A small group of dedicated Polish aquarists, led by the married couple Marta Mierzenska and Robert Mierzenski, has for the past six years arranged an annual meeting in Krakow with lectures focusing on the very diverse aquatic fauna of Lake Tanganyika. Cichlids is the main subject of course, but other interesting topics are welcomed as well, like Synodontis (squeaker catfishes), Mastacembelidae (spiny eels), and the shrimps and gastropods inhabiting the Lake. For various reasons I had not been able to attend previous years, so it was with great expectations that I signed up for this years meeting during the weekend of Apr 21-22.
I arrived a couple of days before the start of the meeting to get a chance to see the beautiful city of Krakow, once the capitol and center of the Kingdom of Poland from 1038 to 1569, and filled with old and impressive buildings. In the evening before the meeting officially started, I also visited Tropheus Tanganika, a small company run by Marta and Robert, specialized in importing high quality wild-caught fish from Lake Tanganyika. This I had really been looking forward to, and my expectations were more than fulfilled, as the selection of fish was great and varied from the tiniest shell-dweller to the fiercest Bathybates, all in excellent condition. Marta and Robert’s imports has had an enormous impact on the keeping of Tanganyika cichlids in Poland, really setting new standards for this group of fishes in their country, and in fact outdoing most stores in western Europe in selection and quality. The only drawback was that I was not able to bring any fish with me at home, because of the strict rules of carrying just very small amounts of liquids on flights nowadays.
Marta and Robert are also publishers of Tanganika Magazyn, a bi-annual publication primarily covering all aspects of the aquatic fauna of Lake Tanganyika, and the newest issue was presented at the meeting. The magazine is in a league of its own, with normally close to one hundred beautifully layed-out pages, containing many interesting articles written in Polish and English.
On the day of the meeting registration started 8.30 A.M., and then lectures from 10.00 onwards, with small breaks and a quiz on Lake Tanganyika in between. Patrick Tawil from France did an excellent lecture on the genera Cyprichromis and Paracyprichromis, showing many beautiful photos of these fascinating cichlids. Rene Krüter did a talk on Lake Tanganyika back in ”the old days”, and as Rene was a pioneer in exploring especially the deep water habitat of the Lake, I anticipated this talk very much. The lecture contained many amazing photos, some of them taken at an incredible depth of 80 meters, and coupled with exciting stories of collecting on the lake back in the days, this talk was my personal highlight for this day for certain.
As I could not attend the final day of the meeting because I had to catch a flight next morning, I got the privilege to see Evert van Ammelrooy’s power-point presentation scheduled for the next day on his laptop before the official dinner that evening; I am certain it must have been a thrill to see it the following day. Evert is a specialist in exploring Lake Tanganyika on night dives in deep water, and his list of first-time photographed species includes Xenotilapia nigrolabiata, X. caudafasciata, Limnochromis staneri and several species of Bathybates and Trematocara, among many others. This time his presentation included beautiful photos of several species of shrimps from the deep, never presented before.
At the official dinner in the evening a delicious meal was served, and it was now relaxing time after a hectic day, and a chance to talk with both old and new friends. Around midnight it was time to say goodbye, and find my way back to the hotel to get some sleep before next morning’s early flight. On the plane back home I left behind a most pleasant and interesting stay in Krakow, and I will for sure be back for next year’s Tanganyika meeting. What really struck me about this weekend was the very friendly and loose atmosphere, and the passion everybody involved in the meeting showed to make this a special event, and not more so than the main organizers, Marta and Robert. Being publisher and editors of Tanganika Magazyn and importers of high quality fish as well, the importance of Marta and Robert in publicizing the wonderful world of Lake Tanganyika in the Polish aquarium hobby can not be underlined too much - they are a prime example of what can be achieved through passion and a tireless effort to set new standards.
I wish to express my sincere thanks to Marta and Robert and the rest of the family for being so kind during my stay.