Gunther Eheim, pioneer and founder of the Eheim brand, died on Saturday, February 2 in Deizisau, east of Stuttgart. He was 93 years of age.
Gunther’s history, as well as that of his company is fascinating. Pre-industry, he was an aviator in World War 2, flying the legendary Junkers JU 88. He cheated death several times, once having an engine shot out by Russian fighter planes over Finland.
A little later, he became a test pilot at the Arado Flugzeugwerke in Potsdam. Asked if he had feared death thoughout this period, he simply replied: "Oh, but I had no time."
When the war ended and pilots were no longer required, Gunther fell back on his skills gained from a machinist apprenticeship, as well as his certificate of qualification from the Esslinger engineering school.
Although noted for his huge and successful aquatics manufacturing company, Gunther originally founded a company for the repair and production of technical toys, way back in 1949. Today many of those toys rank as highly desired collectables.
Eheim was prodigious in aquatics manufacturing from 1963 onwards, after the creation of the magnetic centrifugal pump.
The growth from this point was huge, and by 1971 the company was ready to discontinue its toy repair and manufacture aspect to focus solely on aquatics. At this time, over 100,000 Eheim filters were already in circulation.
In 1974, Gunther re-entered the world of flying, founding the company Contact Air. With a single Learjet 23 in his possession, Eheim would often fly people from the world of politics or business who were concerned about attacks on scheduled RAF flights.
Between then and its eventual closure in 2012, Contact Air eventually amassed eleven planes.
Almost a decade later in 1980, requiring expansion to cope with ever increasing demand, Eheim set up a ten thousand square meter factory and proceeded to dominate the global aquarium scene.
Those of us who recall the eighties will no doubt remember the near ubiquitous presence of the greens and greys of Eheim products, seemingly stocked as they were in every aquatic store.
Through the nineties, Eheim acquired Muller & Pfleger, allowing the company to fully embrace the manufacture and sale of aquariums and cabinets as furniture.
Though sometimes a little too quirky for the tastes of the UK market, many of these ranges of tanks can still be found around today.
With oddly ‘wave shaped’ fronts, and tanks that sat on tiny stumped legs jutting up from cabinets, Eheim continued to push for innovation, which was guzzled up by their two largest markets: Japan and the USA, though Eheim supplies 72 countries.
The nineties also saw the launch of the Eheim Professional concept, a line of products now well into their third generation and familiar in stores everywhere.
The post millennium years saw more in the way of innovation, with filters that connected to PCs, and Dalek shaped internal canisters with rotating ball heads and multi-stage chambers. It was also in the early part of the millennium that Eheim purchased aquarium heater manufacturers Jager.
In his later years, Gunther had concerns for the trade. "The global market has shrunk: The kids today are interested in more for computers than for fish," he had said. "In addition, the Chinese have copied many of my products."
This former sentiment perhaps goes some way to explaining the unexpected move of incorporating USB ports and computer technology into Eheim hardware.
In response to changing trade, Eheim moved some of their factory work to China, to attempt to become more competitive. That said, Gunther had always held the slogan that "Eheim is more expensive but better and reliable," a sentiment that I’m sure many of us would agree with to this day.
The funeral is to take place on Thursday, February 7 at the cemetery of Deizisau.
Gunther Eheim is survived by his wife and former co-pilot Marianne, as well as his son Reinhard, and his two daughters Heide and Ulla.
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