How are Goldfish Judged?

Most western goldfish judges work off a standard that allocates different points for different features. An ideal fish would score 100 points. In some cases there is a published standard that describes the features and the point allocations in detail. An example of this would be the judging standard developed and sanctioned by the major goldfish societies in Great Britain. In other cases the judge may have established his own standard. The GFSA has a set of judging guidelines that we have developed and published. The guidelines are a little weaker than a "standard", but describe the important attributes and recognized types of different popular varieties and then suggest the point allocations for different features. The guidelines allow a lot of latitude for judges to apply their specific interpretation of how a variety should look.

What features of a goldfish are judged? Almost all standards cover the following categories:

The shape and size of the body. Generally, other things being equal, a larger fish will outscore a smaller one.
Special Features
Many goldfish varieties have characteristic features that are unique. Eye-type fish, like Telescope Eyes, Celestials, and Bubble Eyes may have one-third of their total judging points assigned to their eyes. Head growth fish like Orandas, Ranchus, and Lionheads would have significant points assigned to the conformation of their wens. Pearlscales have points associated with the quality of the pearling of their scales.
The presence or absence of fins, the appropriateness of their shape and size.
The quality and intensity of color, the uniqueness and attractiveness of the pattern. For some colors, like calico, the definition of the "best" color type is quite complex.
Condition and Deportment
The most subjective and often the most important element in the judging equation. Is the fish in peak health, with no missing scales? Does the fish swim properly and hold its body correctly in the water? Is it lively and responsive to the judge, but not flighty? This is one element that often does not come through in photographs and can make it hard for people to understand the judges' decisions after the fact. But in person it is an unmistakable aspect of an exceptional goldfish.

Judges judge fish by classes. The best-in-class fish are judged against each other for the next higher level of recognition. Until the grand champion is selected as the best fish in the show. Judging completely different varieties of goldfish against each other is very challenging: arguably a Common goldfish class may consist entirely of fish very close to the standard, while a Ranchu class (because of the demanding nature of the standard) might all score lower. Does this mean the Common goldfish should always win? Probably not. Most judges, through experience, have a mental ability to normalize classes for the inherent difficulty involved in producing a given variety. Thus, it is usually the most exceptional fish that wins in a show.