For the first time in the history of the website "Fanatik-discus", I leave my place to a friend. Our passion has allowed our meeting and our friendship. He is an Italian that Alps separate from me, the French… This is due to this fabulous fish that is the discus.
This year, my friend Matteo Paolieri proposed me his idea: « Yann, I would like to write an article about Jack Wattley. I would like to publish it on a quality website. I would enjoy to share the photos we looked together when you came my home. I would really honor Jack's work. I want to publish it for his birthday… Would you be interested? "
How not to respond favorably to his request? I had received his photos by mail. I thought they were just mythical. As they represented a piece of the discus history.
They are not always very good quality. We should recall that, at that time, we didn't have the digital tools we have today. But what memories… Matteo had in his hands a treasure. A treasure I have the great honor to share with you here.
Matteo, this place is yours. I thank you again for your trust and your friendship. I just hope my readers will appreciate your story and what you share here. Also wish Jack could read it… He probably read it from the sky…
Jack Wattley left us…
It is the evening of 2 October 2018 Jack Wattley died at his home in Fort Louderdale (USA), Almost 95 years old. On the morning of the following day,, the entire Discus world was mobilized on social media to commemorate this special person, who unquestionably , contributed enormously to the culture of this fascinating fish.
On many Facebook profile, people began to publish their Jack Wattley pictures ; accompanied with words of condolence.
Wattley was an affable person, willing to meet his fans and have talks with them, which immediately turned into exchange of opinions and advices.
I have therefore decided to think about what this man had meant to me; a small Italian amateur breeder. I smile now thinking of his curious way of exchanging greetings, it did not tend your hand, he handed you his fist, looking for yours.
I knew about of his precarious state of health, but I thought naively, that a myth like him would never die.
My first meeting with Watlley turquoises
From long time ago, I have been the custodian of important images. Some of my property and others entrusted to me by my friend Alessandro Celli. which have remained hidden in a drawer until now. Those certainly represent moments in the life and work of Jack Wattley, but also, same time, also my path from a very young aquarist to keen hobbyist and discus amateur breeder..
My passion for the discus began in the eighties, in those years I was enrolled in a very active aquarist club in the pretty Tuscan town of Lucca.
A group full of cichlids fans had founded the’ "Gruppo Acquariofilo Lucchese» and some membership really noteworthy tanks and discus.
Among them, I was really fascinated by Pietro, who had built a tank for discus in his studio. It was fully furnished by rocks forming ravines and caves covered with thick vegetation. While Alessandro, recently returned from a trip to the United States; was able to bring himself at home some turquoise discus never seen before: The "Turquoise Wattley hi fin".
The Pietro aquarium with real rocks background, in the lower left corner, you can perceive a pair of "Wattley Turquoise"
This pair has even reproduced without problem, despite the rocks and the thick vegetation
Alessandro had really visited the farm in Jack Wattley residence at Fort Louderdale. On this occasion, he was able to see with his own eyes both breeding pairs and growing youngs hosting in the farm.
Jack inside his discus hatchery, aquariums of this picture are still used in Miami structures!
Starting from that very interesting and cordial meeting, a series of articles published in months of 1989 that Alessandro created for the Italian magazine "Aquarium" were born. I consider this the first really well done job in Italy, who treated the subject seriously and exhaustively.
The Italian magazine "Aquarium"
After being impeccably bred in a 700 litres, tank, the pairs were formed.
Below, you can see the phases of two distinct breeding. I would like, on behalf of all discus lovers, to thank my friend Alessandro Celli for sharing these precious pictures.
Definitely these are, the best images of "Wattley Turquoise Hi fin" ever published.
In this particular case, you can admire the mantle's brilliance of this magnificent selection.
Beautiful image from Alessandro Celli with Jack Wattley, Heiko Bleher and Manfred Göbel in the back, during Aquarama in Singapore 1991
At that time, the only available publications on the Italian and European markets were "Aquarium" (Primaris éditions), Discus brief (Germany) and Tropical Fish Hobbyist (American publications of TFH), which also included a very popular section called "Ask Jack". where the famous breeder answered reader's questions, revealing valuable information for correct discus breeding.
In the pages of this magazine, you could find a detailed inventory list containing images of the creations of Jack Wattley.
The fruits of his selections were appreciated both in America, in Europe, in Southeast Asia and especially in Japan
My first turquoise from the USA
In 1994, I managed to get a number of specimens coming from the Fort Louderdale hatchery, through a direct import from the United States.
The size of the fish sold was really small, they were not bigger than a two-euro coin, but they all arrived safely in my aquarium.
The "Coeruleas" in my furnished aquarium, immediately after laying eggs on the large root
The "Discus Panda" was born from this little odd crossing
I think the best way to end this little story is to use the words of Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, from the "Handbook of Discus" published in 1985 by T.F.H:
"The world is full of dreamers … Thank Godness…. for progress in the world comes from these non-conformists. Where would we be without Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bells, Christopher Colombus and … Jack Wattley? Who is Jack Wattley?
If you do not know who Jack Wattley is, then you are certainly not well versed in the inner circles of the discus world. Discus? What's a discus?
If you do not know what a discus is, you are certainly are not well versed in the aquarium world.
The discus is a round and flat fish found in the Amazon river system of South America,, mostly in Brazil. It has been the most expensive of the common aquarium fishes … the most sought after and, for many years, the most difficult to breed.
Most breeders were happy just to be able to breed this sensitive fish, but one man had a dream that he not only wanted to breed them, but he wanted to study them genetically and to produce strains of differently colored discus which would be the envy of the world.
His eye sought beauties that he could only imagine. Butterflies and orchids inspired the colors of his dream fishes… and thought it took more than twenty years, his dreams came true.
Jack Wattley not only collected discus in South America, but he spawned them and inbred them for special colors which were then credited only to "dominant males". Wattley manipulated genes as the same way an artist manipulates a paint brush.
his reward, aside from satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult life's ambition, was to become the most famous fish breeder in the world.
Everybody knows about Jack Wattley if they know about discus. "
I want to thank my long term friends, Alessandro Celli and Pietro Arrighi, for allowing me to publish their precious and unique pictures.
And a very special thank also to my friend Yann that allowed me on Fanatik-discus pages; to remind me beautiful memories of my discus enthusiast life, influenced by the great personality of Jack Wattley.
Some images are taken from Tropical Fish Hobbyist (publication TFH), Discus Annual 1992 (publication TFH), «Handbook of Discus» by J.. Wattley (publication TFH), «Discus for the Perfectionist» by J. Wattley (TFH pub.) and Aquarium (Primaris pub.)