Shrimps of Lake Towuti. All photos © Frank Logemann
We bring you an interview with brothers Carsten and Frank Logemann, who travelled to Sulawesi twice and examined the parameters of the water there, in order to then produce the mineral salt needed to mimic the water from the lakes. The same brand of mineral salt, which is still popularly used by breeders of Sulawesi shrimp around the globe, and which we recently sent to the conservation breeding facility in Indonesia.
You can help us support a conservation breeding facility for endangered species of Sulawesi fish and invertebrates in Indonesia. Even without sending your money – just send mineral salt or food. Read more here.
You two brothers run the Garnelenhaus and the SaltyShrimp trademark – and the popular bee shrimp carries your name, Caridina logemanni. Can you please briefly introduce your team to those who don’t know you?
We come from Hamburg and have been enthusiastic aquarists since we were children. However, there was a longer break from 1985 to 2000, during which we were professionally oriented and had no aquariums. When we started again, there were shrimp in a pet store that didn't exist before, it was the Amano shrimp, Caridina multidentata, and we fell in love immediately. The first offspring were not long in coming, we also opened a website for this purpose, www.caridinajaponica.de, at that time the Amano shrimp was still called Caridina japonica and we were more and more concerned with keeping and breeding ornamental shrimp. Shortly thereafter, the Crystal Red shrimp came, our second love, and we also made an information page for them on the Internet, www.crystalred.de. We were so blown away by these animals and dealt with them more and more that we finally made it our job in 2007 and founded the Garnelenhaus (“Shrimp house”). Since then, the fascination for shrimp has not let go of us and we will certainly not leave it anymore…
You have been to Sulawesi (in 2008 and 2011) and brought back to Europe very important information about natural biotopes of local shrimps. Can you shortly summarize the itinerary of your trips?
The colorful Sulawesi shrimp came onto the market around 2007, but unfortunately they were very sensitive and even experienced breeders could hardly keep them, let alone breed them. So in 2008 we traveled directly to the habitats in Sulawesi and wanted to study their conditions so that we might have more success with more knowledge… We had planned the trip together with Roland Numrich, a fish importer at the time who also imported the Sulawesi shrimp and mainly wanted to explore Lake Matano, Lake Mahalona and Lake Towuti. That was an exciting affair, because there are crocodiles in Lake Towuti and Lake Mahalona and you jump into the water with a strange gut feeling to go snorkeling… especially when you look out of the water and see the boatman, who should be watching, sleeping… We saw a lot and experienced a lot, but unfortunately we didn't have the professional equipment with us to take sterile water and rock samples. The local police chief, who took us into police custody for a few hours because he didn't want to believe that we were there only because of these strange shrimps, prevented us from taking the collected animals with us…
We were better prepared for the second trip, we took material with us to take water and rock samples and later have them examined in the laboratory. We went to Sulawesi with Chris Lukhaup, (animal photographer and invertebrate expert), Stefan Hummel (botanist at Dennerle) and Thomas von Rintelen (biologist and scientist). This time the Lake Poso was also our destination and again the Lake Matano and Lake Towuti. We had the samples taken examined by a laboratory in Germany and then developed our Sulawesi mineral salts. We think it was a real breakthrough, because now you could at least determine the chemical composition and water parameters from the habitat and the task of raising an offspring was easier. However, these animals remain very sensitive, especially to stress, which can also be seen in their behavior, as they often retreat when there is movement in front of the aquarium…
By reading your report from the trip in 2011, it seems like Sulawesi is quite dangerous place. Armed fights between religious groups, crazy drivers on bad roads, earthquakes, crocodiles… Would you call your visit to the ancient lakes a dangerous quest?
Compared to a holiday on the North Sea, it is certainly a dangerous journey. But we didn't have any life-threatening experiences, so we would go back to Sulawesi despite the dangers. But we also have to say that we had local companions with us on the second trip, which made things much easier, because they knew where it was better not to travel, or where it was better not to go into the water… Of course, this does not help against earthquakes or diseases such as dengue fever or schistosomiasis, but Sulawesi is so breathtakingly beautiful, not only under water, that you quickly forget the dangers and enjoy this wonder of nature.
What is the most lasting impression from the lakes you have until today?
Sulawesi is perfect for adventurous nature lovers with a spirit of discovery. Away from the streets you can experience a beautiful and colorful nature that is not often found in this world. For us, nothing beats the first underwater encounter with the colorful shrimp from Lake Matano and Lake Towuti. Almost 30°C warm water and the most beautiful shrimps directly under the water surface – a freshwater aquarist could never have wished for better… Unfortunately, you can no longer experience this, at least in Lake Matano, because after our first trip in 2008, a cichlid was intruduced as food fish for the human population, which ate the shrimp… The effects were already clearly visible on our second trip – cichlids everywhere and only a few shrimp, no longer compared to the situation before, where shrimp could be seen practically everywhere. From a later trip, Thomas von Rintelen told us that he could no longer find cardinal shrimp (Caridina dennerli) anywhere in Lake Matano… really a pity.
When seeing the rich underwater world of the Sulawesi lakes, did you believe that we can recreate part of this world in our aquariums and successfully keep those species of shrimps and snails?
Yes, we have always believed in that. And it was also successful, if you have patience today and set up an appropriate aquarium especially for the shrimp according to their needs, you can enjoy these beautiful animals.
What was your impression from other parts of Sulawesi? Do you remember some nice shrimps or underwater scenery from different locations, or is it just the lakes and the rest is far less interesting?
The lakes of the Malili system (Matano, Mahalona, Towuti) and the Lake Poso are rather rocky under water and it sometimes looks like a scree desert… the animals, especially the shrimp, bring the colors with them. Outside the lakes and above the water, the plant and insect life is beautiful. All the shrimp that we found in the rivers, for example, were colorless, i.e. greyish, or transparent. The surroundings are all the more impressive.
And what about people of Sulawesi and Indonesia in general, how did you like travelling there?
We almost only had positive encounters with the people of Sulawesi. They are basically very friendly and the children in particular are very interested in what you are planning to do with the nets… as a pale-faced European, you naturally attract attention and are constantly spoken to. Walking down the street unobserved isn't possible, shouting "hei mister, hei mister" shows everyone else that there are strangers in town… but it never got intrusive.
Let’s imagine that group of Europeans appears on the shore of the lake and starts to look in the water and unpack their snorkelling gear. How would the locals react? Do they mostly know about the unique aquatic fauna? Would they quickly offer their boat and take us to the best snorkelling place, or how did such situation looked like when you were there?
As a European you stand out there and especially the children are very curious, they would come running to see what's going on. But the adults are coming too and are very interested. Most people now know that there are interesting shrimps living in their lakes, so some earn some money as shrimp collectors, but the animals are otherwise irrelevant to their own lives. Chartering a boat is not difficult, at least if you speak Indonesian, English will not get you very far there. We had local companions with us on both trips and were always able to come to an agreement with a boatman quite quickly. The locals are happy when they can earn some money and some of them were with us all day…
Is there one place you could name which was the most amazing and you wish you could stay longer to explore and enjoy it?
Almost everywhere we've been we would have liked to have spent more time simply because there was so much new to discover, but if you ask specifically, Lake Mahalona was very exciting, and not just because of the crocodiles. The Mahalona river flows into the Lake Towuti, so you come upstream to the lake. The current is quite strong and there are some tricky rapids where boats were in danger of capsizing. When you arrive it will be very quiet and deserted. The shores of the lake are uninhabited and otherwise only a few people come to Lake Mahalona, we didn't see anyone. We have found unusually beautiful and rarely patterned Caridina spinata and other beautiful species. However, no Caridina dennerli or Caridina woltereckae, which was a bit surprising, because Lake Mahalona is located between Lake Matano (home of Caridina dennerli) and Lake Towuti (home of Caridina woltereckae). On one shore was a deep black, fine volcanic sand, which one could imagine wonderfully in an aquarium, together with Ottelia mesenterium, a dream… We would have liked to spend more than one day here.
What is your own experience with keeping Sulawesi shrimps in aquarium?
When we got the first Sulawesi shrimp in 2007, unfortunately a lot of them died, the necessary conditions seemed very special, which was what drove us to travel. In fact, things got much better with the Sulawesi mineral salts, but the loss rate was still higher than with other species. It took quite a long time until the first breeding was successful. After all the experience, our setup today would be to set up the aquarium with many stone structures so that the shrimp always have a shelter nearby. Treat the water with Sulawesi Mineral 8.5. Ensure very good filtration, but with low flow. Robust plants can be used and then the aquarium should run in for at least four weeks without stocking. Basically, the Sulawesi shrimp are not inhabitants of community tanks, you should dedicate them their own aquarium and set it up appropriately.
It is possible to keep shrimps from Lake Matano, the animals do not seem to be quite as sensitive as those from Lake Towuti, and Caridina dennerli is still widespread today. The shrimp from Lake Towuti are a bit more difficult, apparently they are very sensitive to stress and germs in the water. Although we can recreate the water conditions of Lake Towuti with our Sulawesi Mineral 8.5 and keeping and breeding can also be successful, the animals are not often found in the trade and if they are, the loss rate is quite high. It would be ideal if you could find a breeder nearby and let him/her explain how the animals are kept… this way the keeping and breeding of the shrimp can be successful and you can have a lot of fun with them.
Do you think it is feasible to keep all shrimp species in aquariums as insurance populations to make sure we don’t loose the species completely, even if the conditions in the lakes get worse (especially the spread of invasive fish)? Does it make sense to you to try it?
We think that's possible, at least we were able to keep and breed all the Sulawesi shrimp that we had so far in the long term. However, there are still numerous shrimp in the lakes that we did not get, but we suspect that it is basically possible to breed them. It definitely makes sense to try it, nature has given us an incredibly beautiful gift owing to the unusual conditions in Sulawesi.
Thank you for the interview.