Roger Häggström, the long time editor of one of the best Cichlid publications in the world, the "Ciklidbladet", of the Nordic Cichlid Association, gives me this interview for the purpose of it's distribution in Internet by The Cichlid Room Companion. Roger, of Swedish origin, has successfully kept and bred Malawi cichlids for many years, he has also participated in trips to Malawi and México to see its favorite animals in their natural habitat. Roger has also attended many Cichlid Conventions in Europe and the United States. Being in a privileged position in the Scandinavian Cichlid Hobby, his points of view are of great interest for those participating in the organized hobby.
Roger, first I would like to know how did you become involved with aquarium fish, could you tell us about it?
Well, it started when I was a little kid. I was very interested in nature and I read a lot of books about different kinds of animals from all parts of the world. But the only animals I could keep at home where insects, fish, frogs or snakes because I am allergic to all furry animals. I choosed the fish, they are so much nicer compared to the spiders and the snakes! I was just a kid when I had my first aquarium. I kept it for four or five years. Then I had to quit it for another four or five years as I had to go away to school. But when I got back to my home town and got a flat of my own, I went to visit a friend that I knew, who also shared my aquarium interest when we where kids. He had just bought an aquarium. I was immediately hooked again and bought a tank and some fish the same day. I soon discovered an aquarium association, the Nordic Cichlid Association, they published the "Ciklidbladet", their journal, of which I am now the editor. Since then I have read everything on my reach related to fish, and especially cichlids.
How does your interest in Cichlids has been evolving during the different times of your fish keeping?
Well, I started up with a lot of different types of standard fish; like tetras and gouramies, they were interesting to keep. I also bought some Pterophyllum scalare, and as soon as I started with this fish I realized they had a very interesting behavior. They vere much "smarter" than the rest of them. I read about the scalare in books and also found out that there were other species of cichlids. I looked in the store and bought some Aequidens sp. I eventually got a spawn from them and it was faschinating to see their care of the fry, I was a small kid by then. The second time I got into aquariums the Malawi cichlids were in big fashion in Sweden. I saw these fishes in a shop, and they were so beautiful! I bought a lot of Malawi cichlids and I still have them in my aquariums, I like them.
The second time around I went pretty quick, I moved from one to ten aquariums in just one year! I built the bigger one myself. The second year I built an even bigger aquarium, the one that I still have, it is 1200 liters in volume and it is 2.5 meters long. I keep my grown up Malawi cichlids in there.
After I got involved in the Nordic Cichlid Association, I began as a regular contributor and translator, and in 1990 I suddenly became the editor of their magazine, the "Ciklidbladet". Being the editor has now become the second hobby for me. Of course I still love my fish.
What fish species do you keep now, could you tell me something about your present tank set-up?
I keep mainly Malawi cichlids. In the big tank I have a lot of red zebras Pseudotropheus estheridae, and also a group of Pseudotropheus zebra from "mbenji", these are the most numerous ones, but I also have some Labeotropheus sp. and some other mbuna. I also have a group of 6 Synodontis multipunctatus from Lake Tanganyika. My main 1200 liters aquarium was so big that I had to put it apart to take it up to my apartment and then put it back together once up. I filter this tank with three Eheim® canister filters inside the aquarium and a big (18 liter) Eheim® pond filter outside. I change water once each week. I also got rid of a couple of non-used closet in my apartment and put up a rack of five aquariums instead (so much better use of the space!). A big aquarium on top and two more levels below filled with two aquariums each. In these aquariums I keep the cichlid fry I get and all the newcomers until they are big enough to cope in my 1200 liters tank. Besides the African cichlids I also have some Mexican cichlids that you caught for me a couple of years ago while my visit to México (thanks!). I hope to get a bigger tank for the mexicans and put them in the hall, to try to obtain some fry from them in the future.
I know you breed a lot of Malawi fish Roger, what is the species that has given you the most challenge and why?
Well, Malawi cichlids are not so difficult to keep and breed if you know have to treat them. My favorites are the colorful ones. I like the red zebras Pseudotropheus estheridae. I have seen lots of good red zebras, but those that I have now are a very colorful good strain. I have kept them for ten years now. I think my real challenge now is to lead these Mexican cichlids to spawn.
Roger, as editor of the "Ciklidbladet" you are in a privileged position among Swedish cichlid aquarists. Could you tell me how the cichlid aquarism in Sweden has evolved and what is its present stage?
The aquarium hobby has been very big in Sweden for a very long time. You have for example the aquarium magazine "Akvariet" that was founded in the twenties, probably the oldest aquarium magazine still around. The Nordic Cichlid Association is by the way probably the oldest cichlid association in the world. It was founded in 1967, a couple of months before the American Cichlid Association was founded. It started with a couple of very interested guys, they were ahead of their time and read all the scientific material available on cichlids and started making articles about that in the bulletin.
In the beginning the aquarium hobby was a privilege only for the wealthy people because it was very expensive to have an aquarium and the fishes were extremely expensive as well. Nowadays I believe the major part of the most advanced hobbyists in Sweden is keeping cichlids. I think that most of the breakthroughs we have in the knowledge of cichlids appear in the articles in the "Ciklidbladet".
Over the years the society has grown bigger and bigger and now we have over 1400 members. When I started as an editor in 1990 we had around 600 members, our magazine the "Ciklidbladet" has been improving all the time since then, getting more and more color slides. Besides the magazine we also have conventions once a year. Those are one of the big happenings in the aquarium hobby here in the Nordic countries. There still are many aquarium local clubs, and even in these clubs people is moving towards the Cichlids, as the usual types of aquarium fish are not so popular anymore. The cichlids are gaining more relative popularity everyday. When you have kept fish for a while you see that Cichlids is the thing to keep.
You are the editor of the "Ciklidbladet", one of the best Cichlid bulletins in the world. How do you do the distribution of articles for the magazine, how do you get the contributions? Could you also tell me something about the production process?
First I want to thank you for considering this magazine to be one of the best, I think it is good, but there are still a lot of good magazines out there. The Dutch one is really nice. The basic principle for "Ciklidbladet" is that the members should be then ones that produce contributions for the bulletin. So, any member in the association can write an article and send it to me. I will do the editing. The process starts with the contributions I get, mainly by mail and often on a computer diskette. I use a flatbed scanner and an OCR program in my PC to get text from paper into my word processor (if it is not handwritten). I use different computer programs, like PagemakerTM, to make the layout and actually creating the bulletin. I have a very computerized production, I use the computer for everything. I happend to be an employee of the print shop that in the end produces the bulletin.
I was a customer of this place until they invited me to join them. What I can do now is to scan the slides in my free time for a smaller amount of money using the print shop equipment, and this helps the Association. This also means I have a lot of control on the whole process. I can now scan the slides, see if they are fine, and then make the color corrections. I can also be behind the printer when he is actually printing the bulletins, so I have a total quality control over the process. It is very tricky to get a "perfect" result, and I still have a lot to learn. I am doing my best anyway. The print shop have really good and new printing equipment so the end result is a very good quality magazine.
On a personal side, what are the satisfactions that bring you the making of the bulletin?
The positive response from the members is alway encuraging for me. Also, the contact with the article contributors is nice, I have for instance had the pleasure of meeting you! All of my life I have been some kind of a collector, collecting fish or collecting different things. I like the way I work with this magazine, I like to see the finished magazine and put it in the shelf among the other magazines that I have. The challenge to get everything in its place is a constant battle, even if it is a lot of work it is pure fun, I just like it!
Would you tell me something about the new website of the Nordic Cichlid Association that is about to launch. What is the objective, what are you going to offer? What can we expect from this home page in the future?
This is a really new thing for the Association, because historically we only have had two points of contact with our members, the Ciklidbladet and the annual meeting. These are nice and will be around for a long time. But we are very interested in this new Internet phenomenon, because you can have even more direct contact with and between the members this way. We can also make some advertisement for the magazine, the Association and for the hobby.
The main purpose of our site is to spread the word about how to keep cichlids and showing off our magazine. But it has also a downside since everything on the net is "for free". We don't want to have such a good site that nobody would care to pay for the membership and receiving the "Ciklidbladet". We can't reveal too much in the site for the non-members. We have one area of the site exclusive for members only (simply using a different password published in each issue of the "Ciklidbladet") and another area open for everyone. In the open area we will have all the advertisement about the association, the magazine, and also some news. We will put out one article of each new "Ciklidbladet" number with one slide of fish, this refer to a section we have called "Cichlid of the month", which is a monthly index. We will also put out some articles of the old numbers. I don't know how many, but it should be around fifty articles that we will disclose for everyone to see. Those will be beginner articles for people just entering into the hobby. In the hidden area we will have some extra things for the members. One thing that we will have is all the magazines from 1967 till now, with all the text and also some of the slides, not all. I started OCR scanning all the old magazines a couple of years ago and the collection is now almost complete.
We are also considering to have maybe five or six hundred pictures from the magazine on the site (the majority in B&W). We will not have the present year material and maybe one of two years back in time either. We still have some old magazines left that we want people to buy, not to just read them on the net. This is only the beginning, we don't know yet what else we will put in this site. I am not the only one doing this enormous amount of work, we have two young guys eager to do all this and build this site. One of these guys also works on this area. We will probably in the future have some chat rooms and maybe a mailing list where members can communicate. One thing about the site is that almost everything will be in Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. Unfortunately we can't translate the articles to English, that would take four or five years of hard work, it is not worth it. But maybe the stuff that we will put in public side of the site will be translated it to English in the future.
What is your prediction, about the course that the cichlid aquarism will take in Scandinavia in the future years?
Well, the interest in African cichlids has been very strong since the seventies until now, and I see no reason for the interest in them to decline in the coming years. One thing that I hope will occur in the future is that our organization in some way can help to maintain populations of the increased number of endangered species in the world. I hope that our interest in fish can make more and more people aware that they exist. It is a pity just to let the species gets extinct without doing anything, or, just doing something without knowing. I think it is one of the main goals for the future, create this awareness about the danger of extinction the fish are facing now, and make people interested in them.
Is there something you would like to add?
Globally speaking I think that the Internet is just the beginning of a lot more cooperation between different countries, organizations and people in general. In the future we will have a lot more cooperation between cichlid organizations worldwide. Right now the Nordic Cichlid Association has engaged in a cooperation with the American Cichlid Association. We have started to exchange some articles and slides. In this electronic world we don't have to snail mail material. We can just e-mail it, a much more secure and easy thing to do. And I hope that the cichlid interest of the people in the world can only benefit from this cooperation in the future. I think Internet will be the trigger for this to happen because people can talk to each other straight away. So that's one side of the future I see for the cichlid hobby.
Thank you very much Roger.
© Copyright 1997 Juan Miguel Artigas Azas, all rights reserved
Artigas Azas, Juan Miguel. (July 15, 1997). "Interview with: Roger Häggström, Apr-97". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on January 18, 2019, from: https://www.cichlidae.com/article.php?id=273.