Bowl Show

Part of every OCA monthly meeting is the bowl show. At each respective meeting three classes of fish can be shown. These classes are outlined in the Schedule of Bowl Show Classes which can be view by clicking below.

Download Bowl Show schedule »

What follows is a Bowl Show Primer by our former Bowl Show Chairman Lew Carbone
When I first joined the OCA, one of the main attractions of attending meetings was the Bowl Show. It was a chance to look at actual live fish I’d read about and heard about but never got a chance to see. I can think of no club activity that better fulfills the OCA’s reason for existence.

Because some members decline to participate because they’re not sure how, I offer the following information, some of it contributed by Ron Georgeone, a fellow OCA member and one of the nation’s top cichlid showmen.

What Judges Look For

Size: The closer to full adult size for that species, the better. Keep in mind, however, that most of the fish that are brought in are young, and therefore undersize. Also, what might disqualify a fish from consideration in a big show will only be a factor to be considered in a monthly Bowl Show.

Color: Specimens should have the correct color for that species, as intense as possible. The stress of moving (and the small container) sometimes causes colors to fade, so serious showmen accustom their fish to that situation. In our Bowl Show, however, you will very seldom, if ever, be facing that kind of competition, so the other fish in the show are very likely to be in a similar condition.

Finnage: Fins should be full sized, with extensions when appropriate. There should be no nicks, tears or splits. An imperfection won’t disqualify an entry.

Deportment: The fish should look comfortable in the show tank, and should not be trying to hide in the corner. A fish that looks like he wants to take a piece out of the judge scores highest in this category. Serious showman train fish to deport well, but remember, they will probably not be your competition in our Bowl Show.

General Condition: Show fish should have no deformities, missing scales or other injuries. The eyes should be clear. Bellies that appear hollow or bloated lose points unless that is a characteristic of the species.

Equipment: 2 to 5-1/2 gallon tanks work well for showing fish. Less expensive, but almost as good are the plastic tank-like containers sold, usually with lids, at pet stores. Flat sided, drum shaped fish bowls also work. Lids are highly recommended, even if they have to be improvised. (Plastic wrap and a rubber band work on drum bowls.) Dechlorinator is necessary if you are using water drawn at the meeting site, and I suggest Bag Buddies for the ride home. Your Bowl Show Chairman might have them. Don’t be afraid to ask.

The Process

Catching the Fish: If you believe you’ll have a problem catching a fish because of the aqua-scaping in the tank, I suggest you begin trying to catch the fish a week or so early, as long as you have a good place to keep the fish until meeting night. That gives you more chances. (One of my favorite tricks is to try first thing in the morning, at “lights on”, when the fish is still sleeping.) Be careful: you don’t want to rip a fin at this point!

Transport and Set-up: I will offer 2 methods, Ron’s and mine. Ron’s way is less work, but only works with smaller fish. With mine, you don’t have to be as careful during transport. At home, Ron puts the fish in the show container, filled to 2/3 of the way with water. He puts a screen lid on it and covers it with a towel for the trip. Another way is to use a glass or plastic lid, maybe taping it down all around the edge. Either way, when you get to the meeting, all you have to do is lift it out of the styro or cooler, and set it on the table. The container need not be topped off; 2/3 full is more than enough, and makes for a neater and easier to handle show table than does a full tank.

What worked for me was to use a large fish bag with enough water to fill the tank to the desired level. After putting the tank on the show table, set the bag upright in the tank. Using one hand to control the top of the open bag, use the finger-tips of your other hand to grip a bottom edge of the bag and slide the bag out in such a way that the water and fish stay in the same place, that is, in the tank. (If I did not explain this well enough, ask me and I’ll show you.)

Packing to go after the meeting is a little more difficult, and you’ll need some help. Have someone hold the bag open while you pour in some of the water, transfer the fish by hand or net and then pour in the rest of the water. (I don’t recommend trying to pour the fish with the water. If the fish gives a poorly timed flip of the tail it may land on the floor just as someone is walking by, and end up playing the unlucky role of the banana peel in an early Buster Keaton film.)

One more note: Do not feed your intended show fish for 48 hours or so before the event. This will lower the fish’s ammonia output somewhat and allow time for the digestive track to clean itself out, making for a cleaner show tank.

You can plan ahead by going to this year’s Schedule of Bowl Show Classes on this site, or by checking the previous month’s OCA bulletin for the show classes scheduled for the upcoming meeting.

Good luck, and remember that we want to see your fish!

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