‘Fish room’ keepers head to fish show

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published September 13, 2013

 Sterling Heights resident Juergen Kasprick keeps 90 aquariums in the fish room in his basement; he has made breeding and raising killifish his hobby.

Sterling Heights resident Juergen Kasprick keeps 90 aquariums in the fish room in his basement; he has made breeding and raising killifish his hobby.

Photo by Deb Jacques

It’s like a dog show — but for fish. Killifish, that is.

The fish at the Michigan Killifish Association Motor City Review will be judged for fins, color and deportment.

“The fish are judged by specific criteria,” said Farmington Hills resident Joe Derek, who is a member of the Michigan Killifish Association. He is the former naturalist for Farmington Hills. 

Keeping killifish can be simple or elaborate. Hobbyists can use margarine tubs and a gold fish filter for filters, and yarn or peat moss to hatch the eggs.

“It’s really relaxing,” Derek said.

Killifish are considered tropical fish. They are native to Michigan and are found around the world. Those native to ponds and rivers in Michigan are not as colorful as those native to other places.

“Killifish from South America and Africa are more colorful,” said Sterling Heights resident Juergen Kasprick, 68, also a member of the Michigan Killifish Association.

Kasprick keeps 90 aquariums in the fish room in his basement, which he keeps at 74 degrees in the winter and about 78 degrees in the summer. He has a microscope and magnifier at his egg collating station, where he searches for eggs the size of the head of a pin with tweezers in yarn or peat moss.

“Killifish breeding is a hands-on thing,” Kasprick said.

He noted that the tap water in metro Detroit, which is medium soft with a 7.4-pH level, is ideal for tropical fishery.

Kasprick said he likes the challenge of breeding different species. He spends an hour and a half a day just feeding the fish, and he can spend up to eight hours a day in his fish room, if he is doing work on the filters or changing water in the tanks.

His son, Hans, comes to feed the fish if Kasprick will be gone for longer than a week, although the fish can go a few days without eating, since they do not eat in nature every day. His wife, Sharon, does not share his hobby, although she attends social events for the clubs. 

Kasprick uses dry food and live food, such as brine shrimp, and also raises grindal worms for food. He is experimenting with LED lighting for his tanks to see if it enhances the color of the fish.

Now retired, Kasprick has a background in chemistry and worked in electroplating. He came to the U.S. in 1952 with his mother, a nurse, from Berlin. He is a board member of the Greater Detroit Killifish Association and has kept killifish since he was 13 years old.

He figures his hobby costs him about $20 more per month for utilities and $100 per year for food. He said members of the various fish clubs trade fish species when they can.

Derek said the fish eggs can live in mud and will wait to hatch until the water supply is replenished, so the eggs may be ordered from around the world. Sometimes the eggs he purchases online hatch and sometimes they don’t, said Derek, who has a species from Scotland.

He likes his killis in flashy colors — in blues and reds. He keeps about 20 aquariums in his fish room.

“Some people have over 100 aquariums in their fish room, which can be in garages, barns or basements. You can keep a lot of tanks in a small area,” he said.

Derek said his hobby costs him about $200 in fish food a year.

“They don’t eat much because they’re small,” he explained.

Derek also keeps the largest killifish, “the king of killis,” the blue gularis, which can grow up to 3 1/2 inches in a tank and up to 8 inches in a pond.

The Michigan Killifish Association plans to set up an aquarium at the Belle Isle Aquarium in coming months.

“Many of these fish are endangered in nature,” Derek said. He noted that most pet stores don’t carry killifish because they can’t be mixed with other fish.

“Most people don’t know about them,” Derek said. “It’s a specialty hobby.” 

The Michigan Killifish Association Motor City Review is open to the public and will be held Sept. 28-29 at the Quality Inn Troy, 2537 Rochester Court. The show will feature 30 pairs of rare fish and other species at an auction, held at 11 a.m. Sept. 29. For information, call (248) 961-1244 or visit http://mka.aka.org.