Aquarama 2007Author: Dick Au
When the Aquarama 2007 show organizer invited me to be a judge for the International Discus Competition and asked me to give a public seminar on the art of showing discus, I jumped at the opportunity, even though I was there only a few months earlier judging at another discus competition. Singapore has so much to offer fish hobbyists that one can never get tired of going there. There are plenty of fish farms to visit, lots of great food, and unsurpassed hospitality from fish-hobby friends.
Aquarama, held biennially in Singapore, is one of the world’s largest ornamental fish and accessories exhibitions. It offers opportunities for manufacturers to showcase their products, and it gives fish farmers a chance to compete for prestigious awards for the tropical fish species they specialize in. This year was the 10th Aquarama, and it was held on the sixth floor of the Suntec Convention Center, a behemoth complex of shops, restaurants, and meeting halls occupying several blocks right in the center of Suntec City. Impressive statistics for this year included 200 exhibitors and fish competitions with more than 150 discus, 50 dragonfish (Asian arowana), 200 goldfish, 550 Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens, numerous guppies, and other assorted tropical fish. New competition categories this year included community marine tanks and planted aquariums.
Because of its enormity, Aquarama serves as a weather vane for popular trends in the tropical fish hobby. For example, several years ago when the flowerhorn cichlid was popular, it ranked as a major competition category in the fish show. However, they were noticeably absent this year, replaced by the resurging goldfish category. There is definitely a resurgent interest in goldfish. Not only were there over 200 entries in the competition, but they represented practically all commercially available varieties. Most notable was the size and color of these goldfish. Most of the goldfish were so big that it would have been difficult for someone to hold one in their hands. The grand championship was won by a large calico ranchu.
Asian hobbyists love discus, goldfish, and the dragonfish, which is by far the most expensive ornamental fish. By simply counting the number of vendor booths dedicated to this exotic fish, no one could fail to see the economic prosperities enjoyed by some Asian countries. With increasing affluence, people are spending more to improve their home environments. Therefore, many exhibitors are focusing their products toward decorative water gardens, marine setups, and planted tanks.
For the fish competition, every category attracted sizeable participation. There were more than 150 discus entries distributed amongst 11 classes. Again, we saw the greatest number of entries in the spotted class. In keeping with records set for almost a decade, the grand champion once again was awarded to a gorgeous spotted discus. Another notable entry was a beautiful striated albino discus (pink eye) that was a runner-up to win the top honor. There is a good chance that the albino class may out-compete the spotted class in the near future.
The dragonfish competition created the most excitement. First, the day before the competition two huge show fish understood to have been shipped in from Malaysia died due to trauma suffered during shipping. Many grieved not only because of the high value loss (tens of thousands of U.S. dollars!) but also out of sadness to see the death of such beautiful fish. Most of the entries were of the red and cross-back gold varieties. The grand championship was won by a medium “chili red,” a combination of a deep blood-red color accented with fluorescent green.
Outside the competition, there were dragonfish of all sizes, shapes, and colors everywhere. Impressive ones included several albino juveniles (pink eyes), a platinum-colored South American arowana, a brooding male gold dragonfish, as well as a prize-winning dragonfish with four barbels. While they were highly treasured by some breeders, I was less impressed with the deformed specimens such as the “hunched back” dragonfish and one with two heads.
Also, the Singapore Department of Fishery had an exhibit showing various stages of development of the dragonfish, from egg stage to 3-inch juveniles.
The betta competition attracted the most attention. There were more than 550 entries of all shapes and colors. Many of the “half-moon” specimens had finnage several times the size of their bodies. An indication of the care given to them by their owners, these bettas were not only pretty and colorful, they were constantly displaying for the viewers.
There were too many guppies to count in the competition. Guppy competitions are governed by the most stringent rules and certified judges. Two new show categories were included this year, the marine community and planted aquariums. Both categories had over a dozen entries each, and they were respectable setups, although they still have some distance to cover when compared with exhibits in the United States and European competitions.
To promote public interest in ornamental fishes, Aquarama 2007 was open to the general public during the final two days. Public attendees were able to buy almost everything they could see at sizeable discounts and attend several free seminars. I gave a presentation on “The Art of Selecting and Showing Discus.” Other seminar subjects included the origin and keeping of dragonfish, maintenance of coral display tanks, water gardens, and feng shui. These seminars drew a standing-room-only attendance.
There were exhibition booths for many hobbyist clubs such as the Singapore Discus Club, the Betta Club, the Arowana Club, and the Guppy Club. After hours of poking one’s head into hundreds of fish tanks and exhibits, it was refreshing to hang around those club booths to get acquainted with “celebrities” of the hobby, as well as getting an autograph or two. For those who had never seen a fish farm in operation, it was a wonderful experience to join a daylong outing of guided tour to various fish farms.
The five days of the event flew by. As I write this, I am sitting in the Singapore Airport sorting through hundreds of photos to file for this report. Aquarama 2007 was another giant success and I can’t wait until 2009 to be invited back again!
See the full article on TFH Digital http://www.tfhdigital.com/tfh/200710/#pg128