Heiko’s biography

ImageHeiko Bleher was born on October 18, 1944 in a bunker in the ruins of Frankfurt on Main. He was the fourth and last child of Ludwig Bleher and Amanda Flora Hilda Kiel. Amanda’s father Adolf Kiel was the well-known “Father of Water Plants”, a pioneer of the modern aquarium who established the world’s largest plant and ornamental fish farm in Frankfurt. In those early days his adventurous daughter Amanda travelled around the world collecting fishes and plants. She was the first woman to ride a motor bike in Germany, and competing against men, won 148 European Moto-Cross car races, won championships in tennis, table tennis (world vice champion), European skating and ice skating, and was the first woman to fly an aircraft without an engine… Just as Amanda followed in her father’s footsteps, so Heiko followed his mother’s. At 4, he saw his first discus at an aquarium fish exhibition in the still ruined Frankfurt Zoo. Later he travelled with her to Africa then, aged 6, throughout Europe collecting plants and fishes. When he was 7, his mother took him, his elder brother and two sisters with her on his first discus hunt – a highly adventurous exploration trip deep into the “green hell” of the of South American jungle. They reached areas inhabited by unknown Indian tribes, some of whom had killed and eaten 4 missionaries shortly before. They lived with the natives for over 6 months, sampling 60 new aquatic plant species, countless fishes and many other animals. Still a child, Heiko learned to live like the Indians, eating the same food and collecting fishes and plants in the Mato Grosso, He learned about the life and behaviour of fishes, and became familiar with the amazing variety of fish that exist in unspoiled nature. He also discovered the wimpel-piranha, but no discus at that time.

After two years, Amanda Bleher’s return to civilization with her four children made newspaper headlines around the world. In 1959 she decided to settle permanently in Brazil. It was there that Heiko helped build a water plant nursery and fish breeding establishment in the jungle outside Rio. In 1962, he moved to the US and attended the University of South Florida, studying at night and learning more about fishes. He took courses in ichthyology, biology, limnology, oceanography, parasitology and many others. During the day he worked at Elsberry’s Fish Farm and later at the Gulf Fish Farm. Two years later he returned to Rio to open Aquarium Rio and start his own collecting in Brazil. He first opened several compounds in the interior, others later in other parts of South America. At the end of 1964 he discovered the first new species to be named after him – Hemigrammus bleheri, the brilliant rummy-head tetra, now one of the most widely-sold aquarium fishes. He also discovered the “Royal Blue”, his first new strain of discus, now world famous along with many other species. Some years later Heiko explored many new, uncollected areas, and by 1967 he moved his company Aquarium Rio to Germany, returning monthly to Brazil and South America to collect.

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                       Collecting in western Ethiopia                                                               Urmetan, Tajikistan

Over the years, generally alone, Heiko penetrated jungles in all South and Central American countries. He also travelled to the Amazon area as many as 10 times a year in search of discus and others species. In the 1970s he expanded his operations to include Africa, Asia and Oceania (Australia, New Guinea, etc.) and  began to give lectures around the world. He made his first Discus-TV film, “Expeditionsziel Aquarienfische” with the German ZDF and made many TV appearances in different countries. His first Discus book was published in 1982 and re-printed 10 times. Since then he has published articles on discus in magazines around the world. His first documentary film “The Wimpel Piranha” was made In 1983, followed by films on freshwater fishes in New Guinea, Australia, Central America and Brazil then four films on discus in the 90s. Until 1997 from Frankfurt he supplied wholesalers world-wide with new species, including new discus variants every year, mostly from his own discoveries. Between 1965 and 1997, besides introducing most of the wild discus variants into the hobby – directly or by means of the breeders – he introduced more than 4,000 aquarium fish species he had discovered (or re-discovered). This includes the variants such as “blue-headed Heckel”, “Alenquer”, “Red-spotted greens” from the “Coari” and “Japurá” regions and the famous “Rio Içá” discus, and also rainbowfishes such as Melanotaenia boesemani, M. lacustris and M. praecox (most probably now one of the most sold aquarium fishes), angels such as Pterophyllum altum, dwarfs such as Nanochromis nudiceps and Steatocranus bleheri or Channa bleheri. Among other fishes attributable to Heiko’s explorations are also many loricariids (as many as 800, at the time of printing), new Corydoras species, almost countless tetras and dwarf cichlids from West Africa and South America, knife fishes, puffers and flounders. One of his best-known discoveries was the first freshwater sawfish known, in 1982, in a remote northern Australian lake. By the end of 2011 his discoveries and introductions surpassed 6000 different freshwater species and the number of his field trips to freshwater habitats in 176 countries had reached 875 (some of those can be seen here). Heiko and has been invited for almost uncountable lectures and seminars around the globe as his list of possible lectures is nearly unmatched. For his contributions to the hobby Heiko was elected Man of the Year in England in 1993, and later in France. In 2009 he became elected Scientist of the year (2008) for his worldwide contribution to ichthyology by CAOAC – an award given out only 3 times in their 50 years of existance. He holds many other titles and has met kings, presidents, ambassadors and senators. He is happiest and at his most relaxed away from it all when deep in the jungle searching for rare or new fishes.


Lago Aiapuá, Amazonas, Brazil


In 1992 he created the quarterly magazine “aqua geõgraphia”, for Aquaprint (later Aquapress) publishers, a unique publication dedicated to virgin and bizarre habitats, expeditions to new, uncharted places, endangered species, biology, herpetology, botany, myths and aquatic legends, the wonderful world of water, and much more. He is the managing editor of the quarterly scientific journal “aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology” since 1994, and still finds time to write numerous articles and has been working for more than 30 years on a forthcoming tome on all fresh- and brackish water fishes. Since 2010 he is the editor of the popular annual magazine DISCUSBOOK about the updates on the Amazon region and his monograph on Discus (Bleher’s Discus volume 1 and volume 2). And recently, end of 2014, his newest book, Bleher’s Biotopes, Expeditions to Aquatic Habitats, Aquatic Biotopes in Nature, Biotope Aquariums, was finally released after 10 years of writing. His lectures take him to the five continents each year and he is frequently invited to judge fishes (mostly Discus) in exhibitions worldwide. He also collaborated with and organized the first International Discus Show and Exhibition in 1986 in Tokyo, coordinated the first three Aquarama Exhibitions and Conferences held biannually in Singapore and many others. Heiko continues to travel almost monthly to remote jungle areas to find new fishes, and several times each year always to remote places worldwide, and still unexplored Amazon habitats in search of discus and other undiscovered species… 

His life is dedicated to fishes, aquatic plants, flora, fauna and the conservation of freshwater aquatic habitats and its species threatened of extinction worldwide. He teaches, preaches and shows around the globe the continuously increasing thread of rivers, lakes and caves – the freshwater sources of all live forms…

hemigrammus-bleheri web

Hemigrammus bleheri


Тајландска Јога Масажа: If i had fishes for show i woood love to hear the true about my fishes and you Heiko are my hero..

Aquamojo: One of my friend Heiko’s discoveries. He’s done more for the hobby than any one person I can imagine. Beautiful!

Hola Heiko!
 Antes que nada quería saludarlo y felicitarlo por las excursiones que realiza , Estas últimas son espectaculares!!!. (India, Etnabay, !!)
Espero que alguna vez pueda ir de excursión con Ud!!!!!
Ud me avisa el pais dia y mes y yo voy!!!!!

Guillermo Fuentes Oliva: Hello, it’s nice to see the photos you share of your great voyages looking into the underwater world of fresh water. It’s amazing, as I could also find some crossings I’ve done, how life breaks through even in the places you would recognize practically uninhabitable. Must be a pleasure to travel with you and see species never before seen. Greetings and thanks for sharing your experiences.

Tony Vaughan: Great to meet you again Heiko and once again sorry for leaving so early. As always I learn from you every time i hear you speak. That is a way how I know I am listening to a LEGEND

Alex Vereş: Thank you Heiko, it was a pleasure to meet you in Dublin, great presentations and a very useful demonstration regarding the proper way of setting a biotope tank.

Martin Kennedy – Friends with Adrian Dragos: Great day Heiko , your presentation was very interesting . And the biotopes looked amazing !!

Shea Gillespie – 12 mutual friends: It was a superb setup and a pleasure to watch you set it up the detail you went into was amazing, and is something i am planning to do myself even if des wont help me.

Ángel Arroba: Aquascapings 100% natural!!!

Ángel Arroba: I like much more the aquascaping of Heiko Bleher, that the Takashi Amano

David English: Stunning Heiko Bleher!

Uttiyan Nandy: So natural!!!

Neide Conceição: Lindo! lindo! Você caprichou! Parabéns!

Neide Conceição: Meu amigo você é TOP!

Тајландска Јога Масажа: So natural the way you run yours biotops Mr. Heiko. Thats the ultimate challenge..true nature…amazing

HekDiscus Crizanto: Very good Heiko Bleher , congratulations

Тамара Давидова: Congratulation!

Benoit Lo Cascio: Super!

Herman Oei: Nice decor, thumb up! Can feel the nature character.

Herman Oei: Nature type never bored!

Falk Hummel: Guter Schnitt und nicht zu voll good job, Heiko !!!

Benoit Lo Cascio: Magnifiquei!

Martin Kennedy · Friends with Adrian Dragos: Great day Heiko , your presentation was very interesting . And the biotopes looked amazing !!

Shea Gillespie · 12 mutual friends: It was a superb setup and a pleasure to watch you set it up the detail you went into was amazing, and is something i am planning to do myself even if des wont help me

Wayne M Wright · 27 mutual friends: Heiko you are doing what most folk only dream about, I live where most folk only dream about visiting, lifes about your dreams, quit thinking why ! and keep doing what you are doing. everyone loves the things you are doing and wishes they could do the same. somente alguns pode fazer isso.

Friedrich Rudolph: Ich kenne heiko 20 jahre und 19 jahre hat er immer was richtig gemacht

Heinz Jonasson: What would be the global hunting and fishing world without you? Very poor! And a very pleasant person and contemporary!

Josué Ávila Molina: Beautiful shrimp and amazing photo as always Mr. Heiko. Long time ago someone brought to Costa Rica some Atyopsis species (shrimp species with fan-like pin to get algae from the water flow) and this ones looks pretty similar, maybe another species but it’s just an opinion from a amateur aquarist Kid. Thank you for showing your discoveries.

Mohammadreza Seifollahi: Dear Heiko Bleher
You Reached 5,000 friend here. And I know You have many many friends all over the world, Which You know or don’t know, Supporting you, Loving you and waiting for you…

Pablo Lozano: En mi caso tu eres el responsable de mi afición en el mundo de la acuarofilia, cada dia encuentro especies nuevas, de las cuales me enamora saber, que muchas de estas fueron descubiertas por una persona HEIKO, felicidades amigo en muchas partes del mundo a alguien le enseñaste algo.

Albert J Thiel: Great to see Heiko, the Master of fish keeping and new species discoveries on here …. Is that Mercedes Truck you had still in existence Heiko … I know that was a long time ago but it was like a rolling laboratory that was just about everything proof …

Herman Oei: Mamma mia! So beautiful stingray! Heiko always have unlimited shocking pictures, always waiting for it. Thumb up!

Leinad Fast: wowww que padre señor Heiko Bleher ((Y): Hello Heiko Bleher specially for you with an Big Thanks around Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi!

Hamed Komeili – 20 mutual friends: You do great Heiko Bleher. they have wonderfull culture and they show every thing is easy for us now but we feel bad in our life. i learned many thing of this picture thank you for share

Laurent Tyty: Thank you for all your work, now it’s up to us to respond and share together to know the history of our fishes: Me what saddens me most is to see that so few aquarists around the world work together. Why we can not implement a simple communication project on habitats. A Simple sharing to better communicate. For me all aquarists who are responsible are of Don Quichote and Heiko you’re at the origin of it all. You are our leader and you alone can gather us, I beg you take the initiative to create a forum where we could talk about the habitats of our fishes. Please – Friendship of France

Daniel Cohen: Thank goodness there are a few people like yourself (OK, nobody is quite like you Heiko) that are willing to brave such conditions, so that we can keep such beautiful fish in our tanks! Thank you!!!

Mary McCannon: It is the genes, Heiko. Whatever a Bleher does, that hits a high standard.

Friedrich Rudolph: You still look the them but you are 30 years alder.

Janne Ekström: Heiko, no one can take away from you what you have done or discover when i comes to fish, you are an amazing person doing much more then anyone else concerning ornamental fish or even come close too… even if I dont love you I really respect you, we all have our personanilities that make us different to each other.

Hélène Lagueux: Happy Easter to you and you family Heiko, thank you for beeing here!

Patty Elkus: Tremendous! I will be sure to share with Rick…great description and photos. Danke : ) Frohe Ostern!

John Krepper: Happy Easter Heiko Peace be with you on this Easter and your many journeys to come!

Patrick A Tosie: Sr. Thank you Heiko! Have a joyous and happy Easter with your family. I enjoy readying your posts and seeing your fantastic pictures.

Blonde FishGal – Friends with Aj Fish and 76 others: Thank you Heiko, Happy Easter to you and thank you for all you do and share with us!!

Leandro Costa commented on your photo.: Bela foto Heiko! Já pensou em escrever sua Auto Biografia? Por tudo que sempre acompanhei de longe, tenho certeza que seria Best- Seller. Imagina seu acervo fotográfico pessoal eternizado junto com sua história de vida.Na minha opinião você é o Jacques-Yves Cousteau da aquariofilia mundial. Temos muitos registros dos seus achados profissionais, mas sua vida pessoal vai muito além disso. Fica a dica.

Ángel Arroba: Hallo mein freund Heiko: vielen dank for teaching so many things of the aquaristik to us!. Thanks to you, that we love the aquaristik, over everything, we have access, to the best information. The best Discus of the world, happened for …, and the rest of species of the Amazon. Aquarium Rio’s history, it is fascinating. The aquaristik, would not ma sense without Heiko Bleher. The aquaristik meets in debt you!. For me your articles, they are exceptional. For me it is a pleasure to buy your books!. I enjoy very much reading them!. A pity that you were closing Aquarium Rio … I had been charmed with knowing Aquarium Rio!. The majority of the aquarists, do not know what Aquarium Rio has contributed to the aquaristik!. I wait that some day, to manage to be a good professional. For me, you are an example to continue. Grüsse mein freund!.

Steffen Hellner: Heiko, die Welt der Aquaristik wird vor dir sterben! Zumindest wenn die Politik so weiter macht und die Aquarianer und anderen Tierhalter nicht endlich gemeinsam aufstehen und sich mit Nachdruck wehren. Bisher verhindern Vereinsmeier in den Verbänden und darunter nicht wenige, die persönliche Animositäten nicht von Sachfragen trennen können (= unprofessionell, sind aber auch meistens Lehrer oder Hochschuldozenten, die vom Leben in der freien Wirtschaft nicht die leiseste Anung haben und sich deshalb verhalten wie kleine Kinder), dass die Verbände endlich zusammenarbeiten, ihre Ressourcen bündeln, die Aufgaben klar strukturieren und verteilen und sich gegenseitig informieren, statt sich wie Geier gegenseitig die Pfründe wie Sachkundeprüfungen oder Mitgliedsbeiträge streitig zu machen. Das gesamte Verbandswesen ist leider nicht mehr als ein Haufen ehrenrühriger Amateure, die der Politik auch noch Argumente gegen unser Hobby liefern (unlängst erst hat der BNA wieder so eine Tretmine gelegt, darüber darf man öffentlich eigentlich gar nichts sagen, weil unsere Gegner die gratis überreichte Steilvorlage noch nicht erkannt haben. Nur kann man die nicht mehr ungeschehen machen). So werden die “Positivlisten” (aktuell auch Schwarze und Weiße Listen genannt) kommen, nur wenige Arten bleiben und damit das Interesse an der Aquaristik sehr schnell absterben. Wenn niemand mehr als Guppy und Platy halten darf, was macht dann ein Heiko Bleher? Niemand will sehen, was er doch nicht bekommen kann! Also auch keine neuen Arten und Biotope, weil das dann alles zu Science Fiction wird. Dasselbe gilt für alle anderen Formen der Tierhaltung, nicht nur Terraristik. In vielen EU-Ländern sind etliche Arten und ganze Tiergruppen bereits verboten, gerade kam in einem EU-Land eine massive Einschränkung dazu (siehe in Kürze Infos dazu beim ID Tiere e.V.). Holland z.B. drängt in Brüssel auf ein generelles Verbot der Reptilienhaltung in Privathand. Bei Säugetieren und Vögeln gibt es in den Niederlanden bereits massive Restriktionen und Verbote. Für die Aquaristik sind vergleichbare Pläne bekannt oder zu erwarten. Während dessen treffen sich die Verbandsjogis mal wieder ergebnislos bei einem bekanten Zoohändler, kommen aber keinen Schritt weiter, weil sie weder Ideen für Aktionen noch eine öffentlichkeitswirksame Strategie haben. Die Industrie und der Handel spenden an den Deutschen Tierschutzbund Beträge jenseits der € 100.000, aber keinen Cent haben wir den Kampf gegen das Verbot der “Exotenhaltung”. Einige Unternehmen der Zoobranche bereiten sich seit ein paar Jahren auf “die Zeit nach dem Hobby” vor! Deren Kalkül ist es, dass ein Kern von 80-100 der handelsgängigsten Arten erlaubt bleibt udn damit auch 80 % ihres Umsatzes. Dumm, dass diese Leute offensichtlich wenig von der Psycholgie der Faszination verstehen. Die meisten “normalen”Aquarianer und Terrarianer träumen von dieser oder jener Art,die besonders selten oder aufwändig zu pflegen oder schwer zu züchten ist. Dieser Traum motiviert, zumndest mit einfacheren Arten anzufangen oder dabei zu bleiben. Oft habe ich erlebt, dass jemand eine seltene Art unbedingt wollte, als sie dann verfügbar war, aber tausend Ausreden hatte, warum es gerade nicht möglich ist für ihn blabla. Einer, wenn nicht der Grund, warum so viele Menschen zu Erlebnisshops wie Kölle Zoo gehen, weil sie dort eben Arten in elfalt sehen und kaufen können. wegen den immer selben Arten, die er schon hat, kommt keiner mehr zum Schauen. So entsateht Immunität gegen die Faszination der Natur! Dasselbe z.B. für die Reptilienbörse in Hamm. Wenn ein Schlangen-Fan eine Morelia boeleni sehen kann (aber die wenigsten können sich diese Schlange leisten), oder eine teure Mehrfahcmorphe des Königspytons, aber zuhause “nur” Kornnattern (tolle Tiere, nur als Beispiel, weil leicht erhältlich und nicht teuer) oder eine Pastel-Köpy hat, dann hat sich für diesen besucher die Fahrt schon gelohnt. Niemand geht in den Zoo, um sich Tiere anzusehen, die er zuhause hat oder bei edem Spaziergang im Wald sehen kann. Und mit dem Hobby Tierhaltung werden Millionen Menschen ihres Grundrechts beraubt, der Auslebung ihrer Liebe zur belebten natur, der Biophilie, und dem Kulturgut Tierhaltung. Also, Heiko, mach es, solange es noch geht und für dich selber. Unsere Träume, Erfahrungen und Erinnerungen kann uns niemand nehmen. Schade nur, wenn man sie nicht mehr teilen kann oder es keine Zukunft für unsere Leidenschaft gibt. Ich ebe die verrückten! Nur die Normalen machen mir Angst. Zitat von George Bernard Shaw: “Was wir brauchen, sind ein paar verrückte Leute; seht euch an, wohin uns die Normalen gebracht haben.”

Nur die Verrückten bringen die Welt weiter! Und wer will bestreiten, dass in dieser Hinsicht Heiko der verrückteste Aquarianer aller Zeiten ist? Ich nicht. Schade, dass es auf dem ond keine Fishe gibt. Er wäre sonst längst dort …

David: Hey Heiko, I was hoping you would be in Singapore for the Aquarama show. surprised you didn’t go?
Hope everything is okay. Just so you know, I really do respect your hard work. I go a little crazy sometimes. I don’t know how you do what you do. You deserve all the recognition you can get. I could never imagine doing 1% of what you do. So if i did anything to piss you off in the past (and I know I did). I am truly sorry. And will control my self in the future! I did what I hate other people do. And no excuse for any of my actions!
Have a great day.

Jonathon Sauer: Amazing. Amazing. It is a beautiful thing to share, to identify and marvel at our common creation. It is a service to mankind Heiko.

Attila Lukács: Amazing ! Congratulations my friend !

Harry VomTriestingthale: Heiko, i like your Pictures more and more…

Peris Kotsiropolous: I think show without Heiko is not a show and I dont say this because you are a good friend.You have experience as all the Europe together.

Andrey Klochkov shared your photo.
Легендарный “Хейко-мобиль” – супер-джип Heiko Bleher на базе Мерседес Унимог, переделанного в сверхпроходимую амфибию-гряземес, одновременно жилой дом, лабораторию со всем оборудованием и универсальное транспортное средство, на котором Хейко уже объездил практически весь земной шар! “Хейко-мобиль” – предмет лютой зависти натуралистов, путешественников и исследователей природы всего мира! 🙂
The legendary “Heiko-mobile”-Heiko Bleher Jeep super-powered Mercedes Unimog, converted into sverhprohodimuû-amphibian grâzemes, while residential building, a laboratory with all the equipment and multi-purpose vehicle, which already has traveled almost Heiko globe! “Heiko-mobile” is a subject of fierce jealousy naturalists, hikers and explorers of nature all over the world! 🙂 (Translated by Bing)

Mario Pinheiro: Heiko, sério, conheço vc a muito, no inicio digo achei muto show man, mas hoje sou sincero em dizer que admiro todo o conjunto da obra, fantástico a visão do Mundo que existe dentro do seu pensamento, vc realmente é o que é , parabéns, família , negócios , muito bonito para os outros seguirem o exemplo, dou meu braço a torcer, vc merece.

Herman Oei: The master of nature, culture and THE BEST OF FRESHWATER FISHES!

Mary McCannon commented on your photo: As a character, you are a real one off. But your mischievous look and smile makes you an unmistakable person. This photo clearly reflects all the above. This picture is a true symbol of your work, Heiko. I mean your work knows no borders, no politics, no religion. You are there to help both Mother Nature and us – poor souls – to deepen our knowledge. You are a true global citizen, who is at home and welcome wherever you go.

Ralf Stanislawski : Danke Heiko Schade das wir uns nicht mehr in Duisburg sehen können. Deine ” Blehers Biotopes Aquarien ” waren immer sehenswert. Dein Wein und dein Schinken immer lecker. 🙂

Тамара Давидова: Happy Eastern to you and you family ! You are very happy man who looked wonderful world at this place!

Mary McCannon: Hi Heiko,
This picture is a true symbol of your work, Heiko. I mean your work knows no borders, no politics, no religion. You are there to help both Mother Nature and us – poor souls – to deepen our knowledge. You are a true global citizen, who is at home and welcome wherever you go.”

This post is also available in: Italian German French Spanish Português

4 thoughts on “Heiko’s biography

  1. cameraman

    Howdy Mr. Heiko Bleher. My name is Eldar. I am from Moscow, TV cameraman. Glad to Meet you in the internet. In Russia aquarists know you and respect. Your destiny as explorer is wonderfull. THANK YOU for the knowledge of the discus-fish that you are gave for aquarists around the world. I first saw the discus-fish in 1984, when i was a schoolboy and today took a film about them. Please see Trailer, if you like it, I’ll send you a link to the full movie. Very nice to meet you and Up connection
    Aquarium’s Kings Trailer.mp4 23.5 MB

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