First trip to Mexico (16 April - 6 May 2001)

Text and Pictures: Alain Grioche

It was during a rainy April that we leave France. I was with Cris, my girl friend and her sister Martine. My two assistants were not chosen only by their proximity but also because they are bilingual french-spanish. We were going to Mexico…

How it was planed? We will travel using the local bus. It is really convenient as between cities you have until four buses by hours, even at midnight! For the largest travels you could sleep in the bus and arrive late in the morning at destination. The only problem is that you have to take all in a Rucksack. I had a small icebox in the bottom of mine, with the clothes and two telescopic nets over the icebox.

Mexico City: First stop. First day, we were going to the Anthropologic museum, equal to the French "Louvres", when I see a big pond in the middle of the museum. It was full of lotus and papyrus. It was also full of livebearer! Xiphophorus helleri, Xiphophorus variatus, Pseudoxiphophorus bimaculata (15 cm) and Goodea atripinnis (10 to 20 cm). The bottom of the pond was green in some place; it was the defecation of the Goodea! They were all grazing algae on the wall of the pond. Unfortunately, there was no way to enter in the museum with my nets… so it was only a visual observation! Nevertheless I haven't see anything looking to a Girardinichthys, which are often said to become from the anthropologic museum…

Second day, we go to visit the Teotihuacan pyramids. The tallest of all Mexico. Since a long time I have noticed that there is a small Rio in the middle of this place… Arriving 30 meters before the Rio, there was a strange smell… As say the Mexicans, it was black waters, and gaseous moreover… Unfortunately, there is a small village one kilometre ahead and it is the cause of the pollution. As I will quickly understand every River is "Black" after a city! And there are cities every where in Mexico. It's not only a problem of collecting detritus or used waters, a problem of infrastructures I mean. Sorry for my Mexican friends but a lot of Mexican people doesn't need bin, they simply don't understand what it could be…

Third day, We go to see the Xochimilco area. Here, I have to say that Mexico City was originally on a small island, in the middle of a large lagoon at 2000 meters of altitude. Now, except sewage, it only remains the area of Xochimilco with a little of stagnant but free waters. It's ditches were people culture some vegetable and flowers. It's more a tourist area where you could go on a "Lancha" for a not reasonable price. The water is deep green, opaque. I find there a lot of Xiphophorus helleri, some beautiful Xiphophorus variatus and Pseudoxiphophorus bimaculata, all introduced species, but any Girardinichthys viviparus (as said in the literature…) temp. air 26.8°C, water 22°C, pH 7.6, nitrate 50mg/l, nitrite 5 mg/l, Gh 10°, Kh 10°.

 

In fact I returned in Mexico in March 2002, and visit the place a second time to be sure I haven't miss the Girardinichthys… I have find quite the same conditions and the same fishes (air 27°C, water 21°C, pH 7.2, nitrate 25mg/l, nitrite 5 mg/l, Gh 6°, Kh 6°). Well decided to find the famous Girardinichthys viviparus… I begin to explore each pond and water place in the Chapultepec park ! It's not a small work as the park is something as 20 x 5 km !

Naturally, it is forbidden to fish in the ponds… but if you ask kindly to the watchman, telling that your are looking for a small fish endemic from Mexico City, he will rapidly help you with the net !

There are mainly three lakes in the park. The two biggest contain a great quantity of Goodea atripinnis, Tilapias and Carps. The last and smaller one is near the Natural History museum. And it contains Carps and the desired Girardinichthys viviparus ! The small Goodeid were there in great quantities. I haven't done any visual observations as the water was deep green but they were in the net. I catch mainly fries and big females but in 5 minutes around 30 or 40 fishes were collected. I have to say now that they seem to be really sensitive to catching I only succeed in bringing back five young males and a young female as fries. The two big, but non pregnant, females and the adult male I have take were died few hours later. Temp. air 24.5°C, water 19.3°C, pH 7.6, Nitrite and nitrate 0, Gh 3, Kh 3.

I will pass over a part of the Trip. We spent 10 days to the south, In a non-Goodeid but interesting area, where I returned in spring 2002. It's amazing to see how Mexico is a big and contrasted country… Guadalajara (unpronounceable for "non-Spanish" people). It's not a nice town, with a lot of building. But, it's only one hour driving for the lake "Chapala". This is the largest lake of all Mexico. 100 km longs for 12 km wide. Well, in fact it was the largest… Now it's a dry place, one of the greatest ecological damage of Mexico. We walked something as 1,5 km, from the antic border, to find the water. It was impossible to reach the water because there was, all around it, 15 to 20 meters of a deep and amorous mud. We go along the mud, trying to find a solid substrate where we could walk to the water. We finally find a kind of bridge that allowed people to take boats. Cleverly, it was over wheels, which permit to move it regularly, in accordance to the regression of the water !

 

The water was 15 to 20 cm deep at the extremity of the bridge. It was muddy and opaque. The bottom of the lake was the same deep mud as those we risk our life few minutes before. I find here a lot of Poeciliopsis infans, few Gambusia sp. and some "Charales", a small atherinid, eat by the locals. After half an hour fishing around the bridge… no sign of Goodeids, until I really go into the wheels with my net. They hid in the wheels ! I catch few Chapalichthys encaustus, mainly pregnant females, and a fry supposed to be of Zoogoneticus quitzeoensis. temp. air 35°C, water 28.8°C, pH 8.4, Nitrate and nitrite 0, Gh 16, Kh 20.The Chapalichthys were quite thin and infested by copepods looking as lernea, indicating their bad conditions of life. Fortunately the two pairs I take were bring back alive. When they have feed and recovered strong the parasites were removed, one week after they arrived in my tank. Morelia, end of the trip. We go to meet the members of the Aqualab. What a day ! 35 species of Goodeids in a prefect condition of development, well mature and colourful ! I think Ivan Dibble will say something about the lab in the magazine so I will pass over the description of the installation. I just put you few pictures.

   

 

 

We take a "rendez-vous" with the member of the lab to go visiting "Colonia Guadalupe" another great location for Goodeids. We made the one hour and a half driving, five people in a bittle… My first time in a bittle ! "Colonia Guadalupe" is a small road with ditch on one side and some sources and a small swamp on the other side. There is normally three species of Goodeid here : Skiffia bilineata, Allotoca dugesi and Xenotoca variata. Just as we arrived we see that they were collecting the water lilies in the ditch… the normally crystal water was a muddy ditch… we go to the sources… the locals were washing themselves and some clothes. It's a normal costume in Mexico, as it was in Europe 80 years ago… The source was white with bubbles ! So we tried to find fishes in the swamp but with any success. Finally we returned to the ditch where we find good quantities of introduced Tilapias, Xiphophorus helleri and Poeciliopsis infans… but quite nothing of Goodeids. Bad day. temp. air 28.5°C, water 21.5°C, pH 7.6, Nitrite and nitrate 0, Gh 15, Kh 20.

Last day before returning to the biggest world city, we go to see Patzcuaro. It's really a nice city, a place to visit. The lake of the same name is big but with lots of groups of plants in the middle, and an island, that indicate it's not deep. The water is muddy, we go on a small bridge, near a lots of water lilies to fish. In only one net I bring back something as 7 Goodea atripinnis (15 cm long) and an Allophorus robustus of the same size. I will also catch a lot of Poeciliopsis infans and a large "Charales", that Harro Hierronimus will let me know later that it was Chirostoma patzcuaro, an atherinid endemic from the lake. temp. air 28.5°C, water 21.5°C, pH 7.6, Nitrite and nitrate 0, Gh 15, Kh 20.

Finally I bring back to France, Girardinichthys viviparus, Allotoca dugesi, Skiffia bilineata, Chapalichthys encaustus, a pair of Goodea atripinnis and some Poeciliopsis viriosa catch in the mangles near San Blas. Excepted the Goodea, that I have bring for a friend, all those are thriving now !

Here  you can also see some more pics (Oaxaca and San Blas) taken by Alain during his trip.