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Wow it is great to be a Pet Shop owner today, if your passion is tropical fish!!

Many moons ago I started in this hobby as the proud owner of a 3 foot aquarium, a gift from my wife. Boy did she open up a can of worms with that generous gift. Thru the years one of my main complaints about the tropical fish trade in South Africa was the lack of diversity. I battled to get new species to breed and ended up a few species short of 100 before I opened Pet Stop. In the time since then, thing slowly changed for the better. At present the diversity of species coming into South Africa are incredible, compared to as early as 3 years ago. Some of the Tropical fish wholesalers are competing with each other trying to supply quality diverse species at low prices and we as hobbyists are winning all the way!

Pet Stop is in the fortunate position of been big enough to directly import some tropical fish on a regular basis. Combine this with the wholesalers (some of them, themselves extreme hobbyists) that regularly test the water for new, rare or exciting fish species and you get some fabulous opportunity’s, not only for our customers but for myself as well. I am in the glorious position of been able to cherry pick specimens out of this wide variety of fish going thru our systems. But with Didi keeping more than 120 species of freshwater fish at any given time in his setups and my hunger to keep any new species I see it is a problem, the opportunities are more than I could handle.

At one stage in my life I had over 100 running breeding aquariums. Now my personal aquarium is a 1200 liter mixed genus aquarium with rainbows. But like all aquarium hobbyists out there, I am always on the lookout for some special species to add to this display and already added someMetynnis lippincottianus metynnis cf. lippincottianus spectacularly coloured Metynnis lippincottianus (metynnis cf. lippincottianusspotted silver dollars), a Puntius Denisonii (Torpedo barb) that was one of the first ones available in SA and close to adult size already , Geophagus sp. Earth eater a gift, Bunocephalus coracoideus (Banjo catfish) a giant specimen raised by my friend Barry, Acanthocobitis rubidipinnis (Cherry fin loach) the only adition my wife insisted on, the Botia macracantha (clown loaches) 3 medium sized active specimens and a variety of Australian rainbow fish with the 3 adult male red rainbows (Glossolepis incisus) looking the best. All of these specimens were either selected out of shipments or bought from customers specifically for this aquarium and each one carry their own story. But not their own names, wink.

Just this past 2 weeks I was reminded again of how lucky we as SA hobbyists are. For ages myself and other passionate hobbyists drooled over some L type catfishes we read about in UK & USA magazines, just to find that local demand was not big enough for importers to import them. Importers either refused to look at them or only brought in a few species. Well A importer decided to bring in a variety of L type catfishes and WOW what an opportunity it was. There was the L046 – Hypancistrus zebra, some magnificent L168 Amazon plecos –L014 Sunshine pleco – L018 golden nugget – L007 Galaxy pleco – L026 Tocantins orange Kaiser pleco – LDA33 Snowflake pleco – L047 Magnum pleco – L048 Ruby spotted magnum – L134 Leopard pleco – L103 Pecoltia vitata – L187 Spotted bulldog and also the stripped bulldog pleco, farlowellas and whiptails combined with some nice Corydoras sp.. Now how can any hobbyists not ach to have at least one of them in their aquarium, I felt driven to take a few for my display aquarium, but what to take and what not to? That was the question.

I decided to wait for the stock to land and see what Pet Stop got in, picking my personal specimens out of the stock that ended up in our aquariums. Well that was no help at all, first there was the Zebra (L046) then there was the L168, L014, L018, L007, LDA33 and L134, I wanted them all. Luckily some customers and circumstances made some of my decisions for me. Top of my lists was the Hypansistrus zebra L046, this was sold before I could book him as mine, then I needed to decide between one of the gold nuggets or a snowflake, well again customers made my decision for my by leaving only one snowflake for me. Then it got interesting, I needed to book my specimens before the customers took them all and I am only left with some pictures and a bit of memories.

So knowing the snowflake is mine, I took the camera and sat down in front of the aquariums taking pictures for future use, but also selecting the specimens I liked the most. Well in front of the first aquarium, it was clear that one of the L047 Magnum plecos MUST come home with me. It just make perfect sense, the Hypancictrus zebra L046 was lost and the next number in the row is L047 . Just spending the time photographing them confirmed my decision, L047 it is.

Moving down the row of aquariums taking the pictures was a nightmare!! I wanted every single one of them and I knew that was impossible. Not only would I not be able to pay for them all but I knew that to many of them together (even in my 1200 liter aquarium) was not an option. So it was a mental battle, too many options spoiled me and I started to think I might end up taking more than the planned 3 x L plecos I intended to take.

Then it happened, I was taking pictures of the Leopard frog plecos L134, what make this species extra unique is that not a single one look exactly like the next, from stripes resembling a zebra on a light yellow /beige back ground, to dark spots and lines on the same yellow / beige background, resembling a leopard. So I needed to take multiple pictures of them, otherwise I might end up missing a nice pattern. Well that paid off, in-between them was one pleco that was different. This specimen had some sort of leopard pattern but also showed clear spots. So what? Well these spots was not dark they were light and clearly not a L134 species. It was time for a group meeting between myself, Didi and Shawn to decide what we think of this specimen and what species it might be. The end result is still not conclusive but at least I decided I found my 3rd L pleco.

To make sure I do not change my mind again I told Didi to book them for me and just in the nick of time, as minutes later a knowledgeable hobbyist walked into the shop and after a lengthy brows and after the usual questions regarding health etc. he asked Didi to catch him “my specimen”. Sorry my friend he is already sold . Now I am the proud owner of 3 magnificent L type catfishes with some space for the future shipments of L type catfishes. There might just be another special specimen, I just must have.

There are regular opportunities like this these days. 2 other opportunities in the last 2 months that jump to mind are dwarf Rasboras, other small fish and plants for nano aquariums and new and exciting loaches that can actually breed in your aquarium. Both these occasions opened up lots of doors regarding options with décor, aquarium size and weird & wonderful. All you aquarium hobbyists and fanatics out there should look out for these and many more rare, new and special species that are imported. Happy hunting.

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