When entering a fish store, a curious novice will initially observe the fishes inside the tank. Normally, the sales personnel will approach and ask what they are interested in. The newbie might ask, what fish would you recommend?
Most of my friends often ask me this question. Fish-keeping has evolved in so many ways, and more fish categories are being introduced in annual competitions. These contribute to standards of “quality fish,” which usually consider these factors: body shape ratio, depth of color, patterns, deportment, finnage, and having few to no defects.
Identifying the colors
For the sake of consistency, I will use the goldfish for the rest of the article.
Back in the 80s, red and black were the only acceptable goldfish colors. The color black was acceptable only for the telescopic type, because black oranda was considered a reject then. Classic goldfish breeding would always aim for the solid colors.
Those who did not become a solid red became either orange, apache (orange with black patches), red and white, or all white. Those who did not turn a solid black became either bronze, blue, brown, or apache (black with orange patches). Other patterns, called “all other colors” (AOC), were presented as sakura, calico, kirin or matte.
Checking for tails
In the past, if a goldfish did not have a long-dropped tail, they were not considered a good specimen. Now, almost all types of tails are accepted. Single tails used to be considered unacceptable, to be served as feeders to monster fishes. Now, they are a standard for certain goldfish species, such as the Tamasaba variety.
These are the six popular tail categories: veil tail, fantail, short tail, orchid tail, rose tail, and single tail.
Hybrids are goldfishes produced from parents of different species, varieties, or breeds. Oranda, ryukin, and ranchu were the top-ranked goldfishes before, but now, each goldfish has their own niche.
There are several hybrid goldfishes. Lionchu are the hybrid of lionhead and ranchu. Orkin are hybrids of oranda and ryukin. Tamsaba were developed by crossing a single tailed syounai (no longer available) with double-tailed ryukin goldfish.
“If it is not a fat and a round goldfish, then it is not a good goldfish” — this is used to be a common misconception. Presently, fish are chosen based on one’s favorite body size, such as round, egg shape, long, slim, and even square-shaped.
In 2003, I attended my first Aquarama show in Singapore. Together with my friends, I booked a visit to a fish farm.
Prior to that, I watched an entrepreneur in Singapore being interviewed on television. He established one – if not the biggest – tropical fish trade in Asia. His name was Kenny Yap and he owned Qian Hu Farm. I sent him some questions through email, and to my surprise, he replied.
I was so excited when I learned that the farm was part of our itinerary. The place did not disappoint me because of how modernized it was. I learned about the process of fish farming and export delivery. I also had the chance to see Yap in person.
What struck me the most was the small poster framed and displayed on one of the company walls. It was a quotation from Yap: “Definition of a good fish: No matter what [kind it is, if you like it, then] it is a good fish.”
Good fish bring us joy no matter what kind, shape, size or color they come in. It’s about their personalities and the way they interact with us. It made me realize that each individual fish has value, inspiring me to describe them in unique ways.
I care for unique fishes, which were so-called rejects. There’s ranchu with a dorsal, whom I call Rancho Shark. There’s an oranda without a wen, whom I simply call Oranda.
Thereafter, whenever I attended fish shows, I saw the fishes in a different light. When friends ask me what tips or advice I had about choosing fish, I repeat Yap’s words: “As long as you like them, [then they’re] good fish.”
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s March 2020 issue.