Ed­i­tor’s Pick

The fu­ture of fish­keep­ing looks bright with ris­ing stars like reader Max Ped­ley around.

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Contents - Words: STEVE BAKER AND MAX PED­LEY

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.

Tae­ni­acara can­didi.

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