The second installment of C.E. Fish Essentials ambassador Alex Carslaw’s fish house tour takes place at Colin Dunlop’s Fish Hut. We’ll let Alex doing the talking …
Set in hundreds of acres of land in the beautiful Clyde Valley, Colin Dunlop’s place really is a true sight for sore eyes. Colin’s Fish Hut sits next to his stunning farmyard house and it’s probably the most unique fish house I have seen with its very own alpine garden rooftop. Colin explained that it acts as fantastic insulation having raised the temperature by 3°C when completed.
When I arrived I was invited to view Colin’s fantastic 1100 litre tank which is situated in the corner of his kitchen. Standing around 3′ high, 4′ deep and 6′ wide this really is the daddy of all corner tanks. What I really liked about this tank is that even after ten minutes of fishspotting something else will emerge from the Anubias covered tree roots to surprise you; like his shoal of massive Red-line Torpedo Barbs (Sahyadria denisonii). All the wood within the tank is collected from around the farmyard and is first stripped of its bark by his ever eager wood munching L330 Panaque’s before being carefully placed in the tank. Colin recommends using Beech, Oak, Hawthorn, Acer and heather. I was especially intrigued by the use of heather and Colin assures me it will help no end in breeding my F1 P. scalare angels.
Betta macrostoma (juvenile) Channa andrao
I never tire of visiting Colin as I know I will always leave having learned lots. He is always the first person I will turn to for advice and he is always happy to try and help, if he can. I first met Colin on the advice of our mutual friend and fish keeping legend Peter Cottle about 7 years ago and it turned out we both worked for the same Glasgow tropical fish wholesaler around the same time in the late 80’s. Colin has more or less been keeping fish all his life having been introduced to the hobby by his father but it wasn’t till around 1980 before the bug really took hold when he bred his first fish, the Keyhole Cichlid, (Cleithracara maronii), in a small tank in his bedroom. Since the early days Colin has went on to breed over 350 different species of fish and includes the extremely difficult Betta macrostoma amongst his conquests.
Betta mandor Betta macrostoma (juveniles)
Anabantoids figure highly among Colin’s favourite fish and he regularly travels the UK giving talks on the subject and is highly respected by fellow aquarists Worldwide. It wasn’t long before Colin invited me to see what’s been going on in his fish hut, which is currently going through renovation. He has decided to renovate his fish room in two halves allowing him to maintain a limited collection while working on the other. Some of the fish maintained by Colin are his awesome pair of golden cobra snakeheads (Channa aurantimaculata) who were in the process of mouthbrooding. Colin had hoped that there would have been fry to see but sadly it didn’t happen for my visit. Being a sub-tropical species I liked Colin’s set up for the Channa, which had a vent to the rear of the tank that allows cool air to enter; keeping it at a colder temperature compared to the other tanks within the fish house. These snakeheads need a cool winter rest at about 10-12° to encourage breeding the following spring. His Channa are fed a diet which includes raw prawns and earthworms. I have always had an admiration for Channa and have a single dwarf ornate snakehead (Channa ornatipinnis) myself, who lives at the bottom of my fish hut and is the eager recipient of any fatalities from my other tanks.
Betta macrostoma Betta mandorIn Scotland a license is required to keep Channa species and one can be obtained for free from Scottish Natural Heritage
. It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to Bettas, and boy does this guy know about Bettas. Colin maintains and breeds some species like Betta renata, B. stigmosa, B. kuehnei,and as yet undescribed Betta species. You won’t find these fish in many (if any) other fish houses in the UK.
Betta macrostoma (juvenile) Betta macrostoma
Over a cup of coffee, Colin explained to me the secrets of maintaining a healthy yet extremely low pH tank, and who knows one day I may pay a visit to the acidic extremes of fish keeping. Colin’s bettas are fed a staple diet of quality flake and pellets with the added luxury of earthworms and whiteworms. I spoke to Colin about the range of fresh frozen foods supplied by C.E. Fish Essentials
and the benefits of being able to customise the food to the requirements of his own particular fish and he seemed to think this a great idea. Once finished in The Fish Hut
it was back to the farmhouse for a chance to pick Colin’s mind on all things fishkeeping (and another coffee) and I admit I could have sat drinking coffee and talking to this guy all night. His knowledge is awesome.
Written by: Alex Carslaw
Editor: Chris Englezou
Photography: Colin Dunlop ©