all the judges as the first prize winner. There were usually so much fault in a bubble eye, as such, it minimizes the winning chance, but this is clearly not the case for this winner. It has a nice blue base with evenly spread black patches. It has a strong caudal peduncle that is not commonly found in a bubble eye strain and the caudal tail is neatly spread. One of the major concerns is the balancing of the bubble, which is not an issue for this fish. The x-factor of this fish is that, it is very active which again this is not a characteristic of most bubble eyes have. Weakness – size is a bit small when come to competition.

There is no doubt about the difficulties face by hobbyists when come to care-taking for a goldfish caudal tail, the longer the caudal tail the more effort has to put into maintain the tail formation. Among these winners in the Dragon-eye – Professional Class, the mid (length) tail, fourth placing dragon-eye is a charismatic fish. The mid length tail enhanced the elegant of the fish movement. It has a nice black tone and a good back hump.

When selecting a goldfish, often one would able to find a fish with good caudal tail formation, but losing out in the body shape … … or the other way, with good body shape, but the caudal tail is bad. It’s really not ‘everyday’ fish that possess good formation for both body shape and caudal tail. In the Oranda – Professional Class, the third placing black oranda is a fine example of having both attributes. However, there are few flaws here and there. The dorsal fin is alert but not straight … … there seems to have a ray sticking out in the middle of the caudal tail … … the head growth formation is not ideal … … and slightly small in body size, not able to give a complete balance to the fish overall appearance. In my opinion, these are the minor weakness of this oranda that stop it from being the perfect fish.

Ranchu back-curve has always been main highlight when come to ranchu appreciation. There are hundreds variations when come to the shape of the curve. One of the more popular curves is the ‘egg-shaped’ or the ‘oval-shaped’ curve. I tend to regard such popular curves more of a trend statement. In other words, it is common that at certain point of time, certain curve tends to gain more ‘favouritism’ compared to the others and another time frame, the less popular curve would sometime become the most sought-after. In the Ranchu – Professional Class, the well deserving first placing went to an egg-shaped ranchu. It is a stout fish, good deportment (both swimming and stationary), and a nicely spread tail (with the right size). Its movement is graceful. Weakness, the back-curve is not a perfect smooth arc and the head growth has room for improvement.

For this last category, Ryukin – Professional, i would like to share and elaborate a thought regarding goldfish appreciation / competitions. The first placing winner of this 2nd Singapore Goldfish Festival was also competed in another local event (recently) which got into top ten positions but failed to obtain a prize in the final round, and ironically the fifth placing winner of this 2nd SGF was the first prize winner of that same local event. This is a classic example of how different judging system could produce different results. Thus, hobbyist should not be discouraged if they failed to win in one competition, be sure to keep a positive thinking, go for the next and the next events. Some time the result may not be what you expected to be, and in fact, that’s part of the fun about goldfish keeping, it is like a football match, you can never be too sure!

I would like to contribute the next section to some of the beautiful goldfish that for some reasons failed to impress the judges, resulting not winning a placing. The following are some selected entries from the event for more ‘case-study’.

Starting from top left (clockwise)

(1) It has nice colour pattern, good body shape, one major fault that is folded caudal tail. Experience hobbyists might sometime (not always) able to ‘correct’ such fin error. This is a young fish, small in size, with proper grooming to build up the body mass and head growth it would look far more impressive than now.
(2) This oranda is losing out in size. Its tail spread is not very impressive, as such could have, perhaps, causes of points deduction. There is a potential of improving the tail spread. If this is achieved, it would be another impressive fish.
(3) Beautiful black oranda. It has a lovely head-growth formation, with distinct cheeks and crown growth. The caudal fin is beautifully spread, unfortunately all the fins (including the caudal fin) seems to be too small to complement its stout and mature head-growth, thus, throwing the fish off balance on the overall appearance.
(4) Another young potential red-white oranda. Nice body shape. Weakness, head-growth is not fully developed yet. Although the caudal tail doesn’t seem to be folded, it looks weak. From photo, the tail seems clamped or ‘sticks’ together, forming a single tail effect. With experience keeping skills this can be corrected and the improved fish will look much more impressive.
(5) A bend dorsal fin, and its head growth is not ideal, other than that I really cannot seem to find any major fault from this photo. Purely base on photo, this fish deserve a placing. With all respect to the judges, I’m absolutely sure there are reasons for not winning a placing, perhaps the fish was not ‘performing’ at all during the judging period?

Above are the 7 ranchu (in my personal opinion) that have certain admirable quality which is worth to mention. Having a good back-curve ranchu for competition as mentioned, is like having half the battle won. In addition with good head growth and well spread caudal tail (right size), the ranchu will probably in contention for the top placing. All these ranchu (photos) have a reasonably nice back-curve, their individual unique quality are:
Starting from top left to right

(1) Nice pattern
(2) Nice head growth
(3) Stoutness
(4) Nice egg-shaped body
(5) Nice pattern
(6) Perhaps due to the extensive out stretch of the caudal fin, which is more suitable for top-view appreciation that caused it to loss some point?
(7) This egg-shaped ranchu looks similar to the City Cup winner from earlier event held this year. Aside from a slightly big caudal tail and not full developed head growth, again I could not spot any major fault in this fish. Perhaps due to the different judging system, this ranchu was unfortunate to just edge-out from the top placing.

Starting from top left (clockwise)

(1) Very attractive ryukin, and has a nice hump. Its weakness is caudal tail formation is no good and too small in size, not able to give a strong impression to the judges.
(2) This pearl scale has very neatly arranged scale, it has the sought-after golf ball body shape, big in size, well spread tail, more importantly, it is a very healthy fish with no ‘bubble’ disease that is so often found in pearl scale. Personally, in my mind, I have no doubt that this is going to get a placing. Well, I was wrong, went to ‘investigate’ and apparently there is one major fault, that is, the anal fin was protruding out on one side of the caudal fin.
(3) and (4) are both very attractive calico dragon eye. Well balance eyes and reasonable fins spread. (3) This dragon eye is weak in the caudal fin spread. (4) This dragon eyes is weak in body shape.
(5) Another dragon eye, full red. Well balance eyes and also reasonable fins. Its weakness is losing out in size, and body shape not ideal.

Starting from top left (clockwise)

(1) and (3) Both active, and very well balance appearance, if not because of the folded tail, these two would be strong contenders for the top placing.
(2) This black oranda has a unique caudal fin. When the fish is in stationary, the caudal fin seems collapse and folded together. When the fish swims, the caudal tail will unfold and bloom like a flower. Such feature is appreciated by the Chinese, Japanese and even the Thai. However, for now, this is not the case in Singapore.
(4) Long tail ryukin is another beautiful variety that hardy seen among Singapore hobbyists. Really look forward to see more of such variety in future shows. Main weakness of this ryukin is losing out in size.
(5) Major fault of this bronze ryukin is the shape of the abdomen. It is more square-ish instead of a nice smooth arc. If not, it could have been another strong contender for the top placing.

I hope you have enjoyed digging into the judges’ brain from reading this article as much as I enjoy writing it. My above comments are nothing more than a brain-teaser or some appreciation pointers (if I may say). It is important that hobbyists turn on their personal artistic tap to define beauty and challenge the current trend if necessary. With positive and constructive input, the standard of goldfish will improve as we progress from each show. Do enjoy your fish keeping and have a happy festive session!

Merry Christmas!!
steven TONG

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