Our Trip to the GFSA 1996 Annual Convention and Show in Akron Ohio

Fully caught up in the spirit of goldfish mania, we decided to drive to Akron for the GFSA Convention. We took off Friday morning and got there in time to check into the Holiday Inn and go out to dinner before the social at 8pm. I didn't know quite what to expect ... would we be disdained as rank amateurs? Ignored as impudent newcomers?

Well, none of these things. Arriving at the hospitality room about 8:30pm, I got myself a beer and then went over to where my wife was looking at some fish on display. While standing there, Steve Frowine came over and introduced himself and we talked for a while. I saw Jim Ketchum and went over and introduced myself to him. While talking to Ketch, Peter Ponzio walked in, said hi, and then introduced me to most of the GFSA board of directors, who were conveniently passing by. The net: these are very friendly people who really like goldfish. I was basically on these guys like a fish louse, sucking information, for the next 36 hours.

The layout of the weekend's events were: 1) the social on Friday night, 2) a symposium with a bunch of presentations on Saturday, and 3) fish show judging, an auction, and awards on Sunday. We stayed for the first 2, but left on Sunday morning. I really enjoyed the presentations. I'll try to hit a few highlight below.

Steve Frowine and Jackie Chan - Steve talked about his trip to Hong Kong and China (as published in Aquarium Fish Magazine) and showed a video. On his trip, he visited Jackie Chan of Tung Hoi Aquarium Company of Hong Kong. Jackie was at the convention and spoke about his experiences and goldfish farming. This was particularly interesting for me; Jackie is probably the largest wholesale exporter of quality goldfish to the west ... apparently virtually all the high quality commercially-bred goldfish that end up in this country originated from his operations.

Al Thomma - Al spoke about the genetics of calico coloration (nacreous vs. metallic vs. matte) and the breeding experiments that Dr. Joe Smartt has been doing in England, crossing goldfish back to Crucian carp to understand the genetics of color inheritance. Al also showed a video of his veiltail and "blue belly" breeding efforts, as well as pictures of some "comeils". The comeils are comets bred with veiltails; that is, a large single tail with no forking. This fish were in sort of a blackish calico pattern and were quite spectacular.

Gary Hater and Al Foster - Gary and Al spoke about the GFSA efforts to organize a "Breeders Circle". The intent is to create a network of goldfish breeders who exchange fish and spawns. Since some of the varieties or bloodlines are only held by one or two people, it is hoped that this would reduce the risk to these strains from disease or accident. They also talked about out-turned operculums. This is where the bony plate on top of the gill does not develop properly, either being too short or actually curling outward. In either case the gill filaments are exposed. They brought numerous examples of such fish with them to show the audience. Apparently such fish are becoming alarmingly frequent; Gary cited examples of spawns containing 50% fish with this defect. The cause is still unknown, and there was some "nature vs. nurture" discussions. They believe it is not an infectious disease, but rather either genetic, environmental (DO available to eggs was noted as a possible issue), or dietary.

Peter Ponzio - Peter presented the efforts to produce "judging guidelines" for different goldfish varieties. This effort has been going on for a while, with maybe 20 people on the committee. Peter really emphasized that they were trying to create consensus-based standards that were not too complex. He showed a few example illustrations that Merlin Cunliffe of Australia had done for some of the varieties. I thought these were really superb; very high quality technical art work. Wish I could snag one for this web page ...

We also went over to the show on Saturday, which was held at the Chapel Hill Mall in Akron. This was held jointly with the Greater Akron Aquarium Society. This was kind of an anticlimax (though, in fairness, we didn't go back on Sunday after everything was fully setup). Seemed like only a few goldfish were on display, and not really spectacular fish (mall setup - 41 KB). Might just have been the setting. I found the fish that were for sale back at the Holiday Inn more interesting; there was one gorgeous black ranchu that I'm sure was staring beseechingly at my wallet the whole time ...

I didn't buy any fish (not a good time for me at the moment to deal with new fish). But I did buy a waterlily (var. "Hellvola") for $20, which I thought was a great deal. It was blooming in the bag on the way home. Overall, my wife and I really enjoyed the event. It was a well-spent weekend.


We went to a dinner on Saturday night, jointly sponsored by the GFSA and GAAS. The dinner admission tickets were also raffle tickets for the next day. Since we were leaving, a very nice woman from the GAAS out of the blue offered to hold our tickets for us. Wouldn't you know it. We won a filter and a couple of grab bags of medicines and fish foods. This poor woman boxed this stuff up and shipped it to me in Virginia. Yup, nice people.