The Aquarium Society of Winnipeg sponsored a weekend fish event including speakers, show and auction, April 9, 10 & 11th of this year (2004). I had been invited to speak and although I was a bit nervous about heading north in the winter, I wanted to check out fish keeping in Canada.
I wanted to take some fish, and I talked to a few friends that had crossed the border with their fish in too, and heard stories of no problems at all, to being held in customs for hours. I waffled back and forth about it, but decided not to this time, I wanted to see the situation first hand. The last time I had crossed the border into Canada was long before 9/11 and they were practically waving us in. This time the custom officials were so stern, and repeatedly asked me why I would be attending a fish event in Canada, I was glad I didn't have any fish. My friend Gary Lange who was also speaking brought in a box of Rainbow fish, and Rainbow fish eggs. He was able to talk his way through it, but was held up in customs for a few hours.
Chris "Crazyfish" Biggs who was the event chairman met me. Sadly Ken Georgison, his co-chair for the weekend, who had invited me to speak, passed away unexpectedly 10 days earlier. It was definitely a sad note through out the weekend, as everyone missed Ken. However the show must go on, and the club was able to have a successful event, knowing that Ken would want them to.
It was cold, and snow flurries were flying around as I made my way to the hotel and got settled. Spencer Jack invited me to a late lunch with some other Canadian fish people. He took us downtown Winnipeg to a Dim Sum restaurant, where we ate fish and talked fish! Winnipeg is home to 800,000 people, bigger than I thought. It is the largest French speaking area in Canada after Quebec, so everything is in French and English. Later that afternoon back at the hotel I watched the members working on their show entries. It had been 10 years since their last show, but they all looked like they had done it before. They used small glass tanks, made by themselves or a club member, rather than uniform tanks that one often sees in the eastern shows. It was interesting, since here on the west coast, the clubs don't have shows and one of the excuses is the logistics of providing tanks for entrants or having them tear down their tank at home and bring it in. The all glass tanks were all different sizes, but it added to the flavor of the show. The racks zigzagged across the room, forming a semi circle. They had over 200 entries, and it was for all species of fish and plants.
I visited with the locals while they put their final touches on their tanks. I caught up with a few old friends that were also attending or speaking, like Ray "Kingfish" Lucas and Mike and Robin Schadle. I could have stayed up all night and talked fish but I had been asked to judge the show the following morning at 7:00 AM and decided I better hit the hay early.
I was amazed when I walked into the show room on Saturday morning, they kept telling me about how nice it was going to look when they finished off the racks with black plastic, but I didn't get it, until I saw it. They draped the black plastic over all the tanks and stands. Then they cut a hole in the plastic that framed the tank. You couldn't see the stands, or the rest of the set up, only the front of the tank, it looked really great. The show committee had been up all night doing the final touches and each tank was labeled with its class number.
Each judge was assigned an apprentice who was from the local club who wanted to learn how to judge fish. My apprentice's name was Nick, and we were given all of the African Rift Lake classes to judge.
We had a great time, and I think Nick has a good eye for fish; he will be a fine judge. The African cichlid classes were the largest and there were some great specimens. This took a few hours to complete, then the best of each division and best of show were determined.
After my talk that afternoon, Spencer took some of my new Canadian fish friends and I over to his house to see his fish. Down in this tiny basement, he had maximized his space well with large homemade tanks housing several different strains of Cyphotilapia frontosa. He also had a large colony of Cyathopharynx furcifer with a large group of Cyprichromis hovering over their sand bed. There were smaller tanks with Tanganyikan substrate spawners and Malawi mouthbrooders spread about. He showed me how he had everything set up, and how he was going to expand into the one corner that was left. I was impressed with his set up and the fish looked really great.
Next stop was my new best friend James Ford; he also had his fish in the basement. This setup was not as large as Spencer's yet, but he had some impressive fish. He had a wild group of Tropheus moorii "red rainbow" and I was pretty sorry I had left my plastic purse at the hotel, as they were awesome. He also had Placidochromis electra "superior," I have seen this fish on a couple of lists and some small fry at an auction back east, but not a full grown adult. They were nice, darker than regular electra with an incredibly blue head. He also had a couple of different Victorians; his sp. 44 was extra nice. There were a couple of other groups of Tropheus too, but I couldn't get past the "red rainbows."
Back at the hotel it was time to get ready for the evenings banquet where the winners of the show would be announced. Ironically Ken Georgison who had passed away a couple of weeks ago won "Best Of Show," a friend had entered the fish on his behalf. The dinner was happy and sad, as it was a celebration of their success but also a time to reflect about the loss of a dear friend. The night was capped off with Mike Schadle giving one of his classic "Fish Trivia" quizzes. I have taken this test before, and I know they are all trick questions, but it is fun and it was nice to end the evening on a light note. It was time to hit the hay and rest up for the big auction tomorrow.
I was all packed and down to the auction by 10:30 am, where I cruised the tables to see if there was going to be anything I couldn't live without. There were some nice things, but not worth the hassle of trying to bring it back into the U.S. I was amazed with the amount of plants; Rudy Kern who also spoke on Saturday about plants had donated many of them, he is the Canadian representative for Tropica Plants (Denmark). Local members brought in the rest. Dry goods are extremely expensive in Canada, and there was lots interest in pumps, filters, lights, and food. I was flying out around 2:00 pm so it was just getting started when I had to go. I understand it got quite exciting when Crazyfish Biggs volunteered to eat mealworms for a fee. Mike Schadle got the crowd up to $5.00 per worm, and raked in a several hundred dollars, while they all watched Crazyfish eat his high dollar/high protein lunch. All the money went to the club, what a great idea to raise some extra cash. I'm filing this one in the back of my mind for a Babes In the Cichlid Hobby Fund Raiser in Denver. Rumor has it Crazyfish will be in the house!
Meanwhile at the airport I got the 20 questions again in customs, this guy had never heard of a fish show before. While the guy who searched my bag, said, "I can tell you are keen on fish, eh!" as he went through my fish underwear and T-shirts!
Congrats to the Aquarium Society of Winnipeg on the success of their fish weekend! But, also my deepest sympathy goes out to them and to the family of Ken Georgison, as he will be missed. I had a great time making some new friends and seeing old ones. Fish keeping is just as intense in Canada as it is in the U.S., and it was great to see it first hand.
© Copyright 2004 Pam Chin, all rights reserved
Chin, Pam. (August 14, 2004). "Cichlids in Winnipeg - Aquaria Expo 2004". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from: https://www.cichlidae.com/article.php?id=345.