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Issue: August 2008

Cichlids of the Ornamental Fish & Aquarium Show in Duisburg, Germany

Author: Iggy Tavares

TAVA 0808
Photographer: Iggy Tavares
Surround yourself with cichlids of all shapes and sizes! The author pays a visit to one of the largest fish shows held in Germany, where thousands of cichlids are put on display in some of the largest tanks seen yet.

The 10th Zierfische & Aquarium (Ornamental Fish and Aquarium Show) was held in Duisburg, Germany, at Landschafts Park Duisburg-Nord, on October 3–7, 2007. This show also hosts the Duisburg Discus Competition every two years, the last three of which I have attended. And this year, for the first time, the show has worked with the German Cichlid Association (DCG) to put on a special display of cichlids from around the world. I got in touch with Frank Ringelmann of the DCG, who had encouraged me to come, promising that there would be at least 50 furnished tanks with high-quality cichlids provided by their members. Frank also encouraged me to enter the Cichlid Photographic Competition and kindly invited me to the party that the DCG was having. I had been persuaded to submit some cichlid images to the competition, and just had to attend the show.

Getting to Duisburg from London is relatively easy, involving an inexpensive air flight to Dusseldorf, followed by a short train ride. Rather than stay at the conference hotel as I normally do, I stayed at the Mamma Leone Hotel this time, which was situated just outside the Duisburg train station—this meant that I could get to the show easily and cheaply with the underground tram. In addition, Mamma Leone is a very good Italian restaurant; on the first night, I enjoyed a fabulous Italian-style steak, some fine red wine, and finished with grappa, a strong Italian liqueur.


The Duisburg Fish Show

The hall at Landschafts Park is large, offering about 6000 square meters (65,000 square feet) of space where manufacturers, traders, publishing companies, and associations can set up stands to present everything that a fishkeeper might need. These included the latest in aquarium-product technology by Zoo Zajac (a company instrumental in putting the show together), Eheim, and Hagen, just to name a few. The very latest commercial fish foods were being offered, but even the basics such as whiteworm cultures and daphnia were available from specialists.

There were also numerous traders selling fish—particularly cichlids—all of which had some beautifully furnished aquariums on display in addition to their fish for sale. Hobby-Zoo-Duisburg had a good selection of large cichlids such as Amphilophus citrinellus, Parachromis friedrichsthalii, Vieja maculicauda, and V. synspila. They kindly allowed me to photograph these, and even provided a ladder for me so I could reach the upper tiers. Other cichlids available at the show ranged from a good selection of African Rift Valley cichlids to South American dwarf cichlids, as well as a good selection of discus. There were at least three outlets selling marine fish, all of them with beautiful fish and reef display tanks, but I did not get around to checking them out in the end. There was also a good selection of dwarf catfish and colorful dwarf shrimp, as well as a comprehensive selection of plants available at various retailers.


The Giant African Lake Tank

Halfway down the hall, I came across the giant 23,000-liter (6000-gallon) cichlid tank, measuring around 7 meters (23 feet) long, 2 meters (6½ feet) tall, and over 1½ meters (5 feet) wide. The tank was filled with cichlids of Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika. This giant tank was set up by Aqua-Treff, with the help of Andreas Spreinat. A week before the show, the helpers climbed into the tank to lay the sand, following with the rocks and tall plants. It was filled with water, and the filtration systems were allowed to run for a few days before the 700 fish were finally added. Aqua-Treff provided 500 cichlids, which included 200 aquarium-bred electric blue Sciaenochromis ahli, as well as dozens of wild-caught fish such as Melanochromis auratus, Pseudotropheus socolofi, Copadichromis pleurostigma, Nimbochromis livingstonii, Pseudotropheus elongatus, Rhamphochromis ferox, and many more.

Larger fish such as Protomelas spilonotus, Aristochromis christyi, Cyrtocara moorii, and others were provided by Andreas Spreinat. This giant aquarium, overcrowded to reflect the wild habitat, was buzzing with fish activity that included male cichlids trying to attract females to their spawning sites (actually spawning on occasion) while a large black tilapia Oreochromis mossambicus enjoyed posing at the large central window. I did unfortunately miss a highlight at this aquarium, where Spreinat would swim in the tank at specified times to feed the fish. On the Monday after the show, 80 percent of the water was drained from the huge tank before the plants and rocks were removed, and finally the cichlids were then captured with nets, after which the whole tank could then be stripped down.


The DCG Cichlid Display


African Cichlids

I finally made my way to the cichlid show tanks that the German cichlid society had organized, which were at the back of the hall in 400 square meters (4300 square feet) of space. These new tanks were all provided by Zoo Zajac, but they were decorated and furnished by individual cichlid hobbyists. With more than 50 tanks to observe and photograph, I was certainly in for a treat. What better way to start than to find that the first tank contained a pair of bright red jewel cichlids that were looking after tiny fry! At this show, African cichlids appeared to be in the ascendancy, with three tanks carrying individual Lake Victoria cichlid species or variants: Pundamilia igneopinnis, P. nyerereiPython Island,” and P. nyerereiRuti Island.” Some of the females were already mouthbrooding eggs, while the colorful males with their courting displays tried to entice other plain-colored females to spawn. A beautifully set-up large tilapia tank contained five big and grayish Sarotherodon galilaeus galilaeus, two big and yellowish Tilapia mariae, and three smaller Sarotherodon melanotheron melanotheron, among other smaller West African cichlids, for a surprisingly peaceful but delightful display.

Among the many tanks with Lake Malawi cichlids was a crowded Mbuna display with 30 each of Pseudotropheus estherae “red zebra,” Pseudotropheus saulosi, and Melanochromis sp. “maingano.” The tank was an eye-catcher due to the color and action. There was another tank of Malawi Haplochromis cichlids that contained Copadichromis borleyi “Kadanga,” Lethrinops lethrinus, Nyassachromis purpurans, Placidochromis johnstoni “solo,” and Placidochromis sp. “blue otter.” This tank was also colorful, but it was also more peaceful. Another large crowded tank with even bigger Haplochromis had two large, beautiful male Cyrtocara moorii sparring and trying to lock jaws while attempting to spawn with a bevy of smaller females.

There were also several tanks containing the smaller Tanganyikan cichlids. One setup made good use of the space inside the tank, where dozens of colorful, orange-yellow Neolamprologus leleupi contrasted nicely with the dark-colored Julidochromis transcriptus, both of which are substrate and rock huggers, while the upper waters had Altolamprologus compressiceps. Another tank had the bottom-sitting Xenotilapia caudafasciata and X. ochrogenys alongside the shell-dwelling Lamprologus ocellatus. It also featured normal-colored and albino forms of Cyprichromis sp. “jumbo Kitumba.” One display that caught my eye was a tank filled with Cunningtonia longiventralis “Kachese,” where a few sky-blue dominant males vied for the attention of females while building and defending their nesting sites, consisting of mounds of sand.


American Cichlids

The South American front was well represented by a large school of wild brown discus in a dimly lit, well-planted tank decorated with plenty of bogwood, while colorful domesticated discus occupied another large tank. An interesting display of Pterophyllum altum angels were set up in a tank containing a maze of upright bamboo poles for the angels to swim through. An attractive South American display with plenty of bogwood contained a very large group of Satanoperca sp. “Letitia” that were rather nervous for a couple of days, but eventually settled down as the show went on. This tank was also home to a huge shoal of Gasteropelecus sternicla (rather flighty hatchets) a large Panaque, and interesting-looking Loricaria sp.; the latter two were both wild caught from Rio Pauto in Colombia.

A large Central American tank contained large specimens of three Thorichthys species, with wild-caught T. meeki, T. aureus, and T. ellioti. On the first day, two male firemouths were putting on a colorful display, flaring their bright red gills and throats. By the next day, one had paired up with a smaller female and was searching for a spawning site among the large rocks in the middle of the aquariums. Meanwhile, the large T. ellioti pair was the first to spawn on the large vertical side of a rock situated near the right-hand side of the aquarium. The female not only fanned the tan-colored eggs, but also defended their patch from all of the other cichlids. These actions drew a lot of interest from the visiting crowd.


Dwarf Cichlids

Dwarf cichlids from South America and West Africa were housed in a bank of 12 small tanks placed in one corner of the cichlid exhibition area. These tanks were heavily furnished and some had leaf litter offering a near-perfect habitat for small cichlids. The cichlids in this collection included Apistogramma cacatuoides, A. maciliense, A. agassizii, A. macmasteri, A. sp. “Wilhelmi,” Nanochromis transvestitus, and various strains of Pelvicachromis taeniatus, from “Bandéwouri” to “Kienke.”


Lectures and More

There was a comprehensive range of informative and interesting lectures in German held daily and delivered by well-known fish experts such as Andreas Spreinat, Heinz Büscher, Heiko Bleher, and other individuals. Some lectures covered the care of specific cichlids and included advice on optimum water values, health care, and breeding. Other lectures covered the collection of cichlids from their wild habitats, giving hobbyists a chance to dive into the lakes and rivers via the speakers’ colorful slides. The experts were happy to take questions after the talks and gave valuable advice, including some tricks of the trade used to bring about spawning.

The DCG ran a photographic competition inviting entries prior to the Duisburg show, and it received a good response. I did enter, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I had taken third prize, which received a handsome monetary award. While a selection of the best photos was exhibited on the wall outside the lecture theatres, the top three images will also appear in a Datz publication and DCG-Info at a later date.

Another highlight of going to Duisburg was meeting some old friends, such as Bernd Degen, but also making new ones, like Frank Ringelmann and Andreas Spreinat. Having dinner at a Thai restaurant with Heiko Bleher, Natasha Khardina, and Alf Stalsberg was also special, as they gave first-hand accounts of some of their fish-collecting exploits.



The Ornamental Fish and Aquarium Show in Duisburg was a great opportunity for me and the thousands of other fish hobbyists from Germany (including a few from the rest of Europe) to find everything needed for the hobby under one roof. Many cichlid dealers from all over Germany had stands at the show selling not only aquarium-bred cichlids but also wild-caught fish. Many of these dealers had nicely furnished aquariums and were happy to discuss the requirements for a biotope-type aquarium, and they usually had many of the items for sale at a favorable price. And more information was available to the hobbyists through the comprehensive round of lectures given daily by experts.

What made the Ornamental Fish and Aquarium Show in Duisburg particularly special was the display by the German Cichlid Association of over 50 furnished cichlid tanks—too much for me to have covered here. All of the cichlids were in excellent condition, and several actually started breeding in the show tanks, making this Ornamental Fish and Aquarium Show in Duisburg extremely memorable.

See the full article on TFH Digital

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