Interview: Cüneyt Birol the discus globetrotter


Last year, My Turkish friend Cüneyt Birol flew to a long journey of one month in the heart of Asia. On the menu for this passionate; judgment in the Manila competition, Jakarta and Aquarama, lectures, visit farms. Which program!

I wanted to share with the readers of Fanatik-Discus fabulous travel Cüneyt.

Cüneyt Birol the passionate…

This person is one of those that I respect a lot and I thank him for taking the time to answer to this interview. I am convinced that it will be of interest of many enthusiasts!

This long interview, will be articulated in 5 parts. To make it more enjoyable, that will be adorned with photographs taken by my friends Cüneyt Birol and Raymond Lee.

First, I invite you to discover Cüneyt then present his trip. We will continue the interview by talking about the Aquarama competition 2011 and what we can see around this contest to finally talk about with his personal impressions.

I propose new documents, remarks and rare photographs ... So I hope you enjoy your trip with ... Cüneyt Birol the globetrotter discussophile!


Yann Hoiret Fanatik-Discus: Cüneyt, can you tell us more about you?

Cüneyt Birol: Yann, first of all , I wanted to thank you I have proposed this interview.

I was born in Ankara (Turkey) in 1957. I still live in the same city. However, my family is from the island of Crete, which is now part of Greece. As far as I can remember, since i know myself, cats, dogs, snakes, lizards, frogs, Partridges, birds, crayfish, just to list a few.

However, my fish craze started when the local municipality decided to change the bed of a creek witch was flowing right next the place we were living. There were many small loches left in the old water bed and I started a project with my gang of friends to save these fishs . Some loches were returned to the new creek diverted and some of them found their way to a small aquarium I had at home.

This was the first time I started keeping some fish at home. I was 12 years old. Since that time, I always kept some fish around me. I now maintain fish from more of 40 years old.

Meeting with discus…

My first encounter with the discus took place when I bought some old issues of "National Geographic" magazine for a bookseller who sold second hand books. I think that I had 16 years old at this time, and I found an article on may 1960 who headlined "the discus shared his secret..

It was about one of the first successful breeding of discus in an aquarium with photos of them with fry feeding on parents. I read this article over and over again. So, I said to myself 'I have to keep this fish one day' and it became a goal for me. However, I could only achieve this goal at the beginning of years 80, because at that time the discus were not readily available in Turkey and they were very expensive. That is how my journey began with the King of aquariums.

Here is the article that I found for you. Published in 1960 It is today part of the 'collectors '.!  Images of the site THE NEW YORK SOCIETY LIBRARY

For several years, I kept and breed different discus varieties. The first that I bred were red turquoises followed by cobalts and later on blue diamond.

In recent years I raised a few "violet Reflections" Wayne, "Ultras Reds' Ivan Seah and"great yellow melons"of Roy Khoo. This year I yet stopped the livestock to the maintenance because I began to much travel; and it is not clear to me to raise at this time.

I never submitted one of my fish in a contest but I've always tried to maintain a good quality discus with beautiful shape. I've also tried to help with the Organization of the first national discus championship in Turkey , I also took part as a founding member in the creation of the Discus Club official of my country.

I did not take part in the management of the club team because I have always believed that we had to give way to the young people to serve the society, and we should support them to achieve our goal.


Yann Hoiret FD: You also created a group on Facebook discussophile?

Cüneyt Birol: I have created a group dedicated to the discus there is virtually 3 years old. My goal in forming this group was to welcome the discussophiles around the world, be they beginner or expert so that information and practices dedicated to the discus are more easily shared. It is a place where shows, events, and discus Championships can be announced.

I believe that the Group has achieved its goal because it became the largest group dedicated to the discus on Facebook with more than 2000 members worldwide. I'm really happy and proud to have been the person responsible for this group because I think it has become a good platform for those who want to share something related discus.

Eric Tiu and Cuneyt Birol Petfish 2011
The discus at the origin of new friendships (Eric Tiu Philippines Watch Cuneyt Birol)

Yann Hoiret FD: Many will agree with me that you contribute that much to the hobby…

Cüneyt Birol: I think that this is not right for me to evaluate what I did for the hobby. However, I can say that I do my best to promote our hobby and help my friends around the worlds discussophiles.

« Discus the fish that unite the world… "

Cüneyt Birol

After Duisburg 2010, I used the motto "Discus"., the fish who United the world. ''. I really believe in this. For me, The discus is not just a fish. It is a media that help people from all over the world to meet, to understand each other, help and learn to love each other.

Thanks to the discus, I now have friends, real friends at the four corners of the world. I try to help our community by attending as many shows as i can, trying to give advice to clubs to organize better Championships and also by trying to transfer all my knowledge about discus to persons who need it.

The long trip to Asia

Yann Hoiret FD: Last year you have left the Turkey for a long trip… Can you present it to us?

Cüneyt Birol: Yann, The month of may 2011 was a long month for me. In total, I have travelled more than 40 000 km. Which is equal to the length of the Equator, It was like i travel around the world.

First I went to Manila in the Philippines to try at the "PETFISH". 2011 " , After Manila I have visited Coron Island during 4 days before returning to Turkey.

After having remained 5 days in Turkey, I went to Indonesia Jakarta to juge at the first international discus competition of the country. My Swedish friends Kaj Persson, Tony Johansson and Jorgen Níelsson have joined me in Jakarta. (See also discus the Nordic Discus Show)

Following the Indonesian competition, We traveled to Penang in Malaysia to visit discus farms and see old friends during 2 days.

Then i directed to Singapore to juge at Aquarama. I stayed 6 days in Singapore to finally return home the last day of the month. It was an exhausting but highly satisfactory adventure. During this trip, I juged in three different countries in 20 days.

the PETFISH 2011 Philippines en photos

Conference Cüneyt Birol when Petfish 2011
Cüneyt Birol During his lecture
Conference discus during Petfish 2011
Conference Heiko Bleher when Petfish 2011
Judgment discus has Petfish 2011
Heiko Bleher had Cuneyt Birol PetFish 2011
Heiko Bleher and Cüneyt Birol both international judges
Petfish 2011 trophies

Yann Hoiret FD: How have you organized a long trip?

Cüneyt Birol: Planning such a trip is really a serious business. Everything must be planned in advance. I always received help from local friends for booking hotels and planning visits.

In the Philippines, for example, Jeremy Ng helped me to organize my trip and my friend, my brother Jeffrey Yang almost everything organized for me in Penang. If you do not have help locally, It is really difficult to run everything smoothly thousands kilometers away from home. To reduce the costs you should also book your flights months in advance and well know airline companies that exist in those regions or specific countries.

Another thing to take into account was the responsibility that I had to plane a part of the trip for my Viking friends; so I had to make everything run very perfect. You also have to think about such things as the visa, all kinds of medecine to take with you, adequate clothes for a long time, precautions against insects… not easy.

Jeremy Ng and Cuneyt Birol in Coron Island

Yann Hoiret FD: You spend great moments during your trip. Have you few anecdotes for readers of the blog?

Cüneyt Birol : It was indeed a very nice trip my friend. Thanks God and good planning, everything went almost perfect. I have not really faced problems. In fact, every moment, every minute can be considered an anecdote but I know that it would be too long to write here everything.

Meet the teacher Hai Khoon Singapore, visit M.Foo (President of Discus Society Malaysia) in Penang, observe the collection of wild Betta of Hermanus in Jakarta, meet friends in Manila and Jakarta that I didn't previously only through internet, see some stunning and exciting fish everywhere i went, taste exotic and delicious food all the time are a few that I can think right now.

Hermanus Haryanto betta breeder
At Hermanus Haryanto breeder bettas

I still want to give you a few examples here:

Aries 'Summit Discus"in Jakarta is a friend with whom I used to discuss in chat on Facebook, just before my trip to Asia. I asked him if he thought to compete for the Championship in Jakarta.

He said he was an amateur breeder and that he did not introduce fish deal with professional breeders. I gave him the example of an amateur fish becoming the Grand Champion BIDKA discus show in England during the month of April and I encouraged him to enter the contest.

He listened to me and brought some fishs. He won the first and the third place in the category red spotted snakeskin as well as first place in striated turquoise! His fish winner in the category red spotted snakeskin received the second highest score any confused category after the Ricky discus Grand Champion (nb Ricky Lim). This success was a great surprise for him as for me, but a great time to share with us all.


The day i arrived in the Philippines, i was told that my dear friend Heiko (nb Heiko Bleher) and me were invited to a dinner in the House of a pet and fish loving person.

When we arrived, We were faced with a house or should I maybe say a 'palace' on more of 15 hectares of land. There were 5 various garden ponds with koi varieties of carp and plants of all kinds as well as many animals and birds.

In the garden was also a fish house, the largest personal fish house I've ever seen, bigger than many fish farms in the area. Aquariums were filled with numerous and very rare exotic fish from all over the world. The House and the garden were decorated with beautiful antique hand-carved furniture collected from all over Asia, especially Indonesia. I thought i was in a dream for some time.

Dinner in a passionate Aquarium
A very nice installation !

Also in Philippines, I had a young friend who was 16 years which maintains the discus and I always try to help for diseases, the behavior, select discus etc. The day I gave a conference in Manila, my little friend (Infact he is taller then me) came to listen with his mother and his two brothers. We had a great time together after my 'speech '.. It's really interesting to see how the world is getting smaller and the people can meet and get together doesn't matter where you live.

Arowana Aquarama 2011

Aquarama 2011

Yann Hoiret FD: Cüneyt, are you agree with those who say that the contest discus Aquarama is the largest in Asia?

Cüneyt Birol: The importance of Aquarama is very high in this area of with approximately 20 000 visitors and a exhibition area of 8000 M2. Apart discus competition, There are competitions of gold fish, Arowana, Guppy, betta, nanos planted aquariums, Marine tanks.

Aquarama 2011 discus Grand champion

But the discus competition, the most classic and traditional is of great importance for Asia. Now, considering the cancellation of Aquafair in Malaysia, I believe that its importance increases. Compared to Duisburg (NB the past World Championship) the number of discus tanks is not so important but they are all filled with very high quality fish coming from the most important breeders of Asia. The biggest difference with Duisburg is that there is no wild fish at Aquarama.

Yann Hoiret FD: How was the level of the discus contest and what was the variety trend there?

Cüneyt Birol: The quality of the discus is still very high at Aquarama and this was also the case this year. This year, I can say that the albinos was not also impressive as previous editions and there were more emphasis given on the spotted fish varieties.

Yann Hoiret FD: Have you noticed the appearance of new varieties in this contest?

Cüneyt Birol : I can't say if new varieties were presented, but I can say that the spotted discus were close to perfection with spots everywhere on the body including nose, the fins and tails, gills… everywhere. It was the same with the fish of the Red category.

Breeders of Malaysia and Singapore are working hard to obtain a red fish with almost no white, on them, totally red and also with a larger size. Difficult to obtain another variety was the "web pigeon." (NB snake spotted pigeon blood) with a dot in each scale. The development of the albino also continues.

Some Aquarama winners 2011

Yann Hoiret FD : You have judge in many competition now, did you noted some features in judging at Aquarama?

Cüneyt Birol : The first thing you note is a perfect professionalism. Nothing is left to chance. Everything is planned and organized in advance. The judging, is made to the location of the hotel, we stayed in everything is planned in detail. I think this is the key to have a good competition.

Cuneyt Birol j. Aquarama 2011

Yann Hoiret FD : Can you present us how the Aquarama competition is organize?

Cüneyt Birol : The Aquarama discus competition is organized by UBM trade company but the real hero behind this are the members of teams it the "Discus Club Singapore". They have installed seating, maintenance of aquariums and water conditioning, determined the categories. Prepared the judging evaluation sheets, advised UBM to choose judges. Short, they have supervised the majority of things related to the discus competition.

No. Today the organization of Aquarama fair was transferred to China.

Stand Discus club singapore Aquarama 2011
Discus Club Singapore

During the evaluation, judges are request to choose 5 to 6 fish that they deem to be the best in each category. There are 10 categories to Aquarama. Then the 6 best fishs in each category are evaluated in detail. The criteria used for the evaluation are the first impression, body size, General proportions, the fins and tails, the body(head, gills, scales, skin), eyes, pattern and color.

Once the winners of each category are determined, judges are asked to choose the Grand Champion from those winners. The discus which gets the highest number of votes became the Grand Champion.

Difficulties during judgment…

Yann Hoiret FD : According to you, What are the difficulties encountered when you judge a discus?

Cüneyt Birol : First of all, I have to travel a very long distance specially when I judge in Asia. The number of hours spent in airports, transfers etc… may sometimes exceed 24 hours. This is very tiring and if you add to this the time difference you can have; This can be really hard when you disembark in a country.

Cuneyt Birol j. Aquarama 2011 01

Another important thing is that we must usually judge fish shortly, 24h sometimes after they join the competition. Most of the fish feel better and show their beautiful colors after we have considered. This may result in giving low points to a fish that deserves more.

The most difficult time we have during a judgment occurs when a fish hides in the back of the tank or close to a filter. It is almost impossible to judge such fish. I usually skip this type of fish and give him a second chance at the end of the judging session, But if it is still hiding, I give points according to whatever i can see. However, a hiding fish never become a champion.

Yann Hoiret FD : Can you tell us more about the grand champion?

Cüneyt Birol: One of the important thing about a grand Champion is that it must be a real eyes catcher due to its shape, pattern, its size, color, everything. The fish which became Grand Champion had all these qualities. The very fine and small points of the fish and the distribution of spots which is very hard to get made this fish a special animal and was distinguished from other.

Aquarama 2011 Discus red spotted snakeskin Grand champion
Grand champion Aquarama 2011

Yann Hoiret FD: To summarize this Aquarama 2011… If I asked you to give me 3 adjectives?

Cüneyt Birol : Exotic, Excellent, Exciting…

Next to Aquarama…

Yann Hoiret FD: Can you tell us more about Singapore?

Cüneyt Birol : Singapore is a town in first class on many aspects. First of all, people are always very friendly and helpful. There is a respect for other people.

Then, I can say that this is one of the cleanest in the world cities. You do not see a cigarette butt on the street. It is even prohibited to sell of chewing gum in Singapore to not dirty walkways. Another important virtue of Singapore is the food. You can offer you the best seafood and Asian food in this city. This is almost a dream city.

It is also a paradise for shopping. There are huge malls with all the brands internationally known at low prices compared to Europe.

Yann Hoiret FD: Cüneyt, Singapore is the most important place for the ornamental fish market, Did you had the chance to see interesting things?

Cüneyt Birol : Singapore is more than 20% the global ornamental export market share with little loan 350 million each year and plays the role of export port for Malaysia, Indonesia and China for years.

There are large facilities such as Quan Hu is a complex of farms, who breed, sale, import, export all kinds of ornamental fish, and any type of equipment for aquariums. Quan Hu farm there is also a café and a SPA of 'doctor fish '. (NB as the Garra rufa found in France and elsewhere).

Particularly, It is of very good Arowana breeders. There are also specific areas in Singapore totally reserved for fish and pet breeding. The ornamental fish is an industry in itself in Singapore.

Tropical fish market Singapore
The discus breeders are always looking for excellence

Discus Club Singapore

Yann Hoiret FD: What did you impress the most with discus breeders?

Cüneyt Birol : I am proud to be a member of Discus Club Singapore. Consequently, I had the opportunity to meet all the major breeders of Singapore as Colin Heng, Ivan Seah, Raymond Lee, Felix Low, Khoon Seng Chai, Roy Khoo, Rajan, Allan Lee, Peter Choo and I also had the honor to meet great discus lovers who have dedicated their lives to their passion as DR.Sun, Andrew Soh, Victor Lim, Tan Hai Khoon and Lawrence Chong.

Discus Club Singapore

Unfortunately, some Singapore discus breeders stopped breeding because of the high cost of livestock. However, all breeders have their own beautiful and special varieties. For example, Colin is an expert in spotted fish with very small points, Ivan has its red passion and Ultra reds, Rajan white fish such as of perfect butterfly discus. Raymond has its goldens and spotted golden, Chai got pigeons, the albino and many others.

I can say that Singapore discus breeders are always seeking for excellence in their production.

Yann Hoiret FD: You have spent a long time in Asia, how you feel after this trip?

Cüneyt Birol :  Of course, a so long trip; spending long hours in planes, airports is very tiring. However, This is very, very satisfying. I am sure i will miss the places I visited, time I spent there, and my good friends I will miss.

Asian Discus = bad reputation?

Yann Hoiret FD: Asian discus fish have sometimes bad reputation in Europe; What is your point of view on this subject?

Cüneyt Birol : In fact, I believe that the contribution of Asians home breed discus is very high. If we take into account the mutations such as the pigeon blood, the albino and snow white and most of the new varieties originating in Asia, It will be easier to understand what I want to express.

I believe that the origin of the bad reputation of Asian discus is not due to the breeders but rather to the European importers who for years imported the cheapest discus available which are generally offered as "assorted discus" and got tired to sell them at high prices. Are discus usually rejected by breeders after the selection of the best specimen.

However, a little later, lots of good quality fish have started to arrive on the European market, imported by conscientious distributors. When we look at the latest results of the competition of Duisburg (old world championship) and European competitions, We can see that Asian breeders dominate the championships and collect most of the trophies.

Discus heckel cross has Penang
The Discus "heckel cross" are the object of attention in Asia…

Yann Hoiret FD: Cüneyt, you shall return in Asia?

Cüneyt Birol : I'll definetly return in Asia, Whenever I have a chance. First of I have many very good friends from there. Seing them again always makes me happy. I also like Asian way of living. I love Asian food. I feel really like at home when I am in Asia.

So, the travel is completed, You can win your seat belts… Fanatik-Discus will fly soon to new lands… always dedicated to our dear discus!

I hope that you spent a pleasant time in our company.

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See you soon

About Author

Discus Breeder and Discus columnist, Yann Hoiret share on the website Fanatik-Discus his experience and passion for the King of aquariums. From 2014 He worked as a writer for the french magazine "AquaMag", the German magazines "Discus Live" and "Discus yearbook". He participated as an international judge in France Discus show 2014 and 2016 in Arvert, au Greek Discus Show 2014 in Athens, Discus Show in Paris Grigny 2015, 2017 and 2019, au FIDO concurso 2016, 2017 and 2018 Spain, au Nordic Discus Show 2018 Sweden, au France Discus Show 2018 Cognac, Discusvrienden the discus competition 2018, 2019, 2022 in the Netherlands.


  1. Stéphane on

    A dreaming report.
    When we will have a trip organized by fanatik discus? 🙂 .

  2. Yann Hoiret on

    Ahahahahah you would be interested??? 🙂
    Thank you for your comment!

  3. Nice reportage,It leaves dream and what about pictures, really enjoy reading this article.
    Congratulations yann

  4. Yann Hoiret on

    Hello Seb!
    Thank you, I hope you will also enjoy the next articles! Stay connected to the blog! 😉

  5. Eddy duvigneaud (eddy52) on

    Hello yann, j read this article and again once I am not disappointed ! BRAVO

  6. Good evening
    What a pleasure to read this interview with a pro that the air of a man simple and generous in sharing his knowledge
    Thanks for this trip yann

  7. Yann Hoiret on

    Good evening,

    It is with great pleasure that I have realse this interview. It was a lot of work but the information distilled by Cüneyt worth.
    And I am happy to know that this kind of interviews like.
    Take care,


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