The future of fishkeeping looks bright with rising stars like reader Max Pedley around.
Read editor Nathan’s favourite article this issue – our reader interview with Max Pedley.
Like quite a few non-technology-based hobbies, the average age of fishkeepers has been going up year after year, making many of us worry about what the future holds for our hobby and the industry. thankfully there are some young shining stars out there to give us hope and confidence that fishkeeping will continue. Max Pedley is one of them; he’s fully immersed in the hobby, the community and the industry, and he thoroughly impressed us on our recent visit.
When it comes to fishkeeping, what could you do in an 8ft-square room sectioned off in a garage? Max has put it to very good use. He’s currently managing 50 tanks, and has many different species at various stages of breeding. that’s a lot going on in a small space! i could stand there and be entertained for hours (as long as i had a torch).
Max is a fishkeeper and a fish breeder – not a biotope, aquascaping or plant-growing fan – and his considerable efforts go towards sourcing rarities, maintaining the right conditions, and breeding and growing on healthy young.
We asked Max how his love of fish came about, what floats his boat, and what he might do next…
So Max, how did the world of fishkeeping first present itself to you?
there’ve always been fish around me. Nothing too interesting, but there was always a goldfish tank until the age of 15 when i got my own tropical set-up and things took off pretty fast.
What did that first set-up consist of?
it was a 3ft tank (still in use, currently in the fish room). it had black and white ‘chessboard’ gravel, a load of non-aquatic plants, and housed tiger barbs and Black phantom tetra. it was a steep learning curve, but the tank was essentially a success as far as fish health went.
There are too many to choose a real favourite and it changes daily – currently it’s probably my Apistogramma baenschi
Is there a particular fish (or group of fish) that grabbed your attention and sent your hobby in a certain direction?
There was always something about the cichlids I saw in the shops – I particularly liked Haplochromis venustus. I looked into different cichlids, learned about dwarf types and that took over really. I’ve been mad about dwarf cichlids ever since.
You’ve chosen to turn your hobby into a career (Max is employed in an aquatics store). How has that been working out and do you find you have as much drive to maintain your own aquariums after working with fish all day?
It depends on the day. Some days I come home and all I want to do is feed around the fish house; other days I look forward to getting in there after work. Doing as much maintenance as I can on my days off work allows me to have the odd ‘day off’ at home when I need it.
What are your duties at work and what does your average day involve?
I get to focus on the livestock mostly, so I check health, feed, scrub algae, order livestock and, of course, sell fish and products. I enjoy it, I really love talking with other enthusiasts.
How much time do you have to put into all of your tanks each week?
I spend about an hour a day doing the basics – checking health, feeding and so on – then around five hours during my days off work so, in total, around 12 hours a week I’d say.
The north of England seems to have a good fishkeeping club scene – do you get involved with any clubs or events?
I attend as many different meets as possible. There are quite a few on weekday evenings, so fortunately, with me working weekends, that doesn’t get in the way too much. I’m actually considering setting up a club myself.
You obviously have a love of rarer dwarf cichlids. What’s
your most prized species and how do you track down the more unusual ones?
There are too many to choose a real favourite and it changes daily – currently it’s probably my Apistogramma baenschi. Working in the shop allows me to get hold of some less-seen breeds, plus the local community of fishkeepers keep each other up to date on which shop is stocking what, and who has bred what in the area.
How do you provide the right water conditions for your selected species?
The tapwater here is extremely soft; it comes out with KH of 0, a GH of 1 and a ph of 7.4. I have two water butts – one for tapwater that settles at a ph of 6.8; the other for RO so I can offer my cichlids and Betta zero hardness to encourage breeding. I also use botanicals to add acidity.
Where do you get your botanicals from?
I’ve had some seed pods kindly donated from Fishman Aquatics to see how my dwarf cichlids react to them. (On our visit, there was an Apistogramma with young, all sitting in a Savu pod – Ed.) Most bits are collected locally though.
Feeding must be an important consideration for you, with conditioning broodstock and rearing the young. What foods do you use?
For normal feeding (not conditioning) I use both Tetra Prima granules and Tetra Colour Crisps quite regularly. For frozen foods, I use bloodworm, brineshrimp and Daphnia. I often use Tubifex to initiate spawning, and I grow my own whiteworms (also for conditioning) and microworms for feeding fry.
What do you do with the fry you produce?
Where possible, I like them to go to local hobbyists, I try to avoid auctions as I want to be sure they are going to good homes. Some go to work, where I can vet the buyers slightly.
What is your ultimate fantasy tank?
An 8ft tank housing wild Discus, Altum angels and Geophagus. I would use silver sand, root wood, leaf litter and light it using spotlights to get that shaft of light breaking through the canopy effect.
What’s your most prized or useful piece of equipment?
My airpumps without a doubt. They are so important to run the room. I love air-driven filters too, nothing can go wrong with them, and they are excellent for breeding projects, rearing fry and for offering good aeration generally.
What upsets you most about the hobby?
A lack of research. It’s all so easy to do nowadays, too – and it’s even at your fingertips when you’re at a shop. I also don’t like the other extreme – snobby fishkeepers that don’t help, but just point out inadequacies and bash lessexperienced keepers.
Another thing is tankbusters. I’d like to see a licensing system or even a tax on big fish.
What has been the most challenging fish you’ve kept?
Ivanacara adoketa have proved tricky. I’m struggling to spawn them.
And the easiest?
Apistogramma sp. Gelbwangen ‘Yellow cheek’ – they bred after just one week. And Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi who bred after two days!
What projects have you got planned out for the future?
I’m interested in trying a biotope set-up, maybe entering the International Biotope Contest with a North American tank for Blue shiners. It’s something I haven’t done before.
Where possible, I like the fry I produce to go to local hobbyists. Some go to work, where I can vet the buyers slightly.
BELOW: Max’s current favourite – Apistogramma baenschi.OPPOSITE PAGE, RIGHT: A young Betta channoides feeds on microworms.OPPOSITE PAGE, BOTTOM: Max’s one planted aquarium, surrounded by
An old shop rack is perfect for a fish room.
Apistogramma cf. pertensis.