In my 33 years of fishkeeping I have attended and spoke at many events, clubs and conventions, often travelling the length of the UK and even over to Northern Ireland. This year I was invited over to Asperen, a beautiful little village next to Leerdam in the Netherlands. The event was the International Rainbowfish Group Convention, an annual event that this year was being hosted by the Netherlands branch of the group. It was an offer I simply could not turn down and I set about planning how on earth I would manage to navigate myself there. Thank god for the internet! It turned out the 700-odd mile trip would involve 2 buses, one plane and 3 trains but I wasn’t going to let this stop me.
I set out on Friday morning for the airport and finally arrived in Schiphol airport in Amsterdam at 3.30pm, the easy bit was over. Walking off the plane into Schiphol airport I was taken aback by the size of the place, it made Glasgow airport look like a village airstrip, and I thought that was big. Now the hard part began, navigating the length of the Netherlands without ending up in Germany.
My first stop was Utrecht, that was easy and then all I had to do was find the correct platform and catch a train to Geldermalsen. Again, I took this in my stride and was thinking this is easy!
Arriving in Geldermalsen I was brought back down to earth; the place was deserted and I didn’t have a clue how to follow the instructions I had about checking out of one service and into another. Panic was starting to enter my thoughts until I saw a saviour in the distance with a bright orange jacket. Hurriedly I ran the length of the platform to catch up with him as time was running out. I’m not the fittest of folks and eventually caught up with him, out of breath and panicking all my desperate words flew out my mouth in my native Glaswegian dialect, the guy just looked at me confused, understandably. After finally managing to get across what I was trying to say my new best friend replied “Ah Leerdam, yes, I am the driver of that train, come with me “! I could have hugged him. 15 minutes later I had arrived in Leerdam and sat on my suitcase, exhausted in the middle of the town, exhausted but relieved. As you may have guessed by now, I dont travel abroad a lot.
On arriving at the venue, the Hotel De Shild Kamp there was just enough time to unpack and head down for dinner and to meet my fellow aquarists, whom had assembled from all over the world for this year’s event. A very pleasant evening was had as we chatted all things Rainbowfish before retiring and getting some much-needed sleep.
Saturday kicked off with the much-anticipated Rainbowfish marketplace. I had pre-ordered some wonderful species and I set about examining name tags in the hall to find the breeders of my fish. On my order list were Rhadinocentrus ornatus “Seary Creek”, Glossolepis multisquamata “Pagai Village”, Pseudomugil reticulatus, Melanotaenia Sp “Upper Katherine River” and Melanotaenia sexlineata “Tabibul”.
After the marketplace closed all fish were taken to my room and packed into my case along with some heat packs as it would be a further 36 hours before I would return home.
The first lecture of the day came from my good friend Marten Luter Salossa. Marten works tirelessly promoting and highlighting the sad demise of the iconic Rainbowfish Melanotaenia boesemani from the Ayamaru district of West Papua. When first exported on a commercial scale in the 80’s demand for this species became so high the Boesemani Rainbowfish soon became endangered as collectors fished the lakes to meet the increasing demand. A ban on exporting soon followed and the fish was saved, or was it? Social media would soon reveal an even more danger to this species and once again humans were the threat. With the trans migration of people putting pressure on the surrounding villages, the introduction of food species such as Tilapia and of course Gambusia the lakes soon became polluted and once again the future looks bleak.
Visit Martens You Tube Channel here.
Next up was Johannes Graf. In the Rainbowfish world Johannes needs no introduction. Johannes’s work in maintaining and breeding Rainbowfishes is legendry.
He has also made many trips to West Papua discovering and collecting many new species. In his lecture Johannes introduced us to many new and exciting species within the genus Chilatherina.
Another name that needs no introduction is Gary Lange. Travelling from the USA, Gary gave us 2 fantastic talks. The first, again was highlighting why we need to find and describe as many new Rainbowfish as humanly possible before it’s too late. In West Papua, many new roads are opening which makes this task easier. Unfortunately, these roads are being built for a reason. The Island of New Guinea is one of the richest in minerals in the world and many vast open cast mines cover it, Google Grasberg mine, not the nicest blot on the landscape. Between legal and illegal mining, logging and Oil Palm plantations as well as the trans migration of workers that go along with such activities, West Papua is a country that is poisoning itself at a frightening rate.
Gary’s second talk was more upbeat and raised smiles as well as eyebrows as he drew a sword through many of the myths and “facts” within the Rainbowfish hobby. I won’t go into detail and I will just say if you want to know what? then you should have been there! Brilliant.
After the day’s proceedings, there was just enough time to dash to my room to check my fish, something I was going to do a lot throughout the weekend! Fish were fine so it was down for a fantastic meal which I ate often staring down towards my seat as I watched Scotland throw away a fantastic opportunity to stuff it down England’s throats, yip, even at such an event I can’t drag myself away from the footy!
After dinner, we retired to the terrace and I had the pleasure of sitting at a table with Gary Lange, Johannes Graf and Marten Luter Salossa. I was in Rainbowfish geek heaven!
I sat mesmerised as Gary and Johannes reminisced of previous collecting trips, Malaria, Rats and much much more! They also took the opportunity to pick the brain of Marten while they planned their forthcoming collecting adventure later this year.
Sunday morning saw Andreas Wagnitz draw the short straw and be first up for his lecture.
I’ve often seen Andreas’s post on social media and knew as well as fantastic Rainbowfish, he had a world class collection of Gobies and Gudgeon. Andreas gave us a brilliant lecture of various biotopes from West Papua.
With the waiting, finally over it was my turn to be up for a lecture. I’ve done many lectures previously but always to a general audience and had to give it great thought on how I would present it to 150 Rainbowfish “Diehards”. My lecture was on breeding Rainbowfish & Blue-eyes, something I’ve been doing for over 30 years, so my lecture was aimed more at my experiences in doing so, rather than telling them how to do it! That would be foolish. The Rainbowfish hobby here in the UK has dramatically changed in the last decade, in working closely with certain retailers as well as the IRG we now see some fantastic fish here and I explained how this has all came about, mostly thanks to the power of networking within the social media platform. I gave them a tour of my fish house as well as many videos and progression photographs of the species I have bred. You know the ones I mean; I am always spamming social media with them! My lecture was well received and I would like to think it was enjoyed by all.
Last up was the pairing of Hans Herbert Boeck and Wim Heemskerk and the duo did not dissapoint with a fantastic tale of two aquarists with one passion, Blue-eyes.
Our eyes were treated as we went from one slide to another covering nearly every Blue-eye on the planet. Two guys with so much experience between them this lecture was never going to dissapoint, and it didn’t. Brilliant.
As the convention drew to a close there was just enough time to check my fish (again!) before saying goodbye. I have made many new friends and cemented friendships with others and I firmly believe that I can use this trip to make the hobby within the UK grow even further.
Now for the stressful bit, getting home ! Luckily I was able to arange a lift to Rotterdam meaning I only needed to catch one train back to Schiphol, Phew!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the IRG for my invite, especially the IRG Netherlands and in particular krispijn van gasteren for all his hard work and making my dream become a reality.
Thank you !