Oliver Lucanus interview

If I asked you to compile a list of cichlidophiles you know 1) who make regular trips to cichlid locales to collect fish, 2) who regularly speak at cichlid conventions, and 3) and whose name you hear regularly in the hobby, how many people would be on that list? I bet your list wouldn’t be very long but I also bet that Oliver Lucanus would be on it.

Pictured is Oliver doing what he does…alot. Photo courtesy of Oliver Lucanus.

At the OCA 25th Extravaganza back in November, I attended Oliver’s presentations. They were chockfull of great photos and were very informative. After his second talk, I introduced myself and the blog. I asked him if he would be interested in doing an interview. He smiled and said, “sure”.

You may know Oliver as a long time aquarist and wildlife photographer. What you may not know is that he’s also been importing fish for more than 30 years. Furthermore, he’s an author, who’s book “Below Water – the Amazon” has become a favorite of cichlid hobbyists, especially those keeping SA fish. In fact, he has a new book coming out soon titled, “Xingu – Below Water”. For those unfamiliar, the Xingu is a tributary river of the Amazon in Brazil. At over 1,000 miles long, the Xingu runs north to south and is home to some of the most beautiful and fascinating fishes in the world. Oliver’s experience diving and collecting in this river is expansive, and his photos of cichlids in their natural habitat are amazing.

Let’s go!

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Lisa & Martin Hoeber interview

Super Cichlids logo. Image from Lisa Hoeber.

Just over two years ago, I interviewed Lisa Hoeber of Super Cichlids. At that time, Super Cichlids was an online-only retail store. Fast forward to this summer and that changed in a big way. Lisa and her co-owner husband, Martin, opened a physical store with the same name in their hometown of Dover, Delaware. Shortly before their opening, I e-mailed Lisa and Martin asking if they would be interested in doing another interview. Thankfully, they happily agreed.

If you’re in the Dover area or within a reasonable driving distance, I would encourage you to visit their store. I haven’t been myself, but I have seen numerous photos. The place looks amazing! I know Lisa and Martin, and they’re first class. If you visit, I would expect that you will experience the same unbridled friendliness that you’ve experienced interacting with them at their vendor booth during fish shows and conventions. Even if you can’t visit their physical store, certainly go to their website. They have great deals all of the time.

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In memoriam – Don ‘Z-man’ Zilliox

Don Zilliox.

Just before the awards ceremony at the OCA Extravaganza this past weekend, two members from the Tropical Fish Club of Erie County (TFCEC) made a short presentation.  They presented a $100 check to the Jim Smith Fund in memory of long time TFCEC member, Don Zilliox, who passed away last month.

The cichlid keeping community has lost a great treasure, and I am very saddened. Though I never had the privilege of meeting Don in person, I know he was an outstanding fish keeper and a great guy. How do I know? Keep reading.

Continue reading this post…In memoriam – Don ‘Z-man’ Zilliox

Dr. Hans Hofmann interview

Hans Hofmann

In 2016, while looking for a new interviewee for the blog, I ran across the website of a research laboratory at the University of Texas, Austin. I checked out the website, looked at a few of the lab’s publications, and it became quickly obvious to me that the lab’s director, Dr. Hans Hofmann, was someone I needed to interview.

I reached out to Dr. Hofmann, introduced myself, and asked him if he would be interested in doing an interview for the blog. He replied within a couple of days and happily agreed. We began the interview process, but work caught up with him, and we weren’t able to get it completed. So fast forward to the present, and we did a complete reboot of the original interview.

Since receiving his Ph.D. in biology from the University of Leipzig in Germany, Dr. Hofmann has received numerous fellowships and awards for his work at the University of Texas, Stanford University, Harvard University, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. In addition to running the Hofmann lab at the University of Texas, he has served as Director of UT’s Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics and UT’s Center for Biomedical Research Support. He has given over 130 invited keynote lectures and seminars but has also given numerous public outreach presentations.

Needless to say, getting Dr. Hofmann to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions with me was a real bonus. Outstanding stuff ahead. Buckle in!

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Chris Carpenter interview

Chris Carpenter

Several years ago at one of the annual American Cichlid Association (ACA) conventions, I overheard a conversation about some shell dwelling cichlids. Being a dwarf cichlid enthusiast myself, my interest was piqued upon hearing the word “shellies.” I wasn’t eavesdropping but I clearly heard something equivalent to “You should check with Chris Carpenter. He keeps all kinds of shellies.” Like any hobbyist who constantly builds their knowledge base, I filed that name away.

In the years since that convention, I have heard Chris’ name mentioned numerous times. In an effort to ensure that my interviews on the blog cover all corners of cichlid keeping, I needed to get someone to talk about shell dwelling species. Because he is widely regarded as an expert on these fish, I looked him up and sent him a note about doing an interview. He promptly replied and happily agreed.

 

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Dave Schumacher interview

Dave Schumacher

About a year ago, I was looking for some cichlids that were proving to be difficult to find. I began thinking to myself “Who might have these fish?” I remembered hearing about a guy in Texas who often has some of the more difficult to find species, so I went to his site – Dave’s Rare Aquarium Fish. The owner, Dave Schumacher, didn’t have what I was looking for, but I thought “Why not ask him to do an interview?” I did, and he agreed.

As a kid, Dave was always into reptiles and amphibians. He got his first job in high school at a fish store in Houston that focused on cichlids but the store owner was wanting to carry reptiles. The owner didn’t know how to care for them and didn’t want to handle them. It was at that store that he became fascinated with cichlids.

After high school, he moved to San Marcos for college at Texas State University, and while there, got a job at Armke’s Rare Aquarium Fish. He worked there for a couple years, then bought the business in 2006. Not long after, he moved everything a short drive south to San Antonio. Currently, his shop houses more than 200 cichlid species.

Dave’s been an active member of the Hill Country Cichlid Club, alongside Greg Steeves (who I interviewed back in 2017), where he’s been on the board and even served as secretary of the American Cichlid Association. He travels a few times each year speaking to clubs about Mbuna, Lamprologines, building his shop, and basic cichlid genetics/nomenclature.

Let’s get this started!

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Robert Pereda interview


Back in October, I posted about fish from a beautiful genus of cichlids called Symphysodon, better known as discus. Endemic to the Amazon river in South America, discus are truly unique within the cichlidae family of fish. They are a laterally compressed, slow moving fish that, as their nickname suggests, are shaped like discs or small platters.

In that original post, I mentioned a company, DiscusGuy, that sells these fish online. I knew very little about them when I wrote that post. However, prior to writing it, I reached out to the site hoping I could interview someone there.

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Pam Chin interview (#2)

Pam Chin driving the boat on Lake Tanganyika 2018

Because I keep African cichlids, especially Lake Tanganyikan species, I’ve always been intrigued by the lake itself, including the various habitats and all the lake’s cichlid species. Since I’ve never visited the lake, I have to rely on resources such as photos, videos, articles, and monographs to learn things about it. Now I can add interviews to that list of resources. Not surprisingly, there are dedicated cichlidophiles who make regular trips to the lake where they spend hours videoing, photographing, and discusing these wonderful fish.

 

A few months ago, one such group comprised of Ad Konings, Mattia Matarrese, Tautvydas Pagonis, Martin Geerts, Ankie Geerts, Brenton Pember, Dave Hale, and Pam Chin spent over two weeks on the lake. I did an interview with Pam back in 2016 but I wanted to catch up with her about this latest trip because she’s so passionate about cichlids. Anyway, during the trip, they followed the coastline south from Kipili, then along the bottom of the lake, and then headed up north, along the west coast, to the Nsumbu National Park.  Once there they continued north as far as Katete. They were told several times, not to venture any further, as the Congo Police would certainly stop them.

Continue reading this post…Pam Chin interview (#2)

Steve Rybicki interview

 

 Steve Rybicki

When I started the blog several years ago, one of my goals was to make it as comprehensive as possible. By comprehensive, I meant I would try to include information about all cichlids, not just what I keep or have a lot of experience with. To meet that goal, I knew I would have to get information from other sources. Hence, the interviews. By interviewing hobbyists, breeders, business people, and other experts, I can share with you information from a variety of people who have the experience I lack. This leads me to angelfish. Though they are quite popular in the hobby, I’ve never kept them. So I contacted an expert.

Steve Rybicki has been breeding and selling fish for several decades. In 1987, he and a friend started a tropical fish business called Angels Plus. In 1996, Angels Plus became the first online retailer dedicated to angelfish and for 32 years it is has been a full-time hatchery that specializes in show-quality fish, housing over 400 tanks.

Thankfully, Steve was quickly onboard for the interview. Let’s get going.

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Josh Cunningham interview

Josh Cunningham

 

After you’ve been in the hobby for a while, you will become familiar with some of the cichlid breeders who supply the hobby with fish. My interviewee this time is no stranger to the cichlid community. As an award-winning breeder of quality cichlids, a former president of Michigan Cichlid Association, and current board member of the American Cichlid Association (ACA), Josh Cunningham of Cunningham Cichlids also runs an online retail business.

Though I have never ordered fish from Josh, I’ve known about him for some time. I have seen some of his fish, and they are simply awesome. He is just beginning to give talks all over the country and will be speaking at his first convention, the Keystone Clash in Pennsylvania, September 14-16 on “The Evolution of my Fishroom and Breeding Setups for African Cichlids.” As part of my interview portfolio, I’m trying to increase the number of breeder interviews. I contacted Josh a few months ago and invited him to do an interview for the blog. Thankfully, he didn’t need any convincing. He graciously agreed and here we are.

Let’s get started.

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