The first thing you have to do is determine who you want to send to the show. Make sure you go over the IBC standards and your fish fit in a class. For the New Breeder division the judging criteria is more on form than the colors.. but the closer you are to a color standard the better your fish can do at the show. I have my fish mostly in barracks made of plexi.. but I also house them in beanies. The ones I am thinking about showing I take a dry erase marker and write “SHOW” on their container or their barrack compartment. As the show date approaches these fish get a few extra meals to build condition, extra water changes to get size and maximize finage and constant scrutiny for faults. If you do not already have this info you will also want to down load the current entry form and class list. It is an Excel spreadsheet and on mine I have three tabs. The first two are the entry forms and the last page is the class list. I keep a master copy and for each show I create a copy that I fill out and save. You will want to print out a few blank copies of the entry form to be ready come show time. Now is also the time to get shipping bags. I get mine from ULine. They are 4” x 12” and 2 ml thick. Even though you get 1000 bags, the cost is reasonable and you will be set to sell a few fish on AB too. The IBC also sells shipping bags in smaller quantities.
Breeding bettas we often end up with a LOT of fish. There are several ways to pass along nice fish. There is always AquaBid to sell fish and the IBC Betta Pals programs. Another way to rehome nice bettas is selling them at the shows in the auction only section. When you have a large spawn it is a good way to get nice fish in the hands of other breeders. Since there are only three placings per class, I never send more than three show fish for any one class. If I want those fish back but have extras that fit in those classes, I send the extras and put them in the auction only part of the show. These fish are not judged so you don’t have to pay an entry fee on them. It is a way for the breeder to make a few dollars and also is a way for the shows to make some money as the breeder/club split is different then the sale of a show fish. Minimum bid is typically $3, but you can set your minimum to what ever you desire. On the spreadsheet for the entries I use that second tab to list the auction only fish on.
Show date is now a week away. Most clubs require preregistration of entries so they can be prepared with containers for the show. It also allows the show secretary to get some of the paper work done or ready for the show. Since fish have to be shipped I do all this the Sunday before the show weekend. I take a blank copy of the entry form on a clipboard and walk through the fish room. I usually start with my males in barracks but you may already have your fish lined up on a shelf and ready to list. As I walk through the fish room I give a final once over of the ones marked “SHOW” and look for fin tears, color faults and anything else that might cost them points. At this time I also note and mark fish I want to send for auction only. If they pass this final check I start to list them on the entry form.
If you look at the entry sheet you will see it is numbered down the left side 1-25. So, the first fish is listed on line #1. I then put a #1 on their container in dry erase marker. On the forms I usually list my fish id number and the color and if DT in the label/remark column. At this time that is all the info I put on this form. Then I move to the next fish and continue listing fish on the form and marking their containers with their entry number. Continue until all the show fish are listed on the entry form. Then the auction only fish are listed on a separate blank entry form the same way, but their containers are listed as AO #1, AO #2 and so on.
At this point this is all I do on the entry form. Now it is time for me to bag and box my fish to be shipped out in the morning on my way to work. If I had the day off I would bag, box and ship on Monday. I ship Priority so need to ship Mondays to get them to the show by the required day, usually Thursday. I allow an extra day because we ARE dealing with the USPS and they can and do make mistakes. One thing that initially surprised me is the time it takes to bag fish. It probably takes 6-8 minutes per fish, so one can quickly have an hour or more of work to get them all ready for the show. And with shipping 35 fish it is nothing I want to even try and do before work some morning.
Since I usually have a quite few fish to ship, I lay everything out before I even grab the first fish. You will need clean water, shipping bags, an insulated shipping box [link to another article], and I use a small canning jar, ½ cup measure and the top of a soda bottle for reasons to come. I have become rather anal about disease so I have a beanie with sterilized nets so I can use a clean net on each fish and a tub with bleach water to dip the jar/funnel in between fish. And I lay out a dish towel to work on and catch all the drips. [get pic of this set up]
For bagging fish I take a large 1 gallon container and add clean, clear water. If you don’t use RO like I do make sure to add the dechlor and water conditioner you use for water changes. At the shows the bags are floated in beanies for about 30 minutes. Then the top is cut and both fish and water are dumped into the show container. You do not want meth blue or IAL in that to discolor the water. To my water I do add just a pinch of salt and dissolve it. Why salt? Salt increases the slime coat and that increases resistance to parasites. I do not use salt on a regular basis so feel it may help with the stress of shipping to give just a little more protection. I then take the small canning jar and add not quite ½ cup water with the measuring cup. Then I grab a net and go get my #1 fish and put him in the canning jar. I take the top of a soda bottle and put the neck opening into the top of the bag and grab it there creating a funnel. I tip the funnel slightly and slowly pour water and fish down into the bag. They slide very nicely down the funnel hole and into the bag. The jar and funnel then go into the bleach solution for a soak. I slide my hand down the bag to catch air and tie off the bag. You have to look at how deep your box is and make sure you don’t have so much bagged air you can not get a lid on. And if I have to use heat/cold packs I go a little less air so there is more space between the fish and the heat/cold pack. This part will take a little practice so do not get discouraged. Make sure you tie this bag TIGHT. Pull that knot a few times then once more to be sure. The last thing you want is this bag to leak. Then you invert the bag and slide it down into another bag with the tied knot end in first. Here is a very good video on bagging your fish. Once the fish is double bagged you mark its entry number on the outside of the bag with a permanent marker. Then check off that fish, rinse your jar and funnel and head for the next fish. Continue doing this until all fish are double bagged and in their shipping box. Then move on to doing the same for the auction only fish. When you double bag the auction only fish you write on the outside of the bag AO #1, AO #2.. and so on.
After the fish are shown they will be rebagged and shipped home unless they are sold at auction. If you are getting your fish back you need to send bags for them to be returned in. I take the number of fish am sending, double it and add some more. I usually have less come back but some bags could have a hole, some might not sell at auction and often someone forgets to send some bags and the extras get those fish home. I take a large Ziploc bag and insert the bags for my returning fish in there. There will be more you need to put in this Ziplock bag but that comes later. Now is the time to get back to that hand written entry form.
At this point I sit down at the computer and create the entry form I will email to the show chair and also send in my box. Starting with the first fish I add my fish id and color info into the label/remarks column. Then I look up the class the fish would go in. On the entry form spreadsheet the last tab has the current class listing. So you go there and determine the Division and the Class your fish belongs in and add that information in the first two columns. In the box under Auction is where you let the show know if you want the fish back or you are going to auction it off. If you put NO in the box the fish will be returned to you and there will be many sad faces it is not for sale.. lol. If you mark YES then the fish will be auctioned after the show. Minimum bids are typically $3 but you can set the minimum to whatever you want to get from the fish. Bear in mind you will split this price with the show at a 75/25 split with the breeder getting 75% of the selling price and the show getting the remaining 25%. The rest of the form past the label/remark column is for the show secretary to fill out.
Continue entering your fish until they are all listed. Total up your entries and determine your entry fees. Make sure the top of the form is complete with your information. Often you will receive an email or a phone call about your fish/entries so make sure the info up there is good. The Return Fish Via is how the fish are to be sent home. Check the appropriate box for how you want yours returned.
So how does one get their fish back? When I print my shipping label I print a return label that only needs to be stuck on the outside of the box. You can use USPS click-n-ship and create two labels, but I use PayPal and the Multi Order shipping option. To find it in PayPal do a search.. it is not obvious.. then bookmark. The first label I create is from me to the person receiving the show fish. The club hosting the show should have posted who to and where the fish need shipped to. The information should also be available on my web site. In the Multi Order shipping you just fill out all the info and create your label shipping to the show.
Then you create another label for the return trip. BUT in the Multi Order shipping there is not a way to ship from the show address. The Multi Order will automatically put in your address as the return address. So how do we get them shipped from the show to our home? If you look further down you will see a box for originating zip code. Put the zip code of the show address in that box. Fill out where you want your fish shipped to on the return, mine go to my work address. Then print out both labels and a couple copies of your completed entries. The shipping label to the show will go on the box now and the other you will put in the box. In that Ziplock bag with your shipping bags you now want to include a couple copies of your entry form, a check to cover the entries and your return shipping label. Zipping up the bag makes the contents waterproof.
Depending on the weather you may want to add a heat or cold pack. Whichever you add you want to make sure neither comes in contact with the fish bags. Fish sitting on an ice block or a pack reaching 100* will quickly perish. I add a good layer of insulation between the fish and any pack. Since I ship out the next day, I do not seal up the box and add the packs until the next morning. At that time I wrap the pack in some newspaper, tape it to the lid and add my insulation layer between it and the fish. I often use Styrofoam or several layers of newspaper and my Ziploc bag. When you get everything in place inside, tape the box up securely and attach the shipping label to the outside. My boxes have stickers that say “FRAGILE” on them I created. You can do the same or just write it in marker on the box. Then you take the box to the post office and ship your babies off to the show!! Now the fun part of waiting for results begins….
So let’s recap. We have identified our show fish and gotten them into show shape. We have possibly picked some Auction Only fish to sell at the show. The fish have been entered on an entry form, double bagged and shipped to the show with their entry form, fees, return label and bags. You have them ready to take or have taken them to the post office and shipped them off. The only thing left to do is let the show secretary know who you are shipping so they can be ready. Usually I email my entries to the show secretary Sunday night before going to bed. But if it gets late I do it on Monday. Most secretaries want those entry forms emailed to them before Wednesday night. At this point do what ever is easiest.. just don’t forget! There will be an email for the show secretary on the show info published by the club. Send the spreadsheet as an attachment to them and ask for confirmation they got it and it is readable. They will reply and let you know everything looks good.
Once you get the confirmation the entries are good, you then wait for confirmation your fish are received. Most clubs will email or call if you have any DOA [dead on arrival] or there are problems or questions with your entries. If you hear nothing, all is good. After that you start the fun part.. WAITING for results. Ugh!! This is the part that makes me crazy. I know somewhere my fish are being judged. Then I know the show is over and I am eagerly awaiting the results. But results often are not posted until sometime the next day, or even day after. The results are checked for accuracy and often checked a few more times. And volunteers at the show are up early and stay late.. so posting the results is not often as high on the priority list as sleep - so be patient. While waiting you can join me on my FaceBook page and we can wait together. Let me know if this article helped you out and tell everybody what it feels like sending fish to your first show. The hardest part for me was and is dropping that fish box off at the post office… my babies!!
Once confident the results are correct and final they are uploaded to the Yahoo! Group files section and a link to them is posted in the Yahoo! Group by email. I will also try to get them copied into a format I can post here on the web site. There are a lot of new names in the IBC and on the FaceBook pages.. I hope to see some of them winning some classes this year.
Good luck everybody!!