The History of MCH

The History of MCH

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Being the oldest member of the MCH team and the one who started the predecessor of this website, it is both a pleasure and a privilege to give an account of the events that led to MCH Portal as it is today.

The first announcement, made back in 1998, read as follows: “This site is dedicated to aquariums and its purpose is to give some information to other aquarists and, hopefully, advance the art and science of fish keeping by one small step.”

This was my personal site; it was built with a view to sharing my enthusiasm for the hobby  as well as my achievements, small as they may have been, with the internet community. Things changed a lot during the 10 years that followed and I am really glad they did. The site is not just me any more. It is the outcome of the collective work of a number of people all aiming at sharing, learning and improving the hobby.

"George J. Reclos~Aquarium pages" as the site was initially called, consisted of about 100 photos of my fish and tanks and 10 pages of text, all housed in the space my internet provider allowed me to use.

Then came Francesco Zezza, from Rome, in April 1999. An experienced Malawi cichlid fan, member of the African Cichlid list and a close (but distant) friend. Though up until then we had never met we knew each other fairly well. We shared the same views, we cared about the same things, we loved the same "beauties", we talked to each other every day about our fish and our experiences in the hobby. It was only natural that Francesco was to become an integral part of the site. In fact the site developed around the two of us.

We started working on "George J. Reclos~Aquarium pages" together on April, 4, 1999. At that time we barely had 100-150 hits per week. The site consisted of 20 pages, very few photos and no articles at all; It was not recognised by other "fishy" sites. Francesco and I were trying very hard to add something new every month. In short, it was still very much a "personal" site.

Several months later, in July 1999, I came across Patrizia Spinelli. I was surfing the net for information on fish and saw some shots of her tanks. I immediately e-mailed her asking for more photos. Patricia obliged; it transpired that she too would like to have her own site but didn't have the time to build one. 

Patrizia joined us; in September 1999 it was unanimously agreed that "George J. Reclos~Aquarium pages" needed a new name. The old name did not reflect its contents any more so a new, more appropriate name had to be chosen. It didn't take long to decide that "George J. Reclos~Aquarium pages" should be renamed to "Malawi Cichlid Homepage" or MCH for short; we were all keen Malawi Cichlid fans.

In October 2000, Frank Panis, a fellow hobbyist from Belgium who had his own website, decided to join MCH and become the fourth member of the team. Frank specialized in Malawi Haps and we felt that joining forces would be a big step forward for all.

The site was shaping up. It was taking an identity of its own, over and above each one of us in isolation. In December 2000, just days before entering 2001, we chose the site's logo. It was a combination of our motto, The Art and Science of Fishkeeping, and an impressive modern painting by Kho, a new artist from Italy. A bit later I bought this painting which is now exclusively used by MCH:


In 2001 Malawi Cichlid Homepage got its own domain name and became independent. As from January 2001, our new URL was Moving to the new domain would not have been possible without the help of Aurelian Tuta, a fellow hobbyist from Craiowa, Romania, who worked really hard to transfer the content in Microsoft Front Page 2000 format. With the help of Maria Spiliotopoulou and Takis Tsamis, who spent hundreds of hours working on the layout of the site, Malawi Cichlid Homepage eventually got its final shape. While working with them I really appreciated their efforts and dedication to the task, stemming from their true love for the hobby and the site.  I can only express my most heartfelt thanks to all these people whose help and support made such a big difference.

The same year we lost Patrizia Spinelli from the team. During our last communication Patrizia expressed a keen interest in getting involved with preservation work. She was planning to close her business and work with endangered aquatic species.  Shortly afterwards we lost contact. We wish her the best in her endeavours.

Malawi Cichlid Homepage moved on; with the continuous help of Andreas Iliopoulos and John Reclos, the site flourished and expanded beyond imagination. Yet life evolves and Malawi Cichlid Homepage had a life of its own. In March 2006 the site crushed as it was way too big for Front Page  to handle. The last stats we got indicated we were using 1GB of space in which we had 12.000 files and 3.500 pages online. At that time the site had 60.000 unique visitors from 50 countries and 2.000.000 hits per month.

Not being able to upload new material and update the site was devastating. We seriously considered reducing the size of the site considerably by removing much of its content. This would be a massive step backwards; it would, amongst others, alter the character of the site and crush our hopes of making it a reference site for all hobbyists to use. Yet it appeared there was nothing else we could do. Thankfully MCH proved too hard to die.

Marina Parha was my chosen one; she further became the chosen one for the site. Marina is also a keen hobbyist, specializing in catfish. It was not long before she gave new breath to the dying site. Her enthusiasm and commitment was contagious; together we decided to invest heavily in the site and make it a success again. At the MCH meeting in Belgium, in August 2006, MCH Portal was born.

It took two years before MCH Portal was ready to be launched. Almost everything had to be changed and re-designed. The new site is built using contemporary software while the hosting package includes 100 GB traffic per month and 6 GB storage space. We hope that the new MCH will generate the same interest and commitment as Malawi Cichlid Homepage did.

MCH Portal was partially named after Malawi Cichlid Homepage (MCH). The slight change of name indicates a change in focus. The site is not just about Malawi Cichlids any more. It is now what we all made it, a site dedicated to the celebration of Nature.

In September 2008, Malawi Cichlid Homepage passes the torch to MCH Portal in the same way it received it from “George J. Reclos~Aquarium pages” nine and a half years ago.





Malawi Cichlid Homepage © 1999. All rights reserved.

MCH Portal © 2006. All rights reserved.