Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Discussion about discus
stanman
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Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Sat May 07, 2011 2:05 am

I received the second volume of Bleher's Discus and in many ways it is as visually impressive as the first and full of richly detailed information. A masterpiece and deeply fascinating. Almost too much information to digest.

That said, I was disappointed in the history section of the book for several reasons. Obviously, Bleher featured German contributions over American contributions as that is his background and culture, what he knows first hand, but I did not realize his knowledge of the American heritage would be so spotty. There is no mention of either Harry Matson or Carroll Friswold; Matson being the first person anywhere to devise a dependable means of raising the fry away from the parents, a technique he taught Bleher's beloved Schmidt-Focke when the doctor visited Chicago in the early 60's (see Schmidt-Focke's own discus book). Carroll Friswold most likely picked up Matson's early experiments outlined in Matson's *Tropicals* magazine article in 1961 and then Friswold preceeded to perfect Matson's pioneering use of egg yoke into Friswold's famous enamel pan method. Friswold sold the method in a $15 pamplet in the late 60's called *Anyone Can Raise Discus* (I have it.) and Jack Wattley told me he learned how to raise the fry artificially from Friswold (whom he traded fish with in the 60's). Bleher misses Matson's original and unique work and the fact that Matson wrote a column in *Tropicals* magazine on discus (the first anywhere) in the early 60's which lasted for several years and many of the German breeders in the 50's and early 60's wrote to Matson. Needless to say, Bleher fails to mention Friswold's book and commercial breeding set-up in Altadena, California. There is a great 2 part interview with Friswold in *The Aquarium Journal* in 1963-64.

Bleher thinks a woman in Dallas was probably the first woman to breed discus and then goes on to briefly mention and pretty much dismiss Lois Saphien of St. Louis and her work with discus - probably the actual first woman to seriously work with discus. He seems unaware of the major article Saphion wrote for *The Aquarium* in 1955 detailing her work over many months and much effort. He seems unware that she supplied Gene Wolfsheimer with tank raised breeding stock. Saphien raised her discus fry from day one, away from the parents, on sifted baby brine shrimp and had real success with the method. (It never worked for Wolfsheimer.) Bleher seems to think Saphian just raised a few discus. I knew the son of her partner and Saphien supposedly raised discus over many years in her basement. She deserved a large place in Bleher's history as the information is available. Certainly she is far more important than the Dallas woman Bleher features.

The shocking coverage in the history of discus is Bleher's paltry presentation of Gene Wolfsheimer's work with discus. Bleher lists only Gene's 1960 National Geographic article on discus in his bibliography, so I assume he is unaware of the articles on discus Gene wrote for *The Aquarium* in 1957; *The Aquarium Journal* in 1957; the British magazine *Water Life* in 1957 -- before the Roy Skipper material Bleher concentrates on -- and a second article for *The Aquarium* in 1960-61 answering/challenging an earlier German article that year by Voigt. Gene's second article offers information on the history of discus breeding in the USA. Gene's earliest discus material also appeared as *AI* letters in *Aquatic Life* in the early 50's.

Bleher makes Wolfsheimer's work with discus sound like a single spawning and an accidental one at that (saying it occurred while he was on vacation). Gene's many articles tell a much different story! Bleher says Gene only raised 10 fry but anyone who has seen Wolfsheimer's still stunning series of photos of just one of his 3 original pairs of discus herding fry can easily see that in that one photo series alone, there are far more than just 10 babies involved in just a single spawning! Bleher offers a poor printing of a partial copy of one of Gene's famous photos which is historically sad as the whole incredible color series needed to be in the book. Bleher does not mention it but these are the first photos published (as far as I know) of discus fry feeding off the parents' bodies. Hermann Hartel was - accidentally - the first to discover the secret of discus fry feeding on the parent's slime in the late 30's and published it in Germany around the time of the outbreak of WWII but it was lost for all intents and purposes even in Germany, so Gene's work with discus and his stunning photos amount to a true re-discovery of lost knowledge and his photos made it international knowledge. Bleher fails to give Gene this well deserved and hugely important credit. A major oversight. The photos traveled the world and created more interest in discus than anything else did until the appearance of all the fancy color varieties. Wolfsheimer's photos are every bit as historic as Schmidt-Focke's small scale breeding experiments. Gene had just as much luck with Discus as Schmidt-Focke did in the 1950's. Bleher gives more space and attention to a Canadian breeder whose article appeared in *Tropicals* in the early 60's than he does to Wolfsheimer one of the giants of the hobby. It is an unexplicable oversight that should be corrected.

I also think Bleher misses that the first known albino discus accured in America in California at the firm Discus Haven. He misses that Bing Seto's original Cobalt discus came from Dr. Charles Wall who worked closely with Friswold and who was already commercially selling and picturing the Heckel *Cobalt* cross before Seto bought him out. Bleher seems to suggest that the Wall/Seto Cobalt discus of the early (not late) 1970's were in fact German lines but Wall's breeding reports go back to the late 1950's -- before Schmidt-Focke's work on colorful strains. He was a devoted and long time discus breeder. Bleher overlooks (the original) Mac's Powder Blue discus out of Mac Galbraith's hatchery in, I believe Fresno or Sacramento, California in the early 1970's. Mac's advertisement (not to be confused with today's Mac's discus hatchery in Washington state) in TFH carried a gorgeous photo of his unique powder blue strain. I knew two good friends of Mac's and saw many of his fish in the early 70's.

I was expecting more from Bleher when it came to the history of discus in America. I thought he was better informed. He short changes the US story.

Robert Ellermann

Mark Smith
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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by Mark Smith » Sat May 07, 2011 2:15 pm

Thanks for that excellent information on the American contribution in the history of discus keeping. Your information presented herein should be copied by all interested in discus and kept along side all of our discus books as a precise source of corrected information that is always useful.

Perhaps Heiko would like to make a comment or two at this point?

Mark Smith
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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by Mark Smith » Sun May 08, 2011 10:47 am

By the way...on page 849, it is hard to understand why Heiko rants on and on about why the trade towers were really destroyed on 9/11, this entire page being devoted to his insane babbling. What on earth could this possibly have to do with discus??

stanman
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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Mon May 09, 2011 12:31 pm

Glad you liked it. The history of the hobby fascinates me, particularly discus and particularly those men and women involved, so I have pieced it together over the years. I should say that the original Matson article on egg yoke was in 1960 not 1961 and, according to Rosario LaCorte, Matson was given the suggestion by Swegles at the old Rainbow Aquarium in Chicago, the firm that first imported the "green" (Tarzoo) discus, also around that time. Also I've since been told that a Hofmann who bred discus in Germany in the late 30's was a woman, so a woman was one of the first in Germany to bred discus. I'd bet there are other unsung heros in the discus story.

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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by Heiko Bleher » Sat Jun 11, 2011 4:57 pm

Hi Mr. Rellermann (or Ellermann?),
I am very sorry for this late reply, but I left April 2nd - when my new book was in print after 40 years of work on it, doing research on the world-history of breeding Discus - and I only returned 4 days ago, after field trips in Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, Iran, Philippines, Indonesia and Australia, as well as giving seminars mainly on Discus around the globe (22), participating on 4 international fairs & exhibitions as well as judging on 2 competitions, fishes and aquascape.
Therfore I can answer on your comments only now.
First of all I want to thank you Mr. Rellermann (Ellermann) for the comments: " I received the second volume of Bleher's Discus and in many ways it is as visually impressive as the first and full of richly detailed information. A masterpiece and deeply fascinating. Almost too much information to digest." That means at least you understand and saw what kind of work I have put into it - which for sure no one will ever do again.
Now what your comments in regards to the history is concerned and specially that of the USA, I want to comment as follows:
First of all if you see the literature I have had access to and which was available to me for this research (it compiles to over 1000 – references in both books cited) you can see that it is more then in any other book I know of (and I mean any book). But naturally I cannot have had every single literature published about Discus since the fish became available in the hobby. There must be over 10,000 discus prints around the world, but I definitely did choose very carefully over 4 decades and wrote about the most important ones - those which made (discus)history – without any exception.
If you think the American heritage is spotty, then I feel sorry for you, because of the following:
First of all you claim Harry Matson or Carroll Friswold being the first person anywhere to devise a dependable means of raising the fry away from the parents, if this is a fact then I must not believe Jack Wattley, because he said to me that he was the very first to do it and to use egg yoke in his pans to feed them (it is written in my book and early photos shown). If you believe Jack has not said the truth, then I am sorry. I know Jack from almost his begin and I always believed him and had no reason whatsoever to doubt his word. But if you can tell me where I can get a copy of the publication of Matson's early experiments or the "Tropicals" magazine article from 1961 (even a photocopy would do), I can publish an possible Errata in my final volume 3 of Bleher's Discus. You must understand that I must have it for the reference and also to proof what you are saying is correct and not what Jack Wattley said and wrote in his book "Handbook of Discus" 1985 (" Jack developed the formula food composed of egg yolk..."). I actually find it interesting that Jack would have told you a different story then to me – will ask him, you know he wrote the forward as well ...
Secondly I would like to understand what you mean by "Matson's original and unique work ... the first anywhere in the early 60's which lasted for several years and many of the German breeders in the 50's and early 60's wrote to Matson". Can you kindly define this rough wording!? At least as to:
1. What was so unique about this (maybe the egg yolk which Jack claims?).
2. Which "German breeder(s)", wrote to him - certainly not Schmidt-Focke ! Please cite names in order to be able check this correctly, as I knew and still know ALL German breeders.
Also I would like to have a copy of "Friswold's book and commercial breeding set-up in Altadena, California. There is a great 2 part interview with Friswold in *The Aquarium Journal* in 1963-64." And I am happy to pay for it, as I have not seen it anywhere, also on the web no reference to it can be found.
In any event I do not think that every "commercial breeding set-up" that ever existed has to be in my book. Can you imagine if I would have written about every single one? My 4-Pound-book contains every single commercial discus breeding establishment which existed (or still exists) since the begin of the (discus)history. And I cannot see from the text you site this was a particular "commercial discus breeding set-up".
I really think that you are getting out of line here, just to mention something (or to just argue?). Same applies to the following:
I wrote precisely "Mrs. Katie Jones of Dallas was possibly the first woman to breed discus..." (p. 684) and I made no claim to be a certain that she was the first women. But you claim now that a miss Lois Saphien of St. Louis was "probably the actual first woman to seriously work with discus", that to me means you also do not know!
What do you actually aim with this? I really wonder.
I wrote that photo-caption more for the sake of the fact that she had an almost biotope correct aquarium for discus, which was the outstanding point for me and for this book (the photo is from 1957), as this is an essential thing for wild discus (and still today done often incorrect). Maybe she even bred her Discus before your miss Lois, or at the same time. You say there was an article in *The Aquarium* in 1955 about it, but you "probably" do not know if she was earlier, as I do not know therefore I wrote "possibly"!
But yes, if she supplied Gene Wolfsheimer with tank raised breeding stock I did not know, Gene did not mention this in his article, which I read several times and which I cited. But he did write that he raised 10 fishes. And dear Mr. Rellermann (Ellermann):
Would you be so kind to tell me HOW can I know (or anyone), how many discus fry Miss Saphien raised from day one away from the parents? (Do you know?) Should I know this from every breeder on this globe who ever lived? Do you really think I wrote this book and worked so much on it, to write about "how many discus each one bred during his breeding-life?" Do you not think you are asking to much???? And with no word did I mention that Mrs. Katie was "more important" – where do you get this from? I only appreciated her aquarium decoration ... You really want to split hairs ...
Shocking is also your next "complained"! You complain that I did not mention all of Gene Wolfsheimer's work! Should I have mentioned all the work of every single person involved with discus? Then, instead of 672 pages, I should have written a book with 10,000 pages - maybe? Is that your idea? I was very well aware of his articles (actually I think all of them), but did not mention them as I had to limited it to the most important facts of (discus)history and their (breeders) and what were their most important things they did/bred/archived - from around the world. The aim is to give to the reader an complete as possible understanding who was involved and therefore I picked their most important writings and information to pass this on to present and future generations - for people to learn about discus-breeding-history.
And if you think (or want to think) that I just wanted to make Wolfsheimer's work with discus as to sound like a single spawning then that this is only your problem of not reading correctly. On page 686 I wrote " ...Gene was not only a gifted breeder ...." . Is my English is not good enough or yours? (And Mary Bailey, who does all Ad Konings books as well did the translations and corrections - I think she knows English very well). I wrote exactly what Gene wrote in National Geographic, which is cited and anyone can read it. Sorry that you do not read my texts (nor NG's text) correctly. And also from NG are his words "...only 10 fishes..." from his first breeding. But it seem that you do not want to read it (otherwise how could you find an argument ...).
Also your statement which proofs that you really have nothing else to do then pick on my book what the US-breeding is concerned, you complain about a 50-year-old print with the words "Bleher offers a poor printing of a partial copy of one of Gene's famous photos which is historically sad as the whole incredible color series needed to be in the book ...". Just for your information (again): I could not report on 672 pages about 750 breeders and their history by bringing from each breeder all of his "historical" photos. For sure I have compiled in this work the most important historical photos and more then anyone has ever done or will ever bring (over 4000 – selected carefully from 250,000 ...).
If you want to publish a full historical report about Gene Wolfheimer, why do you not do that? But this was not the scope of my book. And Gene did not do a fraction of what Schmidt-Focke did for over 30 years ...
And about Herbert Härtel (not Herman Hartel - you did not even write his name correctly - is that how well you read my book?) you just did repeat what I wrote (my research), maybe to to make it look as it was your merit ... Thanks. This also shows that in reference to the real early breeders from before WWII, you have no idea about them, and it proofs that you are learning from my (historical) book (hopefully at least something ...).
If you think the first Albino were bred in the US, commercially, then please give me a reference and do not just write something. That is very poor. I am sure that the first Albino Discus to "appear" was in nature, not in the US or in Hong Kong, and without any doubt the first commercial Albino Discus breeding took NOT place in the US.
And what your complaim about the "Cobalt" Discus, I am sure you are also (completely) wrong, what the history and the variant is concerned. I like to clear this point of yours as well:
You mention "He misses that Bing Seto's original Cobalt discus came from Dr. Charles Wall..." but Bing told me, and it is published on his site www.discusworld.com/background.htm that he did the first Cobalt ... Or did you not read it on his home page? Bing never said, nor mentioned, that he "bought" the "Cobalt".
Also you did not read correctly what I wrote under the photo on page 874: "... in T.F.H. at the end of 1970s..." I did not write when it was bred, only when it was published in T.F.H. (see references). Another miss-reading of your (as Mary confirmed the English is correct).
But if you have a publication with the respective photograph that a "Cobalt Blue" Discus was already bred in the late 1950s, as you say, then I really must have missed out on it and would like to correct it in my volume 3. But before I see such publication (and you mentioned none), I do not believe that (as most of your arguments missing references). Simply because almost every breeder knows that the "Cobalt" is a off-spring (mutant/variant) of the Solid Turquoise and nothing else and has only become an established strain by Schmidt-Focke and no one else.
I know well enough of the so called "Powder Blue" but I also know that it was NOT an established strain, at least not those I saw from Mac in California in the 1970s, or in any of the publications, they were all off-spring from Blue Discus (Symphysodon haraldi), from the Purus basin. They were of nice (the blue)colour, like the ones I collected in that region (see Bleher's Discus volume 1, page 211). And I know about the photo in T.F.H., which is also an off-spring of S. haraldi and nothing else. Very similar (off-spring)discus can be found in Jack Wattley's "Handbook of Discus" on page 21, in which actually Jack claims that he was the first to breed them - the so called "famous Wattley's powder blue discus..." But I guess you overlooked all of this, or did not want to mention it.
I mentioned many of the (crazy) discus (fantasy)names in my book from breeders around the world, and certainly not a fraction of those names represent a strain, often behind such name is only a single discus fish. Therefore I saw no reason whatsoever to write extensively also about these, they were not an established strain, just (selected?) Blue Discus, same as Bing's, Walls's, etc. And you cannot tell or proof to me that anyone of these made real (discus)history. Or can you show me anyone of these today?
I would have expecting a little more and better research from you sir. I did write everything (in detail) of the early breeders from before WWII - without missing anything. I wrote every important event which happened in the US (and elsewhere) after WWII on over 20 pages with more then 100 (also historical)photos, the most important ones, so I cannot see the US story short (and for Canada I wrote only 8 pages.).
If you kindly send me to my address copies of those references you mentioned and I asked for above, I will be happy to include these in my last edition of this monography.
And at the end I am sorry if I have to proof you wrong in most of your arguments, and actually I cannot see why you did this write-up (which you published almost everywhere). Was it only to try to make yourself "famous" or known, or was it just to contradict my life-time work because you did not do anything similar (besides writing a couple of pages against my 1340 so far published with the references). You could have waited on an answer to your PM without having all of this none-sense published which certainly only reflects on you. So far we sold nearly 10,000 copies and no one in America or elsewhere complained. You are the only one world-wide and I wish you really have had an argument.
Anyhow, I wish you all the best and I remain,
Yours
Heiko Bleher
www.aquapress-bleher.com
PS: On this forum the only positive answer you received is from one person, which seem also not to read well English (answer to Mark Smith's May 8,2011 10:47 text), as on page 849 the caption begins with: "Igor Kozlov and David Webber (Discus breeders from Russia and USA, of which I wrote about them) had their discus breeding facility very close to the World Trade Center ..." and ends with the text: " ...and the 30 discus pairs of Igor and David finally triggered too spawn - all at once - by the collaps of the twin towers..." And this man writes: " What on earth could this possibly have to do with discus?" And I thought Mary Bailey does know how to write English and even I can understand that only the collaps triggered the discus to spawn ... (Besides it is also in the text explained on page 847 - but again, people do not read, just want to argue - this is what it is all about, I cannot see anything else. I feel sorry for them.
Heiko Bleher

Mark Smith
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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by Mark Smith » Sat Jun 11, 2011 7:53 pm

Come on now, Heiko. Your rant on why the trade towers (revealing your apparent interest in conspiracy theories) collapsed had nothing to do with discus.

Mark Smith
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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by Mark Smith » Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:07 pm

By the way, Heiko, are you going to answer the query from Other African Cichlids/Lac Fwa? from several months ago?

To refresh your memory, on your Facebook site, you have a photo of Thoracochormis callichromus, and to quote you on Facebook, you said:

"Thank you Richard, Fredo it is
Thoracochromis callichromis_male_head"

yet on the thread Lac Fwa? under the Other African Cichlids section of Cichlidae.com you say, and I quote:

"...most beautiful of all, what I acll the Picasso fish, see:
http://www.aquapress-bleher.com/index.p ... &Itemid=44
is still not described and possibly one of the most beautful cichlids on Earth (at least for me)."

You are speaking of the exact same, and might add, well known image, of yours of Thoracochromis callichromus. Why would you correctly identify it on your Facebook site, and then insist it is an undescribed species on Cichlidae.com?

stanman
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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:07 am

Hello Heiko,

First, to offer you all the material you request (and need) this reply has turned into a rather long article. This is the first part with much more to follow.

It's Robert Ellermann -- as signed at the end of my post - hence “Rellermann”.

I'm sorry you took my very limited corrections to your book so personally. It is a vast work and I only found errors in a relatively small – if very important – part. It was not my intention to upset you so. I have admired your efforts for many years. As I said - and you take pleasure in noting - "I received the second volume of Bleher's "Discus" and in many ways it is as visually impressive as the first and full of richly detailed information. A masterpiece and deeply fascinating. Almost too much information to digest." Both volumes are extraordinary. I do have an idea what you have accomplished. I am currently writing a critical and practical history of the Stanislavsky system of acting in the Russian and American theatres, a work that has consumed 30 years of my life, countless references, many interviews, vast amounts of unpublished source material and involves translation from the English, Russian, French, Spanish and German languages. It will no doubt be over a 1000 pages when finished -- without photographs, just old fashion pure text.

The history of the tropical fish hobby, particularly that of its pioneering breeders, is my passion and I have spent years studying and researching it. My focus has centered on the USA and Germany. My main three areas of interest are killifish, fancy livebearer strains and the development of discus breeding in the USA. In 2009, the AKA - I am a member starting in 1969 - invited me to deliver a presentation on the history of killie keeping in the 20th century. The program was built around 400 slides and dealt deeply with the rise of the hobby in Germany – Bade, Arnold, Ahl, Meinken, Meder, Berthold, Roloff, Foersch, etc, along with Aquarium Hamburg, Griem, Schnelle and Ladiges. The German AKA members attending the Convention were stunned that there was so much to their history they did not know.

Let me address your concerns and quote from all the relevant materials. I will go point by point through your reply and when I am through I am sure you will see your errors quite clearly and understand why your post did not disprove the material I offered. It is difficult to disprove facts and these are facts – having nothing to do with me I’m afraid.

Bleher:

First of all if you see the literature I have had access to and which was available to me for this research (it compiles to over 1000 – references in both books cited) you can see that it is more then in any other book I know of (and I mean any book). But naturally I cannot have had every single literature published about Discus since the fish became available in the hobby. There must be over 10,000 discus prints around the world, but I definitely did choose very carefully over 4 decades and wrote about the most important ones - those which made (discus) history – without any exception.

Me:

Actually, you left out some of the most important ones, ones that are indeed the very definition of discus history. This is why I offered my corrections. We will come to the overlooked crucial documents in a moment.

Bleher:

If you think the American heritage is spotty, then I feel sorry for you, because of the following:

Me:

No need to feel sorry. This is how writing and then the correcting of historiography works. There’s nothing personal in it – just facts.

Bleher:

First of all you claim Harry Matson or Carroll Friswold being the first person anywhere to devise a dependable means of raising the fry away from the parents, if this is a fact then I must not believe Jack Wattley, because he said to me that he was the very first to do it and to use egg yoke in his pans to feed them (it is written in my book and early photos shown). If you believe Jack has not said the truth, then I am sorry. I know Jack from almost his begin and I always believed him and had no reason whatsoever to doubt his word.

Me:

I claim nothing. I offer facts and here are the facts. In a letter to me written on July 23, 1998 here is what Jack Wattley said:

“I had to refine Carroll’s [Friswold] method, and with that I had my success.”

I do not know why Jack told you he invented the method of feeding the fry powdered egg yoke when taken from their parents but as you can see in his letter to me he openly and freely offers the source of his information and techniques on feeding the fry away from the parents. He perfected it for his needs but it was Carroll’s original method. You will need to ask Jack why he told you something else. Often, I have found that when interviewing people, we ask our questions in a way that insures poor answers and maybe Jack was confused by your questions or answered something you were not asking. People are not perfect.

Bleher:

But if you can tell me where I can get a copy of the publication of Matson's early experiments or the "Tropicals" magazine article from 1961 (even a photocopy would do), I can publish an possible Errata in my final volume 3 of Bleher's Discus. You must understand that I must have it for the reference and also to proof what you are saying is correct and not what Jack Wattley said and wrote in his book "Handbook of Discus" 1985 (" Jack developed the formula food composed of egg yolk..."). I actually find it interesting that Jack would have told you a different story then to me – will ask him, you know he wrote the forward as well ...

Me:

The Harry Matson article is in the Fall Issue (Sept.-Oct.), 1960, volume 5, number 1 of “Tropicals” magazine (out of Chicago). It runs from page 7-12. It includes photos of a pair of Matson’s browns (they do not look so good), his fishhouse, a hatching tank, young baby discus and Harry himself. I have the magazine before me as I write. The very early date of 1960 should catch your eye. This is long before Carroll Friswold first sold his version of the egg yoke method (1968) and even longer before Wattley came on the scene. The article states:

“During the past four years he [Matson] has had over 300 spawnings of discus, and has successfully raised and marketed over 4000 of them.” … “We got the feeling that by offering us his information, Harry was making one of the biggest contributions to this hobby ever made by anyone. He would be paving the way for wide-spread success with this most popular of all aquarium fishes, and in doing so, would be opening up competition from other aquarists and breeders.”… “Four years ago [1956], he purchased one dozen small discus from Kyle Swegles…” [Swegles - of the later “tarzoo” discus fame. According to my buddy of over 40 years, Rosario LaCorte, Kyle’s father was the one who suggested to Matson that he try the commercially prepared egg yoke used by bakers as the elder Swegles had used it to feed other baby fish. Rosario and Matson were old friends.] “The three mated pairs Harry has now have been raised by himself. One pair is spawning every 3rd day; one is spawning every 5th day; and the remaining pair is occasionally spawning.” …”Harry says that he has been successful with raising young with their parents, but too often the parents eat the eggs.” … “Harry has noticed that young grow much faster at the beginning when raised by their parents. Their size in 10 days in some cases, equals the size of discus 30 days old raised separate from their parents. However, within three months discus reach the same size whether reared with or without the parents.”… “Immediately when they are free-swimming, the feeding of egg-yoke begins. He doesn’t fix his own egg-yoke, but, instead uses a finely powdered, commercial egg-yoke used by bakers.”… “The yoke is fed three times a day. He presses a pinch of the yoke against the glass at the surface of the water at one end of the tank [10 gallon], where it stays put and floats as a small compact “island.” The newly-hatched discus sort-of peck off the amount they want from the underneath side.” … “One-third of the water in the 10 gallon aquarium is changed twice a day; also, 250 mg. of highly-refined antibiotics (Bacticide) are utilized in each 5 gallons of water…”… “When asked what he believes is the biggest mistake that is made by those attempting to raise discus, he immediately said that aquarists do not change the tank water often enough. Time and time again he stressed the importance of frequent changes of water.”

The article covers much more information but these are some of the highlights. Such an advanced approach to discus by an American in 1960! Surely, this is significant history to say the least.

Bleher:

Secondly I would like to understand what you mean by "Matson's original and unique work ... the first anywhere in the early 60's which lasted for several years and many of the German breeders in the 50's and early 60's wrote to Matson". Can you kindly define this rough wording!? At least as to:
1. What was so unique about this (maybe the egg yolk which Jack claims?).
2. Which "German breeder(s)", wrote to him - certainly not Schmidt-Focke! Please cite names in order to be able check this correctly, as I knew and still know ALL German breeders.

Me:

Besides inventing the method of feeding discus fry away from their parents that will then be refined by Carroll Friswold and sold and then further refined by Wattley, Matson wrote the first magazine column on discus (in any language) for a number of years in “Tropicals” Magazine – mostly around 1961 and 1962. I pulled a few of those issues out. In just one of them at random we find this:

Winter Issue, March-April, 1961) “With the Discus” column by Harry Matson p. 22-23:

“Very honored Mr. James “Harry” Matson”:

“In West Germany, I am closely acquainted with such various gentleman as Herr Weingarten, Herr Dr. Geisler, Herr Dr. Schmidt [Your buddy, I believe.], Herr Ronsch, Herr Niemer, and Herr Voigt. Various gentlemen have already written you, as we (which I have already mentioned) have several questions and favors to ask of you. The other gentleman being Discus hobbyists may be known by you.”

The letter goes into detail on conductivity. It is signed by Helmut Eynothen of Krefeld, West Germany.

In Harry’s answer he says:

“I would appreciate it if you could also send a copy of this letter to my good friend Dr. Schmidt [Focke].”… “To-date, I know of two others in this country who have raised Discus without their parents … the other person is Carl Naja, of Milwaukee. Carl uses another method [different from Matson’s], and has had some degree of success. I have seen his fishes, and his way, but his secrets will stay his.”… “Also, while Dr. Schmidt was here, we were discussing the possibilities of hybridizing his Symphysodon discus with possibly the S. discus haroldi, as he only had one S. discus. This we both thought would not be possible because it is difficult enough to get them to mate with their own species. Nevertheless I decided to give this a try, and took a common discus female (S. aequifasciata) [brown?] and a male S. aequifasciata aequifasciata [tarzoo?] and succeeded in breeding them the first week….” “…forty hatched, and of this number I still have 12 living – the others were all deformed. …“He [Swegles] has tracked down a new Red Discus in the area in which he collects, and he is trying now to bring some back with him.”

I am surprised you were not aware of Matson’s importance and unique work as Dr. Schmidt-Focke in his English language TFH discus book talks about him on page 54, in the section on the “Artificial Raising of Discus”. The Doctor misspells Matson’s name as “Henry Madson” and says:

“In 1960 Dr. Axelrod kindly brought me to the American Henry Madson in North Chicago, the first breeder who succeeded in artificially raising discus with powdered egg. I could hardly believe what I saw. Young discus just a few days old, without their parents, were swimming around in a 100-liter tank of water. Madson had strewn powdered egg into all four corners of the tank and it was eaten by the young discus.”


Maybe the Doctor’s misspelling of Harry Matson’s name hid his true identity. It is too bad that the good Doctor made this mistake as it hides Matson’s identity and unique achievements – achievements so unique at the time that they left – in your estimation - the founder of modern discus breeding - shocked. Matson had a couple of tricks to teach the Doctor who then tried and failed with them on his return to Germany. Schmidt-Focke says he had success later with a commercial egg-yoke Wattley brought him from the USA. The Doctor thought he had failed as the egg-yoke lacked the proper bacteria the fry needed. He wondered how Matson succeeded and assumes Matson’s fry got the bacteria from the yoke. I guess he didn’t know or forgot that Matson used an antibiotic to kill all bacteria in his fry tanks. Maybe the Doctor’s bacteria idea is not quite right or Matson’s antibiotic did not work. Sadly, the Doctor does not mention Carroll Friswold in the English language edition of his book.

Bleher:

Also I would like to have a copy of "Friswold's book and commercial breeding set-up in Altadena, California. There is a great 2 part interview with Friswold in *The Aquarium Journal* in 1963-64." And I am happy to pay for it, as I have not seen it anywhere, also on the web no reference to it can be found.


Me:

I have Friswold’s little book. I have the revised edition (1977) that his son put out after Friswold’s passing (1969). It contains the complete original “Anyone Can Raise Discus” booklet (1968); as well as many additional notes added by Friswold’s son about the hatchery as a whole and their methods for raising other species of fish. It is missing pages 1-5 and the whole booklet is about 40 pages. The discus section is 9 pages.

The “Aquarium Journal” article on Friswold and his Altadena Water Gardens hatchery in Los Angeles is not a two part article as I initially remembered but just a lengthy single article in the June, 1965 issue of the magazine. It runs from page 198- 294. There are a couple of photos of nice brown discus, one of a Heckel discus (rare here at that time) and one of Friswold at one of his discus tanks. Friswold started in the hobby is 1934. The article implies he spawned discus in the 30’s but I doubt he raised any. His real commercial success with discus started around 1965. The article says he is spawning 6 different types of discus plus one cross: browns, reds, Peruvian greens, Peruvian blue, tarzoo and blue Heckel. It says he has crossed a tarzoo blue male with a Peruvian green female and that the fry are silver dollar size. He usually has 3000 baby discus in his hatchery. The article says Friswold keeps it a secret how he raises the fry the first 10 days. He will offer to sell that secret in 1968 (TFH magazine, August, 1968) and charge $100 for his booklets. Only 50 will be printed at that time. Later, the price will drop to $15. Axelrod went over Friswold’s book in great detail in HRA’s 1970 book “All About Discus” (pgs. 121-128), basically giving Friswold’s method away free. Friswold’s work was also mentioned in the 1966-67 Pet Library booklet on discus entitled “Enjoy Your Discus”: “Carroll Friswold of Los Angeles is another professional aquarist who has been successful in rearing discus away from the parents…” Friswold himself mentions his discus work in his own Pet Library booklet “Enjoy Your Fancy Guppies” (Friswold was also a big time, old time guppy breeder.): “I was very busy at that time [early 60’s] working out the spawning of discus so I let a friend have some of these guppies I called the Champagne strain.” Friswold goes on to imagine the day when there will be discus shows devoted to different colored discus as there were guppy shows in his day. Prophetic to say the least! On his work with discus Friswold wrote: “I have kept a series of daybooks in which important or unusual happenings were recorded… Keep in mind that my system is the result of hundreds of experiments, many of which, especially the earlier ones, caused losses of thousands of babies before the right combination was worked out.”


Carroll Friswold is a crucial piece of discus history not to be skipped over and forgotten.

To be continued…

stanman
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 2:49 pm

Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:36 pm

To clarify, I see that I forgot to mention the title of Harry Matson’s article on rearing discus fry on powdered egg-yoke in “Tropicals” in the above reference. It was entitled “Secrets Revealed For Raising Discus!”

Now, returning to Carroll Friswold’s little book “Anyone Can raise Discus”, allow me to quote a few significant passages (I have the whole booklet):

“…when Mr. T[hornburgh] died in 1937 we had 28 specimens which was a pretty good “herd” in those days. The first spawning on the Pacific Coast came from a pair belonging to Paul Weber who had a large hatchery in the San Fernando Valley and was quite prominent in the tropical fish world at that time. A collector out in the field in South America noticed a pair spawning in a bend of a small stream; he was able to block them off from escaping, then caught and sent them to New York. Mr. Weber was notified and went to New York and brought them out here personally. They spawned for him numerous times…but not a single baby was raised.”

Friswold continues:

“As soon as the majority [of fry] are out of the shells, place them all in a white enamel pan in clear water.”… “The enamel pans I use are 16”x 11”x 41/2”…”… “In my system the first food is egg-yoke, but it is a special egg-yoke and must be used in a special way. You must obtain commercial egg-yoke as supplied by bakers and confectioners.”… “Before feeding be sure to remove any and all airstones from the pan…”… “Wet your pointer finger and pick up a small amount of egg-yoke, say about half the size of a dime, and roll and press it quite firmly onto the side of the enamel pan at water level, so that part of the egg extends above the water line and the other portion hangs under the water line.”… “… after feeding for two hours the babies must be moved into fresh water.”… “Each feeding and washing sequence requires four hours. Personally I like four feedings per day…”… “You feed the egg-yoke for five days, then on the morning of the sixth day begin using the brine shrimp.”… “Color varieties will crossbreed indiscriminately. We have spawned most colors, brown, red, blue, green, Heckel.”… “The babies from giant browns were almost like baby guppies.”

Friswold provides a good deal more information and a number of very interesting observations and perspectives in his wonderful little book. You can easily see from where the enamel pan method Wattley and everyone else uses came. I would bet that Friswold read Matson’s initial article in “Tropicals” in 1960 – about the time he starts his experiments with discus rearing in earnest – and from Matson’s pioneering work with powdered commercial egg-yoke devised the pan method. Friswold definitely took the use of egg-yoke to a whole new level. This is history, big time discus history. Friswold even meets your personal criteria for historical importance with discus as he owned and operated a hatchery for over 20 years.


Bleher:


In any event I do not think that every "commercial breeding set-up" that ever existed has to be in my book. Can you imagine if I would have written about every single one? My 4-Pound-book contains every single commercial discus breeding establishment which existed (or still exists) since the begin of the (discus) history. And I cannot see from the text you site this was a particular "commercial discus breeding set-up".
I really think that you are getting out of line here, just to mention something (or to just argue?). Same applies to the following:

Me:

I was not implying that every commercial breeding set-up or even every advanced hobbyist breeding set-up has to be in your book, although it would seem you made that effort on a world-wide basis. I am stunned at the vast number of people you turned up and in the places you found them. What I said was that when it came to the history of discus overall and in America specifically, particularly in the 50’s and 60’s, you short- changed or completely left out a few highly significant people; people such as Wolfsheimer, Friswold and Matson. These breeders’ personal stories with discus are crucially important to capturing the overall story of the history of discus in the aquarium. Wolfsheimer was the first to show the world proof discus parents feed their fry; Matson discovered a means for rearing the fry away from their parents and Friswold perfected and popularized that idea. Wattley made it famous. That is a pretty significant piece of discus history, equal to or even surpassing Dr. Schmidt-Focke’s enormous contribution and certainly, from an objective point of view, equaling his contribution in the time period all four shared (50’s and 60’s).

Bleher:

I wrote precisely "Mrs. Katie Jones of Dallas was possibly the first woman to breed discus..." (p. 684) and I made no claim to be a certain that she was the first women. But you claim now that a miss Lois Saphien of St. Louis was "probably the actual first woman to seriously work with discus", that to me means you also do not know!
What do you actually aim with this?

Me:

I believe the first woman, a Mrs. Hofmann, to be recognized for breeding discus was in Germany in the 1930’s – you mention her in your book and quote from her material without apparently realizing she was a woman. At least you fail to mention it and go on to say Jones might be the first woman. The report on Mrs. Hofmann was in “Wochenschriften”, 1939, p. 714 (and I know of it, in part, thanks to Ray Wetzel’s excellent memory!) In 2006, Harro Hieronimus provided the Aquarium Hobby Historical Society (a yahoo group) with an informal translation and commentary of the Hofmann material:


“The fish were kept by Mrs. Hofmann and Weißenborn and very expensive at that
time. They were kept at 26-28 °C and fed exclusive with white worms
(Enchytraea bucholzi). A large flower pot was brought into the tank
(which had gravel and plants before) and the temperature rose to 30
°C. The pair spawned about 200 to 250 eggs on August 10th, 1939. The
female was removed to another tank after spawning. The eggs hatched on
August 14th. After three more days the first swimming attempts of the
larvae were made. They tried to feed them with Bosmina naupliae but left
the male in the tank. So the number was reduced from 100 to 70. In
spaced printing there's the sentence: "Am Vater hingen die Jungen wie
angeklebt und wurden ausgeführt." (On the father the fry hang like
sticked and were taken out for a walk). They thought in nature the male
would bring the fry to suitable feeding places. When the fry reached 1.5
to 2 cm, they were removed to a new tank. 30 of them reached a length of
6-7 cm when the breeding report was published.”


In my comment on women breeders you referenced here, I wanted to point out that in giving more space to Jones in your book you short-changed a much more significant player in the history of the development of discus breeding – Lois Saphian. In the August, 1955 issue of ‘The Aquarium” magazine, Lois Saphian of St. Louis, Missouri published her deeply thoughtful and detailed article on breeding discus “Discus By The Hundreds” (three years before the Jones article you highlight came out in TFH). It covers pages 253-256. Already, just by the title of the article alone, we can see that your statement about Saphian is at best rather relative: “And a second lady, Lois Saphian of St. Louis, also reared a number (albeit small) of specimens.” (Bleher, page 685) Is “hundreds” a small number of discus fry in the early 1950’s? I think not.

Saphian’s report includes the following:

“On February 6, 1954, my son-in-law Myron Levy and I purchased six small S. discus from Acme Tropical Fish & Bird Haven in St. Louis.”… “We placed them in a twenty-gallon tank that had been prepared and planted a week previously. We had placed one small Amazon sword plant in the center of the tank, with vallisneria along the back and sides. [I guess this qualifies for an early biotope tank attempt in your opinion if Jones’ tank with one large water sprite does!] “…we started the young discus on grated beef heart.”… “Since our discus had come to Acme Fish Store from Paramount Aquarium Co. of New York, I took the liberty of writing to Mr. Cochu for some information. I received a most gracious reply.”… “Then on March 26 [1955] when I fed them I noticed the ovipositors were very evident…”… “I took the slate out…” … “There were about 200 eggs, perhaps 150 of which hatched.…” … “On April 5 the discus spawned for the second time. This time I did not remove the slate and the spawn was eaten on the second day.”… “We saved only 25 of the first spawning [raised away from the parents]. We felt that wasn’t a very good percentage and came to the conclusion that we would have to experiment and try something different with each spawning, hoping to hit upon something whereby we could save more of any future spawning.”… “At the present time, two and one-half months and seven spawns later, we are beginning to wonder if there is a way to save most of them. Here is an account of our results and experience to date – June 5, 1955.”… “March 25 – 1st spawning. Result – 25 baby discus… Started them on newly hatched brine shrimp.”… “April 5 – 2nd spawning. Left in with parents and eaten on second day. April 13 – 3rd spawning. Tried these in an established tank – 28 gallon. By the fourth day after they were free swimming all had died but five, which I removed, and now they are almost as large as the first ones. May 6…spawned again. We saved 107 of these. They are way past the danger period and growing fast. May 17 – saved only 30 or so of the fifth spawning. May 27 – The sixth spawning are still in the crucial period. June 2 – Only seven days later. This spawning is hatching today. The crucial stage is the third through the fifth day after the fish become free swimming. After that there are very few lost, and from that time on growth is fantastic. We can pick out very soon the ones which won’t survive. They never eat. I’ve tried in addition to brine shrimp, egg infusion on some [Too bad she didn’t think of commercial powdered egg-yoke like Frank Swegles – Kyle’s father - and Matson!], a cooked food made from canned baby food (beef heart, egg yoke, Pablum) on others, and still they die.”… ‘From five spawnings then, …we have 167 baby discus.”… “Trying to find a way to bring the youngsters through that crucial five-day period certainly presents a challenge – we hope soon to come up with some answers.”

If only Lois Saphian had known about the fry feeding off the parents she might have developed a method of artificial feeding similar to Matson’s and Friswold’s and a woman would have beaten the boys! She certainly thought like a scientist and tried to experiment. She is a true pioneer. Her article contains much more information.

Of course, she provided Gene Wolfsheimer with his first tank raised specimens which would go on to show the world that discus feed their fry. The fish in Gene’s legendary photographs are from Lois Saphian’s (at the time) 167 baby discus – maybe the most famous baby discus the world has ever known. Her contribution is certainly far more important than a line about a small number of fry or a poor photo of a biotope tank based on the presence of one large water sprite!


Bleher:


I really wonder.


Me:

I think you can stop wondering now.


Bleher:


I wrote that photo-caption more for the sake of the fact that she had an almost biotope correct aquarium for discus, which was the outstanding point for me and for this book (the photo is from 1957), as this is an essential thing for wild discus (and still today done often incorrect).



Me:


There are a number of photos from the 50’s and early 60’s of people breeding discus in essentially planted – or proto-biotope – tanks. The July-August, 1963, volume VII, No. 4 issue of “Tropicals” magazine carries on article on discus breeding by Leonard Sklamberg ‘Breeding and Raising Discus Could Happen To You!” pages 9-14 with several photos of his planted – proto-biotope – tank and discus feeding their fry among the plants. I think Jones – like Sklamberg and others - just had a plant in her tank. I was under the impression, judging from examples of your own lovely tanks, that a biotope was a bit more than a water sprite or sword plant.

Bleher:


Maybe she even bred her Discus before your miss Lois, or at the same time.

Me:

It would seem Jones bred her discus after Saphian and that both women bred their discus after Mrs. Hofmann in Germany in the 1930’s.


Bleher:


You say there was an article in *The Aquarium* in 1955 about it, but you "probably" do not know if she was earlier, as I do not know therefore I wrote "possibly"!


Me:


Yes, the article I quoted above at length by Lois Saphian and published in 1955, three years before the Jones article in TFH.

Bleher:

But yes, if she supplied Gene Wolfsheimer with tank raised breeding stock I did not know, Gene did not mention this in his article, which I read several times and which I cited. But he did write that he raised 10 fishes.


Me:

Let’s deal with Gene and Saphian first and then those supposed “10” discus fry.

I believe below you mention that you not only have Wolfsheimer’s “National Geographic” magazine article on discus from the May, 1960 issue but that you have all his other, earlier articles on discus even though, if memory serves, you do not mention them or site them in your book. Gene does not mention Saphian in the “NG” article but he does in his more detailed hobbyist oriented articles from the mid to late 1950’s.

In Gene’s first discus article from “The Aquarium” magazine, January, 1957, entitled “Discus Spawn…Again”, pgs. 3-7 he states: “I started with eight young specimens originally bred by Lois Saphian of St. Louis, Missouri. (p. 7). In Gene’s next discus article, appearing in the pages of ‘The Aquarium Journal” in February, 1957 and entitled “Let’s Spawn The Discus”, pages 44-50, he writes: “In fact, the adult Discus of my own are tank-raised specimens who received their start in life thanks to the efforts of Lois Saphian of St. Louis, Mo., a really fine aquarist.” (p. 50).


Gene’s third article on his discus, “Pompadour Fish Spawning- The American Way” also appeared in February, 1957 but was published across “the pond” in the pages of the British magazine “Water Life” (pages 14-16). Like the other two articles, it is accompanied by numerous examples of Gene’s extraordinary photos – the first in the world – as far as I know - to capture the spawning act of a pair of discus and the natural rearing of their fry and in many ways they are still the best.

In this 1957 “Water Life” article Wolfsheimer does not mention Saphian but does provide a bit of information the importance of which I will get to in a moment. Gene writes: “It has been noted by myself and two other local fishkeepers who also spawned Pompadours (only one was successful in raising a few young), Mr. Richard Haas, President of the Los Angles Aquarium Society, and Charles Wall, of Whittier, California, that prior to and during spawning and caring for the young fish, the parents seem to manufacture a heavier amount of body slime than normal. We can only theorize that during the excitement and activity of the spawning, certain estrogen hormones are made active and induced to over-produce excessive body slime, thereby providing ample nourishment for the fry.”

Mr. Richard Haas is a good killifish friend of mine (now in his 80’s) and he was at the time of Gene’s article on his way to becoming Dr. Richard Hass, the noted Nothobranchius ichthyologist. Wolfsheimer, Haas and, I believe, W. H. Hildemann created the legendary Los Angeles Aquarium Society in, I believe, 1947. These three men were close personal friends and Haas told me they believed that although Gene’s life long illness kept him out of college, he was the better fish man and would have been an extraordinary scientist. Of course, Hildemann is Gene Wolfsheimer’s good buddy William “Bill” Hildemann who will investigate in the late 1950’s while working in England - using Roy Skipper’s fish – the biological properties of breeding discus’ body slime. Wolfsheimer and Hildemann often worked together. (Gene would do the same later with Bussing and Loiselle.)

This quote from Gene’s article also includes an early reference to Charles Wall - who will become Dr. Charles Wall - and who will start Bing Seto on his road to discus fame. There will be more to come on these various points.

One last note of interest, in the “Water Life” article Gene identifies which one of his 2 spawning pairs of discus are featured in each of his famous photographs. His photos captured both pairs with fry – lots and lots of fry!

As far as Gene raising “10 fish” as you say; I believe you misread the “National Geographic” article. Gene does not say he raised “10 fish” from a spawning as you interpret him to mean: “[He] spawned his discus “by accident” (he was away on holiday!). But he reared only 10 fishes…” (Bleher, p. 686) What Gene actually writes in his “NG” article is that he “first made the acquaintance of the discus in 1949, when [he] tried to raise 10 young specimens.” The 10 young specimens were 10 small WILD CAUGHT discus that Gene bought soon after entering the hobby. NO BREEDING AT ALL WAS INVOLVED WITH THESE 10 FISH. They all quickly died. The discus Gene made famous all over the world came to him from Lois Saphian as tank raised fry in 1956 – 7 years later. I would have thought the accompanying photographs of Gene’s breeders covered in far more than 10 swarming fry would have raised a red flag in your mind that this man certainly raised more than 10 fry! I can find no mention in the text of his fish spawning by accident when he was away on vacation. Will you please give me that exact reference?

Part 3 to come.

stanman
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 2:49 pm

Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:32 am

Part 3


Bleher:

And dear Mr. Rellermann (Ellermann):
Would you be so kind to tell me HOW can I know (or anyone), how many discus fry Miss Saphien raised from day one away from the parents? (Do you know?)


Me:

You said Saphian raised only a small number of fry. In her article, Lois Saphian listed the number of her fry after just 3 months of breeding – 167. That’s how good her records were, so if one had read her article, one would have known the number of fry raised. Now, I have no idea how many fry she ultimately raised during her time breeding discus but her article certainly lists more than the small number you credit her with – especially when one considers the time period (early 1950’s) – 167 babies was a lot of fry in 1955, especially when raised on live baby brine shrimp!

Bleher:


Should I know this from every breeder on this globe who ever lived?

Me:


No, but you did not give an opinion of every breeder’s fry numbers as you did with Lois Saphian.


Bleher:


Do you really think I wrote this book and worked so much on it, to write about "how many discus each one bred during his breeding-life?"


Me:

No, but Lois Saphian was then an obvious except on your part. Why did you feel compelled to state an opinion about the number of fry she raised? 167 is not a small amount. A pattern seems to form: Saphian bred but not too successfully; Wolfsheimer bred but only raised “10” fry using your misreading of his “NG” article. Why do you make a point of listing your opinion as to the fry numbers these people produced when you so passionately state here that your book is not about that and it is unreasonable to ask it of you? I think that is an interesting question and contradiction.


Bleher:


Do you not think you are asking to much????


Me:


I am not asking you to list fry numbers; you chose to do that in these 2 cases. I am simply pointing out that the objective evidence of fry numbers in these 2 cases does not support your statements; it contradicts your statements. Just the facts.

Bleher:


And with no word did I mention that Mrs. Katie was "more important" – where do you get this from? I only appreciated her aquarium decoration ... You really want to split hairs

Me:

You gave Jones more space, more words, more commentary and more attention than Lois Saphian, so judging by the number of words Jones was more important to you than Saphian. Now, maybe you did not have the Saphian article (she, unlike Jones, is mentioned in many older discus books though) and so your lack of information is understandable. This is what I mean about your coverage of the American history of discus breeding and breeders being spotty. You are missing important information which prevents you from fully understanding the information you do have.


Bleher:


Shocking is also your next "complained"! You complain that I did not mention all of Gene Wolfsheimer's work!


Me:


If that is what you understood of my Wolfsheimer comments then I misspoke or you misunderstood me. I wrote:

“The shocking coverage in the history of discus is Bleher's paltry presentation of Gene Wolfsheimer's work with discus. Bleher lists only Gene's 1960 National Geographic article on discus in his bibliography, so I assume he is unaware of the articles on discus Gene wrote for “The Aquarium” in 1957; “The Aquarium Journal” in 1957; the British magazine “Water Life” in 1957 -- before the Roy Skipper material Bleher concentrates on -- and a second article for “The Aquarium” in 1960-61 answering/challenging an earlier German article that year by Voigt. Gene's second article offers information on the history of discus breeding in the USA. Gene's earliest discus material also appeared as “Aquarists International” letters in “Aquatic Life” magazine in the early 50's.” [Aquarists International” was the legendary global correspondence club Gene started with selected advanced hobbyists in the early 1950’s – such as Jorgen Scheel and Walter Bertholdt of killifish fame.]


With the above statement, I meant that you short-changed the scope of Gene’s work with discus in the material you included in your book. I did not mean you needed to include all of Gene’s work with discus but that you needed to do a more substantial job with Wolfsheimer as his work and influence warranted it. Schmidt-Focke gets 24 pages - I think - and Gene gets a paragraph and his very real success with discus is reduced to the accidental raising of “10 fry” – a mistaken reading of just one of his texts and a gross if unintentional misrepresentation of his achievements.


Bleher:


Should I have mentioned all the work of every single person involved with discus?


Me:


No, but some people deserved a greater share than they received. Now, I do understand why this happened. You were missing enormously important information about the American discus hobby and viewing what material you did have through some misinformation (Wattley as the inventor of the egg-yoke method), so it is more than understandable that the real value and significance of the work done by these legendary people in the 50’s and 60’s escaped your notice and thus thought.


Bleher:


Then, instead of 672 pages, I should have written a book with 10,000 pages - maybe? Is that your idea?


Me:


No - unless you could fill 10,000 pages with important information.


Bleher:


I was very well aware of his articles (actually I think all of them), but did not mention them as I had to limited it to the most important facts of (discus)history and their (breeders) and what were their most important things they did/bred/archived - from around the world.


Me:


Then you should have known about Gene and Lois Saphian as she is mentioned in 2 of his articles. Also, Gene’s 4 additional discus articles besides the “NG” article should have alerted you to the fact that he raised more than 10 discus fry. I do find it odd that you did not list these articles in the bibliography if you have them as four articles certainly would not have added much length to the rather small (5 pages) bibliography in the second volume of your book. It appears you do not appreciate the importance of Gene’s work with discus to the history of the discus hobby and I cannot change opinion. I can only offer the scope of the facts.


Bleher:


The aim is to give to the reader an complete as possible understanding who was involved and therefore I picked their most important writings and information to pass this on to present and future generations - for people to learn about discus-breeding-history.


Me:

I think you do this in all cases, from what I can tell and know, except when it comes to the American discus hobby and certainly when it comes to Wolfsheimer, Matson, Saphian and Friswold in particular. Two of these legendary American pioneers do not even make it into your book at all and they are the ones who invented the methods used world-wide today for rearing discus fry away from their parents! That’s an oversight if ever there was one! Surely, you can see why I thought this oversight and - as I now understand – lack of information and research on your part a glaring gap in the most important aspects of discus history. You miss one of the main stories and the real players involved!


Bleher:


And if you think (or want to think) that I just wanted to make Wolfsheimer's work with discus as to sound like a single spawning then that this is only your problem of not reading correctly. On page 686 I wrote " ...Gene was not only a gifted breeder ...." .


Me:

This may be a language problem indeed. When I read the sentence " ...Gene was not only a gifted breeder ....", I did not assume you meant gifted DISCUS breeder, especially after you said he only raised 10 fry accidentally. The sentence reads to anyone who knows Gene’s 20+ year career operating his own 200 tank fish hatchery and commercially raising 100’s of species from all families of fish that by “gifted breeder” you meant he was OVERALL a gifted breeder of ALL tropical fish and not specifically a gifted discus breeder - as you now seem to be saying you meant. That said, one brief vague phrase hardly does his contribution justice. Surely, it deserves at least, say, 2 full sentences .

There are several articles about Gene Wolfsheimer which appeared in various issues of “The Aquarium” and “The Aquarium Journal” over the years and these articles give the reader a true picture of the man who was called “Mr. Aquarist” locally and a master aquarist world-wide!

The article on Gene from “The Aquarium” magazine for January, 1957, which accompanied his first discus article, includes the following information:

“At one time or another Gene has bred practically all the commoner fishes, and his more difficult achievements have included dwarf cichlids, panchax, aphyosemions, and catfishes. His Bettas are considered to be among the best available.”

“A number of pioneering efforts in the hobby can be traced back to Gene Wolfsheimer. He was the first to introduce microworms to Americans [also grindal worms]. He was one of the very first to ship tropical fish eggs [killies] to distant places. Much of the early work on frozen foods was done by him.”

An even better article on Gene can be found in the May, 1965 issue of “The Aquarium Journal”; a magazine that usually featured one of Gene’s photographs on its cover for its last 10 years.

As you surely know, Gene produced the second albino betta known to captivity up until the 1950’s. His efforts to produce a strain of albinos under the guidance of the famous Dr. Myron Gordon were once well known. He specialized in Bettas and other anabantids. He shared this specialty with Dr. Schmidt-Focke.


Bleher:


Is my English is not good enough or yours? (And Mary Bailey, who does all Ad Konings books as well did the translations and corrections - I think she knows English very well).


Me:

The sentences as written are grammatically fine but it seems they do not fully communicate your thought – based on what you are saying now. I think the topic just needed more sentences.

Bleher:


I wrote exactly what Gene wrote in National Geographic, which is cited and anyone can read it.


Me:

As I have already shown above, this statement is not true. You misread Gene’s “NG” article and misquoted its information.

Bleher:


Sorry that you do not read my texts (nor NG's text) correctly.

Me:

And I am sorry that you misread Gene’s “NG” article and misreported its information.


Bleher:


And also from NG are his words "...only 10 fishes..." from his first breeding.


Me:

Again, in his “NG” article, Gene does not write that he only raised 10 fish from his first breeding; he says he bought 10 discus in 1949 and they all ultimately died – no breeding or fry involved at all. Gene bred discus from the 8 tank raised fish he later received (1956) from Lois Saphian. I am sorry you misread Gene’s article. Will you be able to correct your error?

Bleher:


But it seem that you do not want to read it (otherwise how could you find an argument ...).

Me:

Sadly, I found “an argument” - as you say - not from me not reading the article – I have had it for decades – but if “an argument” was found it was from your - unintentional - misreading and misunderstanding of Gene’s extremely clear statements in the “NG” article. I do hope you re-read the “NG” article and I bet you will instantly catch your error - now that it has been clearly pointed out to you and the objective evidence provided.



Bleher:



Also your statement which proofs that you really have nothing else to do then pick on my book what the US-breeding is concerned, you complain about a 50-year-old print with the words "Bleher offers a poor printing of a partial copy of one of Gene's famous photos which is historically sad as the whole incredible color series needed to be in the book ...". Just for your information (again): I could not report on 672 pages about 750 breeders and their history by bringing from each breeder all of his "historical" photos. For sure I have compiled in this work the most important historical photos and more then anyone has ever done or will ever bring (over 4000 – selected carefully from 250,000 ...).


Me:


I am not picking on your book – please! You show photo after photo after photo of Schmidt-Focke’s discus and countless photos of similar if not the same wild discus. I love them all but surely a few could have been sacrificed for the sake of Wolfsheimer’s extraordinary and unquestionably historical series of photos of discus spawning and rearing fry. Gene’s photos are gorgeous and in many ways they are like the first shots from the surface of the moon! They showed the world what the discus at its best and most fascinating was and is. They are true historical documents – the discus Magna Carta!


Bleher:


If you want to publish a full historical report about Gene Wolfsheimer, why do you not do that? But this was not the scope of my book. And Gene did not do a fraction of what Schmidt-Focke did for over 30 years ...


Me:

I’m working on it. Gene’s contribution is different from Schmidt-Focke’s but it is no less important. From a purely historical perspective (the 1950’s), Gene’s contribution is far greater in the time period he and the Doctor shared (the 1950’s) than the Doctor’s at that time. You missed or undervalued Wolfsheimer’s historical importance. Your sense of the important specifics of the discus history is too tied to the 1960’s and beyond and too tied to the tank raised strains and the collecting of wild locations. This is all very important, especially today, but it in no way lessens the pioneering achievements of those who came before the 1960’s – when breeding any discus was a miracle. I had hoped and was looking forward to your historical presentation of the discus hobby and its true pioneers and I was very disappointed. Schmidt-Focke becomes particularly important in the 1970’s and world-wide in the 1980’s but he is not the founder of the modern discus hobby. He is only one of the legendary people of the 1950’s and early 1960’s who made the discoveries that make the discus hobby possible today.

We do not know what Gene Wolfsheimer would have done with the wild discus which became available in the late 60’s and 70’s. Gene’s health drove him from the hobby in the late 60’s and an early death took this fine aquarist in 1979.Gene was one of “the good guys”.


Bleher:


And about Herbert Härtel (not Herman Hartel - you did not even write his name correctly - is that how well you read my book?)

Me:

Now this point is interesting to me. Härtel holds a place in my heart because the great old man of killifish breeding and the first importer/retailer of live discus in the USA – Richard “Dick” Buettner – once said that Härtel’s daughter was in charge of breeding the killies for the family firm – particularly Callopanchax occidentalis – the Golden Pheasant, one of my favorites, especially the old Aquarium Hamburg strain of the late 50’s and early 1960’s. Anyway, in the magazine “Discus Brief” volume V, issue1, 1998 there is an article by your friend Hans-Georg Petersmann that speaks directly to this Härtel name issue. Petersmann writes:

“Despite this in December 1972 when I was still living in East Germany, I acquired my first six brown discus from the aquarium fish breeder HERBERT Härtel in Dresden-Radebeul, Germany. This opportunity also provided me with the chance to talk with HERBERT Härtel (at this time he was 65 years old; he died in 1974) about discus. He related the following story to me.”

“His father, HERMANN Härtel, the previous owner of this business, was offered some “blue scalare” from a firm in New York. He asked the younger Härtel [HERBERT] to go to America by ship. There he acquired the fish under the trade name “blue scalare”. … “As a new spawning substrate, HERBERT Härtel therefore provided a clay tile pipe, which was also used as a hiding place by the pair.”


So, did the legendary father HERMANN or his son HERBERT breed the discus acquired from Empire Aquarium in the early 1930’s in New York? It seems it was HERBERT but I always thought it was the father HERMANN. Petersmann says it was the son, as does Schmidt-Focke, Günter Keller and you.

Now, Schmidt-Focke seems a bit confused or wrote the wrong information as he says in the English language edition of his discus book that the son “Herbert Haertel was the owner of a tropical fish shop in Dresden before World War I.” (Schmidt-Focke, p. 21) This is impossible as Petersmann says that the son HERBERT served in the Wehrmacht in 1939. If he died at 67 in 1974 as Petersmann says that would mean HERBERT was born in 1907 and would have been between 0 and 7 years old before WWI – hardly an age to own a tropical fish store as Schmidt-Focke reports! In 1939, HERBERT would have been 32, so it makes sense that he took over the family business after WW II and not WW I.

But could Petersmann have misunderstood HERBERT who was telling the story and assumed HERBERT not the father HERMANN did the discus breeding? I ask this because of what my good friend Wolfgang Voigt – the German aquarium hobby historian – wrote to me in a letter in 2000. Voigt wrote:

“Already HERMANN Härtel from Dresden wrote 1936 in an essay, after the artificial breeding of larvae was not successful several times, about the natural raising by fish parents: ‘die Larven hingen von Zeit zu Zeit am Rucken [umlaut] eines Eltemtieres fest” and further on ‘jetzt wurde mir klar, dass die Brut gewissermassen [strange german “B” letter] ein Larvenstadium durch lauft [umlaut] und so ganz und gar auf die Alttiere angewiesen sind. So ist es wahrscheinlich, dass die Eltern Haustsekret absondem, welches von den Larven aufgesaugt werde.’ (‘the larvae hang from time to time on the dorsal side of a parent fish’ und weiter ‘now it became clear to me that the larvae are dependent on the parents completely. It is probable that the adults secret food from the skin sucked by the young.’)”

So is it the father HERMANN or the son HERBERT who did the discus breeding in the 1930’s. All of you say HERBERT but Voigt says HERMANN. What does the actual article by Härtel say – HERMANN or HERBERT?

Since HERMANN Härtel was one of the great pioneers of the hobby and the owner of the firm that brought the discus back to Germany and bred them, I am not wrong to use his name but if the son HERBERT did the actual work then he should get the credit. This needs to be cleared up. Can you provide the objective evidence as someone is confused?

Part 4 to come

stanman
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 2:49 pm

Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:08 am

Part 4


Bleher:

you just did repeat what I wrote (my research), maybe to make it look as it was your merit ... Thanks. This also shows that in reference to the real early breeders from before WWII, you have no idea about them, and it proofs that you are learning from my (historical) book (hopefully at least something ...).

Me:


I assume you are referring to the Härtel information in the above statement. As you can now plainly see I did not need your book to find out about Härtel. In 2000, long before even the first volume much less the second volume of your discus book was published I was already discussing Härtel in letters with Wolfgang Voigt. (Overall we were discussing the history of the great firm Aquarium Hamburg – another little if highly significant detail of tropical fish history that fascinates me; one which few people today know anything about even though the firm created the international tropical fish import/export business in the 1920’s.) I have known about Hermann Härtel for decades as his articles were featured in Innes’ “Aquarium Magazine”, his firm lasted into the 70’s and so his ads – or rather by then his son Herbert’s ads - used to appear in DATZ and as I said his daughter was involved with my first love - killifish. Innes published a moving story of the plight of Härtel’s firm during and after WW II back in the late 1940’s. Of course, Günter Keller covered Härtel and his discus in his mid-1970’s TFH book on discus, as did Schmidt-Focke in his – all long before your books appeared. I did not need your book for this information. Plus there is Socolof’s autobiography which covers some of this material as well as my friend Al Klee’s late 1960’s extraordinary book length history of the hobby before WWII. So I have some idea of both the early German and American breeders – like the Mrs. Hofmann I pointed out to you.



Bleher:


If you think the first Albino were bred in the US, commercially, then please give me a reference and do not just write something. That is very poor.


Me:


Your wish is my command for as I said – nothing but the objective facts here. I have before me the September, 1976 issue of the tropical fish newspaper “Aquarium News” that was published monthly through the mid and late 70’s. Ross Socolof and Al Klee both wrote for it and William Tomey, Joanne Norton, Walt Maurus, Midge Hill, Tony Terceira, Dr. Gene Lucas and Paul Loiselle were all contributing editors. On the cover of this issue is the headline “World’s First Albino Discus!” and next to it is a color photograph of just that – an albino discus. The article by the same title is on page 16 and is written by no less a tropical fish authority than the late Dr. Joanne Norton of livebearer and angelfish genetics fame. Joanne writes:

“The pair that produced albino fry had produced ten spawns by June 17, 1976 and all contained some albino fry. The albinos are growing well and appear robust, the oldest ones having reached a body size of one and a half inches at this writing.”

“Mr. and Mrs. LoBue, who specialize in tank raised discus, operate Discus Haven, 1066 Palm St. San Jose, Calif. 95110.”

If you will remember, through most of the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s the LoBue’s ran monthly ads in “TFH” magazine and, I believe, "FAMA" advertising their business Discus Haven and the various strains of discus they had for sell. They never listed pure albinos that I can remember, so, maybe, like Wolfsheimer with the albino betta, they failed to establish a viable strain. I do not know. They did always offer “albino offspring” if I remember correctly but it was my impression that these fry were not albinos themselves. Their ads are in so many issues so it would be easy for you to check.

So, it might have been poor of me to not state this reference in my first post but I thought the Discus Haven ads were so numerous and so recent that, surely, you knew of this fact. I am glad to correct that assumption on my part here and now.

Maybe Asian breeders produced an albino discus before 1976, I do not know.


Bleher:


I am sure that the first Albino Discus to "appear" was in nature, not in the US or in Hong Kong, and without any doubt the first commercial Albino Discus breeding took NOT place in the US.


Me:


No doubt the first albino discus appeared in nature but then we were not discussing that point - were we? I cannot say if the LoBue’s produced a commercial strain and if that is your only or main criteria for someone’s inclusion in discus breeding history then I suppose their “first” is unimportant and need not be known. I take a different perspective on what is and what isn’t of historical importance as one must consider the time period of the event and not make the mistake of judging the past by today’s standards and reality.


Bleher:

And what your complaim about the "Cobalt" Discus, I am sure you are also (completely) wrong, what the history and the variant is concerned. I like to clear this point of yours as well:


Me:


I have no complaint about the “Cobalt” Discus. I am fully aware that before what is called a “Cobalt” Discus today there existed an utterly unrelated strain of Heckel x Royal Blue discus on the West Coast of North America labeled the “Cobalt Blue” Discus. This is the fish I was discussing and only this strain of fish. I am not talking about the current “Cobalt” Discus and its development at all.

A poster on Simply Discus had this to say recently:

CliffsDiscus11-19-2010, 03:58 PM:

“I use to go over the Bing Seto's hatchery 3 time[s] a week when he restarted [with] Discus again. His original Colbalt[s] came from Dr.Charles Wall in S.California, back then it was call[ed] Wall’s Colbalt, when Bing bought out Dr.Wall’s hatchery he renamed it Bing's Colbalt. Dr.Walls original [C]olbalt came from the legendary Herman Chan which were really crosses of the Heckel and Royal Blue.”

I think that says it all and clears up where you were confused but let’s go over the facts just to be sure.


Bleher:


You mention "He misses that Bing Seto's original Cobalt discus came from Dr. Charles Wall..." but Bing told me, and it is published on his site www.discusworld.com/background.htm that he did the first Cobalt ... Or did you not read it on his home page? Bing never said, nor mentioned, that he "bought" the "Cobalt".

Me:


Well, I guess like with Wattley you need to ask Bing for a clarification. Yes, I have read Bing’s website and no he does not mention Dr. Wall. I do believe he mentions him in a "FAMA" interview he gave in the early 90's and I will try to locate the issue and exact quote -- if memory serves.

The poster on Simply Discus adds a nice bit of information to this story by saying Herman Chang and not Dr. Wall or Bing Seto was the man who first bred this “Cobalt Blue” discus strain. Do you know Herman Chan? I thought about mentioning him in my first post. Herman Chan is still (I believe) the owner of Fairy Lake Discus Palace in San Francisco – unless he has passed away as he would be quite old now. His store is (was) a legend as it is (was) devoted to his love of discus (and other tropical fish) and has been in business since at least the 1960’s. It was still in business as far as I know a couple of years ago. The store always has (had) many pairs of discus breeding and Chan was one of the most successful breeders in the USA. His is the only discus store I have ever heard of in America and certainly was the only one in its heyday in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I am not surprised that Chan provided Wall with the Cobalt Blue strain although I have no evidence other than what the poster said.

Now, as I pointed out above Gene Wolfsheimer was already mentioning Dr. Charles Wall back in 1957 as a breeder of discus. In the same issue of the “Aquarium Journal” that featured Gene’s article on spawning discus (February, 1957) there also appeared an article in the form of a long letter from Charles V. Wall, our future Dr. Wall. The letter runs from pages 51-55 and provides a few nice tidbits of history. Wall writes:

“In June of 1955 I obtained my first spawning of the lovely fish S. discus and with all the joy and disappointment that followed. I received much cooperation from my valued friend Mr. Carroll Friswold of Altadena, California, for the care of the majority of my pairs’ subsequent spawnings. It seems my medical school schedule was too heavy to bear the burden of the constant attention the eggs needed when hatched artificially. The total spawnings that have occurred to date number thirty-three.”… “We did raise some young but it was nowhere near the 4950 (approx.) eggs produced from this pair.”… “Also the adult as well as the young fish need a relatively bacteria free water. [I believe Schmidt-Focke came to this conclusion around this time or a bit later based on his experiences breeding discus. Both of them being medical doctors it makes sense!] This can be obtained to a certain degree in an acid and soft water. This was observed in young imports set up side by side in two tanks, one having the soft and acid water, and the second with hard water of a higher pH (7.2-8.0). In the latter the protozoans and bacteria abound unless the tank is kept spotless and the Discus seemed most susceptible to develop disease under these conditions. These were very crude observations made on tank raised as well as imported specimens…”… “Well, it seems that if I had honked my horn a little louder I might have gained some recognition for spawning the discus in the first place but as fate would have it Mrs. Saphian spawned her Discus a couple of months earlier although I am still at a loss to find out just what protozoan she feeds them the first three to four days after they are free swimming. This is the well known problem in rearing the Discus and I have learned this lesson now many times over despite all the protozological help I received.” [This is an important timeline fact. If Friswold was helping Wall in 1957 and they still did not have the egg-yoke formula to rear the fry artificially as Wall seems to suggest here then this points to my suspicion that Friswold got the idea for the egg-yoke from Matson’s 1960 article. The timing is just too close and the methods too similar. This then makes Matson the key figure in the artificial rearing of discus fry and he has never received that long overdue credit from anyone. He is the unsung hero of our story.] “One additional note on the use of the peat filter; it is necessary to very gradually acclimate Discus…to the dissolved tannic acid of “Georgia peat.” The water softening process can be done at the same time and if done slowly will slow the peat saturation and give the fish a chance to adjust…”… “I recently read a German account of breeding Discus and it seems that the patient and thorough Germans are raising them in quantity. The babies are left with the parents for a period of time which of course requires a compatible pair. This is the big secret so long guarded and the probable reason why so many of us have been doomed to failure. The babies’ first food is the slime coat of the mother fish [father too]. They attach themselves so that the parent fish is literally covered with babies and the babies appear to be intently eating the slime along with any other flora that may be present…”... “I have been puzzled for a long time by a peculiar dull sheen which my females get every time they spawn. This peculiar condition might be analogous with the hormonal physiological rise in estrogenic hormone in the parturient female human.”


Wall sounds pretty good – nothing like real scientific training!

There is a good chance that the German article Wall refers to is none other than the English translation of Dr. Schmidt-Focke’s first article on breeding (brown) discus at the Tropicarium. The translation of S-F’s article appeared in the December, 1956 issue of “Aquatic Life”, pages 371-372, 385. For what appears to be only the second time in print in English (1953 is the most likely candidate for being the first time in print but we will get to that in a moment.), the fact that discus parents feed their fry off their bodies is reported. Schmidt-Focke’s article appeared one month (Dec. 1956) before Wolfsheimer’s first discus article in “The Aquarium” (January, 1957) but Schmidt-Focke’s article in English translation offered no photos. I do not know if the original German language printing in DATZ was accompanied by photos of the parents with their fry. Do you know, Heiko? It would seem that Gene’s extraordinary series of photos starting the next month would be the visual evidence the world would need to finally “discover” once and for all that discus feed their babies off their bodies. In his article, Schmidt-Focke writes:

“…finally the young fish swam and fluttered around the parents like a swarm of bees. Most of the time they hung on the fins and body of the fish, appearing as if they were picking at the body. The bellies of the fish, after using up the egg sac appeared almost concave, filled with white matter and day by day the growth being plainly visible. My close observation of the skin of the parent fish seemed to be slightly clouded and it is possible that the skin of the parents contains a food secretion which serves as the first food of the young fish. The possibility exists that this skin secretion is a feeding ground for bacteria and infusoria which in relation feeds the young fish.”


One can see how this paragraph of Schmidt-Focke's could easily be the basis for Wall's summary of the information in the "German article" he mentions. They mirror one another nicley.


It would seem judging from this passage from the good “Doctor’s” article that the Americans at this time (1956-1957) – particularly Gene Wolfsheimer -- had a slightly better grasp on just what the food secreted by the parents was all about and, of course, in a couple of short years Gene’s friend Bill Hildemann would confirm Gene’s, Wall’s and Schmidt-Focke’s observations. Schmidt-Focke also mentions Härtel’s success in the 1930’s but does not say which Härtel it was – father or son – and does not mention that Härtel and other pre-WW II German breeders had already revealed that the fry eat off the sides of their parents. He just says Härtel had some success breeding the fish. It has always fascinated me that even though a couple of Germans right before or during the start of WW II reported in popular tropical fish publications of the day in Germany that discus parents fed their fry off their bodies this information seems to have been lost, forgotten or ignored almost instantly. No one that I know of mentions it. Not until the 1956-1957 period spanning a couple of exciting months when Schmidt-Focke and Wolfsheimer both report on it as a brand new discovery does the slime feeding process capture the tropical fish world’s attention. (There’s still that 1953 reference I mentioned yet to come!) Why the earlier reports were missed in America is obvious – war – but why German hobbyists seemed ignorant of them in the early 1950’s is a mystery to me. Can you clear that up, Heiko? I do not believe you mention it in your book and it is a nice little twist in the history of the discus. What was once known had to be rediscovered only 15 years or so later!

OK, part 5 and the rest of Dr. Wall next time.

stanman
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 2:49 pm

Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:55 am

Part 5


Bleher:


Also you did not read correctly what I wrote under the photo on page 874: "... in T.F.H. at the end of 1970s..." I did not write when it was bred, only when it was published in T.F.H. (see references). Another miss-reading of your (as Mary confirmed the English is correct).


Me:


Yes, I read the caption to the small photo in your book on page 874 of Bing Seto’s old ad which was featured in “TFH” magazine in the early 1970’s. There is nothing wrong with the English but the content has a problem. Bing Seto’s ads started running in TFH in late 1972 and I do not believe they were still running “at the end of the 1970’s” as you state in your caption. I believe, if memory serves, they ended by the mid-70’s but I would have to check every issue of “TFH” magazine to be sure.

Your caption also says it was “undoubtedly” (Bleher, 874) not a cross but just a variant of haroldi (turquoise) strains. I am not sure how you can undoubtedly know that from a poor photo of one fish without knowing the background of the breeding first hand. As quoted above, the original haroldi x Heckel cross which created this Cobalt Blue strain was likely made by Herman Chan – who I found out today, is still very much in business at Fairy Lake Discus in San Francisco – who then, I assume, sold it to Dr. Wall and it was Dr. Wall who first ran ads in TFH offering it for sale. Dr. Wall sold out to Seto in late 1972 and then the Wall “Cobalt Blue” discus became the Bing “Cobalt Blue” discus.


I deeply doubt, as you seem to imply, that the original Chan/Wall/Seto stock came from your firm Aquarium Rio. You write: “… but in those days [1970’s] there were already beautiful Cobalt Blue Discus in Europe, which were not hybrids and which Aquarium Rio exported all over the world, including to the USA.” (Bleher, p. 872)

Heiko, did the German Cobalt Blues already exist in 1969, 1970 or 1971 at the latest as they would have had to, to be the foundation stock for the American Cobalts? Do you remember shipping German Cobalt Blues in 1969 or 1970 or -at the absolute latest - in 1971 to either Herman Chan at Fairy Lake Discus, Dr. Charles Wall of Southern California or Bing Seto? Do you remember sending any Cobalt Blue German discus strains to anywhere in California in 1969 or 1970? You didn’t seem to know Dr. Charles Wall. You do not mention Herman Chan in your book or his famous Fairy lake Discus Palace and it seems you would remember if you had shipped Bing Seto Cobalt Blue discus before 1972, so it stands to reason that this strain of Cobalt Blue discus was, unlike what you seem to suggest, utterly unrelated to the early breeding experiments going on in Germany in 1969, 1970 and 1971 – if Cobalt Blue discus did indeed already exist as a strain that early in Germany. I don’t think you can lay for the Germans indirect claim to this American strain if that is what you are suggesting. It belongs to other people. I think you need to offer hard evidence to support your suggestion, if indeed you are suggesting the American fish were of German origin.

As far as I know, one of Dr. Wall’s earliest ads for his Cobalt Blues appeared as a very small ad without a photo in the January, 1972 issue of “TFH” magazine on page 20. It read:

“Heckel Blue Discus (New Hybrid) Babies to Breeders

Charles V. Wall M.D.
1771 W. Romneya Dr.
Anaheim, Calif. 92801

Watch for the announcement of New Hybrids in 1972.”

By July and August of 1972, Dr. Wall’s ad was now a full page color layout in “TFH” magazine with a lovely photo of 2 of his adult Cobalt Blue hybrids. This is not the poor, oddly colored photo of the single fish that Bing Seto changed to when he took over the business. Wall’s ad now reads:

“Announcing…

a new Symphysodon hybrid Tank raised from the hatchery of Dr. Charles V. Wall
available at selected dealers

Wall’s Cobalt Blue Discus (Heckel)

Wall’s Discus Varieties
(Division of ADI Corp.)
1251 South Harbor Blvd.
La Habra, California 90631”

Now, sometime between August, 1972 and December, 1972, Bing Seto bought Dr. Wall’s Cobalt Blue Discus hybrid strain and started running his own ad. The only thing different between his ad (December, 1972) and Wall’s original ads was Bing used a new photo of the fish and initially listed a retail price for fry. The initial photo he used was a bit better than the later one, which is the one you picture on page 874 of your book and which Bing was using in his ad by May, 1973. Both photos have terrible exposure with this first one being exposed as almost blue – not the fish - the photos itself! Bing’s December, 1972 ad reads:

“Announcing…

A new Symphysodon hybrid, tank-raised from the hatchery of:

Mr. Bing Seto

AVAILABLE AT SELECTED DEALERS

Cobalt Blue Discus (Heckel)

Bing’s World of Discus
710 Central Ave.
Alameda, California 94501

Babies retailing at $10.00 each”

By the May, 1973 ad, Bing has dropped the price quote and changed the photo but keeps the rest of the original wording of Dr. Charles V. Wall’s earlier ad.

As far as Herman Chan, “FAMA” magazine ran an article on his legendary shop in July, 1995, pgs. 72-73. The article is entitled “Fairy Lake Discus of San Francisco.” The store opened in 1967.


Bleher:


But if you have a publication with the respective photograph that a "Cobalt Blue" Discus was already bred in the late 1950s, as you say, then I really must have missed out on it and would like to correct it in my volume 3.


Me:


I’m sorry; it seems my English confused you. I did not mean to imply that Dr. Wall had a Cobalt Blue discus in the 1950’s. He obviously did not. I meant to point out that he was a well-known breeder of discus dating back to the 1950’s (as noted in detail above) so his claim to developing a Cobalt Blue discus hybrid in the late 60’s-very early 70’s should be taken seriously and not dismissed or ignored. You should look at his photo of his Cobalt Blue discus hybrids as it is much better than Bing’s and you might just “see” the Heckel in them.


Bleher:


But before I see such publication (and you mentioned none), I do not believe that (as most of your arguments missing references). Simply because almost every breeder knows that the "Cobalt" is a off-spring (mutant/variant) of the Solid Turquoise and nothing else and has only become an established strain by Schmidt-Focke and no one else.


Me:


Schmidt-Focke may have established the only long term strain of a discus called a “Cobalt Blue” or, I believe, just “Cobalt Discus” in Germany and which, later, sometime in the 70’s started traveling around the world - but in America in the late 60’s and very early 70’s for a few years another strain of discus, reported by honorable people to be a hybrid, existed completely unrelated to the work going on in Germany. Two people just used the same commercial sounding name for two different strains of fish. One has to ask, if this is not the way it was, then why would Wall and Seto lie and call their fish a hybrid when it was just a line bred haroldi? Calling a line bred haroldi in 1972 a Cobalt Blue Discus would have been just as exciting as saying it was a Heckel hybrid. They had no reason to lie. The commercial name “Cobalt” was the selling point which is why the Germans chose the same name for their blue strain of discus. “Cobalt” as a name sounds great and probably moves product! It is reaching to imply that Schmidt-Focke or some German breeder deserves the credit for the Chan/Wall/Seto fish unless you can provide hard evidence – shipping or sales receipts from 1969-1971 for German Cobalt discus being delivered to America, particularly California and specifically to these three people.

Bleher:


I know well enough of the so called "Powder Blue" but I also know that it was NOT an established strain, at least not those I saw from Mac in California in the 1970s, or in any of the publications, they were all off-spring from Blue Discus (Symphysodon haraldi), from the Purus basin. They were of nice (the blue) colour, like the ones I collected in that region (see Bleher's Discus volume 1, page 211). And I know about the photo in T.F.H., which is also an off-spring of S. haraldi and nothing else.


Me:


So, for you, a “strain” of discus to be considered a “strain” has to be a cross between different locations and/or different species and it has to exist in the hobby for decades? That seems like a tall order to me. A line of tank raised haroldi bred and sold generation after generation for at least a number of years – as was the case with Mac Galbraith’s Powder Blue Discus – would certainly qualify as a “strain” in most people’s books. I do not see that this makes Mac’s achievement inferior in some way, except in your opinion.


Bleher:


Very similar (off-spring)discus can be found in Jack Wattley's "Handbook of Discus" on page 21, in which actually Jack claims that he was the first to breed them - the so called "famous Wattley's powder blue discus..." But I guess you overlooked all of this, or did not want to mention it.

Me:


I’ve never heard of a “Wattley Powder Blue” discus. Did Jack ever release the line commercially? The photo you mention looks nothing like the famous photo of Mac’s fish and nothing like the living fish from Mac’s stock that I saw in 1973.


Bleher:


I mentioned many of the (crazy) discus (fantasy)names in my book from breeders around the world, and certainly not a fraction of those names represent a strain, often behind such name is only a single discus fish.


Me:


No doubt, but this is not the case with the Chan/Wall/Seto or Galbraith strains of the very early 70’s through mid-1970’s in America.


Bleher:


Therefore I saw no reason whatsoever to write extensively also about these, they were not an established strain, just (selected?) Blue Discus, same as Bing's, Walls's, etc. And you cannot tell or proof to me that anyone of these made real (discus)history. Or can you show me anyone of these today?

Me:


History in your mind must exist today to be history? That seems like an odd requirement. For, say, the American Civil War to be history or worthy of historical consideration it should still be happening today? The 1917 Russian Revolution is only of historical importance if it is occurring on the streets of Moscow today? That is not history; that is current events!


Bleher:


I would have expecting a little more and better research from you sir.

Me:


I wasn’t offering research in my first post, just an overall view of the problems, omissions and unknown facts of pioneering American discus history as it was told in your otherwise magnificent book. I suggested a sense of the legacy’s real place in overall discus history; something your book did not do and I now realize from your statements, you did not know. With this second series of posts I have offered the research and scholarship behind my previous general statements. Maybe now you would have preferred I did not offer the mountain of cold hard facts which informed my original statements.


Bleher:


I did write everything (in detail) of the early breeders from before WWII - without missing anything.

Me:


You missed Mrs. Hofmann as the probable first woman discus breeder. As you yourself said, no one can be expected to cover everything. Such an achievement is impossible.


Bleher:


I wrote every important event which happened in the US (and elsewhere) after WWII on over 20 pages with more then 100 (also historical)photos, the most important ones, so I cannot see the US story short (and for Canada I wrote only 8 pages.).


Me:


I am sure you see now that you did not write about EVERY important person and event in American discus history after WW II - as you yourself admitted when you said you did not even know of some of them, i.e. Matson, Friswold, Wolfsheimer’s true scope, etc. Matson is literally one of the single most important figures in all discus history, with Friswold right behind him and they do not appear anywhere in your book. In answering one of the posts in this discussion you wrote:


“Schmidt-Focke really deserved to be in it and therefore I also dedicated it to him (and my daughter), as we owe almost all what we have and know about breeding to day to him. Whatever the history tells you - the breakthrough to today's discus-breeding popularity come from Bad Homburg, Taunus, Germany.”


You truly believe that Schmidt-Focke taught the world almost all it knows about breeding discus today? As I quoted above, when Wolfsheimer had already realized that discus fry fed off the body slime of their parents (January, 1957), Schmidt-Focke - in his first article on breeding discus appearing right before (Dec. 1956) Gene’s first articles - imagines that the fry might be picking off tiny animals growing on the parents’ skin! This does not sound like a man who taught the world almost everything it knows on discus breeding. Wolfsheimer did that initially in his deeply thoughtful series of articles and stunning photos (a picture paints a 1000 words!) and his good friend Bill Hildemann did that with his studies of the parents’ body slime. Schmidt-Focke has no more claim on the pioneering developments of discus breeding than Wolfsheimer, Matson, Friswold, Hildemann, Saphian etc. In fact, when you compare the information the Americans made available in the 1950’s and 60’s, the Americans stand toe-to-toe with the good Doctor. Americans invented the egg-yoke method and perfected it. That's discus history and cutting edge breeding leadership. If the 50’s alone are considered, the Americans outstrip the good Doctor’s contribution by a long shot. Yes, Schmidt-Focke’s breeding in the 70’s and 80’s is very important and I also assume you mean his crossing experiments taught people a good deal about discus genetics when breeding, but you are letting that time period define the earlier time period and in doing so, other, far more deserving men and women are being unintentionally short changed – historically.

Bleher:


If you kindly send me to my address copies of those references you mentioned and I asked for above, I will be happy to include these in my last edition of this monography.


Me:

It would be costly and time consuming to provide you with all these materials. It has taken me decades to collect all this information and to study it so I can connect the dots.

Bleher:


And at the end I am sorry if I have to proof you wrong in most of your arguments, and actually I cannot see why you did this write-up (which you published almost everywhere).


Me:


Sadly, it is I who need to apologize to you for providing you with the cold hard facts that disprove your assumptions and point to the gaps in your information. As you can now see, much of what you said in defense of your opinions does not stand up under the cold hard facts.


Bleher:


Was it only to try to make yourself "famous" or known, or was it just to contradict my life-time work because you did not do anything similar (besides writing a couple of pages against my 1340 so far published with the references).


Me:

It was to do exactly what I said I was doing – praising you and the book overall but pointing out its weaknesses and errors when it came to the historical presentation – particularly the cold hard facts of the American contribution and the interpretative point of view overall. Brilliance, thoroughness and courage in the field do not necessarily transfer into perfect historical knowledge. I will leave the fame to those who seek it. I prefer the Yoda approach to life. I see you feel very defensive but I have no axe to grind with you. I admire you and all you have done but work in volume and vastness does not equal flawless.


Bleher:


You could have waited on an answer to your PM without having all of this none-sense published which certainly only reflects on you.


Me:


I contacted you and also made my corrections available to those whom I thought would be interested. It wasn’t a private or personal affair as it is a commercially published book and we are primarily talking about objective facts not opinion (except on the Schmidt-Focke question). And, yes, I do whole-heartedly hope that what you call “nonsense” reflects on me as I imagine it reflects very well – as you, no doubt, now see.

Bleher:


So far we sold nearly 10,000 copies and no one in America or elsewhere complained. You are the only one world-wide and I wish you really have had an argument.


Me:


Wonderful! Congrats! I hope you sell 10,000 more! it is a brilliant book! Also kudos for me for being the only one who understood what was missing and where there were errors. It’s nice to be 1 in 10,000.

I imagine you now see I do have a point - if not an “argument”. I imagine you have learned a few things you did not know. That was my “agenda”.


Part 6 to come -- additional goodies.

stanman
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 2:49 pm

Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Fri Jul 01, 2011 9:00 pm

Part 6:

Bleher wrote:

“Jack Wattley said and wrote in his book "Handbook of Discus" 1985 (" Jack developed the formula food composed of egg yolk...").”

Me:

It seems strange to me that Bleher would quote this passage from Wattley’s 1985 TFH book to support his mistaken information on who developed the most successful process of artificially raising discus fry away from the parents and its basis in a commercial egg-yoke food. Bleher seems to have little respect for Axelrod as HRA is barely if ever mentioned in his book(s) and if memory serves when he is mentioned it is not in a positive light. The passage Bleher is quoting here is not from Wattley’s pen as Bleher thinks but from Herbert R. Axelrod’s own critical afterward to Wattley’s book (something HRA seemed to do with the early Wattley material he published – see his book “All About Discus”). The clue to this should have been in the quote itself. It would have been odd for Wattley, in his own book, to refer to himself in the third person as “Jack developed….” Well, he didn’t. Bleher is unknowingly quoting HRA!

HRA writes:

“Wattley developed a scheme which insures a much higher survival rate than that allowing the parents to feed their fry.” (HRA in Wattley p.102)

Now, the uninformed reader can easily misread this statement to mean that Wattley was the first to develop a way to feed discus artificially but that is not the case. HRA knew that wasn’t the case as in his 1970 discus book “All About Discus”, besides writing another critical commentary on Wattley’s article in that book, HRA pretty much paraphrased and published, as mentioned earlier, Carroll Friswold’s book “Anyone Can Raise Discus”, giving away Friswold’s enamel pan and egg-yoke method that Wattley would borrow, further refine and use for his discus. I am a little surprised that Bleher was not familiar with this HRA article on Friswold or that he simply forgot about it when doing his book(s). I am surprised that HRA did not mention it or Friswold’s pioneering efforts in his critical afterward in Wattley’s book. Had HRA’s sentence read something like this: Wattley developed - from Friswold’s pioneering efforts - a scheme which insures….” Then the historical facts would have been crystal clear for all.

Bleher’s loose rendering in his post of a quote from page 107 of HRA’s critical afterwards in Wattley’s 1985 book: “Jack has developed a formula fish food which is composed mostly of egg yolk” would have been correct had HRA slightly changed his writing to read “Jack has further refined Friswold’s development of a formula fish food composed most of egg yoke.”

With just a slight alteration the historical record could have been served in Wattley’s book and everyone would have known the facts. I cannot explain why this did not happen since both Axelrod and Wattley knew the facts at the time of the book’s publication. They would have to explain these ommisions.

That said, I can not find a passage anywhere in Jack Wattley’s book where either he or Axelrod claim he was the FIRST to development the egg-yoke enamel pan method of raising discus fry away from the parents. It seems to be implied but that might just be the reader projecting his or her own associations onto the text.

Also, on another issue, on page 77 of Wattley’s 1985 book there is a lovely full page color photograph of what is undoubtedly the LoBue’s mid-1970’s albino discus taken by their fellow Bay Area California aquarist of killifish and conservation fame – Al Castro. This means that the original tank raised albino discus information was hinted at in part in Wattley’s 1985 book.


Now that I have covered all Bleher’s issues point by painstaking point let me move into some more detailed information, particularly concerning the great aquarist Gene Wolfsheimer, one of the forgotten giants of our hobby in general and the discus hobby in particular.


Wolfsheimer:

In the August 15- Sept. 15, 1960 issue of “The Aquarium” magazine, the German discus breeder Wilhelm Voigt presented an article entitled “Discus Hobbyists in Germany” (p. 224-229). Voigt seems mistaken concerning pre-WW II German discus breeding. He writes:

“The Discus has been bred in Germany before the last war (WW II). For instance, in the breeding station of Hartel [there is no umlaut over the “a” in the original printing and Voigt does not specify if it is the father Hermann or the son Herbert] in Dresden and in a club in Thuringen [either early German breeders Mrs. Hofmann or Mr. Baierlein, I’m not sure which]; but these results were incidental and the fry did not survive. At the time not enough was known about the newly discovered fish.”

Yet Hermann (or Herbert) Härtel knew exactly what was happening in the late 30’s as Wolfgang Voigt quoted in his 2000 letter to me:

“The larvae hang from time to time on the dorsal side of a parent fish” [and later] “now it became clear to me that the larvae are dependent on the parents completely. It is probable that the adults secret food from the skin sucked by the young.”

One wonders why the German Wilhelm Voigt, by 1960, can write about the Härtels without understanding the content of their extraordinarily important report!

Wilhelm (not Wolfgang) Voigt goes on to say that

“It has become known [ here meaning post WW II which is not true as it was known in Germany before WW II (1930’s) but was somehow ignored or later forgotten - even in Germany!] that the newborn fry feed from the skin of the parent fishes – namely feeding on a secretion exuded by the latter. The research with respect to the composition and source of this skin secretion has not as yet been concluded.”

Voigt claiming in 1960 that the research on the skin secretion was not completed motivated Gene Wolfsheimer to write a quick rebuttal of this German’s discus knowledge in the Dec. 15 – Jan. 15, 1961 issue of “The Aquarium” magazine entitled “Some Discus Observations…Fact and Fiction” (pg. 406-412). It should be noted that Gene’s famous article on discus in the May, 1960 of “National Geographic” had already appeared three months before Voigt’s article was published and Gene had covered Hildemann’s completed research on the skin secretion of discus parents in his “NG” article. Voigt is decidedly behind the curve, especially when one considers that William H. Hildemann had already published the completed results of his research in the journal “The American Naturalist”, Jan.-Feb., 1959, pages 27-34 – a year and half BEFORE Voigt’s article appeared incorrectly stating that the research was unfinished. I can only surmise that Voigt was sadly uninformed or that he was talking about German research that was unfinished even after Hildemann’s had long since been completed, published and made popularly available.

Hildemann’s 1959 article is fascinating reading. He adds additional information to Lois Saphian’s seminal importance in the history of discus breeding. If you recall, Saphian’s 1955 article stopped with a report on her 7th spawning from her extraordinary pair of discus. Hildemann, quoting from a letter Saphian sent her good friend Gene Wolfsheimer, writes: “Of the last three spawnings, numbers 18 and 19 are thriving beautifully with very few losses. Number 20 will hatch tomorrow. I know now that the problem isn’t food. They are eating newly hatched brine shrimp with no trouble at all…all I reared were removed as soon as possible after spawning was completed. Every time I left the eggs in, they were eaten as they were hatching.” (p. 27)

If Saphian had 167 fry after her 6th spawning, we can only imagine how many she had after her 20th spawning with the pair still going strong! Bleher’s comment about Saphian raising only a limited number of fry was difficult to accept when we knew she had 167 fry and is impossible to accept with this additional information on Saphian - by way of Wolfsheimer and Hildemann.

Hildemann then mentions that “Gene Wolfsheimer, Carroll Friswold, and Roy Skipper” unlike Saphian could not get their artificially hatched fry to accept any kind of substitute food for the parental body slime. This is an important note as it shows that by 1959, a year before Matson’s 1960 article on egg-yoke appeared in “Tropicals”, Friswold still did not have his own egg-yoke method. Once again, this points to Friswold’s inspiration coming from reading Matson’s 1960 article and places Matson as the sole source for the initial development of using commercial egg-yoke for the artificial rearing of discus fry away from their parents. This is nice, as unlike Friswold and Wattley, Matson never kept his process a secret for commercial reasons. He offered it freely and publicly to all who wished to try it – even instructing Schmidt-Focke in it when the good Doctor stood amazed before Matson’s groundbreaking work in Chicago in 1960!

Hildemann goes on to write that “[Roy] Skipper – [the British discus breeder of the mid-1950’s whom Bleher features at length in his book (p. 686-687)] thought that the young fed on a particular microorganism that lived commensally on the skin of their parents.” In their December, 1956 “Water Life” article on raising discus (p. 267-268), Roy and Gwen Skipper chronicle their belief that the baby discus are possibly feeding off small micro-organisms of various species, as well as algae species, found growing on the skin of the parents. They had the stomachs of their fry checked by a scientist. They attempt to grow colonies of micro-organisms for feeding the artificially hatched discus fry on the skin of Plecostomus catfish and on the shells of snails! The discus fry ignore such efforts. The Skippers find that the fry only want the skin of the parents but still the Skippers persist in thinking the parental fish have micro-organisms of some known or maybe unknown kind growing on them. This is very imaginative on their part but highly far-fetched. One has to wonder why Bleher would devote more attention in his book to the Skippers than he does to a giant like Gene Wolfsheimer, a man who instantly guessed what his baby discus were feeding on (body secretion) and what might be producing it (hormones) while the Skippers were still culturing micro-organisms on snails!

Of course, as mentioned above, the man who Bleher says: “… we owe almost all what we have and know about breeding to day to him. Whatever the history tells you - the breakthrough to today's discus-breeding popularity come from Bad Homburg, Taunus, Germany” – i.e. Dr. Schmidt-Focke. Well, as quoted above, in Schmidt-Focke’s December, 1956 article on breeding brown discus published in translation in “Aquatic Life” the good Doctor also theorized that discus fry might be feeding off micro-organisms on the parents’ skin and that the parents’ body secretion was food for these micro-organisms and not the discus fry themselves:

“My close observation of the skin of the parent fish seemed to be slightly clouded and it is possible that the skin of the parents contains a food secretion which serves as the first food of the young fish. The possibility exists that this skin secretion is a feeding ground for bacteria and infusoria which in relation feeds the young fish.”

Maybe the Skippers and Schmidt-Focke communicated before their respective December, 1956 articles were published in different magazines as the Skippers report they contacted many of the German experts of the day for advice with their discus food problem or maybe the German printing of Schmidt-Focke’s original discus article occurred before December, 1956 (highly likely, but I do not know) and the Skippers read it giving them the idea of micro-organisms on the parents’ bodies feeding the fry but whatever happened both authorities were wrong. Yet, both get considerable more coverage in Bleher’s book than Wolfsheimer who also in 1956 instantly understood just what was happening with his discus fry and the parental body slime. One would think such brilliant and instant insight would give Wolfsheimer a significant claim on history, certainly over the Skippers and Schmidt-Focke who were still entertaining science fiction type answers to the fry feeding off the parents. I don’t think the good Doctor taught the world all it knows on discus breeding, certainly not in the crucial historical years of 1956-1959! That distinction belongs to the great and sadly forgotten Gene Wolfsheimer and his good friend Dr. William Hildemann. It would seem they might have even taught Schmidt-Focke, just as Matson would teach him a trick or two later. The great man theory of history, as is almost always the case, does not hold water – even when it comes to something as marginal as the hisotry of discus. It takes a village to raise a discus.

Hildemann goes on to write in his article that he “suggested to Skipper that a special secretion by the parental skin might be the source of nourishment and proposed to examine the skin of anesthetized breeders and adults non-breeders under the microscope…In December, 1956 [Note, the same month that the Skippers went ahead with the publication of their micro-organism theory article.], several large specimens of discus were anesthetized…” This study would reveal the nature of what was feeding the fry on the bodies of the parents -- “copious mucous secretion with a granular composition covered the entire body including the fins.” (p 31) Hildemann points out: “Under the microscope no algae, protozoans, rotifers or crustaceans were observed on the parents…” (p 31) The Skippers apparently corrected their mistaken notions in a later article “Those British-bred Pompadours – the story completed” published in “Water Life” in December, 1957 but I do not have access to that article. As a side note, Roy Skipper will contribute a nice chapter on discus to the British tropical fish book “The Complete Aquarist’s Guide to Freshwater Tropical Fishes” published in 1970. His chapter includes a lovely color photo by Skipper of one of his parent discus feeding its fry.

Ok, back to Wilhelm Voigt’s article.

As late as 1960, three years after the Skippers apparently corrected their micro-organism theory; one year after Hildemann published his initial findings and three months after Wolfsheimer’s “National Geographic” article brought Hildemann’s latest research to the public’s attention, Voigt was still talking micro-organisms on the parents skin! He writes: “Many experts in the field assume that it is not an actual skin secretion that is considered here, but a collection of tiny bacteria or infusoria close to the skin of the parents serving as food for the newborn fry during those first days. These microorganisms should then live on the skin of the adult fish.” It should be noted that Voigt’s use of the phrase “bacteria and infusoria” mirrors Schmidt-Focke’s theory and choice of words (see S-F quote above) and so it is fair to suggest that Voigt is quoting Schmidt-Focke as one of his “experts” here.

Voigt goes on to talk about the formation in August, 1959 in East Berlin of the “Deutsch Discus Arbeitsgemeinschaft (The German Discus Work Group)” (p. 225). It is this group that sent more than one letter asking for advice and sharing information, if memory serves, into Harry Matson’s first in the word discus column in “Tropicals” magazine in the early 1960’s. (I do not think Bleher mentions this historical group in his book but I could have easily overlooked it.) Voigt was the president of this association at the time the article was written.

Voigt talks a good deal about water chemistry, especially conductivity, and he references water chemistry discussions concerning discus - I assume as he is not quite clear - from “Water Life” magazine from the period 1957-1959 (p. 226) which would imply he saw Skipper’s last “Water Life” discus article which I presume reported Hildemann’s body slime findings; yet Voigt still talks of bodily micro-organisms in his article. That gives one serious pause.

As mentioned above, Gene Wolfsheimer’s rebuttal to Voigt’s well-intentioned article, published in the Dec. 15 – Jan. 15, 1961 issue of “The Aquarium” magazine and entitled “Some Discus Observations…Fact and Fiction” (pg. 406-412) is one of the most exciting and informative articles Gene ever wrote. He mentions Voigt’s “typical German thoroughness for details” while questioning the, at times, tone of the article which makes it seem like it is the “final word” on discus. Wolfsheimer goes on to say “the fact remains that certain subjects brought up were left unanswered, some very important items were omitted entirely and other details about the habits of their particular individual discus do not at all compare with the same habits of other specimens do show the limitations of the Group’s work with discus” (p. 406). I could not help by think when re-reading Gene comments on Voigt’s article that the same wording could sum up my questions regarding Bleher’s work on the history of the discus in the hobby. History repeats itself.

Part 7 to come…

Heiko Bleher
CichlidRoom Expert
Posts: 43
Joined: Mon May 21, 2007 6:09 pm
Location: Italy
Contact:

Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by Heiko Bleher » Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:01 pm

Hi Mr. Ellermann,

I am sorry I cannot take the time you have, and what it seems to me, is that you do not read what I wrote: "I can publish an possible Errata in my final volume 3 of Bleher's Discus. You must understand that I must have it for the reference and also to proof what you are saying is correct and not what Jack Wattley said and wrote in his book "Handbook of Discus" 1985 (" Jack developed the formula food composed of egg yolk..."). I think that is English correct.

Aou instead try now to "quote" what was/is written, I am sorry these are NO PROVEN FACTS to me (and to anyone - facts are the references given which anyone can check/verify, as I have done in my book under REFERENCES - everyone one can check what I wrote - the facts).

If you send me copies of the articles, letters etc. and what you think I have done wrong (which I can still not see from your extensive text, all I can see is that everything I wrote ist 100% correct and can be verified - proofen facts! If I have missed some additional "facts", I can only repeat: I will be happy to referre to in my final volume:
BUT I WILL ONLY DO THIS OR READ ANYTHING MORE YOU CLAIM SIMPLY BECAUSE THESE ARE NOT PTROFFEN FACTS. IF I GET THOSE PAPERS/COPIES FROM YOU, send to:

Aquapress Publishers
attn. Heiko Bleher
Via G. falcone, 11
I-27010 Miradolo terme (Pavia)
Italy

I will do (add) additional information of USA-breeders in my next book.

If you do this, yoiu will save all of us alot of time (because I could again write to you all the Facts, as the one Jack wrote to me - and I just see that you want to put Jack into a very bad picture: by saying he lied to me and only to you he wrote the truth???? Do you really think this is correct what you are doing here? I will see Jack soon and ask him. But send me the letter you claim which then I can show Jack.)

I will be happy to pay for the postage, and also if needed to make the photocopies. And ONLY AFTER I RECEIVE THOSE I WILL ANSWER AGAIN.

Until then you can write what you want, as none of it is a profen fact - but maybe to you.

I am sorry to say, but you are not a correct man to me. The only correct thing would have been to do what I asked for and for what I am even willing to pay. But I cannot see anything else, then all you want, is to make yourself important and known, otherwise you would have done it correctly, as asked, and as anyone serious man would have done, if he wants to help this hobby and to help to give additional information which possible was missed and is important for today's and for future generations.

You have my address, you have my e-mail,

have a nice sunday,

Heiko Bleher
www,.aquapress-bleher.com
www.aqua-aquapress.com

PS: You may have worked with Killis, and many other things, but I worked with Discus since 1953, and other freshwater fishes, and exclusively only with fishes and plants all my live, every single day, not with all kind of other stuff like you, and I visted thousands of breedersuntil until today, sold 30,000 discus monthly to 86 countries for 33 year (how many you?), reserached millions of papers (and none of your availabel, not in any bookshop or in the www, or anywhere else, that is why I asked you to send me copies and not write here again to justify yourself). Sorry I loose all respect for you unless you behave correctly with me. That is all I am asking, no more.
Heiko Bleher

stanman
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 2:49 pm

Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Sat Jul 02, 2011 6:33 pm

Bleher wrote:

I am sorry I cannot take the time you have, and what it seems to me, is that you do not read what I wrote: "I can publish an possible Errata in my final volume 3 of Bleher's Discus. You must understand that I must have it for the reference and also to proof what you are saying is correct and not what Jack Wattley said and wrote in his book "Handbook of Discus" 1985 (" Jack developed the formula food composed of egg yolk..."). I think that is English correct.


Heiko,

I will send you copies of all my materials, including Wattley's letter to me where I asked him about Friswold's influence on him and he replied as I posted. I don't know how much of my point by point answer to your post you had time to read but look at the sentence you believe Jack Wattley wrote: ("Jack developed the formula food composed of egg yolk..."). Heiko, why would Wattley in his own book refer to himself in the third person as "Jack"? Wouldn't he have written "I" since he is the author of the book? If you will look at your copy again you will see you are quoting from Axelrod's comments on Jack's book at the end of the book and not Jack himself. The English is just fine. I have no problems with the translation or your use of English. It is all quite good and clear to me.

Bleher:

"Aou instead try now to "quote" what was/is written, I am sorry these are NO PROVEN FACTS to me (and to anyone - facts are the references given which anyone can check/verify, as I have done in my book under REFERENCES - everyone one can check what I wrote - the facts)."

Me:

I do not mean to imply by facts that they could not be wrong. I mean to say that you asked me for my references and I gave all the factual references – facts – to support what I said. If the original authors are mistaken or incomplete in their knowledge I do not know but I have not as yet found them to be so. I was trying to give you the facts (and context) you wanted.


Bleher:


If you send me copies of the articles, letters etc. and what you think I have done wrong (which I can still not see from your extensive text, all I can see is that everything I wrote ist 100% correct and can be verified - proofen facts! If I have missed some additional "facts", I can only repeat: I will be happy to referre to in my final volume:
BUT I WILL ONLY DO THIS OR READ ANYTHING MORE YOU CLAIM SIMPLY BECAUSE THESE ARE NOT PTROFFEN FACTS. IF I GET THOSE PAPERS/COPIES FROM YOU, send to:




Aquapress Publishers
attn. Heiko Bleher
Via G. falcone, 11
I-27010 Miradolo terme (Pavia)
Italy

I will do (add) additional information of USA-breeders in my next book.


Me:


Ok.


Bleher:



If you do this, yoiu will save all of us alot of time (because I could again write to you all the Facts, as the one Jack wrote to me - and I just see that you want to put Jack into a very bad picture: by saying he lied to me and only to you he wrote the truth???? Do you really think this is correct what you are doing here? I will see Jack soon and ask him. But send me the letter you claim which then I can show Jack.)


Me:


At no time did I say Jack lied to you nor did I imply it. I went out of my way to say that maybe Jack misunderstood your question or unintentionally answered a different question than the one you were asking as people do that all the time in life and they are most certainly not lying. I said I have no idea why Jack told you one thing and wrote to me another and that only he could explain the difference as I feel sure he will. I would never wish to put Wattley or you in a bad light as people as I do not think or feel that way at all. I was correcting points of history, a history, however small, that I too am quite passionate about..

Bleher:

I will be happy to pay for the postage, and also if needed to make the photocopies. And ONLY AFTER I RECEIVE THOSE I WILL ANSWER AGAIN.


Me:

No need to pay for anything. Since you do not accept what I have published here and on Simply Discus I will be glad to make it available to you. It will take me a while to copy it all and mail it but I will try to do it this week if at all possible. There is no need for you to answer me again as my intent was not to cause problems but to get a body of information out to the public which I felt was being overlooked and which I felt was important. The material is not mine and once you receive it you can decide for yourself if it is of any additional value. For me, it is of great value and I guess that is really all that matters in the long run.

Bleher:


I am sorry to say, but you are not a correct man to me. The only correct thing would have been to do what I asked for and for what I am even willing to pay. But I cannot see anything else, then all you want, is to make yourself important and known, otherwise you would have done it correctly, as asked, and as anyone serious man would have done, if he wants to help this hobby and to help to give additional information which possible was missed and is important for today's and for future generations.

Me:

I do not see anything incorrect in making material, published factual material available once again to all those interested today. The tone of your first post – calling what I wrote “nonsense” made me pull back from helping you but now I am perfectly willing to do so. Please, if you find that the materials I send are important and decide to include them in your book, do not mention me or my help in any way. I am not out for recognition. I would rather the space be given to additional factual information on the pioneer discus men and woman in the American hobby. I have no desire for fame as anyone who knows me will tell you but I do have a passion for solid, deep, research and information on topics I love. That is why, excepting the American history section, I had such high praise for both volumes of your book. It is a masterwork, no doubt about it, and I wish it great success. The history of the early years of discus breeding in the USA just happened to be one of those topics I love as you can see from all the materials I quoted and possess.

Best,

Robert

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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by Heiko Bleher » Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:32 am

Hi guys,

just back from Naples, helping to get the greatest Italian International Discus Championship and Aquatic Festival: NapoliAquatica 2011 off the ground and I see these posts and can hardly believe it. And I did not read all of Mr. Ellermann's texts, if I had that time I would do something more productive. Why does he not write a book about the American history - without copying my part - which is the real history from the very begin in the US including the "founding fathers and mothers of the American discus hobby", these are mentioned in my book (from before WWII with all the correct references - which Ellermann did not even mention once...). If he feels there are others, so important, then write about it WITH THE REFERENCES. In addition:
And I have clearly written: "If you kindly send me to my address copies of those references you mentioned and I asked for above, I will be happy to include these in my last edition of this monography."
But he does not do it, so it is impossible (for me, and I think for everyone else) that his words are "facts". Instead of sending, or publishing it, he cites text no one can verify (at least not me). And just one point to it:
I can and will not accept that Jack Wattley lied to me (and in his book I cited). I know Jack since he started, how long does Mr Ellermann know Jack? Jack is highly respected and worked with Discus over 50 years, like me, how long does Mr. Ellermann work with Discus - if at all - except that he suddenly comes out of the blue and make himself the important Symphysodon-historian ... (Why did he never ever publish anything before? I have never seen him on this or any of the other forums – ever!)
I work with Historians and scientist almost all my live and every single one I know, acts as a Historian. And I know many from being the Managing editor of aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology for the last 20 years (see www.aqua-aquapress.com), and as Mark wrote at Simplydiscus very correctly "Hey, my friend, I have some material you may be interested in ..." – this is what a real Historian or Scientist would have done. (Thank you Mark, you spoke from my heart - you are true Historian, but not Mr. Ellermann, although he claims to be – maybe in Killi-Fishes.) This Historian would have send to the one who "missed out some part" the References by post, fax, or today via e-mail and the respective PDF's.
But instead he writes pages and pages hardly anyone can or will read (except for some I know), as never seen before – since I come to this forum – just to make himself important, that is all can see (and some others).
I can only repeat, and this is the last time I write in regards to this "nonsense" thread (yes Mr. Ellermann, now I write this word, but did not write it before, as you mention wrongly - which proves also: you do not care to read what I write). It is "nonsense" simply because you first should prove what you write and until you do not do this, with those written "facts" I do not believe what you cite or write. And I think hardly anyone else should or will. Until then for me it is "written nonsense" without proof of facts.
And I repeat: I am willing to pay, for postage and copies to be made, it takes you less time then writing here 10pages or more, and you (and maybe others) will be happy when I mention your name and those references in my next book. Which I already said I will do, if I can read what Jack wrote to you and have all the "facts" you claim in my hand and can refer to. And each one of the References you send me then will also be mentioned in my References.
I never claimed to be perfect, because I think no one is, and for sure I also make errors (as every one does, but maybe less then many others). But I have always tried to be very correct in my live, do very much research thoroughly (day and night, and possibly more then most others, also in science and history), before I pass it on to others. To hopefully teach and educate, and I publish ONLY facts - facts which I have been able to verify with my own eyes, if in nature, or from published material. My eyes do not lie to me (my Grandfather already did teach me that, when I was 5 years old). And of this I am proud, because i know I have given the best and the most of it to people.
Before I go, I wanted to thank some of you guys at Simplydiscus (as the blocked the thread) and make a note on a couple of others, and tell Mr. Ellermann (and please do not call me by my first name, I do not know you), that if you do not send me these copies I asked for several times now, do not contact or write (to me) anymore. I will not come back to this thread until you do so, to proof the "facts" you claim I have missed.
I must thank here specially Rodrigo, how stated correctly: "... unnecessary posts";
Northwestcoastdiscu: thank you;
Thank you Rod: very well said "... that it is all it is about..." (otherwise he would have act as a Historian... or a correct acting person in such a matter);
And Gohans-Onna: Ellermann is NOT writing his own Discus book, you misunderstood, I wish he would. And he did NOT WRITE A REVIEW OF MY BOOK AT ALL, he just wrote about some US-breeders he thinks I left out (missed, or only some of their work). For information: I had to concentrate on the most important happenings in discus-breeding-history world-wide (what happened and how it all started in 50 different countries, the history of over 700 breeders), and that is what I did, also with American breeders. Every important fact happened in the US- and Canada-history of Discus breeding before and after WWII is in it (as with all other countries). Maybe not every single "fact", but that is impossible. Such must be in a separate book. And if there is corrections to be made I offered to do so, but I do not get it from him (so far) ...
I never, in any place or at time claimed that I have written the ENTIRE history of US-Discus breeders, this was NEVER the scope of my book. About the world-wide discus breeding-history, YES, and from the very first day on until begin of 2011, and more extensively then anyone will every write again write about it – that I am sure off.
Jerry Bear: I missed you at NapoliAquatica last year, hopefully you come this year it will probably be the biggest Discus (and Aquatic)show and Championship the world has ever seen (and not because I am judging, lecturing and doing biotopes as well). But I must tell you also: I expected more from you, certainly first to read and then to Judge (not the other way around). I think I always respected and helped you...
And the same applies to those two Dutch guys on this thread, which I always respected and talked highly about them (even in my volume 2 here discussed): Maybe you both should get married, it is now allowed ....
And last but not least: Mark, I really want to thank you for all your correct and positive comments, you spoke from my heart, and to me you are the only Historian who commented here on this thread. Thank you. Keep up the good work, I will always.
All the very best to all of you, and I am back when I have hose requested documents, published articles and copy of Jack's letter in hand.
Always,
Heiko Bleher
www.aquapress-bleher.com
www.aqua-aquapress.com
Heiko Bleher

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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by cichla » Sun Jul 03, 2011 7:47 am

Thank you Robert for all the informative stuff. I enjoy reading it. We should acknowledge that you keep your contribution fair and objective. I wished everyone would be able to do so.

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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by Gordon C. Snelling » Sun Jul 03, 2011 10:09 am

Robert, I wanted to thank you for all the time and effort you have put in to filling in some of the gaps. I spent a good bit of time at Friswolds place back in the day ( I lived a couple of blocks away). I have not yet bought Heikos book but do plan to and your information will be very valuable. I am sorry things went as they did over at Simply. Thanks again.

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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Sun Jul 03, 2011 11:07 am

Hello Gordon,

What wonderful news. I would love to hear your memories of Friswold's place, how it was set up and what you remember of his discus. I understand there were concrete vats in the back were he raised live food. I'm also very curious about his guppies. At the time you knew him did he mention his methods for artificially raising discus fry? Judging from what you saw in the hatchery did they appear successful? Did you notice if he was working with discus crosses? I'm sure you will enjoy Bleher's book.

Robert
Last edited by stanman on Sun Jul 03, 2011 11:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Bleher's discus #2: missing USA history

Post by stanman » Sun Jul 03, 2011 11:36 am

Hello cichla


"Thank you Robert for all the informative stuff. I enjoy reading it. We should acknowledge that you keep your contribution fair and objective."

Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you found the material informative as that is my hope.

In the interest of fairness I was double checking what I wrote about Voigt in the last section of the material I posted above and I think I should make a point of saying that when Voigt wrote: "The research with respect to the composition and source of the skin secretion has not as yet been concluded" he was not mistaken as I originally thought. I do not know if Hildemann planned on carrying his initial research on the skin into those to areas but I now see how one could read Wolfsheimer's "National Geographic" article in a way that seems to imply Hildemann was, although Wolf. does not directly say so. Therefore, at the time of Voigt's article, Voigt is quite correct in saying, no matter who was doing or wasn't doing it, that such research was incomplete. Hildemann's completed and published initial work showed how the extra body slime was formed and that it was not a substance for protozoans to feed on so that the discus fry can then feed on them. He did not analyze the content of the body slime or what biological agent triggered its increased production during breeding. He did believe though, as Wolf. reports, that the content will turn out to be "a complex mixture of protein, fat, and carbohydrate" and either Hildemann and Wolf. or just Wolfsheimer by himself -- it's not clear in the writing - believed that "its manufacture is controlled by hormones."

As an aside, I understand some people today believe that discus fry can feed on anything -- detritus, legs of baby brine shrimp, flakes, almost anything as a first food - and have seem this behavior with their own eyes. They report seeing the fry in the wild feeding off objects besides the parents. I find such reports fascinating in light of the difficulties early breeders had in raising the fry away from the parents as well the contradictory early reports of those who could raise the fry away from the parents (Saphian, Friswold's single earliest success, Armbruster, etc) The whole subject is biologically fascinating on so many levels which is why I love the 50's history of discus when a few pioneers were wrestling with these questions.

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