Patrick de Rham, one of the most prominent figures in the aquarium hobby, sadly recently passed away in early December 2022. Patrick was 86 years old, but to the last moment his mind was bright and his memory outstanding, even for the standard of a young, educated man. An active and bright man, Patrick would remember every detail, name, conversation, or event that ever happened to him. For the many people that knew him and interacted with him, I included, his passing has been a very sad event.
Patrick is one of those few persons full of passion for what they love, who would take that passion to the limit of what you can do, and as he confessed to me, he always had the support of his wife Anne, who is a writer, and his family.
In the aquarium world, Patrick is best known for the wonderful book he produced with his late friend Jean-Claude Nourissat about Madagascar cichlids: “Les Cichlidés endémiques de Madagascar” (2003) with an English edition “The Endemic Cichlids of Madagascar” (2004), but that was just a small part of the many things that Patrick brought to the aquarium world, like the discovery of Apistogramma nijsseni, Mazarunia mazaruni, or Paretroplus nourissati, among many other things.
Besides writing some now classical articles about cichlids or other fish, always with new and breakthrough information, Patrick participated in the description of ten cyprinodontiids, and was honored with the naming of seven fish species after him: Bryconalestes derhami (Géry & Mahnert 1977) (Alestidae), Rhadinoloricaria rhami (Isbrücker & Nijssen 1983) (Loricariidae), Aequidens patricki Kullander 1984 (Cichlidae), Anablepsoides derhami (Fels & Huber 1985) (Rivulidae), Rheocles derhami Stiassny & Rodriguez 2001 (Bedotiidae), Cyphocharax derhami Vari & Chang 2006 (Curimatidae), and recently Nothobranchius derhami Valdesalici & Amato 2019. Patrick had also a genus named after him: Derhamia hoffmannorum Géry & Zarske 2002
Patrick’s lectures — particularly those on Madagascar cichlids — were legendary. Having ample knowledge, not just on cichlids but on many other topics, he would easily extend for over three hours on one topic. His lectures were entertaining and packed with information, so holding through them was not difficult despite their extension.
I had the fortune to go exploring for fish with him on three occasions, to Mexico, Spain, and Brazil. Being a gentleman of fine manners, it was easy and delightful to travel with him and listen to his many stories. The first time we went to the field together we undertook a 3 ½ weeks trip to southern Mexico in the spring of 1999. At the time he had just turned 63 years old, and I could not believe the energy he had, nowadays I am 63 myself, and I wish I would have the energy that I then saw in him.
During our last trip together in 2012, he and other dear friends spent 3 ½ weeks on a boat (Lo Peix) along the Rio Negro in Brazil. At the time, Patrick was partly blind because of an irreversible condition of glaucoma, but even so, he enjoyed the trip as much as any of us did, he was an inspiration.
On several occasions, I was a guest at his place in Lausanne, where I was able to enjoy his family's hospitality and witness firsthand how Patrick carried his passion. His fishroom was the ideal of any passionate aquarium keeper, with aquaria ranging in size from 15 to 1,800 liters, they were full of rarities he had collected over the years. He kept fish species from Africa, Asia, Madagascar, and the Americas, his interests were wide. The luxurious growth of both aquatic and aerial plants gave the perfect frame for the beautiful fish.
His home office had a corner tank full of aquatic plants and fishes from Asia. It was a joy to watch. The bookshelves — lining all walls — were filled with a valuable collection of fish-related literature, ranging from jewels published over a century ago, to modern aquarium books.
Patrick was very fond of Paradise fish, one of his favorite fish (perhaps the favorite) being Macropodus ocellatus, which he had collected during one trip to China. Patrick had ponds, fountains, plastic child pools, and even buckets scattered around his — and other family members — house gardens, where these fish happily inhabited. Even some fountains in Lausanne were populated by this species. He would playfully tell me that during cold winters three-quarters of the water in the buckets would freeze and the fish would still be actively swimming under the ice, just to emerge in the spring with a strong and colorful reproductive drive.
Being a botanist by training, Patrick had a special love for trees, some of his favorites being cypresses and birches. Huge trees he had collected around the world as seeds or saplings adorned his garden, those of his family, and even public parks in Lausanne, as he proudly showed me.
Patrick was a great supporter of the organized hobby, mainly being involved in his local aquarium club, as well as in the Association France Cichlid, to which he attended every one of their conventions, even when his health started to decline. Because of his intervention, I was a guest speaker for both clubs.
I am particularly fond of the AFC 20th anniversary convention of 1999, where because of Patrick and Jean Claude’s idea an act was done to inspire children — AFC conventions are family events — about fishkeeping, they would disguise as a pair of firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki), and later as Metriaclima saulosi, and perform the reproductive behavior of those species. Think about performing the mouth-brooding of the latter! The audience was falling from their chairs in joyous laughter!
I think I could keep going writing about Patrick and how much inspiration he brought to my life, about how thankful I am for the many talks, information, hospitality, and friendship he shared with me. I will always miss my friend. I want to offer my sincere condolences to his family and to all the people that were inspired by him and like I will miss him. Goodbye, my dear friend.
If you want to know more about Patrick, please visit his author page on this site.
- de Rham, Patrick & Jean-Claude Nourissat. 2003. "Les Cichlidés endemíques de Madagascar". Association France Cichlid. 189 (crc03862) (abstract)
© Copyright 2023 Juan Miguel Artigas Azas, all rights reserved
Artigas Azas, Juan Miguel. (Jan 12, 2023). "Patrick de Rham". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Dec 01, 2023, from: https://cichlidae.com/section.php?id=338.