For a quarter of a century, scuba diver Hiroyuki Arakawa has been visiting an Asian sheepshead wrasse, Semicossyphus reticulatus, — who he calls Yoriko — in the waters of Hasama Underwater Park in Tateyama, Japan. The friendship developed when he nursed her back to health after finding her injured many years ago, something she seems never to have forgotten. One of the largest wrasses, the Asian sheepshead wrasse can reach a metre in length.
Watch Hiroyuki Arakawa and Yoriko's story in the video below...
As we enter into the season of long balmy evenings and weekends spent out in the garden, now is the time to ensure your pond is looking its best, says All Pond Solutions.
But with temperatures slowly on the rise and increasing levels of sunlight, there are other factors that pondkeepers need to consider to help keep your pond clean, clear and flourishing throughout the summer months...
Regular maintenance of your pond pump and filter
With your garden pond pump and pond filter as your main tools in keeping your pond water clean and healthy, regular maintenance of this equipment over the summer months is essential. Remove any dirt or debris from your pond pump that may have collected around the cage and impeller, and clean your pond filter frequently, checking that your filter foams and media do not require replacing or refilling.
Keep an eye on your water levels
Water evaporation is one of the main causes of a drop in oxygen levels in your pond during the hot summer months. Try to keep your water level consistent by topping it up once a week, ideally with siphoned rainwater. If you do need to use tap water, be sure to add a dechlorinator and water conditioner to ensure the water is safe for your fish and to help conserve your pond’s biological balance. If using mains water, it can also help to regulate pond water temperature by more adding it more regularly in lesser amounts, and be aware that the nutrients in mains water can cause increased algae growth. When using mains water, you will also need to add
Make sure your pond is well aerated
In addition to monitoring your water levels, managing the oxygen levels in your pond is fundamental to the health, happiness and welfare of your fish. It is advisable to keep your pond filter and pump running continuously to keep your pond aerated, however noise-conscious pondkeepers can use an air pump or air stone overnight, which will also help to oxygenate your pond whilst creating much less sound.
Adding new livestock and plants
Summer is the ideal time to update your pond with new fish and aquatic plants - with increased hours of sunlight and water temperature, in addition to you spending more time in the garden to check on their progress. However, patience is key – to try and reduce the risk of an ammonia spike in your pond, by introducing any new fish gradually.
To help your fish acclimatise properly, add new fish to your pond still in their bag for 30 minutes. Floating the bag on the surface of the water lets the water temperatures equalise and reduce levels of stress when adding them to your pond. Finally, place your fish into your pond gently with the use of a net, being careful not to drop any water from the bag into the pond.
Battling algae growth in your pond
Increased levels of sunlight and using tap water to top-up your pond are two of the leading causes for increased phosphates in your pond, creating a feeding ground for algae. Using an algaecide or algae remover can help resolve green water issues, but a better long-term, preventative measure against algae is to install a pond UV steriliser. Exposure to the UV light inside the steriliser causes algae to flocculate, or clump together, which enables your pond filter to remove it from the water.
Adding border and floating plants to your pond can also help to reduce algae growth by creating extra shade for your pond water.
Controlling weeds in your pond
Whilst helping your garden pots and plants thrive in the summer, increased sunlight also causes widespread growth of weeds in and around your pond. Blanket weed is a common frustration for pond keepers during spells of warmer weather, and the application of bacterial pond treatments provide an effective solution and restore the natural balance of your pond.
Floating weeds can also rapidly take over a pond if not carefully controlled, so making time to regularly remove these from your water with a net will help prevent weeds from becoming unmanageable. However, ensure that you leave the weeds overnight by the side of your pond before disposing of them to allow any aquatic organisms to return to the water.
Pond safety is crucial
Last, but certainly not least, the most critical consideration when enjoying your pond this summer is to safeguard yourself and others. Installing a pond grille or fence is a good precautionary measure, but it is VITAL that young children are supervised around water at all times.
Pond keepers should also make sure that any pond or fish treatments are securely stored away out of reach, as the chemicals they contain could prove extremely harmful to both humans and animals.
Be sure to clear your pond of any potential trip hazards and ensure that all electrical pond equipment is correctly wired to a waterproof switch box. If you are unsure of how to do this, consult a qualified electrician.
All Pond Solutions is one of the UK’s leading online aquatics retailers, offering customers one of the largest selections of pond supplies, aquarium equipment and livestock at highly competitive prices.
For more information, or to shop for pond products online, visit www.allpondsolutions.co.uk
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY: DR. DAVID FORD
Ryedale Aquarists Society's 17th Open Show and Auction was held at Kirby Misperton Village Hall in North Yorkshire on Sunday, June 18. Despite it being Father’s Day (and the hottest day of the year so far) the show had record numbers of entries, auction items and visitors. There were also younger aquarists taking part.
The Best in Show was a Scarlet plec (L025) from Brazil, owned and developed for the last three years by Marc Taylor-Olsson. He is the grandson of a founder member of the Ryedale AS and this was his first entry to a fish show.
Another young aquarist was Ollie Blackburn of Sheaf Valley AS who won a First with his killifish Nothobranchius rubbripinis.
There were 254 entries, all judged by the YAAS judges, Trish Jones, Trevor Douglas and Kevin Webb. Steve Jones also ran the auction to an audience of 70 visitors. There were over 26 lots, which took most of the afternoon.
As always, there were hot and cold beverages all day, a grand raffle and aquatic goods on sale by Fishphilosophy.
Here are some of the other winners at the Show:
With entries from STAMPS, Southend, Bradford, Ashby, Otley, and more, the Open Show was a success and Ryedale are looking forward to the next one. This will be their ‘Fun Day’ with lectures and competitions as well as a Mini-Open Show at the same venue: Kirby Misperton Village Hall, YO17 6XN — on Sunday, July 23, 2017.
Well worth a visit.
A popular Tanganyikan cichlid has been found to have the ability to recognise individual faces, making them more relaxed around familiar fish and more guarded with strangers.
The Masked julie, Julidochromis transcriptus, uses the pattern around the eyes of other individuals to identify them, researchers have discovered.
In the wild, J. transcriptus lives in rock crevices hidden by vegetation in Lake Tanganyika. As a result, only a small part of the fish's body tends to be visible at any time.
Scientists from Osaka City University in Japan isolated eight adult males from a group of familiar individuals and exposed them to digital models of fish that had both familiar and unfamiliar features on both their heads and bodies.
They found that the males spent more time following those models with faces they did not recognise, to monitor any potential threat. The models which had only differences in body and fin shape didn’t provoke the same response.
“We found that our subjects were especially guarded against only unfamiliar face models, regardless of body type,” says Takashi Hotta of Osaka City University.
The National Betta show takes place in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
This is the biggest Betta show in the UK with more than 250 fish on display along with trade stalls. The show also includes a huge Betta auction — so pop along and bag some amazing fish!
There will be a raffle where you can win food and Betta toys such as flare mirrors and Betta hammocks! Refreshments are available and parking is free.
The National Betta Show takes place at The Rockingham Centre, Sheffield Road, Hoyland, Barnsley, S74 0PY.
More info: Facebook.com/groups/bettashow
Cuttlefish have been filmed apparently imitating hermit crabs by researchers in Japan.
A team at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, first spotted the odd behaviour in Pharaoh cuttlefish, Sepia pharaonis, while feeding them in the university lab.
Watch the video below and you’ll see for yourself just how good this mimicry is. The cuttlefish raise their front arms and wave them about, while bending those behind to make them look as though they are jointed, like the legs of the crabs.
The cuttlefish were filmed impersonating hermits when prey was present. As hermit crabs aren’t predators the researchers think it could be a method of lulling potential prey into a false sense of security before striking. But the mimicry could also be a useful form of defence, by fooling predators into thinking the soft-bodied cuttlefish are covered in a hard shell.
Practical Fishkeeping has just launched its 2017 Readers’ Poll to find the UK’s best aquatic shops. But this year we’d like to take it a step further and ask the retailers to tell us about their amazing shop staff for a new PFK award.
If you have a member of your retail team who you think really deserves recognition, we want you to let us know. Maybe they’re super-knowledgeable in their field, have decades of experience, or go above and beyond what’s expected of them. Perhaps they’re talented aquascapers, amazing with customers, or a whizz when it comes to your social media pages. Whatever makes them the best, we want to hear about it.
Send us an email with up to 500 words and a photo of the member of staff concerned, explaining why you want to nominate them. Feel free to include any customer feedback. From these, we’ll draw up a shortlist, and we may even feature some of them in-mag or online.
We’ll then want to speak to those who make it onto the shortlist — either over the phone or in person — as well as the individual who nominated them. This should give us the additional information we need to help us decide the PFK aquatic salesperson of the year, which will be announced in a forthcoming issue of the magazine. There will be prizes for both the winner and the runner-up.
Send your emails to email@example.com with the subject of ‘top shop staff’.
The closing date is August 17, 2017.
Maidenhead Aquatics is seeking a full time Sales Assistant to join the team at its Booker store in Buckinghamshire.
“We believe that our sales assistants are the most important ambassadors for our stores and for the hobby of fishkeeping,” says Maidenhead Aquatics. “So it takes a friendly, knowledgeable and energetic person to ensure that our customers have the best possible experience. Someone like you — to greet our customers as they walk in, provide solutions and answers to their questions, and make sure they walk out with everything they need.”
As a sales assistant, the job will require the following:
- Deliver excellent standards of livestock care and store presentation.
- Greet all our customers in an articulate, approachable and friendly manor to maintain our high standards of customer care.
- Communicate your fishkeeping knowledge clearly to customers with varying levels of experience and maintain our policy of responsible fishkeeping.
- Work efficiently as part of a team in a fast-paced retail environment.
- Complete sales correctly and efficiently ensuring customers leave the store fully satisfied.
- Getting merchandise out onto the shop floor, organising stock neatly on the shelves and making sure it's correctly priced and available.
- Be self-motivated, positive and organised.
- Be reliable, hardworking and enthusiastic to learn.
Closing date: June 28, 2017
To find out how to apply for this role, go to www.fishkeeper.co.uk/jobs/full-time-sales-assistant-34
To see what other vacancies Maidenhead Aquatics has available, visit www.fishkeeper.co.uk/jobs
Check out this jaw-dropping set-up belonging to aquarist Steven Baker — and in case you’re wondering, yes, those plants are all real!
Find out more about the man who brought a piece of Borneo to Britain and how he put this spectacular aquarium together, in the July issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. On sale now! In the meantime, sit back and be inspired by the video Nathan Hill took on his visit...
The July 2017 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine is heaving with gorgeous fish and inspirational ideas, plus you can find out how to vote for your favourite aquatic shop in our readers’ poll.
Our fish of the month is the Angelfish — the fascinating oddball that became an everyday tank staple. Find out why you need these fish in your life…
If you really want that pond, but don’t fancy doing all the digging, fear not! There are some much less labour-intensive options — we offer seven great ideas, including a number of step by step guides to help you. There’s also advice on choosing the right pond pump to suit your needs — it’s really not a case of ‘any old pump will do’!
If you need inspiration on the aquarium side we have some simple biotope ideas to try — or check out the jaw-dropping set-up belonging to reader Steve Baker!
We aquascape a reader’s aquarium, offer tips on holiday feeding and explain how to breed your Bettas.
For the saltwater enthusiast there’s advice on improving your reefscape and also switching your lights to LED. And you can find out how to keep the beautiful, intelligent and streetwise hogfish.
All this plus the latest fish in the shops, new products reviewed and your problems solved by our team of experts.
Alternatively, why not take advantage of our current subscription offer?
Ed's note: We're currently working on providing a list of PFK stockists, which we plan to update on the website every month. In the meantime, if you can't locate a copy in your area, or your local retailer has sold out, please give us a call on 01733 468000 and we should be able to direct you to a stockist near you.
A marine aquarium installed at a baseball park in Florida was broken when it was hit by a foul ball during a match. It was something many people expected would happen — the mystery is probably why it took so long!
The tank is one of two 20ft long aquariums at the Marlins Park in Miami, where they serve as the backstop directly behind home plate. When the Marlins announced that the tanks were going to be installed, back in 2012, many people expressed concerned that a breakage was likely, potentially putting the fish and possibly also members of the public, at risk.
The tanks were built by Living Color Aquariums and the strength of the panels was tested at the time by Marlins’ first baseman Gaby Sanchez who hurled baseballs at them to see if he could get them to crack. They didn’t.
But on Friday, June 2, one of the tanks was hit by a ball, which punctured the shatterproof glass, leading to a leak. Luckily, the damage was limited and the tank was given a quick fix using pieces of duct tape until a proper repair could be made. Fortunately, none of the fish appeared to have been harmed.
We want you to vote for your top aquatic retailers in the Practical Fishkeeping Readers’ Poll — and just by taking part, you could win a great prize, courtesy of our sponsor, Fluval.
Great aquatic shops deserve your support — so if you know of a retailer who offers fabulous fish, first class customer service or has amazing staff, here’s your chance to shout about it and give something back for service that’s gone above and beyond the expected.
Receiving a PFK Readers’ Poll award is the highest praise for an aquatic shop and every vote counts — and the result depends entirely on you, the PFK reader.
Your votes are important, so as a thank you, we will automatically put your details into a prize draw where there are £400-worth of Fluval aquatic products to be won courtesy of our sponsor, Rolf C. Hagen.
D-D The Aquarium Solution Ltd is pleased to announce that it has acquired a shareholding in the distribution company Premium Aqua Supply, (PAS), based in Oldenburg in the North of Germany.
Founded in 2001, D-D is a respected and well known supplier of specialist equipment for saltwater and freshwater aquariums to both the UK and global Markets.
David Saxby, Managing Director of D-D said, “Our investment will support the strong market growth that we are experiencing for our products in both the UK and mainland Europe. Brands such as H2Ocean, Rowaphos, Aquaillumination, Polyplab and Deltec are now industry benchmarks, demanded by good retail stores and aquarists all over the world.”
“We believe that PAS are an excellent distributor, offering a high level of service and sales support to their customers in one of the largest aquatic markets in Europe.”
The hard work has already started and some exciting new lines are to be added to the product range over the coming months.
A new species of electric fish from the family Mormyridae has been described from the Ogooué River in Gabon, Africa.
Researchers at Cornell University have just published the description of a new species of weakly electric freshwater fish in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. They’ve named it Paramormyrops ntotom.
The discovery of the new species was the unexpected result of revisiting the original collection site — or “type locality” — of another species described in 1879 and ‘listening’ to what the fishes themselves had to say about what species they belong to, coded in their peculiar electric pulses.
Coauthors Carl Hopkins, Professor Emeritus of Neurobiology and Behaviour, and John Sullivan, Curatorial Affiliate at the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, both study fish of the family Mormyridae (often referred to as elephant fish). These fish communicate by means of electricity produced from an organ near their tail (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormyridae). These pulses are too weak to be perceived without the aid of specialised sensors (such as the fish themselves have), or an amplifier. Of particular interest are the many species in the genus Paramormyrops that live in the Ogooué River of Gabon that produce distinctive, species-specific electric signals.
Paramormyrops sphekodes was the first species of this genus to be described from two specimens collected by a French explorer in 1877 near a village called Doumé, situated beside a small cataract in the Ogooué River.
Since that time, this name has been applied to many specimens from Central Africa deposited in museum collections. But were these all really P. sphekodes? It wasn’t easy to tell. The genus Paramormyrops is now understood to constitute a ‘species flock’ in which many closely related species, similar in appearance, live together in the same region. Until this publication, no one had done a careful study showing how to distinguish Paramormyrops sphekodes from all the others.
“Until we knew which, if any, of the specimens in our recent collections were the real Paramormyrops sphekodes, we couldn’t easily go ahead with new species descriptions for fear of unintentionally describing this species a second time,” says Sullivan.
The type specimens of Paramormyrops sphekodes — those used for the original description in 1879 — reside in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, but are in poor condition. What Hopkins and Sullivan needed were some fresh specimens collected from the type locality at Doumé to provide comparative material for their study. Collecting living fish would also allow them to record their electric organ discharges, or EODs, which often provide important clues to species identity.
Doumé remains a small settlement on an unspoiled part of the Ogooué river. Surprisingly, no ichthyologists had returned to collect fishes there since that first visit in 1877. Sullivan twice got the chance to visit Doumé and fish at night with earthworm-baited fish traps: once in 2011 and again in 2014 on an expedition sponsored by The Nature Conservancy.
What he found there initially only made things more confusing. Among the Paramormyrops collected that were good candidates for P. sphekodes were some with shorter EODs and others with longer EODs. “Without seeing the EODs, we could have easily assumed these were all the same thing,” says Sullivan.
Back at Cornell, careful measurements by Madeline “Maddy” Rich, Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences undergraduate and first author of the paper, revealed very subtle differences between the two EOD groups in average body size and head proportions. Furthermore, DNA sequences Rich produced in the Fuller Evolutionary Biology Lab at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provided evidence that these two groups do not interbreed.
The form with the longer EOD, larger body size and longer head proportions was a species Hopkins and Sullivan already knew informally as “SN4,” having collected it at sites up and down the Ogooué River. They had long suspected this species might be P. sphekodes. The other was new to them. It had been found only at Doumé and one other site nearby. So which of the two forms was really P. sphekodes?
Unfortunately, genetics couldn’t settle the question, since sequencing DNA from the preserved type specimens isn’t possible, at least with current technology. However when Rich, Sullivan & Hopkins plotted head measurements of the P. sphekodes type specimens alongside those taken from the new specimens, they found them to cluster with those from the shorter EOD form, not with the measurements from “SN4.”
Based on this evidence they determined that Paramormyrops sphekodes is a species they’d never encountered alive before sampling at its type locality at Doumé. This meant the other form, the one they knew as “SN4,” had yet to be described. In the new article, they not only describe Paramormyrops ntotom (‘ntotom’ is a word in the Fang language of Gabon meaning 'mormyrid fish'), but also provide a detailed re-description for P. sphekodes and a key to these and similar species so that ichthyologists need no longer be confused.
“This is a great example of bringing diverse kinds of data together to solve a difficult taxonomic question. It really demonstrates the usefulness of revisiting type localities and recording EODs for mormyrid fish taxonomy,” says Carl Hopkins. These original recordings, now in digital form, are being deposited in a special electric discharge collection in the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
“Lucky for us, these fish are constantly broadcasting their species identity electrically,” adds Sullivan. “It makes sense to tune in and listen to what they’re telling each other.”
NOAH (the National Office of Animal Health) is celebrating the nation’s love of pets with its ‘#MeAndMyPet photo competition, and it wants you to send in your best ‘pet selfie’.
As part of its mission to encourage owners to think about the health of their pet and seek expert advice on pet healthcare, the competition will celebrate how much we care about our pets and how much of a huge priority they are for us. NOAH says: "We’re inviting owners to strike a pose with their pet and submit their best ‘pet selfies’ to show off the bond between them and their happy, healthy pets. The campaign is the next part of NOAH’s ‘Happy, Healthy Pets Project’. One lucky winner will receive a £125 voucher for pet treats and supplies.
Through the act of snapping and sharing a photograph of their pets, NOAH hopes to highlight the importance of building relationships that can help to keep pets happy and healthy all year round.
NOAH Chief Executive, Dawn Howard comments: “We know how important our pets are to us – 40% pet owners confess to loving their pet more than their partner! It’s really important to think about keeping your pet healthy as well as loved. Creating a strong bond with your pet is vital to their happiness and wellbeing, as well as bringing of joy and contentment to pet owners. Animals bring so much to our lives, and we in turn can bring so much to theirs if we know how to love and care for them well. We hope that our latest competition showing the UK’s happiest and healthiest pets and their owners will help drive the conversation further and help inspire hundreds of others to join them.”
Ed's note: Of course, you can also send in selfies of you with your cat, dog, horse, hamster, rabbit, millipede, gecko or budgie — but this is a fishkeeping website, so hey!
How to enter
For more information or to submit photos to the gallery, simply visit www.pethealthinfo.org.uk/gallery.
Entries uploaded by Monday, June 12, will be eligible to win a £125 voucher for pet supplies and treats (terms and conditions apply). Entrants must ensure they click the pink competition tick-box to enter when uploading their photos.
A public aquarium in Japan has put a Blobfish on display.
The 60cm/24in deep sea fish went on exhibit at Aquamarine Fukushima in Iwaki after it was accidentally caught by a fisherman using a gill net at a depth of 750–1200m.
It’s rare for a Blobfish to go on display as they rarely make it from the depths of the ocean to the surface alive.
The Blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) — a type of sculpin from the family Psychrolutidae — was voted the world’s ugliest creature in 2013, in a campaign run by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, to raise awareness for endangered and aesthetically challenged animals. It was later adopted by the society as its mascot.
In fact, when underwater, the Blobfish isn't much different in appearance to other fish. Due to the extreme pressure of the deep water in which it lives, it doesn’t have a skeleton or even much in the way of muscle, and instead its body is rather jelly like — take it out of water and it's bound to sag! Poor thing!
Dr. Herbert Axelrod has died at the age of 89. Nathan Hill looks back on the life of the ichthyologist, author, explorer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and publisher with a controversial history, who once dominated and then receded from the hobby.
The author and publisher Dr. Herbert Richard Axelrod passed away at his Swiss home on May 15, 2017, with tentative reports trickling out over the subsequent days — articles from online Violin publications followed word-of-mouth announcements between friends of those close to him. In most camps, the news has been greeted with sadness, while some of those with whom he collided throughout his life have been less morose: in death, as in life, Axelrod is divisive.
Axelrod’s history is as coloured as it is cloudy. Sections of his youth are undocumented, while periods of his adult life lack corroboration.
He was born June 7, 1927, the son of Russian Jewish émigrés. His mother worked with the US Navy Procurement Office, while the interests of his father, a violin and maths teacher, would have great effect on Axelrod’s own life choices.
Little is known of his school years, though there are hints of adventure. At 10, it was claimed that he swam the fifteen-mile width of Lake Ontario; a suggestion of the derring-do that would drive him through life. His family wasn’t a wealthy one, and Axelrod would gain a little spending money catching crabs and selling them to Chinese laundrymen. He had an obsession with pigeons, the messy nature of which led to angry landlords ousting the family from their lodgings.
At 17, Axelrod joined an Army Specialised Training Program to study a pre-medicine course. By the age of 23 he was serving in the active war in Korea, assigned to a M*A*S*H unit.
It was during this time that one of his first, dramatic claims arises. Whilst in Japan, dropping off blood and collecting whisky to trade with his fellow servicemen, he had a chance encounter with an ichthyologist in a Tokyo library, Dr. Takiharo Abe. After Abe introduced him to a book by Emperor Hirohito — an ardent marine biologist — Axelrod pointed out an error in the scientific name of a nudibranch. It turned out that Abe was well connected, and cleared a pathway for Axelrod to meet the Emperor Hirohito. On orders from his military commander to respond to an invite from the Emperor himself, Axelrod and the Emperor then spent a week together collecting the nudibranchs of which the Emperor was fond.
During his Korea years Axelrod received an unspecified wound to his hands, which in turn drove him to the career with which we fishkeepers mainly associate him. In an attempt to restore his dexterity, he took to typing, directing his words at a subject he knew and loved — fishkeeping.
Returning from Korea, Axelrod eventually completed studies for his Ph.D in Biostatistics, to join his Master’s degree in Mathematics. During this time, he claimed to have attended lessons given by Albert Einstein, who was at that time teaching lattice theory at nearby Princeton. The timescales and geographies of the parties involved make this more than plausible.
In tandem with study, he started to produce the magazine Tropical Fish Hobbyist, first published in September 1952. Tropical Fish Hobbyist was an opening for Axelrod, and by 1955 he had founded TFH Publications Inc., a huge publisher of pet-keeping books and magazines.
Among his titles, several of which are still found as reference books sold and used by retailers around the world, is his Handbook of Tropical Aquarium Fishes, which may represent one of the most successful fish books of all time, selling well in excess of one million copies globally. Dr. Axelrod’s Atlas of Freshwater Aquarium Fishes, last printed in 2004, probably still ranks as the most recognisable fish title for aquarists.
Publishing wasn’t Axelrod’s only source of income. As time progressed he invested in fish farming, owning no less than five tropical farms near Tampa, as well as inventing scores of products we take for granted today. Freeze dried worms, for example, were originally an Axelrod concept. Dog owners may be surprised to find that the Nylabone their pets are chewing was also one of his creations.
TFH also afforded Axelrod some personal indulgences, such as the sister publishing company Panganiniana, producing musical-themed publications that allowed an outlet for Axelrod’s love of violins. Throughout his life, he was an amateur violinist, as well as a collector and trader of rare violins.
The runaway success of TFH Publications afforded Axelrod free time to do what he pleased, and what pleased him was exploration. With energy to spare and ample funding, he ventured around the world, starting with the rainforests of South America. While seeking out fish, Axelrod still found time to brush shoulders with extraordinary characters. In 1960, he took the former King of Belgium, Leopold III, on a spear-fishing expedition into the Amazon. Somewhere in the late 1950s he procured Jaguars for Walt Disney. The Jaguar brief was for two black cats — potentially those seen in Disney’s ‘Jungle Cat’ (1959) — but given that Axelrod couldn’t find any truly black jaguars, he trapped and sedated a normal one, before hurrying it to a Manaus hairdresser for an all-over dye. There was even mention at one stage that Axelrod advised Churchill on goldfish, though this does seem to have been refuted.
The mid-1950’s marked the beginning of another of Axelrod’s fishkeeping legacies — the number of fish named after him. Regardless what genera of fish you keep personally, chances are that Axelrod’s hand is somewhere in your collection.
The first fish named after him was both the most famous and the most controversial. The Cardinal tetra, Paracheirodon axelrodi, a fish known of since 1953 was due to be described by Drs. George Myers and Stanley Weitzman in the University of Stanford Ichthyological Bulletin. Allegedly finding Cardinals in a local retailer, Axelrod bought some of the fish and gave them to L. Schultz for a hasty description, which then appeared in an article in Tropical Fish Hobbyist one day before the publication of the Bulletin. In keeping with nomenclature laws, the first published name takes precedent, and the fish we have gained its name from Schultz’s description. It was, by a factor of just one day, originally to be Hyphessobrycon cardinalis.
Axelrod’s fish discovery years were prodigious, bringing hundreds of new species to the hobby. 16 species and one genus are currently named after him, though there were more. At one stage, he had a Discus named after him; lost to a taxanomic clean up. As well as journeying to find fish firsthand, it was Axelrod’s benevolence that funded the likes of Dr. Jacques Gery and Dr. Martin Brittan to trek for new and exotic species.
It was Axelrod, along with Willi Schwarz, who set up the Cardinal tetra industry of Barcelos back in the 1950s. Given that the Cardinal accounts for 80% of artisanal fisheries in that region, Axelrod’s impact on the region and its subsequent conservation was great. In recent years, Project Piaba continues the legacy of Axelrod — a project he donated heavily to in the 1990s, leading to the development of the Centre for Aquatic Conservation. Reportedly, Axelrod was once asked by the then President of Brazil, Humberto Castelo Branco, to help draw conservation plans for wider swathes of the Amazon.
Charity and philanthropy was a recurrent theme in Axelrod’s long life. In 1989, he donated fish fossils to the University of Guleph; at the time, likely the single largest donation ever received by a Canadian University. Six months later they had established the Axelrod Institute of Ichthyology in his honour.
He was busy donating to the violin world, too. Over his lifetime, he built up one of the largest collections of Italian violins, loaning them to virtuosos as he saw fit. Within music circles he donated tens of millions to orchestras, operas and academies. In 1997, the Curtis Institute and New York’s Juilliard School hosted a party for his 70th birthday, at Carnegie Hall, and with an all-star cast.
In 2003, donations to museums in Vienna brought him the gift of Austrian citizenship, which he later put to use during a darker phase of his life.
His philanthropic fame — he was once ranked as one of the top benefactors of America in the Chronicle of Philanthropy — was overshadowed in April 2004 when Axelrod became a headline name for a different reason: He had been indicted on charges of conspiring to defraud the US government. It was alleged that he had filed false tax returns, as well as diverting money into a Swiss bank account. The aquatic and violin worlds collectively clammed up in horror.
Axelrod failed to appear in court — he’d instead travelled to Cuba where he pleaded no wrongdoing with journalists who tracked him down. With a warrant now against him, he travelled Europe as a refugee, using the Austrian passport he had gained through his philanthropy. Authorities caught up with him in Berlin’s Tegel Airport, and after six months in a German prison he was extradited and imprisoned in New Jersey. He pleaded guilty to a charge of tax fraud and was handed an 18-month sentence, of which he served 16 months. He was also fined $40,000.
This was far from the first time that Axelrod had engaged in legal antics. As early as 1965 he’d already been sued 14 times. His strategy was to countersue, and he almost always won. Only his first case, involving the unauthorised use of images taken by William T. Innes in a TFH-published book was lost by him. Even here, the case left him relatively unscathed — Innes was awarded almost nothing as it couldn’t be shown he’d substantially lost anything.
In Axelrod’s own admission, there was a thrill to the litigation process, with winning bringing him, it was said, as much joy as the discovery of a new species of fish.
As an individual, Axelrod — ‘Herb’ to his friends — garnered both admiration and resentment from the fish world; perhaps it’s a sin to be financially successful in aquatics. Numerous rumours and allegations surround his fishy antics — none of which come backed with evidence, however.
Indisputable is the enormous role he played in forming the hobby as we see it today. While it was stale and tired before the addition of Axelrod, he brought a wealth of colour and variety to fishkeepers everywhere, in print and flesh.
One seminal work on the early years of Axelrod’s life refers to him as a ‘panjandrum’. Fast forward fifty years, and that word is replaced with a less than flattering adjective ‘picaresque’.
On one of the rare occasions he commented on his own life, Axelrod was on record after his conviction in 2004 as saying: "It was always my goal to be remembered as an outstanding philanthropist. That's all gone. Instead, I will be remembered as a person who disrespected his country, his government, the law and this court. It is the biggest mistake of my life."
Whether we remember him as philanthropist or not, his mark on fishkeeping is indelible and one that deserves the widest recognition. Perhaps — just perhaps — he was the singlemost influential fishkeeper the hobby and industry has seen.
Dr. H. R. Axelrod’s Patronyms:
None of our tank set-ups has ever divided opinion like this one, featured in the June 2017 issue of Practical Fishkeeping. The plan was to recreate a South American flooded forest pool for Neon tetras, and whether you love or hate the result, it was one of the most rewarding in terms of fish behaviour!
You can find out more about this set-up and the secret side of Neons it revealed in the June 2017 issue of Practical Fishkeeping.
How the Blind cave tetra has managed to adapt a life of perpetual darkness could be explained in their bones.
Researchers from the University of Cincinnati have studied one biological adaptation that might help them to understand how Astyanax mexicanus navigate and find food without benefit of sight — asymmetry. Researchers examined juvenile and adult cavefish to understand how their skulls change during their lives.
Most fish are symmetrical — their left and right sides are virtually identical and streamlined to provide the most efficient locomotion in the water.
Cavefish are genetically similar to their symmetrical and keen-sighted cousins, Mexican tetras, found in nearby creeks and rivers on the surface. They’re so closely related that they easily interbreed and produce fertile young, even though the two species are believed to have diverged millions of years ago.
Cavefish start their lives with symmetrical features like other fish. But when they mature, their fragmented cranial bones harden in a visibly skewed direction, the study found.
UC’s researchers speculate that this adaptation helps the typically left-leaning cavefish navigate by using sensory organs called neuromasts to follow the contours of the cave as they swim in a perpetual counterclockwise pattern. This behaviour was observed among captive cavefish, which keep moving around the edges of their tanks while surface fish tend to stay motionless in the shadows of their tank or swim in haphazard ways.
“That was a real big piece of the puzzle for us,” said Joshua Gross, a UC biology professor and co-author. “It’s a mystery how they’ve been able to adapt. The amazing thing is that they’re not just barely surviving — they thrive in total darkness.”
The skulls of all but a couple cavefish UC studied bend to the left. They seem to be right-finned, swimming in a lazy counterclockwise pattern around their aquariums in the biology lab.“You could see how asymmetry might be an advantage in navigation,” said Amanda Powers, a UC graduate student and lead author of a study on Blind cavefish published in the journal PLOS One.
“They tend to swim in a unidirectional, circular motion around their tanks to explore their surroundings,” she said. “Having asymmetry in their skull we think is attributed to handedness. If their skull is bent to the left, they could be ‘right-handed.’ They’re feeling the wall to the right with their sensory structures.”
This kind of asymmetry is uncommon in nature. Think of the fiddler crab with its outsized claw. Owls have asymmetrical ears — one canal placed higher on the skull than the other — perhaps to help the night predators target the faint rustling of a mouse in the dark.
Over recent months, the team at NT Labs have been developing a new range of pond foods. These foods have been formulated for smaller garden ponds, home to small to medium sized fish, such as goldfish, Shubunkins, Orfe, Tench and Sturgeon.
There are four new foods in the range: Multi-Season Pond Food, Sinking Pond Food, Summer Pond Food and Winter Pond Food. Each food has been formulated to fulfil the dietary requirements of pond fish for each season throughout the year.
Multi-Season Pond Food is a mid-protein feed which provides a complete diet for all pond fish. This food can be fed from March through to October. Made using the highest-quality ingredients, Multi-Season Pond Food is easily digested and metabolised by your fish, resulting in less waste, whilst the inclusion of Spirulina enhances the colours of your fish throughout the year.
If you require a sinking pellet, NT Labs’ new pond range introduces Sinking Pond Food. This fast-sinking pellet has been specifically formulated to satisfy the unique dietary requirements of fish species which prefer to feed at lower levels of the water column, such as tench and sturgeon. Sinking Pond Food can be fed all year around, but should not be used when water temperatures drop below 8°C and fish are dormant.
The new pond food range also introduces season-specific feeds, the first of which is Summer Pond Food. This is a high-protein feed, providing excellent nourishment and a complete diet for all pond fish, and can be fed throughout the warmer months. Made using the highest quality ingredients, Summer Pond food is easily metabolised by your fish, resulting in increased growth and less waste, and enhances the colours of your fish.
In the cooler months it is advisable to switch to a lower protein diet. Winter Pond Food is a reduced-protein feed, providing excellent winter nourishment and a complete diet for all pond fish. Winter Pond Food contains garlic, the parasite-repellent properties of which diffuse through the fish’s skin into the mucus layer, at the time when they are most vulnerable to parasitic infection. Garlic also acts as a feeding stimulant to encourage fish to feed in the cooler water.
These new foods will be available on a shelf near you soon.
More info: www.ntlabs.co.uk