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24th Congress of the Association France Cichlid (AFC) - Le story.

by Tolis Ketselidis

Bon Voyage Jean-Claude..

On November 10, Jean-Claude Nourissat passed away. The following text was written before this so we decided not to change it. Perhaps we don't really want to believe that Jean-Claude is not amongst us anymore. Any of you who would like to pay tribute to this Gentlemen, you can do it here - in any language, French in particular. All messages will be displayed here. For the older to remember and the younger to learn.

When I got involved with our hobby in a "serious" manner some 20 or 25 years ago, I was living in Belgium. It was long before the Internet, and one of the best magazines at the time, was the French magazine "Aquarama", a publication of the still famous Aquarium Club of Strasbourg. Aquarama lived from the late sixties till '91 or 92, and it was there where I first read about aquarists like Jean Claude Nourissat, Patrick de Rham, Robert Allgayer, and their articles were my (and most of the French speaking aquarists) main source of information for many years.
So now, years after, many tanks later, and with a newborn and promising Greek Aquarist's Club, I finally had the chance to visit the AFC congress, and meet personally my "heroes" of so many readings.

The congress took place in Vichy, to which George, John and I flew from Athens via Milan, where Francesco joined us. While Francesco and John were very happy to see and hear all the "no smoking" warnings in the Milan airport and in the plane, George and I had to resort to different Zen techniques in order to cope with the restriction.
We arrived to Vichy late noon, and had the chance to have lunch with Patrick de Rham and his wife Anne, at the local French delicacy place, "Le McDonalds"!
Although at coffee time George and I had again to practice Le Zen, it was not as bad, as the fish discussion with Patrick was so interesting that we (almost) forgot about it.
Then we finally entered the congress place. The welcoming staff was helping the participants find their rooms, and showed those who brought fish for the auction the way and number of their reserved tanks. After promising to myself to spend enough time later to the nice reception area, with stands of the local aquarium club, selling books, magazines, and aquarium hardware, I entered "Le Ali Baba's cave" aka the fish auction area.

Most of the tanks were still empty, but it was very interesting to watch the aquarists arrive with their stuff and acclimatize their fish, with their very clever DIY transport and maintenance hardware. Portable refrigerators, big food or sea salt buckets, and huge mineral water plastic bottles were used to transport the fish, most of them aerated by battery-powered pumps.

George did not want to miss any activity, at any cost!

The organization was providing 140x40x40 cm tanks (200 of them) only equipped with airlines. Most aquarists brought with them different kinds of air driven filters, with sponge as media, already matured at home.

Flowerpots and bricks,

plastic pipes and even shells,

were used for the fish to hide in if they felt so.

The auction's big hall's temperature was warm enough for the tanks, and of course too warm for all the people in there, but nobody complained.
It was a great pleasure to meet many people that I knew from the AFC's discussion forum, and of course an honor to meet the AFC's president, and well-known aquarist Jean Claude Nourissat there, with his companion Nicole, acclimatizing the Madagascan and Nicaraguan cichlids he had brought for the auction.

By early evening, most of the tanks were full with cichlids of the best quality. Many species that I had only seen previously in literature were swimming there in front of me. One of the main goals of the AFC is to keep the original wild traits and forms of cichlids. Albinos, xanthic, long veil variations, marbled angelfish or orange-purple discus, are never accepted, and of course no question of hybrids of any kind. A committee watches all the auction's fish, and all the above, plus deformed or very young fish are eliminated - but this rarely happens the last years, as the fish are of the highest level. Another proof, after being transported to Vichy, spending 3 days in a new (often crowded) tank, and traveling for 10 hours to Greece, all the fish we got were looking as they were always living in the tanks we put them in.

Altolamprologus calvus and Tanganicodus irsacae. I managed to get 6 of them, who are doing great in their dedicated tank.

There were two films of Jean Claude Nourissat at the congress, from his trips to Madagascar and Nicaragua. Splendid fish and biotope's representations apart, it was very interesting to see what these people go through in order to bring back, reproduce and diffuse to aquarists our beloved fish. Jean Claude and Patrick being constrained to wear skirts in order to enter a taboo river in Madagascar, a bullet hole in Jean Claude's car after a bandit attack in Nicaragua, are not the average aquarist's idea of a dream trip to exotic biotopes.
Uwe Werner, guest of the congress, showed two films from his Ghana and Guyana trips, with very funny, but also useful "live" comments.

The Saturday evening dinner proved to be very emotional, as Jean Claude Nourissat, after being the president of the AFC for long years, gave his chair to Antoine Seva, a great aquarist and traveler. More than 600 participants wished farewell to Jean Claude with a standing ovation.

The dinner was a great occasion to talk again between aquarists, in a relaxed ambience.

Anne de Rham and Tolis arguing with Jean Claude Nourissat and Nicole (not shown), about the salmon's (or was it trout?) taste, while Francesco (first plan) is dreaming of the salmon (or trout?) in his tank...

Le Pterocephalus brasiliensis, female, a new undescribed species. Males of the species appeared not to be of interest to the congress participants.

We left Vichy Sunday afternoon, with our suitcases full of fish, and were surprised to find out that we did not need to practice Le Zen in the Clermont Ferrand airport!

Once in the plane, a little reading of the excellent French magazine Aqua-Plaisir, helped us overcome the no smoking restriction.

I would like to thank Phillippe Hotton, Benoit Jonas and Patrick de Rham for their warm welcome and help, and a special big thank you to Jean Claude Nourissat. He was happily impressed by the fact that we made all the trip from Greece to participate to the congress, and we had the chance to discuss about cichlids, clubs and associations in many occasions during the three days of the congress - resulting in a kind permission of the AFC for our Club to use all of their material - films, photos, and articles in their books and magazines.

Tolis Ketselidis

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