After a lovely lunch under the jungle canopy, and a morning of fishing for peacock bass, piranhas, trahiras and shovelnose catfish, we head out again. Stomachs full of fried peacock bass, soup of piranha, tomatoes and cucumber, Guaraná, the local Brazilian fruit drink, and a couple of ice cold beers, enjoyed in hammocks.

AmphibPlane 1We make a sharp turn up the tributary and the guide pulls back on the power, not to disturb the shallow and clear water too much. Multi-spotted freshwater stingrays flee from our path, and schools of "piau" (leporinus headstanders) quickly pass our boat downstream. Suddenly the jungle closes in on us and we enter the realm of wonders, an exotic world of crystal clear water teaming with aquarium fish of all sizes and colours...

September, 2014. We have arrived in Acarí river, a broad and murky river in the Madeira system, a couple of hundred kilometres south of Manaus. The amphibian aircraft delivered us directly to the heavenly jungle base camp, organized by PescAventura, whom I have had the pleasure of travelling with several times before. I bring my son and five friends to this paradise, all intent on catching the huge aquarium fish on rod and reel.

My own interests are divided. As much as I love catching fishes with lures, I always feel guilty if I don't also concentrate on getting good pictures of the different species; without a hook in the mouth...AQPhoto 05

Photographing the different fish species in the jungle has primarily been to get support photos for my sportfishing articles, to show for example bait fish and/or the variety of fish species. To get these photos I only really needed a recently deceased fish laid out on a tree plank, or held in my hand, for documentation. However, to give the fish a little more credit, this can be improved enormously!

To get a reasonably good photo of a fish, a live specimen is of course preferred; and then at least have the fish presented on a wet surface. Then, even the wood plank works...

But how difficult is it to bring in some of the local aquatic vegetation? Well, it took me a while to realize - I must be getting old - but dead leaves, braches and plants from the local area will logically do perfectly to show the fish, even though it is not in the water.

AQPhoto 03Next step is, naturally, to photograph the fish in the water. I have done quite a bit of underwater photo in the Amazon on my trips, which in itself is an unbelievable experience, even without photographing. It is like submerging yourself into a huge biotope aquarium with the most authentic selection of fish species, plants and general layout.

My son said to me: "Nature certainly does have a great decorator, right?". And I easily agreed... everywhere it looked like nature had fixed it so that it looked pleasing to the eye: wonderful rapids with dark leaves on white sand and intense green plants swaying in the current, next to fallen trees where fish schooled, and with a superb backdrop of palm trees, vines and impenetrable jungle.

Time well spent when you snorkel through hundreds of moenkhausia tetras of several species, over big pike cichlids and peacock bass; and when you get down, close up to the bank, you are face to face with dwarf pike cichlids, apistogrammas, checkerboard cichlids, eartheater cichlids, headstanders, and sometimes even little caimans and turtles.AQPhoto 07

I have many really nice photos from snorkelling in the clearwater tributaries, but as clear as the water may seem, it is never really completely clear, plus it is so difficult and time consuming to get a perfect photo, underwater. Of course, it doesn't really matter, because the photos show the actual reality; but if you want the best fish species photos, you really do have to put them in a photo tank..

And, lucky me, I had all the opportunities on my latest trip.AQPhoto 08

I had my own "travel-tank" ready for adventure, but Rubinho, the owner of PescAventura, promised to bring a tank from Manaus. Well, less to pack and less to go wrong. So I just brought a piece of artificial background and a tube of silicone, and fingers crossed that the tank would really be there.

And it was...

The guides were happy to help out with everything. We sawed up the background to fit the tank, and I glued it on with the silicone I had brought from home. For decoration, I collected mangrove-like roots from the trees around the camp, and dead leaves from the river. The roots were glued to the top of the background to look like the real thing, and the dead leaves became bottom decor, instead of sand or gravel, which can become a nuisance if the fish are bolting around.

The clear water we got from one of the nearby tributaries, after which the job was finding the all important fish specimens of the right size. Again, the guides were invaluable.

The fish were caught in various ways; for most part the fishes were caught in  nets, which the guides had set up in various strategic places in the nearby area. Howevere, we also got quite e few interesting species very near the camp, behind the kitchen, actually. Logically, many fish congregated where food leftovers were thrown into the river, and were easy to catch with cast net. But us being sportfishermen, we all had a go at catching all sorts of catfish, characins and cichlids with ultra-small hooks and thin fishing line. All good fun, besides the fact that I got my fish species to photograph.AQPhoto 10

The guides usually brought back headstanders like Ternetz' anostomus (Anostomus ternetzi), Grant's leporinus (Leporinus granti), mulberry leporinus (Leporinus moralesi); piranhas like tiger piranha (Serrasalmus manueli), serrated piranha (Serrasalmus serrulatus), lobetoothed piranha (Pygopristis denticulata), spotted piranha (Pristobrycon striolatus); catfish like Amazon butterfly pleco (Dekeyseria amazonica), iron head driftwood catfish (Trachycorystes trachycorystes), the dreaded Candirú / toothpick fish (Vandellia cirrhosa); cichlids like checkerboard cichlid (Dicrossus maculatus), red Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus), dwarf pike cichlid (Crenicichla notophthalmus), flag cichlid (Mesonauta festivus), longnosed pike cichlid (Crenicichla acutirostris), and many more...; tetra types like diamond spot curimata (Cyphocharax curimata), Cotinho tetra (Moenkhausia cotinho), Collett's tetra (Moenkhausia collettii), tucanfish (Chalceus erythrurus), bleak-tetra (Bryconops alburnoides), Yellow-fin hatchet tetra (Triportheus albus) and many more...; other fishes like Amazon leaffish (Monocirrhus polyacanthus), and even adult red heckel discus (Symphysodon discus); besides the odd caiman, false coral snake, and a load of frogs.... !

On this trip I didn't bring my big camera, Nikon D3 + flash, even though I have much experience in handling this equipment. Instead, I wanted to try out the new Nikon 1 AW1 waterproof camera. In general, I was happy with the new camera; of course, there were limits as to how creative I could get, without having to fiddle around too long in the menus. When it came to aquarium photo, I was very excited to see how well it would do, but exactly as I had tested at home, there were absolutely no problems. Only thing is, when you don't have an external flash, you have to angle the camera downward just a little bit to avoid capturing the flash-light of the built-in flash in the front glass of the aquarium.

The photo aquarium is in the care of Rubinho in Manaus, and next year there is no doubt we will do even more jungle aquarium photo...

Leporinus moralesi AQ01 Monocirrhus polyacanthus UW01

Serrasalmus serrulatus AQ01

Symphysodon discus AQ01

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