By Pam Chin

It was a cold and rainy day in January, and I had the cichlid blues. I planted myself on the couch, and only got up to add wood to the fire. There wasn¹t anything on TV, and so I was daydreaming about springtime, trying to convince myself that July and the ACA would be here before I know it. I drifted back to last year, and wondered how this year would be able to compare? I mean, cichlidically speaking, last year was pretty awesome.

I jumped when the phone rang, but I immediately perked up when I realized on the other end was Caroline Estes, my partner in cichlid crime. She was as miserable as I was. We both needed a cichlid fix, and there is no way we were going to last until July and the ACA. As we reminisced about past cichlid gatherings, she began to tell me about FOTAS in April. When she mentioned the sweet speaker line up, I told her I was in like Flint!

As February rolled around, I could see April on my 90-day calendar, and the thought of seeing my cichlid friends encouraged me to get off the couch, and head to the fish house to clean tanks and sort fry. I found a hot deal on a plane ticket, and I told Gary it was my duty to help Texas celebrate 50 years in the hobby. The countdown was on!

Finally April 19th arrived, and I was off to Dallas. Caroline picked me up at the airport, and we headed to the hotel to get settled in. We were so excited to see each other; we were blurting out every piece of cichlid gossip we knew, trying to top each other. We went to the fish room to check out the all species show; it was full of interesting specimens. Then we set out to find Wayne Leibel and dinner–it was the perfect combination, and we adore him. Next we anticipated the arrival of our favorite cichlid boys: Ad, Rusty, Eric, Larry and Keith to name a few.
Wayne¹s Friday night talk was great, as he took us down the history path of aquarium keeping, with emphasis on unspeakably bad ideas in fishkeeping. He showed us full-page ads in old aquarium magazines of wild inventions that never quite made it into the mainstream of the hobby. Afterwards we stayed and talked fish for hours in the hospitality room; it was a late night in Texas!

I barely got my butt out of bed Saturday morning in time to see Ad Konings’ program (he is my Cichlid-God), and I was not disappointed. He gave us an excellent tour of Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi. After lunch it was time for Randy Carey, who was speaking on Characins. I don¹t know a whole lot about them, and so I really enjoyed his talk. This is a very interesting group of fish, and it made me want to run out and buy a school of Congo Tetras!

It was late afternoon before Rusty began to speak, but it was well worth the wait. He showed us cichlids from all over Central America, with wonderful slides of his many collecting trips. He is responsible for returning several cichlids that have been lost in the hobby and we all owe him for that. I especially enjoyed the slides of Mexico, as it brought back great memories of our collecting trip with him.
With about an hour break between Rusty and the evening events, it was time for some BITCH intelligence. There were several BITCH-wannabe¹s present who were eager to earn a ranking, and we gave them a few ideas, but, it was Caroline and I who literally hit the jackpot; lets just say that we were able to take full advantage of an unexpected opportunity! The Cichlid Girls score another one!!

Later that evening we all attended the awards banquet that was packed with enthusiastic fish people. Who would win the coveted “Best Of Show?” Caroline and I ended up eating and running, as we had to prepare for the BITCH Silent Auction after dinner. We didn¹t get to see it, but we were thrilled to hear that our own BITCH-God wannabe, Larry Lampert, took home the grand prize with his ‘Cichlasoma’ istlanum!!
Around midnight Eric Hanneman gave a short talk about cichlid conservation. He shared correspondence between himself and a friend who lives in Central America who sends him clippings about pollution and fish kill offs. The bottom line is that most cichlid environments are in extreme danger. It is important to keep our species clean, and to maintain the fish we currently have in the hobby, especially the ones that are not commercially bred. As most of you know this is close to my heart, and it was nice to have someone get on the soapbox and plead this issue, so hobbyists are aware.

The BITCH auction was a big success. We were able to raise around $500.00 for Cichlid Research and Cichlid Conservation. A big thanks to the Texas Cichlid Association for allowing us to hold this fundraiser and a big thanks to the generous attendees who purchased the fish-related items.

More socializing and partying went on long in to the night, where just about anything related to fish was dissected and discussed. It was a great day and night in Texas!

Sunday, I rolled out of bed around 11:00 a.m., and made it down to the auction room around noon. There was standing room only, with lots of fish, plants and dry goods for sale. I was flying on American Airlines, and they don¹t allow you to check or carry on fish (you can carry on your parakeet, but they have something against fish), so I was traveling fishless. Believe me it was hard not to bid on several items that went on the block. Simochromis babaulti, Altolamprologus calvus, Copadichromis sp., Julidochromis dickfeldi, Herichthys deppi, Sciaenochromis fryeri, and Pseudotropheus saulosi all caught my eye. There must be a discus shortage in Texas, as they were going for top dollar. It was a seller¹s auction, as the prices were high, and remained steady until I had to leave around 5:00 p.m.

Congratulations to the Texas Cichlid Association for a great job! This was the cichlid fix that I needed; now I think I will be able to make it until Memorial Day, when Caroline and I will meet at the Cichlid Classic in Chicago.

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