The Hinkelman Cup

Michael Marcotrigiano - New England Fancy Guppy Association
first published in the IFGA eBulletin
All rights reserved

When you unpack other exhibitor's fish at your shows you see everything. On the negative side I've seen females, not fasted, floating in sewer-like water. I've seen fish double bagged with both knots in the same direction with water in between the bags. I've seen fish with over 50% of the bag filled with water and leaky bags with markers that bleed, making them impossible to read. It's always so much fun when you open up and box and see what you have to look forward to before benching the fish!

On the positive side, there are boxes of fish like those Fred Hinkelman sends to shows.


Fred Hinkelman (left) and the author at the Michigan annual in October of 2010.

If you don't know Fred he is a long-time guppy breeder and member of the Chesapeake Club with expertise in engineering.. Fred started with guppies about 1946.

When Fred's box is opened you quickly see that each bag has the same amount of water, they are tied perfectly, and packed neatly. But that's true of other exhibitors. What sets Fred apart is what I will call for life "The Hinkelman Cup". Fred sends a small yogurt container with a slit opening around one side of the cup. When I asked Fred why he developed the cup he said:

To get exactly four ounces of water [weight] for each of my four inch shipping bags. I fill the cup with water from the tank that I'm going to get my fish from. The water then drains down to four ounces. [weight measure. I then catch the fish and place into the cup. I place a bag across my legs ,Holding my finger over the slot I then pour the fish into the bag. This way there is no shock or missing the bag with the water and fish.

Fred sent along this series of pictures to share with the IFGA eBulletin readers. The top one is the original Hinkelman cup and below that Fred bagging a fish to send to a show.


This cup also allows the club member to debench Fred's fish by scooping them into a cup (he provides one with his shipment) which then drains on its own leaving the precise amount of water. When I started bagging my fish with a modified Hinkelman cup I shortened the time doing so by 50% and had the most consistent looking bagged fish I had ever seen.

Caption: Front and back of a modified Hinkelman cup made out of a hotel water cup. The little blue tape I added because I once, using too much wrist motion, caused a fish to drain from the cup when, instead of leaking out, the water surged out (I guess I need to breed bigger fish). I prefer a clear cup so I can see the fish.

What makes this little invention so useful is you never need to net your show fish to catch them when you debench so no net touches their fins. You just push the cup into the show bowl while it is next to the fish and he or she gets drawn into the cup. You lift the cup over the show bowl and the water above the slit drains out. Then you pour the fish and water into your plastic bag and you have the exact amount of water that you wanted. You can predict return postage because you have the same water weight or less (less if a fish dies and you don't want it back).

To make a Hinkelman cup just get a yogurt container or small plastic drinking cup. Then get a plastic shipping bag and pretend you are bagging a fish but don't bother adding the fish. When you think you have the amount of water you like (for me it's about 90 to 100 ml for a 4 inch shipping bag) pour it into the plastic cup. Carefully mark the water line on the outside of the cup with a black marker and then use an Exacto knife or single-edge razor to cut a slit about and inch long and a quarter inch tall starting at the line and working up the cup. After you scoop up your fish and the excess water drains out simply pour it into a bag using the side of the cup without to slit (otherwise you will get a bath - the old dribble glass practical joke - and your fish bag will come up short of water). Fred just holds a finger over the slit. If you are worried about ejecting your fish (those sword tail guppies would need a much smaller slit) put a piece of tape or two up the slit on the cup to make sure the fish can't slide out sideways. You could probably make a fancy version with plastic window screen taped over the slit. I would not drill holes because it may leave rough edges that would damage fins.

Fred also adds another handy device in his box as you can see in his figure. It is especially useful for those who seem to have a tough time getting trapped air out of the first plastic bag's bottom when they slip bag number two over it. He includes a narrow hollow straw or tube (but much harder and narrower than a drinking straw). When you slip this between bag one and bag two it allows the air trapped to go up and out making the second bag slide over easily. I don't use this because I've learned to tie bag number one a bit loose and use bag two to make a tight air-filled package.

You really need to try a Hinkelman cup. I wish everyone would include one in their shipment so we would not have to remember how much water you prefer to add to your bags. As it stands now our club uses a sheet of paper to draw the water/air line of each person's fish so we can try our best to replicate what came to us when we return your entries. Sometimes we miscalculate a bit and the bags don't fit back into the shipping box. Then it's rebagging time which is a nightmare given how much work there is breaking down a show. Of course, if you simply use a Hinkelman cup you would get your fish back in the same amount of water you sent them in and the postage would be very close if not exact both way. Try it, please!!!!