Image The 30th INTERZOO May 22-25, 2008 was not only a special celebration date, but also the largest INTERZOO ever in its 55 years of history.

It started as a small zoological market  (“Zoobörse”) in Frankfurt am Main in 1953, commenced by Dr. Martin Tripp, the very first managing director and founder of the ZZF (Zentralverband zoologischer Fachgeschäfte Deutschlands e. V.), Goki’s Versandhaus, the ornamental fish and plant enterprise of my mother Amanda Flora Hilda Bleher and Emil Haas, owner of the pet shop “Zoo-Haas”, also in Frankfurt. I recall, although that I was very little, of this first event standing next to my mother’s side and her aquarium exhibition. There were about 100 traders from 40 West German villages and West Berlin.

The following years it became a moving “Zoo-Messe” (Zoo-Fair) and took place in Essen (1954), Köln (1955), Hamburg (1956) and came back to Frankfurt in 1957, were it remained until 1959. In this year it was able to celebrate its first “International” Zoo-Messe, because some of the 58 exhibitors were companies from the Netherlands and buyers came from eight European countries. The 6th Zoo-Messe included the first animal show organized by my mother’s friend, Emil Haas, which after a three-year pause had been moved in 1962 to Wiesbaden and was established as bi-annual fair. In 1964 17 countries were represented to show mainly their birdcages and products, which were exceptional in size, and for the first time marine aquariums have been displayed. The Wiesbadener Zoo-Messe was integrated 1966 into the new founded WZF (Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft Zoologischer Fachbetriebe Deutschlands GmbH) still under Dr. Tripp, the remarkable founder of the ZZF, who is definitely responsible for what became the INTERZOO.

When I moved my ornamental fish company, AQUARIUM RIO (founded 1965 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) to Frankfurt in 1967 and Dr. Tripp – the man who knew my mother to well and recalled their joint venture for the first “Zoobörse” – convinced me to join the ZZF, also because my mother had been a founding member in 1947.

I remember very well when in 1968 I participated for the first time myself, the than still called Zoo-Messe. I displayed an aquarium with 3000 cardinal tetras and 500 of my recently discovered brilliant rummy nose tetras (later described as Hemigrammus bleheri). It was a sensation, as at that time no one had seen an aquarium with so many of the most asked for aquarium fish and none the new rummy nose tetra before. And since than I have never missed one fair and helped, like my mother, to make made it popular worldwide. With my work, collecting around the world since 1965, exporting ornamental fishes from Frankfurt, Germany, to 86 countries worldwide, I announced to everyone, that the Zoo-Messe in Wiesbaden is the largest and most international pet exhibition and trading place on Earth. And it grew none-stop to the world’s most important trade fair of the pet branch.

Image In 1970 it was established, that the still called the Wiesbadener Zoo-Messe would take place always in May, every even year, and for the first time politicians became aware of the importance of this fair. From 1972 on it was called INTERZOO and the German Minister of Economics of Hessen inaugurated, next to Emil Haas, president of ZZF myself and other “celebrities”, the 12th INTERZOO. 200 exhibitors from 12 countries participated and it received 5000 trade visitors. In 1974 Dr. Tripp did hold a very nice inaugural speech: “This fair is today a mean of communication not to be replaced with anything else, compared only with the mass-media such as television, radio and news paper. The second half of the 20th century is unthinkable without it”. Tripp was a very rare to find gentlemen, he motivated me all the time (we both lived in Frankfurt) and on the other hand he listened to all my suggestions for possible improvement for the pet fair and the hobby. I became under his guidance a messenger for the INTERZOO worldwide. With him, I also established in Germany in 1975 the head organization of the German ornamental fish wholesalers under the ZZF, and two years later with his successor, Dr. Fuchs, I founded the OFI in 1977. I founded the Ornamental Fish International Wholesaler Association in view of the constant new regulations for the transport of animals and specially the ornamental fishes and I organized our first OFI-meeting in Gravenbruch, near Frankfurt, Germany and all following meetings worldwide until 1982.

In 1982 309 exhibitors from 15 countries came to Wiesbaden, and the inaugural speech this time revealed that 50 percent of all German households own a pet. 1986 I displayed for the first time my largest freshwater discovery of the 20th century (according to the world record of Guinness, 1987), the freshwater sawfish – four of them collected and transported in the cargo compartment of a 747 Boeing myself. See

But the INTERZOO had already grown in 1986 to its maximum size in Wiesbaden, every square meter was taken, and there was no possibility to expand. Therefore the INTERZOO for 1988 was moved to Nürnberg and is been hold ever since in the beautiful Lebkuchenstadt (the special cake Lebkuchen only produced here since 1610, with the same recipe and the same natural formula). 

And in 2008 not only the INTERZOO had a date to celebrate, but also myself, as it was my 40th year of participation and my 20th consecutive INTERZOO.

The 30th INTERZOO closed on May 25th with 13 percent more exhibitors (than 2006) and almost 10 percent more visitors from 110 nations. The world’s largest fair for pet supplies has grown again and reached a new exhibitor record: 1,436 from 54 countries provided fishes and aquatic plants, aquatic accessories of all kinds, birds, reptiles, pet food, grooming aids accessories and services to 38,400 visitors in 10 giant halls (two of which, 4A and 7A, completely newly built) and in a record total exhibition space of 89,000 square meter (vs. 16,000 at INTERZOO 1988). And many people said my Biotope Aquarium exhibition was their highlight of INTERZOO 2008

According to the INTERZOO promoter (WZF) around 77 percent of the companies this time were from abroad, apart from Germany, the most strongly represented exhibiting nations were Italy, China, USA, Netherlands, Great Britain, Belgium, France and Spain. The largest increase in stands were taken by China, Great Britain, Taiwan, India, Netherlands, Canada, Poland, Czech Republic, France and Spain – the largest single stand was taken by Rolf C. Hagen in hall 1. Japan did not have as many stands as during the previous INTERZOO exhibition. But it is without unbroken the leading pet fair worldwide and everything produced on this planet for the beloved animals was presented, if that is a diamond covered dog-necklace to promenade along 5th Avenue in New York or a mobile phone for the dog, a self-cleaning cat litter box or spaghetti for the kitten, nano-aquariums of 10-30 litres or a giant 10,000 litre display by Heiko Bleher, this time sponsored by Tetra, Aquarium Dietzenbach, WZF, Tropica and Aquapress Publishers.

Nothing around the pet was missing, and for sure it will increase in size, in exhibitors and more trade visitors will come when INTERZOO 2010 opens its doors again in Nuremberg from May 13-16th.


by Heiko Bleher

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