An Interview with Heiko Bleher

After reading Heikos biography on although this is out of date, it is very clear his childhood was nothing short of amazing. Exploring jungles at the age of 4 years in Africa with his mother and South America at the age of 7, would be a dream come true for most boys, and girls.

Mr Bleher, kindly agreed to answer some questions for me to share with Lothian Fishkeepers. This is a first time for me so I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed doing it.

Q.: In 1964/1965, you discovered the Rummy-Head Tetra, which was named Hemigrammus bleheri after yourself. This must have been a very proud moment in your career. What would you consider your biggest life achievement so far?

A.: My daughter, Amanda Flora Bleher, born July 15, 2010, almost exactly 100 years after her Grandmother’ birth, with the same name.

Q.: Your Mother Amanda Flora followed the adventurous footsteps of your grandfather Adolf Kiel, You in turn, followed your mothers path into the jungle, your Daughter Amanda Flora has joined you on several expeditions already but do you worry that with all the devastating forestry work and man made disasters in South America, your Daughter will see a very different scene and experience in years to come?

A.: I am trying to take her every year since she turned 4 (as was that age when I first went), to the most remote and still untouched places, although it has become more difficult every year, to show her how real nature, wilderness and its biodiversity, once looked like… and naturally to teach her about nature and the terrible destruction of the same by man. But I also know it is a drop in the Oceans, although I hope she will show the future generations how it once was …

Q.: With nearly 1000 expeditions behind you some of which were into some seriously risky parts of the world, do you recall any daunting or frightening experiences? 

A.: Only within the so-called ‘civilized’ world and places NEVER in untouched nature. Animals do not harm man (except for possible mosquitoes bites), only man does. Amanda for example with 4 went with me for weeks (and last year with 5) into the most ‘un-civilized’ never touched before, wilderness and had cero problem. She comes back to the Kindergarten, and 3 days later is sick… Yes I had daunting experience with corrupt police and military, I was placed in prison several times because I did not give them enough bribe, or none, but never did any native (indigenous) person or animal frightened or harmed me, no croc, no poisonous snake or anaconda, no lion, jaguar or elephant, no animal, simply as they go away. And no piranha or any other fish, simply as we (Homo sapiens) is not on their diet. We do not belong to their food-chain. (Except maybe in captivity, in zoos.... or public aquaria, but not in nature.)   

Q.: You have over 6000 discoveries and introductions of freshwater fishes introduced into the hobby, aquaria, and public aquaria, into science and institutions, some of which have your name. Your best-known discovery is a freshwater sawfish in Australia in 1982. Do you have a personal favourite discovery?

A.: What fascinates me most is the biology of freshwater fishes, the reproduction, adaptation and survival methods – which is unique in the vertebrate world, not known in any other vertebrate living form. And therefore, as I study this all my life, and also because hardly anyone else did or does it (and we know so little about it), every single freshwater (and even brackish) fish fascinates me. So If you ask me what is my favorite I simple must pass, as almost everyone of my discoveries, or collections, where I have been able to see and learn from its biology and survival-method (that is why they are the oldest vertebrates on our planet, and not those in the Oceans). This has brought to me immense joy and taught me more (and still is, day by day) than any school or teacher, any professor or University, or any media, not a single BBC-report, and much less Animal Planet, Discovery Channel or National Geographic reports … I could tell you things, adaptations of species I found (often not even colourful), which will blow out your mind, you would probably not even believe it, but I have proofs, and photos. These are things you do not find anywhere, not in schools, publications, or the Internet (even much less…). I will also give a talk about this at the Explorers Museum outside of Dublin June 15 and 26, 2016.

Q.: While discovering new fish, you have documented in fantastic details, the natural environment of some of our favourite aquarium species. You somehow found the time to write many books detailing the natural biotopes form over 215 countries. Which biotopes do you consider the most challenging to recreate within the home aquarium?

A.: The point I'm trying to make for decades (and also the reason why I worked for 10 years on my recent book), is to show/demonstrate to people globally how easy it is to make a biotope correct aquarium. And how long they can appreciate a real underwater nature and enjoy it for a life—time without even having to touch it (100% contrary to the new Aquascape scene – these aquariums last only for a few weeks or a month, and need constant maintenance…). I see it hundreds of time in nature – that nature is so simple and so fantastic… Therefore: Every single biotope one does, according to that particular small area in nature, to copy it and place its correct mates – those which live together – anyone will enjoy it and suddenly see thing they never new or heard of before. And certainly will not watch TV anymore (or hardly)…  

Q.: Your most recent book ‘Blehers Biotopes’ offered readers the chance to see over 500 different biotopes for the first time in history, a book that took 10 years to complete.
Your next book, after 6 years in the making is due to be completed this month! Could you let us know what to expect in this monster book!

A.: Well the book I am working on now, besides the yearly popular magazine DISCUSBOOK, of which number 06 will come out in spring, and the scientific journal aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology, of which I am the editor for 22 years now, coming out quarterly, I am working day and night on the INDIA ORNAMENTAL FISHES book, and had to split it in 2 volumes, as it has already reached over 1500 pages and nearly 10,000 photos. And I hope volume 1 will be printed still this year… over 1000 species in detail …

Q. : Your discovery of the ‘ Royal Blue’ discus, became world famous and after writing several books on Discus, you are by far the ultimate discus expert. Many people that read this article strive for success in keeping/breeding discus. In your experience, what is the most important key to successful breeding?

A.: First of all you must source your discus from ONLY from one single, perfects origin - never from several different breeders, as that will only bring problems. NEVER MIX wilds with tank breeds also. Then the second most important thing to be successful is to find out from your source the water parameters they have been kept in. From wilds one can see perfectly in my book Bleher’s Discus volume 1, with 380 wild populations, and their water parameters they live in. In regards to tank breeds: ask your breeder, or supplier. In my Bleher’s Discus volume 2, you can read how 700 different breeders in 50 different countries keep and breed their discus. And one can read and see clearly that nearly every one keeps and breeds their discus differently … These will always be the MOST IMPORTANT CRITERIA to have a success with your discus. 

Q.: 'Many of our group members started there hobby after growing up around one of there parents aquariums. It seems to be a passion that is passed down from generation to generation. If you could give one piece of advice to the next generation of aquarists, what would it be?

A.:  DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT IS WRITTEN IN THE INTERNET. Anyone can write anything on the www, for free, and NO ONE WILL CHECK IT, if it is correct or not. Since people start to believe discus ‘so called experts’ in the Internet millions of discus have died, or the person who bought it has only problems and gives this beautiful hobby up. And it will NEVER resolve any ones problem if they say ‘I do not have the money and must get on at the best price. If one does this, they will normally end up with a big problem, and/or loss, or give up (and I have see thousands giving up). It is 100t imes better not to buy, follow my above-mentioned advice. Discus fishes are very easy to keep and reproduce, one just has to follow some simple rules, very simple, but follow them, and not the Internet … AND NEVER BUY FROM THE INTERNET LIVE FISH !

Q.: Anyone that follows you on Facebook will see that you are besotted with your daughter Amanda. How does the adventure of parenthood compare to the wild adventure of the amazon river?

A.: It took a very long time for me to decide to have a child, I actually never wanted one, simply because I see with my eyes what is happening to the planet non-stop. And naturally I see no positive future for the next generations. Although I am a total optimist, a YES- person, I cannot see anywhere any improvement. Every place I return to is worse, even already a few months later. (If I tell you the real Amazon, New Guinea or Africa story, no one will believe it.) And the problem number one we have on this planet, finally only Sir David Attenborough recently (and finally) saying it: that if we do not stop population growth there is no future on this plant. I have been saying (and writing about this for half a Century, this is the number one problem of earth and no-one wants to touch or stop it. I only decided to have a child because in my entire family, no-one has taken on the work of our grandfather and mother, and me, and I wanted to try continue the tradition into a 4th generation of love for nature, of teaching the world about the most precious thing we have on this unique planet - Freshwater.    

Q. Finally, what lies ahead for You? 

A.: To many things to talk about, next to nearly 200 destinations, 5 books, all the articles and magazines, hundreds of conferences. And this year this biggest event ever to be hold here in Italy on June 3-5, 2016, on one of the most beautiful places in Italy, with best foods, and show, conferences and contest of Discus, Biotopes and Aquascape. I am organizing all of this, see in Facebook, Under Discus Championship, under Biotope Contest, under Aquascape Contest, etc. and on my website 

Thank you and take care,
Heiko Bleher

On behalf of each member of Lothian Fishkeepers, I would like to thank you for taking time out your busy schedule to give us a little insight of the life of Heiko Bleher. 

Well guys, there you have it. Mr Heiko Bleher, Lothian Fishkeepers first interview. If you enjoyed this and would like to see more interviews in the future, please let me know and I will see what we can do.

Bye for now

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