If you’re like me, you utilize all resources at your disposal to find information about cichlids. This includes YouTube. In fact, there are numerous YouTube channels dedicated to fish keeping, especially cichlids. I visit several of them regularly.
One day a few weeks ago, while I was looking for some information, I stumbled across a YouTube channel I had not seen before. Intrigued, I decided to check it out. I’m glad I did. The channel is named after the guy who runs it – Ben Ochart, also known as Ben O’Cichlid.
Today’s interviewee is one of those cichlid keepers who’s forgotten more about cichlids than most of us will ever know. How many of you bought your first aquarium at 6 years old? If you did, are you still going strong in the hobby after more than 50 years? How many of you helped your dad build a 130g aquarium using stainless steel, especially one that has lasted over 50 years (albeit resealed a few times), which has seen countless offspring from tropheus, discus, convicts, mbuna, and more?
If you follow the blog, you know I have interviewed all kinds of cichlid enthusiasts, from business people to scientists to hobbyists. Because I have a fondness for Lake Tanganyika cichlids, it’s always a treat when I get to interview someone who’s dived the lake and can provide first-hand knowledge of some of the lake’s species.
Several years while attending an annual ACA convention, I was walking through the vendor show room and spotted several tables covered with some really cool looking clay caves. I had been looking for something very specific for one of my tanks, so I walked over to the tables and saw a large sign that said Pleco Caves. I began talking to the young lady on the other side and explained that I was looking for something specific. I then asked her if they do custom work. She said, “Sure.” That was my introduction to Jodi and Brantley Berry, owners of Pleco Caves.
Based in Indiana, Pleco Caves is a regular vendor at many cichlid and fish conventions/shows. The number and diversity of clay products they make for aquariums is incredible. Not only do they make great stuff but they are fantastic to work with. They have made several custom items for me, which have always been produced exactly to my specifications. Don’t let their business name fool you. Their products work great for cichlids too! I can honestly say they have made my fish journey a better one. I reached out to Jodi and Brantley back in the spring and asked if they would be willing to do an interview for the blog. Thankfully, they didn’t hesitate. Let’s get started!
As a subscriber to several aquarium magazines, I’ve become familiar with some of the great folks who bring outstanding tropical fish content to hobbyists. One of these people is Mike Tuccinardi.
With a background spanning retail, wholesale, and aquarium fish imports and exports, Mike is well versed in the tropical fish industry. He began working at a local fish store in his early teens and has been following the fish ever since. Mike went on to work for a major importer and tropical fish farm in Florida. Since then, he has traveled through much of Asia and South America visiting aquarium fish exporters, collectors, and fishing communities. He has also worked with aquarium-fish specific conservation organizations like Project Piaba and the IUCN’s Home Aquarium Fish Sub-Group (HAFSG), and has written extensively on wild capture fisheries for both hobbyist and general public media outlets.
Mike resides in Boulder, CO where he operates an aquarium fish import business and currently serves a Senior Editor and Associate Publisher for the English language AMAZONAS Magazine. I contacted AMAZONAS several months ago to reach Mike and he got in touch with me within a couple of days. I am quite grateful that Mike took some time out of his busy schedule to do the interview. Let’s get going!
If you’re like me and you enjoy learning about all types of cichlids, in the process you’ll inevitably also learn about many people in the hobby. I’ve said before that, as time goes by, all cichlidophiles will encounter certain names over and over, some more than others. Along my journey I have come across many of the same names. One of those is Ron Soucy.
I don’t remember when I first heard his name, but no matter what I was reading – an article online, a book, or a magazine – it seemed his name popped up regularly. In fact, it did so again a couple of months ago. I said to myself then, “You need to track this guy down and get an interview with him.” Well, I did track him down and I did get an interview.
Ron’s tropical fish interests began in the 60’s with a single Betta splendens (Siamese fighting fish), or simply betta, as we call them. After high school, he had an entire bedroom full of fish tanks and fish. His fish breeding journey began there and he worked for the next 20 years in aquarium retail. As both his experience and the fish community grew, Ron ran larger and larger fish operations, culminating today in what is one of, if not the largest fish stores in southern California. Let’s get right to the interview!
Just before COVID-19 reared its ugly head here in the states, I came across a university lab doing some fascinating cichlid research on breeding behavior. Using Astatotilapia burtoni, a maternal mouthbrooder from Lake Tanganyika in Africa, as the model fish for the research, Dr. Scott Juntti’s lab is attempting to unlock some of the mysteries surrounding A. burtoni breeding behavior.
Dr. Juntti became interested in neuroscience as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, where he fell in love with life in the lab. After completing his undergraduate work, including stops at labs in Germany and San Diego, he began his graduate work at the University of California, San Francisco. There he began working in Dr. Nirao Shah’s lab, where he studied social behavior using molecular genetic approaches in mice.
Not long after I started this blog back in 2015, I reached out to a unique fellow cichlidophile, whom I’d never met, to see if he would be interested in an interview. Thankfully, he said he would be happy to do it. Fast forward nearly five years, and I thought I would reach out to him again. This long-time aquarist is different than most because he’s also an artist who focuses on fish illustrations and aquarium art.
Sam Garcia, Jr. is not only an awesome artist, but he’s a fantastic fish keeper and a super nice guy. Sam Scalz, as he’s known in the art community, is also quite busy these days. In addition to fish keeping and his art business, which includes t-shirts, he also helps out at his friend Ron Soucy’s shop, Aquarium Fish Depot, in San Diego, CA.
All cichlid keepers have favorite products or brands that they use. I am no different. Today’s interviewee owns the company that produces products used regularly by aquarists all around the world, me included. In fact, I’ve been using one of his products for almost as long as I’ve been keeping fish. You may not know the interviewee by name, but I can almost guarantee you’ve heard of his products. If you haven’t until now, today’s your lucky day.
Jeff Turner is President of Boyd Enterprises. As such he owns the Chemi-pure line of products. “Chemi-pure is the unrivaled filtration media for maintaining an aesthetically pleasing and healthy aquarium.” Jeff is also President of Reef Aquaria Design and Jellyfish Art, custom tank building companies.
An aquarist and businessman, Jeff has been in the hobby for over five decades. While his career was built around marine aquariums and systems, Jeff is a freshwater enthusiast and also a cichlidophile. In fact, the tank in his work office is a cichlid tank.
I had not met Jeff prior to this interview but I reached out to Chemi-pure in hopes of getting an interview with him. His folks got him in touch with me and, as they say, the rest is history.