Last week was just plain horrible, when finding a decent slot to write was concerned Hence, this entry (and its soon-to-arrive brother) about the finnish aquarium conference are a week late.
Indeed, spent the last april saturday at FISU 2008 at the Haaga/Helia college in Pasila. The session was organized by the local fishkeepers’ club with a couple of other sponsors, and consisted of both domestic and international speakers.
The first presentation of the day was Heiko Bleher‘s on Discus and Angelfish and their Tankmates. Especially the bits on discus were interesting. Heiko Bleher recently published a massive book on the fish, and considering that the 800-pager is just the first volume, it’s not surprising that the knowledge just seemed to effortlessly flow off the lecter.
The first odd tidbit concerned the swarming behaviour the fish. They school in numbers up to a thousand, but retire to a lonesome existence amongst the fallen trees and acura-acu bushes after dark. Water conditions are almost always still, and never white.
The presentation cast severe doubts on any successful spawning of Altum Angelfish – the reports are usually about high-finned regular scalares, the real thing is extremely rarely imported (they occur only in Venezuela, never in the Brazilian Amazonia) and easily mis-identified. A fourth species in the Pterophyllum genus was discovered last year, it’s not scientifically described yet.
Of the tankmates the Mesonauta and Uaru species as well as geophagine cichlids were nominated as the best tankmates from the same family. An odd recommendation were the freshwater stingrays, who were called “far less dangerous” than usually stated. Corydoras tucano was the only namechecked catfish.
A long talk about two common mistakes rounded out the presentation. Discus tanks ought to be very lightly planted, and laid out for the fish and not the plants (contrast between Amano and Bleher-styled tanks). Discus are commonly fed with beefheart-based mix, but this is entirely unnatural, and especially considering the often vegetarian habits of the fish, should be avoided.
The second presentation Nicaraguan Crater Lake Cichlids by Willem Heijns was a pure travel report. Very entertaining, often the travellers’ tales were more interesting than the fish discovered. The species described were on the common side, with the surprising discovery of Tomocichla tuba the biggest news of the trip. But the northwards-expanding wasn’t the greatest story of the day – that honor goes to the sudden arrival of a swimming sloth.
Spent the lunch break roaming the neighboring Helsinki Fair Centre where no less than three shows were organized concurrently. Skipped the one on children, and saw quite a bit of scale models and pets instead. The former was packed with good clues about there being but a thin line between a healthy hobby and a worrisome obsession. Radio-controlled models seem to be big still, plastic models, on the other hand, were far less popular than I recalled. The biggest chunks of the floorspace were consumed by model railroads – the one featuring equipment modded to look like finnish trains was a lot more interesting than the bigger Alpine railroad, which seemed to be just a collection of purchased components.
Walked through the pet expo without seeing a single feline. The cats were probably sequestered to a separate hall on account of birds, rodents and dogs all feeling threatened by their presence. The therapy-providing llamas and alpacas were the biggest creatures on display, but I found the smallest – poison arrow frogs the most interesting. Next to a aquatic design contest was a rabbits’ gaility contest, where the bunnies proved that the fence-crossing instinct has been bred out of some variants.
Missed all fish-related content of Kenneth McKaye‘s presentation, and was mystified by the almost preachy WWF-bits, including multiple references to Antti Tuisku.
The last show of the day was Markku Varjo‘s walkthrough of Tetras. It included both classics common for decades, as well as brand-spanking new data on yet undescribed species (a fourth neon tetra). The previous three presentations were accompanied by field photographs, here the bar was raised a lot higher by inclusion of lots of studio images. And like the previous sessions, this too was plagued by promotion, but it was far less thorough than in the first two.
The biggest news to me was piranhas’ diet (including lots of vegetable matter), the proof of hatchetfish not being able to really fly didn’t really surprise anyone. By far the best video clip of the day was of a drying stream with thousands of Brycon cefalus wildly leaping in the water (at least a dozen of the big tetras ended up on the boat).