UMT MOOC: Ornamental Fish Culture - Topic 3: Quality Characteristic Determination

For a hobbyist and consumer, understanding this topic enables you, being an educated consumer to to get your money worth by buying good quality ornamental fishes. For a breeder, knowing what quality characteristics is essential to follow the breeding standard and select the right pair of fishes for your next generation breeding projects.

Evaluation of a good quality fish is based on three main criterias: body shape, colour pattern, and fins. Although there is saying of "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", judging standards do exists to set the baseline of identifying and judging aesthetic characteristics of any ornamental fishes in competition. For example, characteristics of show grade Betta fish (Betta Splendens) has been standardize by governing standards of International Betta Congress (IBC).

What do we look for for good quality fish? First, analysis of the unique form and structure or morphology of fishes. These includes (1) Balancing in term of colours, fins, and scale, and (2) Ratio in terms of fins, scale, and body. Secondly, unique swimming pattern. For example, Betta fish fins flaring when defending its territory. To understand this, we need to learn and identify each part of the external anatomy of a fish shown below. (Source: Wikipedia)

These numbers in the picture above are: (1) Operculum (gill cover), (2) Lateral line, (3) Dorsal fin, (4) Adipose fin, (5) Caudal peduncle, (6) Caudal fin, (7) Anal fin, (8) Photophores, (9) Pelvic fins (paired), and (10) Pectoral fins (paired). Not all fishes share the same anatomy. Diversity in fish morphology is due to adaption of its environment or selective breeding. For example, Ranchu (a type of Goldfish) does not have dorsal fin.

How can we develop good "taste" for quality aesthetic fish? Nothing but keen observation and practice. For a start, if you're around any aquarium shops or fish market, try to name each part of the fish anatomy. See if you can name them all. Next, go to any competitions or look for any show grade fishes, compare with the judging guidelines and learn to grade each fish.

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