This article is written to help Club Administrators and Show Organizers get prepared for a show with a minimum number of mistakes. Even though it is written for the Discus Shows, most of the facts written here apply to all kinds of shows with aquatic content.
The venue where the show will be held should be chosen with utmost care. If possible, its location should be as close as possible to the airport and also to the official show hotel. If possible, choose a hotel in the same building complex as the venue (or a hotel in the walking distance) which will make hosting of the guests a lot easier. A location with easy access to some kind of public transportation and a shopping mall with a nice food court should be preferred.
The hall where the tanks will be displayed should not be over air-conditioned (normal room temperatures are fine) and with lots of windows or too much lighting. If possible, Too much light causes lots of reflection on the tanks which makes it very hard for the judges to evaluate the fish and also makes it almost impossible to take good photos. it is the best to have a dark hall illuminated only by the lights on the top of the tanks.
TANKS & TANK LAYOUT
It is a lot better if tanks can be organized in one row at eye level like in Duisburg rather than two levels as we see in Aquarama and Aquafair. When judging, fish on the top are always evaluated in more detail than the ones on the bottom level. It is also difficult to evaluate the bottom tanks for old or over-weight judges since it is difficult for them to bend down. Statistically more than 80 % of winners come out of the top row. It was 100 % on Aquarama 2011 where I also judged. Of course, I am aware that having all aquariums in a row is more expensive and also needs more space.
Tanks should not be very deep so that the fish can be observed clearly by the judges.
Tanks should not have rounded fronts glasses.
Sides of the tanks should be separate from each other so that the fish can be observed from both sides or sides should be made of mirror so that the other side of the fish can also be evaluated by the judges. Some of the side glasses fully reflect the image of the fish and that is also acceptable. It is the best to test the tanks in advance.
Background of the tanks should not be blue or deep blue coloured. It is the best to have a light grey, grey, light powder blue or white background if not possible black is also ok. Blue colours interfere with the colours of the fish and also effect the light.
Filters should be all the same colour and attached close as possible to a corner so that the fish can not hide behind it.It is even better to have some kind of outer filter and heater so that the fish will have no place to hide or head. The water flow of the filter should be as low as possible not to make fish fight with the water flow and get stressed and tired. Even a good pipe filter will do.
The lights should all be the same colour tone. It is really beneficial to test different coloured light bulbs in advance of the Show. Usually a little yellowish light gives better results than bright white ones on most of the fish. Nowadays neon lightnings which you simply put on the tanks like a hose makes things a lot easier. However the intense of neon lights are usually low and the intensity of the light should be very well calculated. A little dimmed light usually makes the Wild caught fish feel more comfortable since most of them are kept under low lights. Also a thin layer of sand makes them feel more comfortable too.
The heaters used must all be the same brand, and the tank temperatures should be kept all the same. A reliable and respectable heater brand must be chosen because cheap filters can be really dangerous and you can end up having a fish soup for dinner. Wattage of the heaters should be a little higher than standards not to let you down in case of over cooling of the building or in very cold weather conditions. (not the case in your show, especially in Texas in June.) There should be reliable thermometers in every tank.
Water quality should be as close as possible to the parameters the discus likes. They should be announced at least one month in advance to the potential participants so that they can adjust their fish accordingly. I observed best results are taken with R/O water enriched with Discus Minerals and have a conductivity around 200 μS/m. Try to prepare the tanks as early as possible so that fish will be more confortable when put into the tanks.
Benching-in should be done at least 24 hours before judging. If the place and time permits, it is better to have a longer time period between benching in and judging and to let the fish settle down better and get more comfortable and colourful.
Great emphasis should be payed not to let any sick fish enter the competition. An expert should examine each fish very carefully during benching in and fish showing the slightest signs of sickness should not be permitted to enter the show. Competitors should be let to bench-in only one at a time and there must be an Officer or Attendant to observe everything is being done according to the rules. Same applies for the bench-out too. If the same nets should be used in all the tanks, there should be a disinfectant solution (maybe PP or Chlorine) to submerse the nets and other shared equipment in between usage in different tanks. There must be Plexiglas or plastic separations present to put in between the tanks while benching in and out to avoid fish splashing water to the neighbouring tanks. There should be hand disinfectant sprays in the show are and people who are handling the fish should be trained to avoid cross-contamination. This is a very serious subject. To give an example most of the fish got sick after the last Aquafair and this caused a big disaster in the Malaysian discus industry.
Classes should be defined very clearly which strain goes into which class with giving examples of the trade names used in the market. (eg : Spotted Class; Super Eruption, Penang Eruption, Singapore Fireworks etc…) If there is a Wild Class, it should be defined very clearly if F1 and F2’s will be allowed or not. If it is an absolute wild caught class then you might have a paper signed by the owner that it is a wild caught fish and not a tank bred one.
Judges must be chosen from experienced or trained judges. Especially local judges should be chosen from very respectable and objective people. Many locals know the owner of the fish at the first glance which sometimes leads to prejudiced evaluating. Some over-experienced judges are also not very good. Some of them tend to be very over-confident and evaluate the fish just by one glance without closely examining the fish. They usually finish judging very quickly and some unfair results may appear.