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Can you imagine raising goldfish for more than two decades AFTER your father won you your first goldfish in a carnival. Peter sure can! Not only has he been raising goldfish for over 40 years, but he's also really making something out of his passion for the hobby.

Peter Ponzio is the President of the American Goldfish Association and the publisher of its current newsletter. He's a certified judge of goldfish and koi judge for both the American Goldfish Association and the Associated Koi Clubs of America, both which have strict guidelines to follow in order to become one. He helps to maintain the AGA Goldfish Pages, which has combined the resources of the American Goldfish Association with goldfishpages to provide you with all you need to know this lovely little fish.

He also owns and maintains many large aquariums, offers some of the best tips and suggestions on how to keep up an aquarium hobby, and considers himself a devout marine conservationist!

What's not to love? We had to get our hands on Peter for an interview and he gladly reciprocated!

Here's the final product!

Why the interest in fish, marine life?

I've been raising fish for over 4o years. I became interested when my father won a goldfish at a carnival. I started keeping goldfish and turtles, and soon gave up the turtles (the fish kept getting eaten). I collected goldfish when they weren't very popular, and continued to try to find fancy goldfish in the Chicago-land area. Gradually, the market for fancy goldfish started to expand, and I began to contact people from around the country who kept goldfish.

I suppose the reason that I enjoy keeping fish is due to the combination of water, plants and fish living in a contained environment. There's this whole aspect of stewardship that appeals to me. We don't really own these things; we're here to see that they are preserved and nurtured; we're entrusted with their care.

What is the American Goldfish Association and what is its purpose?

The American Goldfish Association was started a little over three years ago. Many of the founding members were involved in the GFSA (Goldfish Society of America), but wanted to take a more active approach to educating the public about goldfish through a combination of publications (print and web), fish shows, and presentations. Since we started the AGA, the number of goldfish shows across the country has grown from 2 - 3 per year to 10- 12 per year.

What makes you a certified goldfish and koi judge? What does that mean exactly?

Both the AGA and AKCA (Associated Koi Clubs of America) have rigid standards to become a "certified" judge. In both organizations, you have to pass one test to become a candidate judge. You must then judge at least 5 shows (but most candidates do from 10 - 15 shows), be a Chairman of a goldfish or koi show, and demonstrate a willingness to travel (at your own expense) to the shows. Additionally, both sets of judges must attend regular training sessions, and are evaluated by the "Judging" committees of both organizations.

What kind of aquariums do you have for yourself that you maintain as a hobby?

Well, my main aquarium is an 8,000 gallon koi pond. My second aquarium is a 3,000 gallon pond. I have two 200 gallon "Rubbermaid" containers that I use for Bristol Shubunkins; a 55 gallon; two (2) twenty-nine gallons; two (2) twenty gallon longs, and one twenty gallon "ecosystem" aquarium that I use for Ranchu. My house looks like a scene from the Kevin Costner movie Waterworld.

What do you enjoy about maintaining an aquarium? Well, it's certainly not the water changes! I keep my aquariums pretty plain; no gravel, no decorations; algae on the glass. When people come over, especially new hobbyists, they're sometimes horrified that I don't have "pretty" aquariums. In fact, a few mentioned that maybe I really didn't raise my Grand Champions, but bought them from someone! I enjoy seeing the fish in peak condition, and the occasional spawn that I get, despite my efforts to not encourage spawns (I'll have to get extra aquariums).

Name a great tip or piece of advice you've heard from someone about taking care of goldfish or koi.

This is a piece of advice I give to new hobbyists - change the water and leave them alone! Most fish are killed because people "treat" them for imaginary illnesses. Toshio Sakai, of Matsunoske fame, says "Keep good water; everything else will follow."

What is one of the things that is most crucial for your tank when you have goldfish or koi?

I can only think of three: filtration, filtration, filtration.

You're the publisher of the AGA newsletter. What kind of topics does it feature?

We feature pictures and news from the shows. People really like to see pictures of the fish at the shows the judges attend, especially if the AGA members can't attend the shows themselves. In addition, we've had articles on breeding, finnage, preparing fish for shows, our new standards (issued in 2009), headgrowth and odd varieties.

Do you believe an aquarium owner can also be an advocate of marine conservation?

Not only do I believe it, but I'm a strong advocate of marine conservation. I grew up in the city, but spent time in a rural area with my great aunt and uncle, and developed a love of nature. As I mentioned in response to the first question, we are really stewards of the environment. Nature does not belong to us; we have a duty to preserve the natural environment, and ensure that we leave a legacy for those that follow. Native Americans have a saying that we should plan for seven generations ahead of our own. I think that we need to adopt this attitude so that there will be coral reefs, whales, marine mammals and fish for the next seven generations to enjoy.

What is the future of AGA?

I think the future of the AGA is bright indeed. I am pleased that as a result of our efforts there are now local and specialty goldfish groups springing up around the country, and that younger people are again entering the hobby. I look forward to the day when some of the younger hobbyists will take over the leadership of the club, so that the old timers, like me, can welcome the new generation.

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