aqua journal

Book review – Biologie, Pflege, Vermehrung

Biologie, Pflege, Vermehrung

By Gerhard Ott
Tetra Verlag GmbH, Berlin-Velten, 2017
235 pp. Price €19,90
ISBN 978-3-89745-247-3 (soft cover)
This loach book, so far only in German available

Schmerlen, Biologie, Pflege, Vermehrung (Loaches, Biology, Maintenance, Breeding) came out in 2017 after many years of waiting, written by the German biologist Gerhard Ott, not only known in Germany, but also Europe-wide, for his life-time study of the Cobitoidea.
The work covers, at the time of printing, all of today’s valid loach families: Gyrinocheilidae, Botiidae, Cobitidae, Nemacheilidae, Gastromyzontidae, Balitoridae, Ellopostomatidae, Barbuccidae, Serpenticobitidae, Vaillantellidae, Catostomidae and Psilorhynchidae.
Ott starts with the question Was sind Schmerlen (“What are Loaches”) and takes one back to Linnaeus and much earlier, including their worldwide distribution, all the way to the Wallace-line. There is a good and detailed explanation about their morphology, and on page 30 Ott starts with the families and species, where the Gyrinocheilus species are well covered. This was not possible with all the members of the Botiidae, especially not their entire distribution is documented, as some also found in Korea, more areas of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, etc., but specially some of the Botia species have been mixed up for over 100 years in scientific papers and popular publications. Ott’s unknown Botia on page 37 is a juvenile of B. almorhae. And on page 38 the Botia rostrata is actually the true B. nebulosa, a often forgotten species name. The real rostrata is rarely been in the aquarium hobby, and even in the British Museum are two different species labelled as rostrata. But most of the species are very well covered, also their juvenile colours.
The family Cobitidae is well explained, but certainly Ott had problems with the members of the family Nemacheilidae from India, as there is very little information outside of India and species exported have continuously been wrongly named. To mention one typical example Schistura beavani in the hobby for decades is actually Neonoemacheilus assamensis (on his page 84), as the real beavani first imported in the 1970s is very different.
The Gastromyzontidae are very well explained and shown (except that Vietnam species can be also found in southern Vietnam), with several species possibly un-described, as in the nemacheilids. There is also a good explanation about Balitoridae, but the Indian species almost entirely missing (also their wide distribution is lacking, except for the distribution of 5 Ghatsa species in Western Ghats, which are missing in the index, as well as the Indian Travancoria species). In India are at least 10, and Ott lists only 12 of so far 20 know species in 2017. I appreciate his work on the rarely seen members of the families Ellopostomatidae, Barbuccidae, Serpenticobitidae and Vaillantellidae with excellent photos…
For the Catostomidae is only the Asian Myxocyprinus covered and under Psilorhynchidae is missing much of their distribution (specially in India, Nepal), and only one species from India is shown, of the 20 plus known already in 2017.
There is an extensive (nearly 100 page) chapter on the biology of loaches, which is extreme important information (I found), and about their behaviour in nature, records from his Asian trips, and about the experience in his aquariums. There is a large chapter on correct maintenance, what some of the species eat. Ott also shows the noise some of the species make (the way they ‘talk’). Excellent is also his advice of how to breed some of the species successfully in their correct habitat, with the niche they want and need. He shows aquarium decorations, filter and materials; not to forget how to cultivate the different live foods and feed it to some of the cultivated species. This is a chapter no one should miss, as hardly anyone has bred so many different loaches as Gerhard Ott.
Heiko Bleher, June 2018

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