Last week one of our new members posted a video of his tank and it really caught my eye. Ive seen some cracking cichlids pop up in our group but this mix of South American cichlids was awesome. I contacted our member Carl and asked if he would like to share his story with us for our blog.
First of all, can you tell everyone who you are, where you live and how long you have been in the hobby?
Ok so I'm Carl Bethell, I live in the Rhondda valley in South Wales and I've grown up around fish. My dad has bred discus and kept fish since I was a kid. I got my first aquarium of my own when I got my own house about ten years ago.
I studied biology at university of South Wales and graduated in 2012. I'm a qualified scuba diver and have had the privilege of doing research for my university work. This includes diving off the coast of Gaya island in Malaysia and doing surveys in the jungle of Sabah, Borneo
What a privilege indeed. So many fishkeepers must dream of being able to visit the natural habitat of our favourite fish.
So what was your first aquarium like? Also, whats let you to the aquariums your keeping today?
My first aquarium was a 350 litre that my dad gave me. It had two severums in it and I kept them until they both passed at 12 years old. I'd never really thought about getting any other fish, I'd always been happy with them. But once I started looking for replacements I realised how much the hobby appealed to me... I wanted to keep everything
So many fish and so little space. A common problem for us all. Can you tell us what your current set up is like?
At the moment I have a 6 foot South American tank. This has Krobia xinguensis, satanoperca Daemon, uaru amphiacanthoides and Heros Liberifer.
The next tank is a 5 foot Rio Uruguay biotope with a large group of Gymnogeophagus Balzanii.
Then there's a four foot with a single Monotrete Turgidus and another four foot with a pair of Channa Bleheri.
Aside from that I have a four foot rack with several pleco groups including L046, L56, L134, L135 and L264
This is a serious collection of fish. Not your run of the mill species that's for sure.
Thanks! I like looking for fish that are a bit different. Things you don't normally find in your average pet store.
With fish like this you must be needing some decent equipment to keep the tanks looking nice and clear. What are you currently using to run your aquariums?
My 6 foot tank runs a fluval FX6 external filter for bio filtration and a fluval 406 external that has water polishing media. I also have a wavemaker to create a good flow through the tank. I run two Fluval 406 external canisters on my 5 foot and the four foot tanks run on Hydra 50 internal filters.
For Lighting I use fluval Aqua Sky LED on all of my tanks. Great product. Adjustable brightness, day and night settings...they even simulate a thunder storm. Not that I use that function often mind you.
Pretty cool lights. Its always good to run LED when you have a few tanks. It helps to keep those costs down and also gives you a kick ass look to the tanks compared to T5. Are there any pieces of tech your hoping to get your hands on soon?
Once the fish room is finished I'll be looking at cheaper methods of filtration. I've thought about getting a large air pump and running multiple sponge filters through the racks for breeder tanks. This will be cheaper than running an external filter like my larger tanks.
Have you ever considered a sump at any point? This seems to be the method a lot of folks use when dealing with either multi tanks or larger tanks?
I've thought about it. Never run one before. It's definitely something I'd consider.
So over the years what would you consider your biggest success in breeding has been? Anything your especially proud of achieving?
I've bred a few species (most of the time by accident) My biggest surprise came when I was cleaning a tank one day.
I lifted a couple of rocks and found hundreds of Steatocranus Casuarius babies that had survived in my main tank.
I'm hoping to have some (planned) breeding from my plecos in future along with some of my cichlids.
Nice, I'm hoping to get some luck with the steatocranus titanus in my tank soon. Cool fish. For some reason its different whith the L-Number Plecos. When you get success breeding those guys, you get that extra buzz. You have some very nice ones in your collection. What is it that attracted you to these little beasts?
I'm not really sure what it was that got me into plecos. I always thought they were huge, mess making fish. But when I was doing some random research one day I found that there were smaller species available. Throw in the fact that these smaller species were a lot more attractive than the large, messy common pleco and I was sold. I picked up a pair of L135 peckoltia braueri and I was hooked. I set up a species only L46 hypancistrus zebra tank with a group of 7 and since then I've been adding more and more groups to my collection.
There is something very appealing about the zebras, are they as nice as you thought in person?
Zebras are stunning. I got lucky because a friend breeds them so I didn't have to pay the store prices for them.
So out of all your current fish, what would you consider your showpiece ?
Tough question. The snakeheads are a beautiful fish and you need to watch your fingers with them. I find it hard to compare my fish. It's tough to pick a favourite when the fish range from a cute freshwater pufferfish to a gnarly looking predatory fish.
I'll give you that one then. Sounds like your spoiled for choice. Looking back over the years, has there been any mistakes made? Bad tank mates or equipment fails?
I think one of my worst mistakes was when I had a baby Hoplarchus Psittacus and Crenicichla Sveni. They were both small and I had them in with a large group of tetra. The tetra were about 2-3" so they were quite big. As the cichlids grew they never bothered the tetra so I didn't move them. The psittacus was about 8" and the pike the same. I went away for the weekend and didn't feed the fish while I was away...there was 9 tetra in the tank to begin with. I got back from my weekend away to two left.
Up here in Scotland, our hobby is thriving. Lots of busy auctions and new events popping up all the time. In your opinion, how is fishkeeping doing down in Wales?
Yeah it's doing good. There are several big chain stores in my area. The local Maidenhead aquatics is the largest Maidenhead in the U.K. There are also lots of local "fish room" breeders.
So you have plenty of fellow fishkeepers on hand for advice with your own fish room then?
Yeah there's three in my area. One doesn't have a fish room but he breeds L46 zebras from his home. Had fish from him Long with a few tips on breeding
Thats good. One of the great sides to our hobby is the willingness of other fishkeepers to lend a hand.
If you could get your hands on any fish you liked, what would you go for and why?
I'd like to do a Goby tank in the future and I'm always on the lookout for something rare or new to the hobby. Cichlasoma diadema is in my list along with honeycomb catfish.
I love gobies, especially the tiny ones. So much characteristics. The honeycomb catfish is very nice too. you don't see many of them around thats for sure. Up until very recently, My knowledge on the south American cichlids was very little, the Cichlasoma is a fish I'm seeing on Instagram more and more. They look like big tough guys.
You mentioned earlier about your scuba diving. that's to be exciting? while in borneo, did you manage to catch a look at any of our aquarium fish?
When in the jungle we camped near the kinabatangan river. Incredibly wide and deep....but unfortunately full of saltwater crocodile and Asian water monitor lizards. Bit risky for a dive lol.
When we moved onto Gaya island (just north of Kota Kinabalu) we dived in salt water. We did 3 dives a day for 10 days and seen some amazing creatures. Black tip reef sharks checked us out on one dive, I saw turtles, rays, blue ringed octopus, large pufferfish and loads more. One of our dive sites has been named "coral garden" it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.
Amazing. What a pleasure to see the corals and reef first hand. Have you any more dives planned? Have you ever considered joining the likes of Ian fuller or Heiko bleher on their trips?
I'd love to do more trips. The kids are quite limiting on my time away these days. Maybe when my youngest starts school. I dived in Chepstow quarry in January. We had to break ice on the surface to get in. It was my first dry suit dive since I got my license...I remember why I prefer tropical waters lol.
As you can see, Carl is loving his hobby right now. Keeping such quality fish is the sign of a man that takes his hobby very serious. Thanks for sharing with us all Carl. I hope you get some more dives in soon.
Here is the full collection of photos Carl provided, made into a slide show for you to enjoy.