Saturday, February 18, 2017

Guppies and gonopodia

On Friday I found myself driving along Paisley Road, near Ibrox. In the early 1960s (!), this little shop played a big part in my growing up. I must have been thirteen years old when my parents allowed me to have a small tropical aquarium. That prompted regular visits to M&R (Dog Fish) where a very patient Mr Mellor taught me the basics of keeping a small community tank.

Bert Mellor, whose family had fled Germany in WW2, had established the shop in 1958. I just loved going there. In the basement of the shop were a variety of tanks, and I spent a lot of time just looking at what was on offer, and of course spending my pocket money. At home I farmed white worms in trays kept in the coal bunker (not allowed in the house) and when my red platys had fry, I grew microworms in jam jars with a layer of porridge in the bottoms.

Of course, as a thirteen year old, I was fascinated by the sexual activities of the livebearers, especially my guppies. And I learned, amongst other things, that a gonopodium is a modified anal fin!

It was a responsibility of course. Regular maintenance had to be done. I remember very clearly heading off to the cinema one Saturday afternoon (I even remember the film - North West Frontier, with Kenneth More) and returning home to discover that, having switched off the power supply when I was cleaning the tank, I had forgotten to turn the heating back on. I was lucky, everything survived, but only just. A lesson that a teenager never forgot.

I would have liked to have had a larger tank, and that urge was satisfied when, in my last years at senior school, I was a member of the aquarium society!

In my adult life, I returned to fish-keeping at various times. I had a tank when living at Meikle Burntshields. And for most of my years in Thailand I had a huge tank - no heating costs, and most freshwater tropicals were inexpensive. I've looked today to see if I have kept photos of either of these tanks, with no success. Unlike my gardens, which I did photograph regularly, I seem never to have taken any photos of my aquaria.

Which takes me to yesterday. I was pleased to discover that M&R is still in business. It was like falling back in time!

The shop is now owned by Jim Wilson, who I remember well as the young man who helped out in the shop when I was a regular customer in the late 1980s and early 1990s. What was lovely was that he remembered me too, and it was great to catch up.

Jim's son Jamie is also an enthusiast! And well done to Jim in keeping going his independent small business. Continued success to you!

Photographing fish is not easy, but I just had to try to capture these amazing guppies.

Would I keep fish again? If I won the lottery perhaps, but probably not at this stage of my life. But there is nothing like a wee swim in nostalgia!

Pics © Skip Cottage

1 comment:

  1. In the late 1970's Bob, just across the river from you there were 2 tanks, both tropical! Lots and lots and lots of guppies and some mollies and tetras. I loved keeping fish, but gave them up when I went to college and haven't kept them since.

    I'd started when I was about 11 and remember visiting some of the incredible shed-like places we were lucky to have in the South of England. The main shop though were a couple of small indies near Harrow and I went on a buying spree there with my pocket money, always wanting some of those Lake Malawi cichlids, or (the dream) a marine aquarium . . never did get there though.

    You switched your heater off . . I (having an outbreak of some disease, and reading that increasing the temperature could sort it out) removed my seperate thermostat and forgot about it . . coming home to the majority of my fish boiled. One doesn't forget something like that!

    Good to see these wee indie shops continuing though - I'd have thought Amazon would have tried to muscle in by now . . .