The GFSA Judging and Breed Guidelines Programs

The society, as an international organization, has recognized that one appropriate role it can play is to try to understand the requirements for show judging of popular varieties of goldfish. This includes the development of acceptable exhibition standards and the training of judges to apply these standards. It is hoped that, by developing standards and the judges to apply these standards, the goldfish hobby will see a greater number of individuals both exhibiting fish at shows and breeding varieties towards the standards of excellence.

GFSA Breed Guidelines and Standards

There has always been a tension within the society between the "traditionalists", who view the judging of goldfish as an assessment of the overall gestalt of each fish, a process not particularly amenable to detailed description and analysis, and the "quantifiers" who believe that a detailed, points-based standard is the only fair way to judge fish. The irony of this seemingly diametrically opposed set of viewpoints is that experienced practitioners of these different approaches usually have no difficulty agreeing on the best fish in a show.

In December of 1996, after several years of discussion and effort, the society released a special "Breed Guidelines" issue of the Goldfish Report. This issue contained "guidelines" for the most popular varieties of goldfish commonly exhibited in the United States. A guideline is not quite a standard, and represents a working compromise between traditionalist and quantifier schools of judging. The guidelines established what colors and features were acceptable in a variety and assigned point allocations, but only to broad classes of features (fins, body, etc.). In all cases, 20 points out of 100 were left for the deportment of the fish.

Several GFSA judges have used these guidelines and other resources, like the standards developed cooperatively by a group of British clubs ("The Nationwide Goldfish Standards of Great Britain"), to develop more detailed points-based judging methods. The idea is that a judge would fill out a form for each fish in a show, providing a points total for each entrant. The fish can then be quickly ranked by their score. The advantage of such an approach is twofold. First, once an understanding is reached on what constitutes an attribute or a flaw in a given variety, it is possible for different judges to provide highly consistent judging decisions. The second benefit is that it provides a record of judging decisions that can be presented to a fish's owner, to settle any questions about a show's outcome.

The success of those using the points-based judging forms, coupled with the need to develop more judging talent within the society, has led the GFSA to investigate such an approach. The show at the 2000 society convention used a society-developed points form for judging. This was seen by most as very successful. Given continued support and approval from the membership, it is expected that this work will be refined and expanded in the future.

GFSA Judging

The dilemma that the GFSA has encountered in promoting the competitive exhibition of goldfish is the paucity of judges. The GFSA currently has no official process for recognizing a judge as qualified. A number of members clearly are eminently qualified to judge and some frequently do so, but unfortunately they cannot cover all shows that desire a goldfish judge. The obvious solution is to begin to develop new judging talent from within the society.

An effort was made to start this process during the 2000 society convention and show. The basic concept was that the GFSA would develop the standards to a sufficient point to allow a points-based assessment. The show would then be judged by teams using the method. Each team was led by a de facto GFSA-recognized judge and 1 to 2 apprentice judges.

To further support this approach, a judging book discussing the standards and attributes for goldfish varieties was developed for the show. The day before the actual judging, a seminar that lasted over 3 hours was held, so that all the participants could discuss the process and voice questions and concerns.

This provided a great start, but much of the hard work still remains. Clearly "one event a judge does not make"; the experience that the apprentices in Cleveland received in 2000 needs to be supplemented with additional opportunities for them to develop their skills. Questions about how to help apprentices progress to full judges (and what that means) remain to be addressed. However, the enormous interest shown by both those who would like to judge and those who just want to better understand the judging process will hopefully provide the impetus for this effort to continue.

To Get Involved

The opportunity to learn to judge goldfish or to influence the development of breed standards is open to all GFSA members. The society needs volunteers willing to work on these important tasks.