Thursday, 23 April 2009

A non-cryptozoological trip to Redditch

You should all have by now read Ross’ turn of events regarding last Sunday’s auction. Now, I am not going to attempt to pretend that this was a purely cryptozoological trip, far from it; it was a chance for those who went to get their hands on some great new fish. Ross wanted to get his tanks started with something attractive, but easy to keep; Jon wanted anything with a sp. “something” at the end of its name; Emma wanted some fish for her community tanks; and I wanted both anything with sp. “something” (this means that this certain fish has not been scientifically described, but it is probably from the genus before the “sp.” part. So, Cryptoheros sp. "Honduran red point" relates to an undiscribed cichlid from the Cryptoheros genus, probably from Honduras) and something to sit with a couple of other medium sized cichlids in a 3ft tank opposite my chair to entertain me.

After paying the rather high entry fee, we were given a load of free tubs of food, which we worked out as being worth about £5 more than the entry ticket, so I wasn’t too disappointed. After a quick general meeting (which none of our party had much to say, we were not members), we listened to a talk by Bernd Degen, a Discus breeder and show master for over 30 years. He talked about first showing Discus (with some great photos of the massive Japanese shows) and some of the techniques people use to get that “perfect” discus, then he moved on to a talk about keeping discus in a planted aquarium, something I have always advocated.

After a break, the auction began. The first lot was exactly what I wanted, a 4” male Nandopsis salvini, a medium sized predatory cichlid from Guatemala. This is a stunning fish not that often seen in the shops. When it is, it is usual £5+ for a juvenile about 1-2” long. My male over 8 times that size for £8 was a bargain.

From then on in, our table ended up buying about12-15 lots of fish; I cannot even remember what we got! Emma got hold of her community angelfish and an unusual species of Corydoras catfish, Jon got his beloved Rams (at about half the cost of buying from a shop, and better quality) as well as Aequidens sp. “Peru” (a nice smallish cichlid, similar to the hobby staple the Blue Acara, see top photo); whilst Ross ended up with another undiscribed species (Krobia sp. “red cheek” if you are interested) and various other fish to fill his tanks up with. I got myself a group of Thorichthys sp. 'Mixteco Blue' (see bottom photo) which are currently sat in Jon’s local the Farmer’s Arms. These cost me about £3 for 8 youngsters. This is just plain stupid!

Following from the excitement of the auction, we had Alf Stalsberg, a writer and traveller who was speaking about Aequidens sp. “Silver Saum”. Time for taxonomic cock up! Aquarists may well have heard of a fish called a “Green Terror” (why? Because they are generally a metallic green, and are seriously aggressive). Now, this was thought to be a species called Aequidens rivulatus. This was debunked a good few years back, and the hobby’s fish is now known as A. sp. “Gold Saum” because of the gold edges to the fins. A. sp. “Silver Saum” is very similar, but has silver edges to the fins. Stalsberg went out to collect these fish, and found that these three cichlids represented different species. Now, the Americans (his words not mine!) “walked in and think they know everything!” and said that this was rubbish, A. rivulatus was the species in the hobby, and the others were just geographical variants. Well, says Stalsberg, do variants of a species occurring in the same river system breed only with fish with their own colour edging? No says he, they would all breed together. The fact they he has witnessed a separate breeding divide in the wild proves that they are different species. I for one feel that this argument will carry on for a long time...

After a quick raffle, we went home again to get the fish into their new aquaria. The traffic was terrible and I for one got back about an hour later than expected, but hey, if this is the price to pay for such a superb day, then I would gladly do it again.

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