Most of you have probably heard of Greg Steeves, as he is no stranger to the cichlid hobby. A life-time aquarist, Greg has written three books, authored many articles in a dozen languages, and speaks on cichlids internationally. He is the founding member of the Hill Country Cichlid Club, president of the Federation of Texas Aquarium Societies, and coordinator of the Lake Victorian cichlid species for the CARES Preservation Program. In addition, he is a fellow of the Haplochromis Society based in France and has contributed to the Cichlidroom Companion nearly since its inception.
Early in his academic work, Hurd's study organism was birds where he began working on mathematical models, which he eventually parlayed into doctoral studies at Stockholm University in Sweden. It was there he was introduced to cichlids. He went on to do his post-doc work at the University of Texas at Austin where he worked with lizards and also did some experiments with acoustic signaling during fights between firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki).
I reached out to Dr. Hurd to inquire about his interest in doing an interview for the blog. He enthusiastically agreed and here we are.
I promised when I started the blog that I would bring you interviews with professionals from all aspects of fish keeping. Even though I am an amateur aquarist and this blog is for hobbyists, science regularly informs the hobby. Therefore, let me introduce Dr. Karen Maruska. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University (LSU). She received her B.S. from University of New Hampshire, M.S. from Florida Tech, Ph.D. from University of Hawaii, and postdoc at Stanford University. Her research uses fishes as vertebrate models to study how the brain controls social behaviors such as reproduction and aggression.
All photos courtesy of Karen Maruska.
Let's get started!
If you've ever been to an ACA convention, you know that there are always myriad species of cichlids at the event with tanks set up in lobbies, the fish rooms, and even attendees' rooms - some sold by hobbyists and some sold by retailers. This summer's convention was no exception with an astounding variety of beautiful fish for sale.
Imperial Tropicals, a tropical fish farm and wholesale/retail business located in Lakeland Florida, was well represented at the 2016 convention with a wide selection of cichlids, including Peacocks, Eartheaters, and many others. Mike Drawdy, the manager of Imperial Tropicals, was also in attendance. Mike grew up on the fish farm in Lakeland Florida, where he developed a love of the outdoors and a healthy understanding of the balance of nature. Mike is passionate about fish keeping and breeding, and the fish farm specializes in breeding fish (including numerous cichlids) from around the world, many of which are threatened in the wild. In addition, the farm takes pride in educating people about the threats that tropical fish face in their natural habitat. For more information or to place an online fish order, visit their website. Also, check out their Facebook page.
While at the convention, I talked to Mike and invited him to be interviewed for the blog. He happily agreed, so let's get started.
In my continuous efforts to diversify the portfolio of interviewees for the blog, I make it a point to reach out to aquarium product vendors and manufacturers. A couple of months ago, I reached out to Les Wilson, one of the founding partners of Cobalt Aquatics in South Carolina, and he graciously agreed to an interview.
Les oversees marketing, product development, and sourcing for Cobalt. Prior to founding Cobalt, he spent 17 years with United Pet Group Aquatics. Les began his career with Marineland as an aquatic biologist, working in and then managing the aquatics lab. After eight years, he joined the marketing department as the product development manager. His final position was the director of marketing for the Equipment and Consumables group, responsible for the Marineland, Tetra, Instant Ocean, and Jungle brands and private label projects in those categories. Les personally spearheaded many of the projects you know today, including his favorites Marineland LED lighting, Bio-Spira Nitrifying bacteria, Corner flow tanks, and the Marineland Deep dimension aquariums. In 2011, he left UPG to start Cobalt Aquatics with the goal to get back to his roots as a fish geek and give back to the hobby the lessons he learned.
Let's get going!
If you recall, I attended the annual ACA convention this summer in Cincinnati, Ohio and made several posts about the convention. One of the speakers was a cichlidophile who I've followed for some time, and his talk was awesome, as usual.
Vin Kutty is regarded as an authority on the genus Crenicichla, whose species are commonly called Pike cichlids. Vin has been focused on keeping and breeding pikes for more than two decades. He currently maintains half dozen 180 gallon tanks with pike cichlids. He has collected Crenicichla species in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Suriname, French Guyana, Uruguay, and Argentina.
I caught up with Vin after his talk at the convention, I introduced myself, and invited him to be interviewed for the blog. He happily agreed.
Away we go!
I've met cichlid keepers from all walks of life and from all across the country. However, until recently, I had never met a cichlidophile from "down under". As a native and current resident of Melbourne, Australia, Daryl Hutchins has kept many varieties of fish since he was a child. If the name sounds a bit familiar, you probably know him as Editor of the Buntbarsche Bulletin, the official journal of the American Cichlid Association.
Daryl's dedication to the hobby can't be understated when he simultaneously serves cichlid groups in two countries that are over 9000 miles apart (that's over 15,000 kilometers for you non-US readers) and has flown to the US for the annual ACA convention twice. I reached out to Daryl a few months ago about being interviewed for the blog. He graciously agreed, so here we go.
Anyone, at least in the United States, who’s been a cichlidophile for any length of time, should recognize the interviewee for this post. Pam Chin is an Honorary Life Member of the Pacific Coast Cichlid Association (PCCA) and past editor of the PCCA's award winning publication; Cichlidae Communique. She has published many articles in Buntbarsche Bulletin, Cichlid News, and aquarium societies from Australia to Sweden. She has received numerous writing awards from the American Cichlid Association (ACA) and the Federation of American Aquarium Societies (FAAS), including “Best Continuing Column” and “Author of the Year.” A long time member of the ACA, she has served many roles including on the Board of Trustees and was named an ACA Fellow in 2011, which is ACA's highest honor.
She is a founding member of “Babes in the Cichlid Hobby,” which as the name suggests, is an all female group whose members raise money for cichlid research and conservation. In addition, she occasionally gives talks at cichlid clubs around the country, where she shares her knowledge from years of breeding and raising cichlids. Pam is recognized in the hobby as an expert on African cichlids and, along with husband Gary, she currently maintains over 150 tanks of Old and New World cichlids in their customized fish house. In addition, she has traveled around the world to observe and collect cichlids in their natural habitat.
Let's get started!
If you've ever conducted a Web search for anything, you understand how serendipitous it can be. I unintentionally stumble across new and exciting information all the time when I'm searching for various things. It's the same when I'm looking on YouTube for a video of some kind. In fact, serendipity is what's responsible for this interview.
I don't recall exactly what I was looking for, but several months ago I came across this great YouTube channel called Fincasters. Described as "…your video fish fix," the channel is where excellent video production meets various aspects of the aquarium hobby. Who could ask for more? Covering marine and freshwater, videos range from the installation of monster aquariums to coral propagation to cichlid species spotlights.
Meet John Carlin, the man who produces and hosts Fincasters. I reached out to John a few weeks ago about appearing on the blog, and he graciously agreed.
As a collector of fine art, I have always appreciated the skill of individuals who can paint or draw an image that closely emulates the real thing. The interviewee for this post is one of those people. In fact, that may be one of the few talents that equals his expertise as a cichlid keeper. Let me introduce Sam Garcia, Jr. Sam is an artist by vocation, where he owns and operates Scalz Fine Art and Illustration art studio. As the company name suggests, Sam specializes in fish illustrations and art. I own a couple of Sam's prints, and they are simply gorgeous. Sam also serves as an administrator for Cichlid Keepers, a Facebook group for cichlidophiles. Without further ado, let's get started.
With this interview, I went outside the box a bit. I wanted to provide some viewpoints that might differ from the casual hobbyist. As such, I was able to corral an academic. The bonus of this interview is that the interviewee was a hobbyist, like the rest of us, long before he began his scholarly journey.
Let me introduce Sam Borstein, a third year PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. His research revolves around using fishes as models to test various hypotheses about what evolutionary and ecological factors generate and maintain biodiversity. Sam is also a 2015-2016 member of the Board of Trustees for the American Cichlid Association (ACA). I was able to spend some time with Sam a few weeks ago and visit the lab where he spends many hours.
Let me introduce Morrell Devlin, cichlid keeper extraordinaire and expert aquatic photographer. Better known as Mo or Aquamojo by fellow hobbyists, he has kept hundreds of species. His main area of interest is New World cichlids and for the past 20 years he's focused on the diverse species from Central America. When it comes to aquatic photography, he has to be one of the finest in the hobby. In fact, you’ve probably seen his photos many times and didn’t know it. He's a long term member of the American Cichlid Association (ACA) as well as its governing body, so he attends the ACA annual convention regularly. He’s also the proprietor of AquaMojo.com, a website for those interested in “tank buster” cichlids, as he calls them. I encourage you to visit his website and see some of the finest cichlid photos you will ever see. Check out his Facebook page too!
I met Mo sometime back in the early 2000s at an ACA convention and I have to say he is one of the nicest guys that I’ve ever met. We always enjoy good-natured banter about his love for large cichlids and my love for the dwarf variety.
Not long after beginning in the hobby, I took a determined path toward keeping and breeding cichlids. My interests originally focused on colorful dwarf species of Central and South America. Very quickly I was starving for knowledge, having already consumed nearly every monograph and magazine article I could get my hands on. It was then I began reaching out to the experts. One of my very first contacts was a kind gentleman by the name of Don Zilliox, otherwise known as Z-Man in the aquarium hobby. I can't count the number of times I e-mailed him with questions. He responded to every e-mail and was quite patient with me.
When I started this blog, I intended it to be informative to both the novice and expert aquarist. However, I didn't want the information found here to come from me exclusively. To that end, I planned to interview various cichlid and aquarium experts that I know. Here's the first.
Let me introduce Ralph Cabage. Ralph is founder and owner of Aquarium Life Support Systems. He is a well-respected businessman in the aquarium industry and is an expert on both fresh and saltwater aquariums as well as freshwater ponds.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub