Q. What does it take to get my goldfish into a fish show? What do you win? What do you do with the fish? My fish has two different colored eyes. Is this rare? It is a red and white ryukin, about 4 inches long. Would it be competitive? How big an aquarium does it take to get five goldfish like it to grow up to full size?
A. Many goldfish owners enjoy the fun and excitement of freshwater fish shows. Although I do not personally show my fish, I can think of no better way to learn the current standards for quality animals. Seeing and comparing the fish of other hobbyists, listening to the observations of the judges and noting the rankings of entrants, and discussing quality characteristics with breeders will greatly accelerate your goldfish rearing and appreciation skills.
Goldfish shows are sponsored by local goldfish enthusiasts. To find out if there is a dedicated goldfish club in your area contact the Goldfish Society of America. Even if there is no local goldfish club many aquarium societies have goldfish and pond sections that are very active. Contact them for information about shows, competitions and meetings.
With rare exceptions (such as special professional breeders shows) there are no barriers to entering any fish you might wish in a competition. Be prepared, however, to accept serious criticisms of your favorite pet.
Competitions are not for hobbyists who are overly sensitive. You may have to confront the awful truth that your “perfect” specimen goldfish is really quite ordinary (or even substandard) to the discerning and experienced goldfish hobbyist. If you can take honest critiques, however, you will learn an incredible amount, and perhaps return in the future with a real winner.
All of which begs the question about your ryukin. There is no way that I can judge the competitiveness of your fish. The standards for quality goldfish are multifaceted and highly dependent on direct observation (including the behavior of the animal at the show). Most competitions will provide you with a list of standards for assessing, in a very general way, if your fish might be of show quality.
What you win depends entirely on the show. It might be an aquarium, fish food or a trophy. From a breeder’s perspective a fish that wins a competition has a higher value both as breeding stock and for sale. For example, I saw a koi that friend paid $200 for in March sell for $1500 in May after winning a local show. Did the fish’s value really increase more than seven times in two months? To the person who bought the winning fish the answer must have been yes.
Lastly, on your two technical queries: Two different colored eyes are not rare in goldfish. They might even be considered a negative quality in a competition.
To raise a half-dozen quality goldfish to full size and the best chance of competitive conformity I would suggest a 1500-gallon pond or larger — about 250 gallons per fish. The pond should be about 20-inches deep and heavily planted with submergent, floating leaf, and emergent aquatic plants.