Angelfish, Neon Tetras. . .and Electric Eels: "Shockingly" Fun Collecting Trips in the Amazon
How did wild aquarium fish from South America, Africa, and Asia first get into the hobby all those many years ago? Before there were ornamental fish farms, including those here in Florida, there were fish biologists and collectors visiting exotic places and bringing back beautiful specimens of fish they found. Many of these fish are now raised on fish farms, but new species continue to enter the hobby every year. And now, eco-tourists can join aquarium fish collecting trips in some of the most biologically diverse waters of the world.
My guest today is Jaap-Jan de Greef, an aquarium fish expert who has lived--and collected aquarium fish--all over the world. Jaap is well-known in the hobby not only for his wealth of knowledge, but also for leading "amazing" Amazon fish collecting trips for aquarium hobbyists, and trips to other locales for fish researchers and producers. Jaap is a favorite speaker for hobbyist organizations and has fascinating fish stories to share. So get on the boat, have a seat, and listen in!
Jaap-Jan de Greef is a man of the world. In 1957, he was born a citizen of the Netherlands--but on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Political unrest and his father's occupation forced him and his family to move a number of times--from Indonesia to Mozambique to Tanganyika (Tanzania) to Suriname to the Netherlands to Ecuador and then to Curacao. After Curacao, he moved to Florida to study marine biology at Florida State University (FSU).
When he was 3-years-old, he collected his first fish, a killifish (Nothobranchius sp.), with his father in Mozambique. He continued his passion for collection and fish keeping throughout all his moves. In Ecuador, at the ripe old age of 16, he collected fish for the Ecuadorian National Fish Institute in Guayaquil. In Curacao, he volunteered for a marine biological research station diving, collecting specimens, and assisting with other research projects. After receiving his bachelor's degree from FSU, he began work managing a tomato packing house (a family business) in Florida. In between tomato seasons, Jaap travels around the world collecting fish for researchers and fish farmers; leads aquarium fish collection eco-tours, primarily in the Amazon; and lectures for aquarium hobbyist organizations. "By traveling around the world, I get to visit places around the U.S.," Jaap boasts. As an obsessed hobbyist himself, Jaap maintains an 80-aquarium fish house, several ponds, and 25 vats of fish. He keeps aquarium fish and fish for researchers. Jaap and his wife, who has accompanied him on one Guatemalan collecting trip, have two children. His son has accompanied him on several trips--and has a blast with his dad.