Large-scale collection

DIARY'Aquatic expert Jamie Horn from Thurlstone who has many rare fish at his home aquarium
DIARY'Aquatic expert Jamie Horn from Thurlstone who has many rare fish at his home aquarium
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“WHEN I think about it,” muses Jamie Horne, “If I wasn’t so crazy about them I would have been able to pay my mortgage off long ago.”

“WHEN I think about it,” muses Jamie Horne, “If I wasn’t so crazy about them I would have been able to pay my mortgage off long ago.”

Them are the 38-year-old’s collection of almost 2,000 fish.

Over the last two decades he’s spent an estimated £60,000 on the collection.

This construction industry supplier, of Thurlstone, has 117 tanks installed in two specially-built garages containing 18,500 litres of water and 400 species. Out on his drive sits a converted water van for transporting the creatures around. Their food bill alone comes to £400 a month. And over the last year Jamie has travelled from Cornsay in the north to Plymouth in the south showing them off.

This, quite simply, is believed to be one of the largest privately-owned non-educational, zoological or scientific-based collections anywhere in the country.

“I’m single, believe it or not,” laughs the chairman of the Sheaf Valley Aquarist Society. “But that means I have plenty of disposable income.

“And I’ve always loved my fish. It’s so relaxing after a day at work to go in there for a couple of hours, feed them, do whatever needs doing, sit down in my deckchair, have a beer and just watch them.

“There are plenty of times I’ve nodded off. It’s warm and I’m in my T-shirt and shorts and the next thing I know it will be the middle of the night. It’s lovely.”

In here, there are big fish (the monstrous 32 inch fire eel), small fish (two centimetre rasboras), colourful fish (the blue and red hartwegi), and goldfish – “you have to have a goldfish, don’t you?” says Jamie.

There are also the downright weird.

Swim forward, the African lungfish, a creature which can survive four months out of water, and which has jaws so powerful and an appetite so acute it has been known to bite a human finger clean off.

“If you’re not an expert handling that one, you’re in trouble,” says Jamie. “You have to show it respect. It can bite through bone. Put it this way, you don’t put your hand in the tank with it – you don’t even go close.”

His favourite, meanwhile, is the fellow pictured – Vinny (“I do name some of them,” he admits) the vieja argentea.

“He’s so interactive,” says Jamie. “Whenever I walk in he’s always the first to rush to the front of his tank. It’s because he wants feeding but it does mean he gets spoiled a little.”

He started his hobby aged just 16 after falling in love with his parents’ small collection of tropical fish.

“I remember when I was about eight eating my breakfast in the kitchen watching a piranha,” he recalls. “They fascinated me even then.”

And he likes how they fascinate other people too.

Jamie again: “When people first meet me they say I must be mad, but everyone who sees the collection understands. They come in here and they’re gob-smacked.”

Not that it’s all been plain sailing. There has been the odd disaster too.

“When I was less experienced I had a tank burst in the middle of the night which had about 50 fish in,” he recalls. “I walked in the next day and there were about 50 dead fish all over the floor.

“There were a few alive in the puddles but I can’t tell you how distressing that was.”

He’s learned, though. And kept expanding. And he’s still adding to his collection.

It’s a fishy business but someone has to do it.

Jamie’s collection will be on show at the Sheaf Valley Aquarist Society Show on October 16 at The Venue, in Manchester Road, Stocksbridge. Starts 11am. Information at www.svas.co.uk