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Afghanistan Aquariums: They Exist!

I haven't had much to report until today, and it's
still not much, but it's a lot more than I've had.

Background:  I'm currently in Afghanistan's capital,
Kabul, elevation 6500 feet, arid, desert, surrounded
by mountains on all sides, and they are into the 
seventh year of their worst drought on record.

Most of the drainage areas look like the Badlands
of South Dakota (USA), meaning deep valleys of
soft sandy soil with pretty much no vegetation.

The riverbead for the main river through Kabul is
some 200 meters wide, narrows to 50 meters in
places, but we're only talking a trickle of water
(maybe three or four feet wide) that's terribly 
shallow (inches) with almost no ponds. Still, there's
grass-like vegetation, some taller plants like 
cattails, and I'm setting up some trips to go out

An interesting tidbit:  13% of the dust in the
air is fecal matter.  You breathe dust morning,
noon, and night (it's like brown talcom powder
several inches deep).  I bet that's a fact you didn't
want to know.  Therefore, I'll not elaborate on
"indescriminate human defocation".

Here's the news:  After spending time with one of
the translaters (nice guy, really patient), I finally
said with exhasperation, "Aren't there fish here?
*Any* fish?"  My goal was to find an area with
indigenous fish, and then collect plants.

"Well, yes, there are fish in many houses. But, 
unfortunately, they are very small."

"Small?  You mean like this?" (I held up my fingers
to show a two-inch gap.)

"Yes, small like that.  People keep them in little
glass boxes."

You should have heard my chin hit the floor.
This guy had never heard of "aquarium" before, and
had no idea people in other countries might keep
fish.  He must have thought I wanted to eat them.

Ok, so yes, there are homes with aquariums, and there
are restaurants with aquariums too.  We're setting
up plans to go into some homes and photograph their
tanks (I don't know when that will happen, things
move kind of slow here).  The locals *love* to be
photographed.  I have no idea what I'll find, and the
translator is not an aquarist, but he tells me it's
really hard to keep fish and you have to know what
you're doing (no kidding).  My guess is that the
people here with tanks are pretty hard-core because
there's very little plumbing through the city, so
successful aquarists must know something (they can't
be doing frequent water changes).

My questions for the home aquarist will revolve
around mechanics of the tank (how often feed,
water change, etc.) and then I'll quickly move
into stocking (collect from the field, buy, what?)
If people out there have ideas on what I should
ask, or if you've interviewed people in other
countries regarding aqaurium practices, or if you're
just curious about something, email me and I'll try
to get it answered (I may not be able to respond
to everyone right away, my internet connection is
slow, and it may be a while before I have something
else to report).  Perhaps a compiled set of notes
may be a good starting point for identifying
"common practices" in a given locale that may not
actually be so common in other parts of the world.

Also, (since I got general questions on "pets"
last time):  I just got back from a trip downtown,
and will take my camera next time (we weren't
expecting to go this time).  I was talking to the 
translator about pet shops, and he took me down a
street, about three meters wide, and six blocks long,
and it was *packed* with thousands of canaries, 
budgies, pigeons, pheasants (many types), European 
sparrows, crows, chickens, turkeys, many types of 
parrots, and lots of birds I've never seen before 
(including big and small kiwi-looking weird birds with
no tails).  These are pets.  Lots of grains for sale
of all kinds.  Thousands of cages.  (A canary is $4
US, or 240,000 Afghani).

Birds are the most popular pet.  It's followed with
rabbits, dogs, wolves, jackels (I'm not kidding), and
fish.  There are donkies and camels everywhere (and
horses), but those aren't pets. We're going other pet
areas in town next time (they concentrate all shops of
a given type together, I was in the bird area today).
I've seen two cats in the past two months, wild, but
they looked like housecats to me.  Cats don't appear
to be popular pets.  Nobody keeps reptiles of any
kind.  There are scorpions and camel spiders all over
the place, but nobody seems to think those are novel
enough to keep as pets either.

BTW, the camel spiders are wicked weird, and big [up
to 6"]... not spiders, but in their own order
[Solipugidae], are nasty buggers that can run 10mph
and they don't really care whether you're armed or
not.  They're everywhere.  A quick overview is:


...and, a video of it killing a scorpion is:


Sorry for the unrelated discussion on the aquatic
plants list, but I'm excited that I finally have a 
lead on some domestic aquariums.  I'm trying to figure
out the process to get permits/permission to ship
plants back to the US (I don't know about fish
handling the trip, I'll look into it). It will
probably be easier if I can at least get a genus 
identification.  If I can't ship to the US, and 
there's someone in another part of the world
that thinks they would have an easier time for me
to get something through customs, let me know
(I'll ensure everything is bare root and washed,
no insects or snails, and I can quarantine if
you want).  However, at present, I don't have 

If I get something, and you're interested, I'll
ship gratis and you can just make a donation to the
APD fund or something.

Sorry for the long post.

charleyb123 at yahoo_com

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