The Early Days: Amazonian Discoveries
For the past 65 years (and counting), TFH has chronicled the
fishes that spur the hobby in new and different ways. Who could
have imagined all the tank-raised discus strains of today when
contemplating the early discus that were featured in the first issue
(and famously misidentified on the cover as Pterophyllum discus)?
Even the number of available wild discus forms has increased
significantly over the years, while the tank-raised strains have seen
an explosion of patterns and colors.
Discus have transformed from a fish for only serious hobbyists to
one that everyone can maintain as long as they keep them warm,
feed them well, and change their water frequently. Indeed, spawning
almost seems inevitable now in any group of healthy adult discus.
And TFH has chronicled these changes with articles on everything
from artificially rearing the fry to collecting the adults to the “Ask
Jack” discus Q&A column written for years by renowned discus
expert Jack Wattley.
Another Amazonian, the cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi),
was covered from its introduction through its journey to become
one of the most popular aquarium fish on the planet. More than just
information about the species was provided by TFH’s editors at the
time; the impact of the aquarium trade on this species, its habitat,
and the indigenous peoples involved in its collection and trade have
all been discussed in depth over the years.
The success of the cardinal tetra is one of the stories for which
aquarists should be proud, and it’s a model that can be followed for
other species as well. Not only has the collection of the cardinal
tetra in the wild been proven sustainable, but the collectors can
make a very good living by the standards of the areas where these
fish live in the upper Rio Negro and its tributaries in Brazil, and the
middle Rio Orinoco and its tributaries in Colombia and Venezuela.
The collectors have a very good incentive to protect the
environment to ensure their livelihoods, which is of benefit to the
entire planet. Indeed, through Project Piaba, it is envisioned that
there may come a time when fish being sold by retailers might be
able to be traced back to their original collectors, and information
about them, their family, and their lives could be displayed with
the fish in your local aquarium shop, providing an even greater
connection to the collection site for the hobbyist.
Anything we can do along these lines to promote a truly
sustainable hobby that benefits people at every step of the process,
while helping to protect the habitat of the species, is a good thing
for the planet as a whole.
The African Cichlid Craze
The African cichlid invasion forever changed the landscape of the
hobby, and TFH was there to offer articles about maintaining and
breeding a wide range of cichlids from both Lake Malawi and Lake
Tanganyika, often before these species were available in the typical
A few articles that really stand out in my memory are worthy
of mention. One on Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (then known as
Trematocranus jacobfreibergi) prompted a years-long search for the
species, which remains today one of my favorite Malawi cichlids.
An article on albino zebras, then Pseudotropheus zebra and now
Maylandia zebra, helped to propel them on their way to being one
A Brazilian piabeiro (collector of aquarium fishes) using the natural
running water of the Amazonian river system to hold newly caught
discus bound for export.
The debut Sep/Oct 1952 issue of Tropical Fish
Hobbyist featured a discus on the cover,
albeit misidentified as Pterophyllum discus.