Two Judges and two photographers set out at 9.00 am on Sunday the 5th of May to judge and photograph the grand final of the Ilford & District Aquarists & Pondkeepers Society Home Aquarium Competition 2002. We had an excellent ride in Mike Shadrack’s new car despite his receiving three different sets of directions at once. Nine aquariums qualified for the final but unfortunately two had to withdraw at the last moment. Did the dreaded white spot plague strike again?
The judging of each aquarium falls into two parts. 50 points are awarded for the appearance of the aquarium layout. Another 50 points are awarded for the condition and quality of its contents. This means that the best looking aquarium may not win if the fish are small for their species or they or the plants are in poor condition. Last year the best looking aquarium came second because most of the fish were youngsters. It was only second by one point and this is critical in a final where so many good aquariums are entered. Interestingly this year the best-designed aquarium again came second by just one point (not the same tank). This time some plants were damaged and in poor condition and this just made the difference.
The first aquarium we saw had a nice set up with an ideal grouping of fish for the size and design. A few points were lost because the fish were not up to show size. The biggest loss of points was the plants that were obviously not flourishing. If growing well the leaves would not have had a coating of algae. The lighting may be inadequate or possibly the filter is removing the nutrients the plants need. The design was attractive but could have been improved with more plants and with matching rocks rather than different types. I may seem to be very critical but really this was a quality aquarium to be proud of and needs only a few small changes to compete with the winners.
The next aquarium came second last year because most of the fish were youngsters and not because of the design. This year it had been redesigned and was better because of the improved situation of the plants that did not obstruct the front glass viewing. The overall design was excellent and different from last year, but not better. The fish were more mature but plants let it down a little as there were some damaged leaves visible on the right hand side. Well done, first place – but only by one point.
The next entrant had two tanks on either side of one room. The left hand tank was slightly better than the right hand one, which had a better design but not as good plants. The fish in both tanks were superb. Growing fish to this size and quality in relatively small aquaria is a sign of the true expert aquarist. The vallis in the left hand tank was too tall a plant for a shallow aquarium. The rocks in both would have scored better if they had matched.
All the entries bar this next one were tropical freshwater. This was a British Marine tank; a very difficult set up to do well. This was the first temperate marine set-up I have seen in a long time. The design was excellent. I liked the rock pool debris of bottles and nets. There were problems with growing the plants so poor marks here. With success in maturing the plant this could gain a lot of points. The animals were small and lost points for size. A very good attempt and I look forward to seeing it next year.
The next aquarium came first last year and now has an improved design. Still excellent quality fish. However some of the plant let it down with yellowing leaves and broken stems. A few plants at the back, though in excellent condition, were a little too large for the design. The main problem however was the poor hygrophila. If this had been top quality this aquarium would again have come first.
The final aquarium we judged had improved the layout of the plants from last year. Still the design was a little flat and more variation in height would help. There is a problem as the large fish, which were in excellent condition, probably prevent heavier planting that would improve the design. We thought all the aquaria had excellent water conditions till we saw this one! The water just sparkled with its clarity. I had given 7 out of 7 for water clarity to four aquaria before this one and now had to down point them all to give this one its well-deserved margin.
A most enjoyable morning. I know if I were to enter I would have problems getting a place card. I am sure we will see some good slides. Thank you to everyone for such excellent aquaria to view. There is certainly an excellent competition developing between the top two but I look forward to them being caught up by some of the others next year.
Thank you Don for arranging such a good competition.
Wishing you all good fishkeeping. It is not just about winning an aquarium competition but enjoying whatever you like - may it be quality fish, plants or just a nice picture to view.