To the natural habitat of our aquarium and terrarium animals
The JBL Research Team obtains information on aquarium fish and terrarium animals first-hand by carrying out expeditions into the regions where the animals live on a regular basis. There, biotope investigations are performed on site, the results of which are used for publications and the development of JBL‘s products.
Every fan of nature is eligible for participation: As soon as the details of a JBL Expedition have been set, they are posted on JBL‘s website. Then it‘s time to apply – and, with some luck, take part!
Who can take part in the JBL Expeditions & Workshops?
Every lover of nature who is physically fit and at least 18 years of age (at the time of departure), can take part. Proficiency in German and/or English is helpful so that communication within the group is not limited to body language. Physical fitness helps withstand the tropical temperatures and humidity levels, which are sometimes high. There are no extreme walks. Sometimes, though, a few walks to beautiful biotopes just can‘t be avoided.
You will find more on the subject here: Conditions of participation for the JBL expedition
How do we plan our expeditions?
Expedition leader Heiko Blessin explains what needs to be considered for an idea to grow into an expedition: That’s how the next JBL Expedition will develop
Back when Sulawesi shrimp weren’t popular yet, the first JBL Expedition led to the island of Sulawesi in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. The base that was selected for the group’s activities was near the city of Manado located in the far north of the island.
The primary goal consisted of saltwater research in the Bunaken National Park with coral reefs counted among the most beautiful in the world and boasting the greatest diversity of species. This first expedition was aimed at determining all of the saltwater parameters on site. A second goal consisted of investigating the water parameters and fish fauna of freshwater lakes in the region.
Read more: Expedition 2001 Manado & Sulawesi
Sri Lanka & Maldives
We always try to cover both fields, fresh water and salt water, on our expeditions. Due to the fact that the ocean of Sri Lanka can become very murky within a few hours, we only did the section concentrating on the rain forest and fresh water there and then flew over to the Maldives nearby to measure coral growth in natural surroundings. The high seawater temperatures of 36 °C in 1998 caused by the El Niño phenomenon killed all of the coral down to a depth of around 8 m. Therefore, we were able to determine growth accurately 4 years later and find out that stony coral (madreporarians) grow faster in an aquarium under ideal conditions.
Read more: Expedition 2002 Sri Lanka & the Maldives
French Guyana & Caribbean
French Guyana offers an opportunity to penetrate deep into the rain forest and spend the night outdoors safely at the same time. This is not the case everywhere in South America. Accordingly, we were able to spend a few days and nights right next to a river in the Amazonian lowlands and record 24-hour trends of temperatures and air humidity. Astonishingly, air temperatures dropped down to 22 °C. In the Caribbean, we unexpectedly had an opportunity to experience a hurricane with its effects on the reefs live. Hurricane Jeanne developed from a tropical storm into a hurricane right in front of our eyes and conjured a nifty JBL green tint on the faces of our team on the diving ship. We were able to observe how the uppermost sections of the reef were damaged directly by the storm, and indirectly as well by uprooted trees that were drifting in the ocean. A famous marine biologist once said: “A reef roof won’t grow until it has been damaged.” This highly provocative statement is actually not wrong, although, of course, it does not give people a carte blanche to damage natural reefs!
Read more: Expedition 2004 French Guyana & Caribbean
Red Sea, Egypt
80 persons travelled to Marsa Shagra with the JBL Research Team in order to carry out seawater research under scientific guidance right in the reef. Shark researcher, Dr. Erich Ritter, came from Florida expressly to give a lecture on the body language of sharks to all of the participants. The following day, the scuba divers were able to try out what they had learned with oceanic whitetip sharks right on the Elphinstone Reef. The water analyses were aimed at determining whether marine water parameters differ in different areas, among other things. Water samples were taken from near the beach, at the surface and at a depth of 30 metres, as well as from reefs that were distant from the coast, and analysed for this purpose
Read more: Workshop Red Sea
South Africa & Lake Malawi
The southern most coral reef of the world lies off the east coast of South Africa. We found the water temperature here to be 17 °C, which is lower than the minimum temperature indicated for coral reefs in the literature (20 °C). The world’s most famous shark researchers were there with us, so that we were able to listen to personal lectures on the various species of sharks by Dr. Erich Ritter, Andre Hartmann and Andy Cobb. We were then able to see all of these sharks in their natural surroundings during our dives and from a cage. This is where the friendship with the shark protection organisation, SharkProject, began, which JBL has been supporting ever since.
While at Lake Malawi, our primary goal was to do water analyses, while our second goal was to do feeding experiments right under the water and on cichlids that had just been caught in Stuart Grant’s export station. We found that grazing cichlids such as Pseudotropheus prefer carnivorous food if it is offered to them. It was also interesting to discover that green algae are only found down to a depth of 50 cm and that blue-green algae and diatomes predominate below this, so that they form the primary food of grazing cichlids.
The friendship with Georg, the owner of two lodges in the Philippines, made it possible to keep the price of the workshop below € 1,000. 82 participants analysed, observed and experimented in the ocean and the rain forest of the island of Negros for one week. The trip into the rain forest, which fully lived up to its name, was an unforgettable experience for several participants. A normal tropical rain shower caused the water levels of the streams to rise so high that bridges were under water and our group prevented from traveling for a number of hours. The underwater fauna off of Apo Island was especially impressive. The coral formations and colours were among the most beautiful that even the most experienced divers had ever seen.
Read more: Workshop Philippines
Amazonia & Pantanal
We rode on the Rio Negro, the black water river with clear tributaries, for one week before we reached where it flows into the Amazon River at Manaus. We examined the black water, which is hostile to life and had an immeasurable hardness and a pH level of 4. In this water, we were barely able to catch any plankton with our plankton net. Only the river dolphins and the red neon appeared to feel comfortable here.
We left the cloudy white water of the Amazon and the tea-coloured water of the Rio Negro behind us and continued on to the clear water rivers of the Pantanal. Here, we were able to observe fish with a visibility of over 50 m under water, as though they were in an aquarium. Encounters with piranhas and freshwater rays were definitely highlights.
Read more: Expedition Brazil
Tanzania & Lake Tanganyika
76 participants took the opportunity to get to know very diverse African habitats in 13 days. Rain forest, tropical dry forest, savannah, steppe, mountains, streams and lakes, and, as a grand finale, Lake Tanganyika were all on the program. Cichlid specialist, Dr. Stefan Koblmüller, and some other participants were able to catch a species of cichlid that was considered extinct alive in a stream near Mt. Meru and identify it. Terrarium enthusiasts, in particular, were able to measure the surface temperature of rocks and wood with laser metres for the first time in order to offer animals optimal conditions in captivity.
Lake Tanganyika, which already presented almost all of the cichlids known from aquariums near the shore, was definitely a highlight. The scuba divers then also had an opportunity to observe Cyphotilapia frontosa in their natural habitat at a depth of 20 to 45 m. The logistics for this workshop were a real challenge: They ranged from organising an airplane that all of the participants and their luggage could fit into (freshly bought, unpainted Boing of Air Tanzania) to the transport of compressed air cylinders by truck across Tanzania from Mount Kilimanjaro to Lake Tanganyika.
Read more: Workshop Tanzania
Central America & Galapagos
In Costa Rica, we had to learn that it was more difficult to find the famous red-eyed frogs than we had imagined. We were on the exact river where they lived, we could hear them, but we couldn’t find them, not even after many hours of search by night!
We dove deep into the Mexican cenotes in search of the Mexican blind cavefish. The longest cave system in the world with a length of several hundred kilometres belonged to the most fascinating biotopes we had ever seen.
We were able to find shrimp in Lake Nicaragua, even though they weren’t as pretty as the ones in Sulawesi.
Our trip culminated with an absolute highlight: the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific. These extraordinary islands, which had already inspired Charles Darwin to come up with his theory of evolution, offered a true emotional adventure for every nature enthusiast. All the way from observing the giant tortoises, to unique marine iguanas and to hammerhead sharks and mantas, our days were filled with unmatched experiences of nature. Even if they weren‘t all truly relevant for aquarium keeping, they did offer an incredibly intensive motivation to preserve nature.
Read more: Expeditions Central America & Galapagos
70 nature lovers had 10 days to explore the region around Nha Trang in the rainforest, the desert and the offshore coral reef. Everyone was thrilled by the clear mountain rivers with gobies and loaches, the waterfalls with hillstream loaches and the jungles with many interesting snakes. More dangerous were the slippery stones in the rivers they had to cross in order to penetrate deeper into the wilds. But it was worth it. They were rewarded with intensive natural experiences, extensive biotope data and for the first time water current measurements.
Read more: Vietnam Workshop
California, South Sea & Australia
Around the world In 18 days - Although the two protagonists in Jules Verne`s novel needed 80 days for the journey around the world, we managed to fit many unforgettable experiences, animal observations and measurements into 18 days. The 14 members of the JBL research team visited the island Catalina off Los Angeles in California for one day, Moorea in the South Seas for 2 days, various regions of Australia for 12 days and finally the desert next to Dubai.
Read more: Expedition 2015
Venezuela / South America
In all our 12 previous JBL expeditions we had never come so close to cancelling the whole thing! The country Venezuela is descending into chaos. One of the stops on our trip, Maturin, is said to be the world’s fourth most dangerous city and then came the Zika virus on top! This caused some late cancellations from participants who had already been confirmed. After consultation with our local organisation we discovered that our itinerary and group size did not pose any dangers for us. We allowed other applicants to take the place of those who had cancelled and by April 26, 2016 we set off with 50 participants via Caracas and Maturin to the Orinoco river delta, South America’s second largest river, which is more than 2,000 km in length. At night under an unbelievable starry sky we went by boat through the jungle to the Orinoco Eco Lodge which was built on piles into the marshy banks of a tributary in the delta. The first class hotel had some hammocks and palm roofs with mattresses under mosquito nets but no windows or doors. This was just the thing for our nature mad group from a diversity of European countries.
Our plan for the group members was to form 6 small teams which went by boat to different locations to snorkel, observe and collect biotope data on-site. Every three days the teams changed places so that everyone was at every place. Only in the morning and evening the whole bunch met for a meal and for lectures which were given by Dr. Wolfgang Staeck and Andreas Tanke.
Read more: Venezuela Expedition 2016
Announcement: Expedition 2018
This 16-day expedition will lead us to the dream destinations in or near the Indian Ocean. The best time to travel to these four destinations is October. Since staying overnight in hammocks is not possible, this trip is also suitable for spider sceptics. Application.
Find out now: Indian Ocean Expedition