Dear Tony and all,
I was excited about going to the Colorado Cichlid Symposium the minute I heard about it. Over the years I had met many of the Southern Colorado Aquarium Society members at ACA conventions, and they are all, well, nearly all *grin*, great people. I joined this club last summer and their publication is excellent and it has won all the F.A.A.S. awards. So, I knew that this would be a successful event and would draw the Cichlidiots that I like to hang out with.
I had just spent the week with my parents in Idaho, as my father is recovering from bypass surgery (He is doing well, and thanks to everyone for their prayers and good wishes!!). Needless to say, I was ready for something on the lighter side, and this was just the ticket.
My plane was leaving Sacramento, Thursday, 4/18/96, at about ll:30 am, so it was off to the fish house early to catch some stuff to take. I asked Gary to get me a nice box that I could carry. He brought the biggest box he could find and proceeded to fill it with all sorts of fish. I planned to pack them on oxygen, which should hold them for over 48 hours, so I should only have to rebag them once. I couldn't believe my eyes when he caught up (6) Tropheus moorii "Red Saddle," the pride of his fish room! He was going to trust me to keep them alive for 4 days, the pressure was on! I had a plane change in Denver at the new popular, Denver International Airport. There wasn't much time between the flights and I was worried about whether my fish would make it. Before I knew it I was in Colorado Springs with my fish, and all was well.
Getting to the hotel and into my room was a breeze, and I inmediately headed for the fish room. It looked great! It was filled with SCAS members and I mostly watched them work. Dale and Sharon Grover asked me to come over to their place and take a look at their tanks, along with a bunch from Oregon, and we headed out. I am so glad that I had a chance to see their tanks, as they were awesome. They have a large house with some great large tanks, as well as smaller tanks on racks throughout the living quarters. In the master bedroom were Sharon's clown loaches, a real site to behold, and I was extremely jealous. The tanks were immaculate, and they keep all the Cichlids that I usually kill. It was great to see them alive and propagating. They are obviously serious hobbyists! Nigel Grover, 16, who needed to practice driving at night, escorted me back to the hotel, on his way to the airport for more Cichlidiots. Not wanting to peek too soon, I opted for bed at 12 pm.
Friday morning was reserved for a visit to the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, this was just another excuse to make the trip. I was in heaven, nothing like mixing your two favorite pass times with one weekend. I wandered around and read every display and admired all the memorabilia. What I wouldn't do for a pair of Ty Murray's chaps!! After buying out the gift shop, I headed back to the hotel to see what was happening.
My fish had been in the bags for 24 hours now, so I thought I better take a peek and see how they were doing. It looked good, everyone was swimming fine, except for one dead "Red Top Aristo." The water was cloudy, so I thought I should rebag them completely. Gary sent a bag of water, but I knew that it wasn't going to be enough. I knew I would need to ask around about the local water. I took out the dead one, and dumped the rest into a fresh bag with fresh water and they looked great. I put them all back in the box and closed it tight.
The Hospitality Room was sponsored by Club Snail. It appears that they have found their niche in the fish convention world; nobody hosts a party like Club Snail. I was glad to hear that they were doing the hospitality room at ICC-3 this summer in New Orleans. It is here where everyone is in a buzz, many people haven't seen each other for a while, there is talk of fish, family and work, while we all try to catch up on each others lives. This is also an opportunity to meet new people and share ideas. Meanwhile the show is being judged. It isn't long before my best friend; Caroline Estes is filling my brain with escapades for the "Babes In The Cichlid Hobby," and the next thing I know we are off on a mission.
At 7:00 AM, Saturday morning, when the alarm goes off, I really can't believe that I volunteered to help at morning registration; what was I thinking about? Once I hit the floor and got in the shower, my attitude was improving, and by the time I hit the Registration Table I was fine and ready to go! They just kept coming in, the response was wonderful. I said I would work until Lundblad's talk, as it had been awhile since I had seen Steve's program, so I didn't want to miss it. I am glad I didn't, it was great.
There was a break for lunch and the next speaker I wanted to see was Ad Konings in mid afternoon. Time to take a serious look at the fish I had brought. I borrowed a bucket, a bottle of Amquel, some rift lake salts and headed for my room. Everyone was really doing pretty well; they had been on oxygen for over 48 hours. A few of the bags looked a bit cloudy, so I made up a bucket of water, and added the Amquel (to get rid of the chloramines) and a pinch or so of the salts and stirred it up.
I pulled out the Tropheus first, they looked great, and the water didn't really look that bad. I still did a 100% water change, and used the water from home. Okay, go ahead and call me superstitious!! I had them individually bagged, so I rebagged all of them with fresh water and a fresh bag. When I packed them originally I had tied the bags, this time I was going to use rubber bands, so I could reopen the bag, and add water or air. The rest of the fish were 6 per bag. I wanted to take stuff that wasn't going to kill each other. I had Neolamprologus leleupi, Lethrinops lethrinus, Haplochromis sp. "Fire,", Crytocara moorii, Aulonocara hansbaenschi, and A. hueseri, Julidochromis regani, Telmatochromis brichardi, Otopharynx lithobates, Astatotilapia calliptera and Neolamprologus gracilis. I did the same to the C. moorii and "Red Top Aristo's," only I used the water I had just made up. I took a break to see how they were doing with the new water, this way I would only kill two bags instead of all 10! No problems noted after 15 minutes or more, so I proceeded to change everyone else's water and bags.
Ad Konings was great; it had been awhile since I had seem him and it was a treat. His slides were exceptional, and I could have listened to him for hours more. The good news is that Ad has bought a house in El Paso, Texas, I hope that this means we can bring him out to a PCCA meeting as soon as we can fit it into his schedule. Ad will also be speaking ICC-3 in New Orleans this summer.
Next on the schedule was the dry good's auction. They had a ton of stuff, whoever wrote their beg letters are to be commended. There were many good values, I restrained myself and bought a couple of things that were small and would travel well. An aquarian hat for Gary was one good deal. At 7:00 pm it was time to get ready for the Awards Banquet, so the auction was stopped, the remaining items would be auctioned off the next day at the fish auction.
I ran back up to my room to freshen up and check on the fish. Everything was looking good, and then I noticed trouble in the bag of A. hansbaenschi. The water was cloudy and one had bit the dust. So, I did a quick water change and hoped for the best.
There were three highlights at the Awards Banquet: (1) Sitting with a great group of people! I lucked out and got a great table, with several people from Southern California. Bill Graham was a laugh a minute, his side kicks where John Niemans and Lorraine. Also Harald Scheel, his lovely wife, and Jim Lawson. (2) Getting to know who won the best of show, sorry, I don't remember exactly. I think it was Dale and Sharon Grover. I know for sure that it wasn't the oscar! After all, I had been drinking gin and sodas since early afternoon and gabbing up a storm at my table. (3) Charley Grimes!! Need I say more?? There is no one more entertaining! He started with a quick fry of the speakers, and then proceeded with his program, where he covered a variety of Cichlids and different spawning methods. Truly a class act.
The Symposium was more than half over now; I had waited so long to be here. I can't dwell on that now, it is off to the Hospitality Room to party on. I know that it is only going to take me a couple of hours to bag my fish for the auction in the morning, so, I can stay up late tonight! Many of the speakers also came and it gave the attendees a chance for a couple more questions, and an opportunity to get to know them better. This is definitely an advantage that a smaller gathering like this has over the larger ACA convention; the speakers are more readily available to the people.
Club Snail members were in top form, and were taking memberships and selling T-shirts like there was no tomorrow! The beer was flowing freely and everyone I saw was having a great time. This is when the great stories about Cichlid keeping are going on at every table, of course you have to take it all with the grain of salt. In this male dominated hobby, there is always one guy that has bigger tanks, has spawned every Cichlid known to man and has a frontosa that spits 200 fry. He has been keeping fish for 20 years and has yet to loose one. I think it is fun just to listen and watch, while Caroline is planning another covert operation. It was well after 2:00 am before I made it back to my room.
This was supposed to be a vacation; I hate getting up, I feel like I just finally got to sleep and the alarm clock is dancing all over the night stand. I wish Gary was here so he could bag the fish and I could sleep a few more minutes. I reviewed the auction rules one more time, and proceeded to properly bag my fish. All the fish looked great, even the Tropheus. The water was fairly clear, but I decided to change half the water in each bag. Although it probably wasn't necessary, it certainly wasn't going to hurt anything, and there were people from 17 different states, so this wasn't a local crowd. I knew the fish were going to be in the bag for at least the rest of today at a minimum and maybe 24 hours or more. About two hours later I had them all bagged and labeled, ready to go. Jim Lawson came over to my room to help me get them downstairs to be checked in. (Thanks Jim!).
The auction is always my favorite event! I scoured every table to see what I might like to have. I didn't realize until now that it was an all species auction. There were Rainbow Fish, Synodontis Cats, and some livebearers, etc., but it was mostly Cichlids! I staked out my territory in the back row, so I could talk to people walking by and waited for the auction to start. World renown dwarf Cichlid expert Kurt Zadnik was up first as guest auctioneer. The prices were cheap, especially on the Tanganyikan featherfins, as well as other species. I wanted to take advantage of some of these great deals, a trio of nasutus for $30.00, but I was chicken. I don't know which was worse, the fear of killing them, or Gary leaving me at the airport. Someone (a male fishkeeper) did point out that if I did buy them, and kill them, I would only be out half the money they were worth.
After about an hour or so, it was time to auction the rest of the dry goods. I was disappointed because, like a fool, I had schedule my flight out at 7:00 pm, I didn't think the auction was going to be this large, and I knew that I would have to leave before it was over. I was not interested in the dry goods, I wanted to buy fish. I decided that maybe this would be a good time to get something to eat and take a quick break.
Soon the fish were being auctioned again. I picked up a bag of Neolamprologus leleupi fry that were around 1/2", the bag said 60 were in there. I got it for $20.00, but then I worried about whether the fry would make it home okay. They did. I bought some Telmatochromis vittatus, it is an egg stealer, but a neat fish and I haven't seen them around here for a long time. I bought some Julidochromis marlieri "Gombe" that the Grover's had brought in. I saw the parents, and they were to die for. I got a good deal on some Neolamprologus Sp. "Cameron Bay" it is in the brichardi complex. I couldn't pass up on the Synodontis they had, they were very nice, two different species; S. eupterus and eubarnensis, hadn't had any Synodontis lately, and these were good looking, at a good price. I bought several bags of Mbuna that were just going for nothing and I figured at worse I could fatten them up and resell them. It was a buyers auction. I ended up with 16 bags and was pleased with what I had spent, as I felt like I had gotten some good deals. My fish went cheap too, but it was enough to help pay for my hotel room.
Highlight of the auction was Steve Lundblad as auctioneer, he was great, I didn't know he had such a hidden talent. Usually Steve is so quite, he is hard to picture as an auctioneer, but he did a great job. Also Ad hung out for the whole auction and was more than gracious with his fans. He even helped Steve identify fish. When you have Lundblad and Konings telling you what the fish is you know that you can't go wrong.
It was over for me, time to say good-bye to all my great friends and head for the airport. As I check my luggage and fish box, the clerk wanted to know what kind of ice I had on my fish! When I got to Denver I ran to the gate so I could watch them load the luggage and see if my box made it on the plane. About 5 minutes before I had to board the plane, I could see them loading my fish box. Big relief!
I talked Gary's ear off all the way home from the airport, telling him about the whole weekend. We headed straight for the fish house, to admire my good deals. I had a great time, I was sad that it was all over and decided I had better write this down immediately, before it was all just a vague memory. Thanks to all the great people in Colorado for such a wonderful weekend. I can't wait for the second annual, for now that they are seasoned veterans at this, maybe they will decide to take on an ACA convention! They can count on me either way!