Formed in 1979, Preston & District Aquarist Society has grown to become one of the biggest in the country and regularly has between 70-80 members at each meeting; unheard of in this day and age. While most people will tell you social media has been the death of fish keeping clubs, Preston have successfully embraced it and used it as a platform to showcase its popular activities and attract new members.
One date on this year’s aquatic calendar I was looking forward most was the 28th of September and the venue was wellington park hotel in Leyland, home of the annual Preston & District Aquarist Society Convention. Last year I was kindly invited down to present my talk “The Rainbowfish of Sahul” and was that impressed I decided I would make the trip again this year to meet up with the many friends I had made. Preston & District Aquarist society are a modern club and more should follow this model.
Lynn, David, Brad, Harry, Alan & I – The Quiz! – Wakey Wakey John Steven!
All in 9 of us Scots made the trip down south, myself and my good lady Lynn, Allan James, John Bradley, Jack Irish, Harry Shields, John Steven, David Strickland and Errol Mann. Arriving on Saturday afternoon our hosts had arranged a meet up for a meal followed by a quiz night and a few drinks. This turned out to be a true international affair with Scots, English, Austrian, Uruguayan and Columbian aquarist’s present. After our fantastic meal we settled down to host John Deans quiz and it was not long before John was considering taking cover from the baying mob as the drinks flowed and the banter came into its own and the atmosphere became pantomime like with loud boos and crys of defeat all adding to a fantastic night.
On Sunday morning it was off to the much anticipated annual convention with doors opening at 9.30 am, the venue was the Wellington Park hotel in Leyland. This year’s speakers were the world famous catfish guru Ian Fuller, Dr Anton Lamboj lecturer at the university of Vienna and Felipe Cantera owner and operator of Aqva Terra Eco Tours from Uruguay.
Ian Fuller and I enjoying the show – Inside Ians Fish House!
First up was Ian Fuller, what this man doesn’t know about Corydoradinae really isn’t worth knowing. Ian gave us a fantastic tour of his fishroom, explaining all the different methods he uses when breeding his fish. Ian is off over to the states this month and will be taking a group of Chilatherina sentaniensis over which I gave him in return for some cracking little Corydoras CW049. Ian is also a very accomplished artist and he also presented me with a brilliant print of a Pseudomugil connieae which now proudly hangs on my fishhouse wall. Ian has invited me down to the Catfish Study Group Convention in march to do my Rainbowfish of Sahul talk and I took this opportunity to really get to know him.
Next up was the eccentric Felipe Cantera. Felipe’s talk was split into two halves separated by lunch. In the first part Felipe showed us all a rare insight into fish collecting in his native Uruguay. Felipes fantastic humour had us all relaxed in no time as he showcased how stunning a place Uruguay is. After a brilliant lunch and another chance for Ray Blackburn to empty our pockets with his many fundraising activities it was back to Felipes talk and this time he showcased the the family of fishes that are Gymnogeophagus. Felipe showed us many slides of fish you just wont see online or any book. Again, a fantastic talk.
Anton Lamboj’s talk on livebearers – Varied gonopodia
Finally it was the turn of Anton Lombaj, Known mostly for his work on West African Cichlids, Anton was here to give us a talk on livebearing fish. Anyone who thought they were going to see heaps of pictures of colourful guppys were at the wrong convention. This was an UP close view of livebearers and was very detailed and everyone in the room must have learned a lot of things they did not know, even if livebearers where there hobby of choice. All in all Preston really pushed the boat out this year with its choice of speakers and as the afternoon session drew to a close it was evident that everyone was hugely impressed.
My group of Dawkinsia exclamatio from top barb breeder Alby.
The Afternoon session closed with an auction of fish and I managed to pick up some Tateurndina ocellicauda to compliment my own fish and more importantly to widen its gene pool. I also picked up a lovely young pair of Xiphophorus montezumae “Rio Tamasopo” as well as collecting a fantastic group of Dawkinsia exclamatio from my friend Alby Howgate.
Brian hosts the Aquarist’s disscussion.
As the Afternoon closed it was onto the evening meal followed by an Aquarist’s discussion that was hosted by Mr Brian Walsh. Looking around the room I was amazed by the wealth of knowledge that was present, easily over 1000 year’s experience between us and many tips could be had as Brian took us from one subject to another. After the discussion was over it was time to relax and socialise and in the case of us Scots, till the wee sma oors!
Monday morning couldn’t come quick enough as this meant a visit to the fish keeping mecca that is Pier Aquatics. To me this is the best store in the UK by a mile and I have seen many reports from visitors abroad that they have nothing near as good at home, this includes the USA ! Neil and the girls always offer a warm welcome as does Asbo the cat and it’s not long before you have a warm cup of your favourite brew in your hand as you browse the hundreds of tanks. I was fortunate to pick up a group of a Melanotaenia Sp
“Dekai Village” a new undescribed Rainbowfish from West Papua. Soon it was time to head home but not before heading back to Leyland first to pick up a group of Melanotaenia trifasciata
“Goyder River”, my all time favourite Rainbowfish from Steve at Aqualife
Just some of the spectacular fish on sale at Pier Aquatics
. I would like to thank everyone at Preston who worked so hard to put on a fantastic weekend and made both me and Lynn feel at home.
Picture credits: Alex Carslaw | Steven Chester | Ray Blackburn