Heiko,the visit of a fishkeeping Icon.

The visit of a fishkeeping icon

When i decided to take the plunge and create a brand new aquarist society in central Scotland my main objective was to create a platform of learning. The key to successful fishkeeping is having the ability to listen to others, listen to other opinions and views. Far to much learning these days seems to be via social media and to me this is a dangerous practice. Get out and meet people face to face and learn from each other.

Our club has invited some fantastic speakers over the 3 years we have been running and we have learned so much and last year we decided it was time to take it to the next level. Several names were mentioned and discussed before we decided to go all out and invite Mr Heiko Bleher. The question was though, would he be prepared to visit such a small club ? This is a man who has discovered and introduced over 6000 different freshwater species and made around 900 field trips to freshwater habitats in a couple of hundred different countries !

Through our work with Rainbowfishes i am lucky enough to consider him a friend and i have learned so much and continue to do so to this day.
He has brought us so many iconic species such as Boeseman's Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia boesemani, the kutubu Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia lacustris and probably the most popular of all, the Neon Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia praecox. 

Much to my delight we managed to secure Heiko to visit Scotland and we set about our preparations. Such is the popularity of Heiko, local businesses were keen to show support and very kindly provided sponsorship for the event.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the following sponsors

New Concept Aquatics
Riverside Aquaria
The Fin Room
East Lothian Aquatics
Eden Aquatics & Reptiles
RT Discus
Central Discus
DL Discus
IP Discus
Fish Science
Also, Hagen, Oase, JBL & Waterlife for the fantastic free products for our guests and some of the best raffle prizes you will see.

I Picked up Heiko from Glasgow airport the evening before the convention. As we drove into Cumbernauld, Heiko was interested to find out more about the town so i took the opportunity to introduce him to Arria.
Arria at night.
It's a fantastic 10 metre high finished steel sculpture that captures your attention when driving into or past Cumbernauld.  

It takes the form of a female figure, with two large swooping arcs from the upraised palms of her hands to the hem of her dress. The idea of the arcs comes from the Gaelic name for Cumbernauld, “comar nan allt”, which translates as “the meeting of the waters”.

On arrival at the hotel we sat down for a late evening meal. I introduced Heiko to all the welcoming members of Central AS who were there to greet him. It all seemed a bit surreal that such a famous man, who was in the jungle last week is sitting here with me and my friends.

Looking at my phone i suddenly realise its 12.30 am and i'm still at the bar, sober though :). I had 6 fantastic F3 Melanotaenia lacustris to acclimate in my tank that my friend Dave crossett from Bangor Aquarist Breeders Society in Northern Ireland had sent over with the members that had made the long trip. Dave has done some fantastic work within the Rainbowfishes hobby, Having made trips over to Europe, bringing in some spectacular fish to the UK keepers of this fantastic family of fishes. On his last trip to Bavaria Dave brought these M lacustris over as eggs within a wool mop and has done a brilliant job raising them and more importantly distributing them in the UK.
It was 01.30 am and im getting up at 05.30 to catch some fish for the days auction, oh the joys !

With my selection of fishes caught for the auction i headed to the hotel to have breakfast with Heiko, one hour was quickly over as i asked him questions of not only fish but also about the environment and the impact on our planet. He told me that nearly every area he has revisited, the ecosystem is dying.
It was an honour to spend time with him and I Can't thank the hard working members members of my club for the opportunity to do so through all the preparation and hard work they put in to make it happen, especially  Gary Houston & Frank Davidson.

Soon convention time had arrived. As i drove in i could see there were many already queuing !

The first guest i met was Jean Symington, smiling as always and the usual chirpy Eric Jones, Two lovely people and bend over backwards to help the hobby in Scotland. Ok, Maybe the  don't bend that far anymore but you will struggle to find better.
Doors open !
As our guests arrived they were shown to their seats by our members. Each guest had a reserved seat, ensuring, to the best of our ability, that everyone was sitting with whoever they purchased tickets with, and with people they are familiar with. It all ran very smoothly and it wasn't long before our 100+ guests were settled in and ready for the first of our lectures.

With all our guests settled our first lecture began. 
Heiko treated us to " The definitive truth about Discus & Angelfishes ".
Pterophyllum Altum

Heiko during this talk not only showed the history and taxonomy, behavior and habitats, but also introduced us to his newest discoveries during his Amazon and upper Orinoco trips in 2016 and 2017.Our guests sat mesmerised as Heiko took us all around the Amazon jungle, showing fantastic images and offering our guests some first hand information that was easily taken on board.

After our first lecture had finished our guests were then treated to a fantastic Sunday roast lunch by local company Alex Graham Catering. It was very enjoyable but what i liked best was finding out that the caterers had also fed all the Ex servicemen in the next hall as well ! a touch of class from a great local company.

Next up for our second lecture was Dr Dave Pool. Dave presented a lecture about the importance of feeding your fish the correct and balanced diet. He worked for Tetra for around 25 years, originally answering consumer queries about fish and fish keeping; doing talks to aquatic societies as well as promoting fish keeping on tv and radio.

Myself and Dr Dave Pool.

Dave started his own company, FishScience 4 years ago and has now established his products in the UK and global aquatic market, winning praise from many of the hobbys top aquarists.

For our final lecture of the day Heiko treated us to "The amazing biology of freshwater fishes".
Heiko during his talk taught us all about the communication & biology, which hardly anyone is aware of.
Our guests sat in awe as Heiko showed slide after slide of amazing fishes and how they have adapted for survival in our waters.


A packed, captivated audience.

To close our event we had a small auction of guests and members fishes. It may have been only 10 sellers but you would be hard pressed to find fish of the quality and availability of what was on offer. One of our members, Adam Tyborski offered some of the nicest Angelfish you will see, F1 Pterophyllum scalare "Rio Negro". Adam is a fantastic breeder and his fish, and there were loads! They were quickly snapped up.
Some of Adams F1 youngsters

With the close of the auction it was time to say goodbye to all our guests. We had some fantastic support for our event and i can't thank everyone enough. We had visitors from Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and even Malta ! Special thanks for the support of our local Aquarist clubs, Kirkcaldy AS, Fair City AS & Royal Borough AS.

A lot of events i visit it always seems to be a few, usually the same, people helping out. Every single one of the guys and girls below all contributed to make it a memorable occasion. Thank you.

After The convention ended we took Heiko to a local Italian Restaurant called "Milano's, I wanted to give him a taste of home, or at least as close as Milano's could get to it. Whilst it was an enjoyable meal i knew i had to up my game in the meal stakes. I spent the next hour talking of a whole range of different subjects , Project Piaba being one. A Great evening, obviously !

When Monday morning came any thoughts of a much needed lay in was quickly interrupted with 6am alarm bell. I had arranged with Heiko to meet him at breakfast and my fish house was a mess. Due to the speedy capture of fish for the previous days auction. The fish house was given a good tidy up before Heiko arrived. On arriving, Heiko's eye was immediately caught by my Pet Snakehead, Channa ornatipinnis. He is an old fish now but won best in show wherever he was benched.
My Channa ornatipinnis.

Moving outside I showed Heiko the work I have been doing with not just Rainbowfishes but many more types also. Heiko paid me many compliments and those, I will treasure.

It's not often a fishkeeping icon looks over your fish, A Carlsberg fishkeeping type day !

Before Heiko headed home i wanted to introduce him to my home city, Glasgow. So myself, Heiko, Lynn and my little treasure of a Granddaughter Lilly headed for the "Toon". 

On route Lilly was counting the rubbish on the road that she seen, she has turned into a right wee environmentalist at 4 years old and it was much to Heiko's delight. He told me she reminds him so much of His daughter Amanda at that age, that was nice.

Lilly on a nursery day out, learning about wildlife and
Picking up litter.

Scotland is a beautiful country but Glasgow is often overlooked. Its a fantastic city full of culture, with outstanding architecture and much to my delight, right up Heiko's street.
We gave Heiko a short tour of old Glasgow. We started at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, This building caught Heiko's eye as we travelled through Glasgow on the Saturday evening. 
Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
Designed by Robert and James Adam, the original Royal Infirmary building was opened in December 1794. Beside the Infirmary is an example of stunning Scottish gothic architecture, the Glasgow Cathedral. From here we made our way down Glasgow's "High Street", down past the merchant city and saltmarket to the Clydeside. The River Clyde is a fantastic example of nature reclaiming a once heavy industrialised area. Atlantic salmon have been returning to the Clyde in reasonable numbers for some years now.
Considering that the Clyde salmon never returned to the Clyde for over 100 years due to the level of pollution caused by the industrial revolution their return is a great success story.

Next up was a visit to the Museum of Transport, at the Riverside Museum on Glasgow's waterfront. A fantastic example of modern architecture, with the contrast of the tall ship makes it a must see. Once through the door 
there are over 3000 objects on display from Glasgow’s rich past. From skateboards and vintage cars to powerful locomotives. You can even walk down an old cobbled Glasgow street with shops dating from 1895 to the 1980s. Even the old Glasgow bars had the once familiar " No Ladies " sign above the door. 

Riverside museum and tall ship.

Sitting next to the Museum is the Tall ship. Once aboard you get transported back to when the SV Glenlee was an operating cargo ship. Built on the River Clyde in 1896 is one of only 5 of her kind still afloat in the world today. It was cold on the waterfront and most of the time Heiko was holding on to his famous hat as Glasgow's weather took bite. I showed and explained to Heiko the importance that ship building on the Clyde had on shaping and forming the city as we know it now but we both agreed that its great to see nature flourish again, not a common trend these days.

After a quick coffee we were then off to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It is one of Scotland's most popular attractions and features 22 themed, state-of-the-art galleries displaying an amazing 8000 objects. Heiko said he was taken aback by the quality of the artwork in the "Glasgow Boys" gallery. They are a loose collective of 20 artists whose work rebelled against Victorian convention, and produced some of Scotland's most innovative and well-loved paintings. He also spent a long time photographing both them and the Charles Rennie Mackintosh displays.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Before heading for Edinburgh Airport there was just one more visit i had planned for Heiko. He had told me the night before he really wanted to taste proper Scottish food so i had put a plan into place. Under the shadow of Stirling castle there is a fantastic wee restaurant called " The Crannog ".
Crannogs are a type of ancient loch-dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland. and the restaurant is themed around this but more importantly is the fine Scottish food they serve !

A traditional Crannog, Loch Tay.

The Crannog Restaurant.

For starters we enjoyed Cullen Skink before tucking into a meal of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties !

Heiko thoroughly enjoyed his first real taste of Scotland !

Before long it was time to say goodbye to a dear friend as he took off from Edinburgh, no doubt to a jungle, nowhere near you.

Thank you Heiko Bleher, for your company, for sharing your Knowledge with myself and my friends and for being you.

It was a dream come true.

Haste ye back !