Interview with Heiko Bleher -

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14 Jun 2013 11:26 #1 by Andrew
Andrew created the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -
Our thanks again must got to forum member Alex Veres for conducting this interview and for letting us publish it on the forum - thanks Alex





Interview by Alex Veres
Publishing admitted only with written approval by author.


Heiko Bleher... refreshing my memories trying to remember when I first heard about this name... Then suddenly I remembered reading your worldwide collecting histories in Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazines from the `80s. I had a good friend, biologist, Romanian, that used to write in the same magazine some articles, regarding our local river fauna. He borrowed some copies of that magazine, which was pretty hard to find during that period of time… Then there were books, magazines, and stories - a lot of incredible stories regarding expeditions made in every corner of the globe. Then Romania, Bucharest, 2008 Grigore Antipa Natural History Museum, Heiko Bleher… for me that’s at least another visual landmark. After that other books, other stories, again lots of expeditions, many other places. A few years more passed… and Facebook plus some common friends give us the opportunity to virtually meet.

Alex: Some of the people say that you are a modern explorer, some speak about a fish hunter, other say that you are a biotope specialist with great experience in capturing, keeping and breeding of Discus. I think you are still keeping alive your childhood dream :) . For people that will read this interview the most important thing is to know how would you describe yourself?

Heiko: as a simple hard working independent individual who loves what he does, and who had the chance to been born into the pioneer family of the ‘modern’ aquarium hobby. A family, which laid the foundation for what, became the most beautiful and educational hobby on earth. Both, my grandfather (mother side), Adolf Kiel and my mother, Amanda Flora Gilda Bleher, were extreme hard workers, researchers, explorers and discoverers, what I, the only one in our large family, inherited and am able to extended their pioneer work, to all continents and all aquatic habitats around the globe …





Alex: : Continuing a family tradition of exploration, making collection and worldwide distribution of aquatic life, all this while people discussing about you are not tempted to say you are a plant hunter… Not many know that you discovered plants such as Echinodorus bleheri, Echinodorus osiris, Alternanthera reineckii or Cabomba furcata. Still, everybody speaks about the fish you discovered. How come that instead of following a strong plant family tradition (your grandfather Adolf Kiel's and your mother Amanda's activity were mainly connected to work on aquatic plants) you are more dedicated to fish?

Heiko: Yes my grandfather’s and my mother’s number one aim was to introduce aquarium plants into the hobby, as there were none before them at all anywhere available. But mind you, my Grandfather had already in the year 1900 the largest aquarium plants and ornamental fish breeding establishment worldwide, and my mother also kept, bred and distributed ornamental fishes throughout Europe. She was the one who introduced the Neon Tetra during and after world-war II, no one else did it in Europe, only Fred Cochu later with Paramount Aquarium from New Jersey, USA. And when my mother moved to Brazil and we opened the pioneer aquarium plant and ornamental fish breeding and wholesale outlet 40 km north of Rio de Janeiro we were breeding also fishes in our company Lotus Osiris. And as I am the youngest in the family, my mother told me early that she wants to give to her two sons (as her two daughters were not interested in the business and departed early to Argentina and New Zealand) the business and suggested one takes the fish department and one the plant nursery. My brother, being the oldest choose the nursery, as it was already established, with my mother I had build it up between 1959 and 1962… And as I always (as long as I can remember, since my age of 4 in deep Africa with my mother) wanted to learn, as much as possible and therefore wanted to study only those things which were to be useful for me in live and that was at the University of South Florida. Therefore I wrote to the largest ornamental fish breeding companies in Florida, USA at that time, in order to work and earn the money to pay for my study at the University, and it worked very well. I got hired and I bred fishes and cultivated aquarium plants for first Elsberry’s Fish Farms and than the largest, Gulf Fish Farms, Inc. I started always setting up my brood stock 5 AM worked until 5 PM drove to the University and studied for 5 hours there each night, I became within 2 years the ‘Best Ornamental Fish Breeder’ in the USA – I was told – and they wanted to keep me there. But I had loved by now fishes so much and learned that I will never ever for the rest of my life work for anyone else…

Alex: You are well known for the accurate description of biotopes, preoccupation that lead you after years of experience to start a new tendency in tank setting: the biotope tank. Five years ago I've made an interview with Takashi Amano. His concept of Nature aquarium made a splash many years ago in the aquarium world and caused the birth of a long line of so called aquascapers. At the same time I think that even if that kind of Japanese nature tank looks amazing, there is no “nature” in it at all. Do you think that the tanks should be set up for fish or for the human owners?








Heiko: Alex, my first biotope correct aquarium I did when I was 18, a 4000 l tank, see http://www.aquapress-bleher.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=29%3Alist-of-fairs-a-exhibitions&catid=28%3Abibliographical-dates&Itemid=

The President of Germany at the time gave me a diploma, so it is not at all a new tendency. I have done the first large Biotope Aquarium display in Belgium in 1981 where I decorated according to a certain natural habitat 30 aquariums. After Takashi, who I think respects me (and I do respect what he has done), had started in the 1990s I have made the second very large Biotope Aquarium Display at AQUA-EXPO in Belgium 2001 with 32 aquariums, of sizes up to 4000 l, and after that yearly around the world. Lately I do also workshops during my hundreds of conferences on biotope-correct-aquarium decoration. The aquascape, born from his (Amano’s) idea is based on the decoration of an aquarium according to the Zen-Garden-tradition, just to place it under water and since 2001 it has spread around the world. They are called ‘Nature Aquariums’ but have actually nothing to do with nature. All, without exception, are underwater gardens decorated and made for man so the decorator can clap on his own shoulder, proudly show his scape, and/or participate in the yearly on-line competition. Unfortunately the aquascaper have little (o none) information on the fishes and 99% of the cases do not even know the fishes – decorate almost always without a fish in it. And not only this takes away from the original concept of my grandfather, to have a biotope in ones home (or office), but it is also an aquarium decoration which cannot last – unless one does trim nearly every day the plants, take care daily of such an ‘nature’ aquarium, exactly as what I needed to take care of a Zen garden. Such an decorated aquarium needs o much care, that it can, and will never last. The biotope-correct fish community, with the décor they are used to and need, is an aquarium to last, without worries and very little work, a beautiful authentic peace of real aquatic nature, which one can enjoy and appreciate, as well as learn from it every day – 100-times better than from any TV…

Alex: : 1st International Biotope Aquarium Competition Athens Greece, then Sankt Petersburg, last October with their Biotope Aquarium Contest. All of that with you at the front… What’s next? Do you think that this kind of biotope aquascapes, maybe not as attractive as the others, could somehow win the allegiance of the world fish keepers and become the new trend in aquascaping?

Heiko: No the first was in Russia 2011 and again 2012 (twice, one for biotope aquariums and one for nan-biotope aquariums – I was invited to talk and judge on both). The one in Athens was last October and yes, it was the first international one. Alex, the real Biotope Aquarium Concept has already surpassed by far the ‘acuascape’ and ‘nature aquarium’ concept. I will show some numbers about this in Dublin. It is present and much more the future – for sure. People aim, more and more as destruction of natural aquatic habitats is rising as never before and rivers and lakes drying up – to have a biotope correct small piece of under water world at home, because in nature is coming to an end. This also helps to preserve fish, already extinxt in nature due to habitat destruction.

Alex: : A biotope is something very complex. We discuss about the threat to fish habitats and from time to time about the extent of the influence the human habitat has on biotopes. Local indigenous population of Amazonia, caboclos, are affected as well, this influence striking at the core of their civilization by deforestation and habitat destruction. Are we still speaking about unmodified biotopes in the Amazonian area? Do you still have some untouched areas that you intend to prospect?

Heiko: This year (in September) will travel up the last Amazon River affluent I have not researched so far. It will be the last one for me to catalogue its fishes, than I have them all on my far over 430 field trips only to that part of the world. But as last year also, I must travel 2500 km on a small boat to reach this remote area …Every year in the last few decades it is becoming more difficulty to reach untouched and intact Amazon areas. The destruction is going at least 10-times faster than what we all here in the medias …

Alex: : Each year you discover something new… new species of fish, shrimps, plants etc. Is it more difficult to discover now comparing with decades ago? The anthropic activities are affected so much, the climate change is so severe as to render habitats almost sterile with respect to new species? Did the science progress so much that there is nothing new to discover anymore?

Heiko: as explained before, much more difficult and each time it is more costly to reach my remote destinations. I have to travel further and further each year. Fortunately I know every single white spot on this planet, those few spots where really no one has been (also not National geographic teams, GEO, or Animal Planet, Discovery or other channels claiming they go to out of the way places – all bs.) doing aquatic research. And because I am the only one on this planet doing it (as far as I know), I am able to find still new species every year. Only in those remote, few untouched places, it is possible, as well in some difficult to access waterfalls (and below those), deep caves and remote high mountain areas with isolated lakes one can possibly still find unrecorded aquatic live forms. Very few scientists do it today, or can do it, simply because there are no funds. Except for DNA experiments, ichthyology is a dying out job … Governments do not have or give money for such research anymore.

Alex: : Long time ago you were declared the best breeder of tropical fishes in the US. I am pretty sure that now you have no time for breeding the new species you discovered. Even so, you must have some rules that lead you to become so good as to accede to the top hierarchy of the world breeders. Do you have some tricks to be discovered by the young breeders, some rules to be followed? Which are some of your secrets that may transform a young fishkeeper in a success breeder? What type of parameters you try to replicate from nature when you try to breed a fish?

Heiko: yes I mentioned it above. The Icon of the American Ornamental Fish Business, Ross Socolof, had officially declared it. No today (and already for many years) I have no time anymore for breeding, but I have my breeders still to whom I always give my new discoveries every year, they normally breed and introduce them into the hobby. As of today I has able to do this with over 6000 species already the hobby had never seen alive before (and a few plant species as well, and lately also shrimps).
A breeder can and will always be successful if:
1. He studies the origin of the fish to breed (water parameters, yearly and/or daily breeding periods), etc.
2. He/she must work very hard, ie egg-layers (mainly tetras) must be watched in the very early morning hours when most of them lay their eggs), same for rainbow fishes and Blue-eyes), But so every group of fishes has its particularity.
3. The make sure he/she has the best live foods for the fry/babies always available (breeding live foods is no secret, only dedication needed) and excellent dry food (which not all will take – naturally).
4. 4. And that he/she feeds babies 3-6 times daily… changes water when the fishes tell him/her, etc.
5. Work, work, work and ‘think fish’.

Alex: : You have a long experience in collaborating with world famous magazines. In the past you did with TFH in US, nowadays with PFK in UK. You created as well a beautiful magazine, the quarterly Aqua Geõgraphia. So you know the best perspective of the market: publisher and contributor writer. Why PFK and not Aqua Geõgraphia?

Heiko: I do after I had to stop aqua geõgraphia, because the support from the industry came to a stop, although until today it is considered the best ever made. I do make since the last 3 years the yearly magazine call DISCUSBOOK, which was originally to bring up to date (yearly) the situation of the Amazon (following up my Bleher’s Discus volume 1, which tells everything about the Amazon to that dates (and of 2005) and naturally the newest about Discus, Biotopes, Loricariidae, Destructions, Taxonomy, Discoveries, Plants, etc. I write for PFk because they asked me always, and as they pay well (which T.F.H. never did). But I write for many other magazines around the world, see my List of articles on my website www.aquapress-bleher.com To do a quarterly magazine is a tremendous amount of work (at least they way I did it, not even national Geographic or any other magazine has ever put so much work into a single issue) and if I do not have the advert-industry support, I cannot do it anymore. Now with the yearly issues everyone is supporting it. Besides this I want to finish at least another 7 large books before I go, all in the works, books that will stay, not only for today’s but for all future generations hopefully. I will do those books because people can learn from it (as my Bleher’s Discus books, and all my writings, are always informative and timeless, and in the future even more valuable, than possibly today).

Alex: : For some, the king of Amazon river is the pirarucu, also known as the Arapaima gigas. For us, there can only be the discus. An interview with Heiko Bleher and not a single a question about the king… no one will forgive me . Which discus from all that you have captured during the years do you consider as the most beautiful for an aquarium?

Heiko: the one I finally made a dedicated t-shirt from, the one I found in a lake in the Rio Içá basin end of 1975/76, which a great Russian painter has painted authentic, as the only old photo I have is not so good, the late Hans-J. Mayland made it. This was the very first ‘fully ‘Red’ Discus ever found and Schmidt-Focke bred it, and almost all red discus today in the hobby have its origin from that fish. To me this is one if not the most beautiful of the ‘King’ of the Amazon. No man-made discus can compete with those natural colours. But than: I love (untouched) nature and everything natural, simply because man can never in its short live-span archive the success nature has had in millions (hundreds of millions) of years – to ‘create’ it to the perfection. Man can only do it worse and unfortunately many are doing it).


ITFS Club Secretary
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
see the ITFS tab above for more information www.irishfishkeepers.com/index.php/itfs

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14 Jun 2013 12:00 - 14 Jun 2013 12:03 #2 by JohnH
JohnH replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -
Thanks Alex, that was a very interesting article and very good of you to let Andrew share it with everyone here.

I'm making a small quotation from it here:

"No man-made discus can compete with those natural colours"

Never have more true words been written/spoken.

John

...ps don't forget you could have the chance to meet the man himself tomorrow, MaxiZoo, Leopardstown (see home page for full details).

Location:
N. Tipp

We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl - year after year.


ITFS member.



It's a long way to Tipperary.
Last Edit: 14 Jun 2013 12:03 by JohnH. Reason: added postscript

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14 Jun 2013 13:01 #3 by Homer
Homer replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -
I have always been of the opinion that one of the sentences attributed to a marriage could also be applied to Nature: Let not what God has put together let no man pull asunder.

We think the beauty of the Planet is for us to look at and deem pretty. Someone recently said, while searching for rare Birds of Paradise, having found them, that they are so remote and out of site from humankind that their existence is to their own benefit and as such , have a right, as do we as a species, to live and exist without interference or attempts to improve, evolution will take care of that itself.H.

The Glass is always greener on the other side.


It's NOT "Chee lick", NOT "Chee Chee Licks"!!! Cichlids is pronounced as "Sick Lids"!!!!!

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16 Jun 2013 14:04 #4 by ALEX.
ALEX. replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -

JohnH wrote: Thanks Alex, that was a very interesting article and very good of you to let Andrew share it with everyone here.

The pleasure was mine, John.
Yesterday I attempted the Seminar as well, but to be honest, it was an unpleasant surprise to observe the lack of interest of other local fishkeepers to participate as such an event. If a legend like Heiko, that arrived for the first time in Ireland is followed by just about 25 hobbyists... :(

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16 Jun 2013 19:20 #5 by derek
derek replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -

ALEX. wrote:

JohnH wrote: Thanks Alex, that was a very interesting article and very good of you to let Andrew share it with everyone here.

The pleasure was mine, John.
Yesterday I attempted the Seminar as well, but to be honest, it was an unpleasant surprise to observe the lack of interest of other local fishkeepers to participate as such an event. If a legend like Heiko, that arrived for the first time in Ireland is followed by just about 25 hobbyists... :(


I also was very disappointed (but not really surprised based on previous such occasions) with the very poor attendance and I cannot imagine that the trade will be keen to invite world famous speakers to give further presentations. At least those of us that bothered to attend enjoyed the occasion and learned a great deal.

30 tanks specialise in african cichlids, angelfish and various catfish

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16 Jun 2013 19:36 #6 by igmillichip
igmillichip replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -

derek wrote:

ALEX. wrote:

JohnH wrote: Thanks Alex, that was a very interesting article and very good of you to let Andrew share it with everyone here.

The pleasure was mine, John.
Yesterday I attempted the Seminar as well, but to be honest, it was an unpleasant surprise to observe the lack of interest of other local fishkeepers to participate as such an event. If a legend like Heiko, that arrived for the first time in Ireland is followed by just about 25 hobbyists... :(


I also was very disappointed (but not really surprised based on previous such occasions) with the very poor attendance and I cannot imagine that the trade will be keen to invite world famous speakers to give further presentations. At least those of us that bothered to attend enjoyed the occasion and learned a great deal.


Even though had a number of prior committments that day and could not stay for all of the event, I did notice a very poor turn-out (even less than 25 was my count).

There is a lot of apathy here, and that has been seen at so many events.

ian

Irish Tropical Fish Society (ITFS) Member.

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16 Jun 2013 20:20 #7 by hammie
hammie replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -
I enjoyed reading the above interview!
Unfortunately I was unable to attend the event yesterday myself due to other commitments and young kids, and I personally know of another 10 or so that were in the same position as myself! It would have been a most informative experience for me as I am still relatively green around the gills and new to fish keeping (to a certain degree) unfortunately I was born much later than many more experienced keepers here!

To hear someone speak that is held in such high regard the world over would have been memorable and enjoyed!
Maybe I would have picked up some much needed knowledge!

Alas some things are not meant to be

Neil

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16 Jun 2013 20:34 - 16 Jun 2013 20:37 #8 by JohnH
JohnH replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -
Neil,
Just in case you missed it here is a link to another very interesting interview which Alex recorded and posted - this time with Chris Lukhaup. It's predominantly about inverts but an excellent read nonetheless:

www.irishfishkeepers.com/index.php/forum...chris-lukhaup#147656

And here's his other interview whith Chris, this time on Aquascaping:

www.irishfishkeepers.com/index.php/forum...chris-lukhaup#147624

John

Location:
N. Tipp

We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl - year after year.


ITFS member.



It's a long way to Tipperary.
Last Edit: 16 Jun 2013 20:37 by JohnH. Reason: Added second link.

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16 Jun 2013 20:36 #9 by LemonJelly
LemonJelly replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -

hammie wrote: unfortunately I was born much later than many more experienced keepers here!


what he's saying is, he thinks yis are old! :evil:

"The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life; your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you.They're freeing your soul."

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16 Jun 2013 20:38 #10 by JohnH
JohnH replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -

LemonJelly wrote:

hammie wrote: unfortunately I was born much later than many more experienced keepers here!


what he's saying is, he thinks yis are old! :evil:


Well, Ian is! :evil: :evil: :evil: :whistle: :whistle: :whistle:

John

Location:
N. Tipp

We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl - year after year.


ITFS member.



It's a long way to Tipperary.

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16 Jun 2013 20:40 #11 by igmillichip
igmillichip replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -

JohnH wrote:

LemonJelly wrote:

hammie wrote: unfortunately I was born much later than many more experienced keepers here!


what he's saying is, he thinks yis are old! :evil:


Well, Ian is! :evil: :evil: :evil: :whistle: :whistle: :whistle:

John


I'm sure that the others Ian's may be offended by that :)

Irish Tropical Fish Society (ITFS) Member.

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16 Jun 2013 22:51 #12 by des
des replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -
Hi All

don't worry about the attendance being a little low.
there was 45 people who registered upon entrance on the day.
thats not so bad, HQ where happy enough with that number, there was a couple of people who came over from England to see Heiko and even a Guy who came over from Poland just for the Event, I greatly admire the dedication...
for Me, I didn't care how many people turned up just once the people that did enjoyed it.
I really loved it and haven't stopped talking about it since, I still have a big smile from ear to ear.
My mind hasn't stopped thinking about how I am going to make big changes in all My Tanks at Home and in as many as I can at Work, My passion for the hobby is at its highest peek right now and I felt as though the few days spent with Heiko where just so inspiring in many ways, I honestly really loved the whole experience.
It was never really about attracting a huge turn out for Me or for many of the others who helped Me with this and honestly speaking if even one person present was truly inspired by this then it was absolutely worth all the effort.


Des

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16 Jun 2013 22:57 #13 by LemonJelly
LemonJelly replied the topic: Interview with Heiko Bleher -
job done then des :cool:

"The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life; your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you.They're freeing your soul."

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