Show Fish for the Home or Competition
Ted Coletti has been an aquarist for over 25 years andspecializesinlivebearing fish and water gardens. He has served on the Boards of the Americanand Northeast Livebearer Associations, the latter as co-founder. His book Aquarium Care of Livebearers is published by TFH/Animal Planet. Dr. Ted can be reached at
email@example.com for questions, suggestions, and to discuss why on earth we can put a man on the moon, but can’t put metal in amicrowave.
This past spring I had the pleasureofattendingtheannual convention of the Northeast Council of Aquarium Societies
(NEC). The unflappable Janine and David
Banks, along with their dedicated crew,
pulled off another friendly and informative
weekend. I highly recommend this event
that attracts attendees and guest speakers
from all over the world, as well as a nice
mix of vendors.
A common topic of conversation heard at
the convention was the laments of a general
decline in aquarium club membership, and
even some clubs folding in the past few years.
“The Internet has stolen away hobbyists!”
“The kids aren’t interested in fish!” Yadda
Gravelwash, I say! Look at the plethora of
aquarium books and magazines on the market
today compared to 20 years ago. Scan the
hundreds of aquarium message forums. Look
at the massive fish departments in pet store
chains popping up all over our landscape. This
is not a fringe hobby, folks. Americans love
fish and aquariums! (On p. 38 of this month’s
column, I offer my humble take on adapting
the organized hobby for the 21st century.)
While cruising the William T. Innes fish
competition at the NEC convention, I was
happy to see livebearers well represented.
This is not an isolated phenomenon. As I
claimed in my inaugural column way back in
2005 (“They’re Not Just for Cichlid Breakfast
Anymore,” TFH March 2005), the livebearer
hobby is in a renaissance. Shows around
the country are featuring multiple livebearer
classes with numerous entries. And they are
often beating out cichlids for the Best of and
Reserve of Show spots. As a livebearer judge,
I have had to split a class on more than one
occasion because of the number of entries.
So what makes a livebearer worthy of
winning at a show? As someone who knows
a few things about beauty contests (I was the
4th runner-up in the 1979 Miss New Jersey
Pageant, but that’s another story…hey, it was
a scholarship event), let’s review the livebearer
show scene and how you can serve up a
winning fish. Even if you don’t compete, the
lesson from the show circuit will help you
develop and enjoy a first-class livebearer for
your home show tank.
Judging livebearers can be a vexing task.
Most shows have multiple cichlid classes
organized by size and geography. Go around
the corner to the livebearer section and you
may just see two classes: guppies and other
livebearers. Try judging a veiltail molly against
a goodeid and you see the dilemma.
But times, they are a-changin’. At my local
club, which puts on a great show every fall, we
have classes for guppies; platies, swordtails,
mollies with common finnage; platies,
swordtails, mollies with fancy finnage; and
other livebearers. At the International Fancy
Guppy Association (IFGA) and American
Livebearer Association (ALA) shows, there are
dozens of livebearer classes.
My dear friend Chuck Davis has written a
fabulous overview (“Judging a Tropical Fish
Show,” TFH July 2009) on judging criteria.
The IFGA has published a helpful judging
standards guide available to members, which
has definitely influenced the standards used
in judging livebearers overall. These sources
are the criteria you should use in your own
breeding regimen at home for deciding on
parent stock and which fish to cull out of your
program. What follows is a basic overview of
what makes a good show fish for either the
home show tank or show circuit.
This is an area that works well with cichlids,
but it can sometimes backfire for livebearers.