• Wolfgang Staeck to Discuss Cichlids

    Monday, September 12th, 2016

    Wolfgang Staeck: “South American Dwarf Cichlids of the Genus Apistogramma” and “Tanganyika: A Lake and its Fishes”

    Cichlids are truly the specialty of Dr. Wolfgang Staeck, who will be delivering two presentations concerning cichlids at this year’s Aquatic Experience. His sessions “South American Dwarf Cichlids of the Genus Apistogramma” and “Tanganyika: A Lake and its Fishes” will showcase the rich collection of experiences that Staeck has had as a biologist abroad.

    Dwarf Cichlids An aquarist from a young age, Staeck has been keeping and breeding fish of various species for many years. After studying biology at Penn State University, Staeck began to travel the world. Since the early 1970’s, he has travelled Africa, Madagascar, and Central and South America to study aquarium fish in their natural habitats. These trips have led to the discovery of many new species, as well as the gathering of new ecological data and information about the natural living conditions of cichlids.

    Yet, Staeck’s accomplishments don’t end there. He has additionally published scientific descriptions of over two dozen recently discovered species of fish, a number of books, and a collection of articles in German and international magazines. Staeck is furthermore known for his lectures, which he has given in a variety of settings.

    Staeck is particularly fascinated by the behavior of cichlids. From 1997 to 2010, he was President of the German Cichlid Association. At Aquatic Experience, Staeck’s focus will be exclusively on cichlids.

    During his session “South American Dwarf Cichlids of the Genus Apistogramma,” Staeck will discuss some of the effects of the recent increase in the exploration of South America’s bodies of fresh water, including the rise in commercial exportation of ornamental fish and the now unprecedented number of Apistogramma species known to scientists and aquarists alike. Staeck will furthermore provide an overview of these species of dwarf cichlids, highlighting their diversity, reproductive patterns, natural habitats, biology, and required care in aquariums.

    For his session, “Tanganyika: A Lake and its Fishes,” Staeck will draw on his many visits to Lake Tanganyika as he describes to attendees the significance and beauty of this African body of water. Tanganyika, which is situated south of the equator, in the 13,000-sqare-mile Great Rift Valley of east Africa, is the second deepest lake on Earth, reaching 5,000 feet. Exclusive to Tanganyika are over 200 species of cichlids, many of which are popular among aquarists for their vibrant colors and interesting behavioral patterns. For its unique, unusual, and extremely diverse fish fauna, Tanganyika is a natural monument. During his presentation, Staeck will provide information on the different habitats, reproductive behaviors, and maintenance needs of the Tanganyika cichlids that are so popular to the aquarist’s hobby.

    To learn more about Staeck and the above topics, catch one (or both) of his presentations at Aquatic Experience!





  • Joe Olenik: “Selling Oddball Fish”

    Friday, September 9th, 2016

    “Oddball” fish, invertebrates, and plants are the specialty of experienced aquatic retailer Joe Olenik, who will be speaking at this year’s Aquatic Experience. During his session, entitled “Selling Oddball Fish,” Olenik hopes to inspire retailers and experienced hobbyists alike to make some unusual additions to their aquatic collections. He plans to discuss “how stores can spice up their aquatic livestock selection with interesting, hard-to-find, unusual fish” and to provide information to “hobbyists who want cool…fish for their aquariums.” The qualities, care, maintenance, and sale of “oddball” fish are all topics of Olenik’s expertise, and he is excited to share his knowledge with the participants of this year’s event.


    Aquatic Experience ChicagoOlenik has spent 38 years in the business of fish retail. For 25 of those years, he managed the fish room of one of the largest independent pet specialty retail establishments in the nation. He presently owns and operates Aquarium Architects—a custom aquarium design, installation, and management company in southeastern Wisconsin. Supplemented by his degree in zoology, Olenik’s experience has made him an expert in freshwater, marine, and pond husbandry, as well as custom aquarium display design and commercial filtration systems. Furthermore—and to the great interest of his customers—Olenik’s work in the aquarium industry has been characterized by novelty.


    Olenik found success in “oddball” fish: “I took great joy—and pride—in offering our customers the craziest, most exciting, unusual selection of fish, invertebrates, and live plants possible. I scoured availability lists looking for things I had never carried before. When I’d see a scientific name that I didn’t recognize, my first reaction was always, ‘I gotta order those!’ When something new became available, I wanted to be the first (and, sometimes, only) store to have them! Hobbyists came to my fish room from a five-state area to see what was new,” said Olenik. “I love seeing the wonder and joy in people when they see some cool critter they’ve never laid eyes on [before].”


    Olenik hopes that “seeing and learning about new and interesting aquarium fish will inspire store operators to carry a wider selection and hobbyists to consider buying them.” Catch Olenik’s enthusiasm for “oddball” fish and learn how to acquire and maintain them for commercial or private use by catching his session at Aquatic Experience.

  • Can a hobby lead someone into greater knowledge of the natural world and genuine concern for places they’ve never visited? The answer, according to Texas A&M graduate student Liz Marchio, is a resounding “yes.” For the past four years, she’s been studying just that—the powerful connection between leisure and the natural sciences. Marchio herself is proof that a hobby can become a passion for a faraway place. In her case, that place is the Peruvian Amazon. At this year’s Aquatic Experience, Marchio will be sharing her own journey from hobbyist to activist—and showing others how they can begin such journeys of their own.


    liz-marchio“When I was younger, I was very interested in keeping aquariums,” said Marchio. Her love for aquarium keeping, which began in 2000, led her to study zoology and animal biology for her bachelor’s degree, and biological sciences (with an emphasis on ichthyology) for her master’s. It was then that she realized that, though she held a great interest for fish, the topic that most intrigued her was how her aquarist’s hobby had led her to not only a master’s in ichthyology, but a love for the Peruvian Amazon, as well. Furthermore, her interest was not only in her own story, but also in the many stories of others whose hobbies had likewise grown into lifelong missions. As a result, the focus of Marchio’s graduate studies became “Science as Leisure,” and she began to research the connection between aquarium keeping, scientific literacy, and conservation mindedness, attitudes, and behaviors.


    Marchio’s theory is that the practice of keeping ecosystems teaches hobbyists about science and conservation. Additionally, she believes that, as these hobbyists become increasingly attached to their critters, they similarly become attached to entire species and their natural habitats—even if those habitats are on the other side of the world. “I’m interested in how people become interested in fish and maintain it through their lives,” said Marchio. “I believe [that], as you progress through the aquarium hobby, you become more scientifically literate.”


    liz-marchio-1Marchio’s fieldwork in Central and South America and her research on “Science as Leisure” have won her the Marine Aquarium Society of North America Scholarship. In addition to her graduate studies, Marchio has spent time speaking to various groups about her scientific experiences abroad and the importance of conservation. During her session at Aquatic Experience, Marchio plans to provide a virtual guided tour through the aquatic habitats of the Madre de Dios region of Peru; drawing attention to the biodiversity within the Peruvian portion of the Amazon River. She also plans to inform her listeners of the challenges faced by the species of the Xingu River. “I’m hoping that people take away the importance of biodiversity as a whole,” said Marchio.


    To learn more about Marchio and her research, visit lizmarchio.com. Find her on Twitter at @LizMarchio and follow #ScienceAsLeisure and #TeamFish.


  • American Cichlid Association Fish Competition

    Tuesday, September 6th, 2016


    Inaugural American Cichlid Association Fish Competition and

    return of Aquascaping Live! Contest at

    Aquatic Experience – Chicago, Nov. 4-6, 2016


    CHICAGO (September 6, 2016)—The World Pet Association (WPA) will host the inaugural American Cichlid Association Fish Competition and the return of the Aquascaping Live! Contest during its fourth annual Aquatic Experience – Chicago, November 4-6, 2016.


    Paul Loiselle 004The American Cichlid Association Contest is composed of 25 classes in nearly all new and old world cichlid groups with cash awards given to first place winners in each class, plus a $500 Grand Prize and $100 Reserve Best of Show. All competitors receive free 3-day admission to the Aquatic Experience show floor—experiencing “everything aquatic under one roof” at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. Entries are open to the public with no limit on the number of entries. The deadline for online registrations is October 15, 2016. More details at   www.aquaticexperience.org/fish-competitions.


    The third annual Aquascaping Live! Contest is sanctioned and presented by the Aquatic Gardeners Association (AGA) and sponsored by Fluval. Contestants compete in two categories (Small or Large Tank) for $3,900 dollars in prize money. Registration for individual Small Tank entries will be accepted until the 25 spaces are filled, and the Large Tank category is an AGA Team Invitational, with eight final entries chosen from all submissions. More details at www.aquaticexperience.org/fish-competitions.


    Aquatic Experience – Chicago is the first show in industry history to combine everything aquatic under one roof, from saltwater and freshwater fish to marine plants and mammals. A thriving show floor of exhibitors showcases the latest in aquatic trends and products, and this year’s educational seminars on hobbyist and retail topics will include: George Blasiola, author of Barron’s New Marine Aquarium Handbook and Koi: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual; Chris Buerner, owner of Quality Marine, the industry’s leading marine ornamental fish importer; Patrick Donston, owner and operator of Absolutely Fish; Barbie Fiorentino, pleco specialist and owner of Aquarium Solutions; Justin Grabel, co-founder of ReefGen; Mike Hellweg, master fish breeder; Michael Johnson, VP of marketing at leading pet industry consultancy Chuck Latham Associates; Sanjay Joshi, LED tank lighting expert and professor of industrial engineering at Penn State University; Lawrence Kent, frequent Tropical Fish Hobbyist and Cichlid News contributor; Oliver Knott, professional aquascaper; Chris Lukhaup, leading freshwater shrimp specialist; Liz Marchio, trained ichthyologist turned social scientist; Joe Olenik, aquatic biologist, owner and operator of Aquarium Architects, LLC; Richard Ross, marine biologist at the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences; Julian Sprung, marine aquarium fishkeeping specialist; Wolfgang Staeck, renowned aquarium fish researcher, biologist and author; and Lynn Switanowski, Creative Business Consulting Group, Pet Association marketing expert.
    Show attendees will also experience traveling sea lion experience Sea Lion Splash, sponsored by Aqueon/Coralife/Kent, and see displays of fish from around the world to delight and inspire aquarists of all levels.


    Media Partners for Aquatic Experience – Chicago 2016 include: BlueZoo TV, Pet Age, Pet Business, Pet Product News, Reef Builders, Reef to Rainforest Media (Amazonas/Coral) and Tropical Fish Hobbyist.


    The World Pet Association (WPA) is the oldest industry organization promoting responsible growth and development of the companion pet and related products and services. WPA works to inform and educate the general public in order to ensure safe and healthy lifestyles for our animal friends. WPA is the host of America’s Family Pet Expo, the world’s largest consumer pet and pet products expo, held annually in Costa Mesa, California. The organization also produces SuperZoo, an annual pet industry trade show that showcases a comprehensive collection of exhibits and offers a variety of informative educational seminars, and Atlanta Pet Fair, the Southeast’s largest competition and trade show for the professional pet stylist. For more information, please visit www.worldpetassociation.org.




    Friday 11/4: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

    Saturday 11/5: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

    Sunday 11/6: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.


  • Kevin Gaines BiotaAqV1Turning the aquarist’s hobby into a lasting, joy-bringing, and consciousness-raising lifestyle is the primary goal of Biota Aquariums, one of the exhibitors in this year’s Aquatic Experience. Founding member and CEO Kevin Gaines is excited to share his passion for aquarium keeping and introduce potential hobbyists to the simplicity of the Biota aquarium at the event. “Being responsible doesn’t have to be complicated—or boring,” said Gaines. It is his belief that, by providing new aquarists with the tools that they need to maintain their own aquatic environments, Biota Aquariums can, indeed, eliminate confusion, stress, and disinterest from the novice aquarist’s experience.


    Gaines himself has been working with and keeping aquariums for many years. “I’ve always been interested in the ocean and fascinated with aquariums,” he said. In fact, Gaines began keeping his first saltwater aquarium, which belonged to his parents, at the age of seven. Yet, Gaines’ interest in the ocean was not contained to the small glimpse that his aquarium provided. Growing up in Daytona Beach, Florida, Gaines often went fishing with his father on the weekends, and even picked up the pastime of surfing. As a result, it came as no surprise to those who knew him best when, during his junior year at the University of Florida, Gaines traded his pursuit of becoming an oral surgeon for a chance at a career in marine biology.


    Since then, Gaines has been influential in the aquaculture industry. Immediately after graduation, he helped found the Coral Reef Ranch, an outdoor coral farm in Homestead, Florida. Later, Gaines became a founding member (and, eventually, president and CEO) of Oceans, Reefs, and Aquariums (ORA), the world’s largest marine ornamental fish, coral, and clam farm. Presently, in addition to his work with Biota, which he conducts with co-founder and long-time friend Tom Bowling, Gaines serves as a board member for the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF). These are only a few of the titles that Gaines has held in his career. Furthermore, Gaines finds that his experience in working for “all sides of the trade” enriches his work for Biota Aquariums.


    As a long-time aquarist, Gaines has often been frustrated by the complications that beginners face. “The experience has always been the same,” said Gaines. “It’s been very hard to replicate success for the beginner.” Gaines attributes this difficulty to the myriad of decisions that novice aquarists have to make with little to no education on aquarium keeping. New hobbyists “almost have to take a crash course in marine biology to understand which fish get along together and why, and which ones are appropriate for a small aquarium,” said Gaines.


    Gaines believes that it is for this reason that Biota Aquariums is truly a boon to beginner aquarists. “Biota Aquariums was started to address that fundamental problem of getting the beginner involved and helping [him or her] to become successful,” said Gaines. “We feel like we’ve removed a lot of variables that have notoriously contributed to the high attrition rate in the marine aquarium hobby.” As the “only provider of a complete, sustainable saltwater aquarium ecosystem,” Biota Aquariums is able to achieve success for beginners by offering pre-designed, 13.5-gallon saltwater aquariums that include three appropriate and compatible fish and optional corals. All of the organisms included in a Biota aquarium are captive-bred or tank-raised before being conditioned at Biota’s Marine Life Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. By simplifying the marine aquarium, Biota hopes to not only inspire awe and interest among novice marine aquarists, but, more importantly, to help “cultivate the next generation of Earth’s stewards.”


    Support Biota’s efforts by donating to its Indiegogo campaign beginning on Sept.12 and visiting the Biota Aquariums exhibit at Aquatic Experience, which will feature a display of Biota-designed aquariums. Learn more about Biota by visiting biotaaquariums.com.


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Aquatic Eperience Chicago | November 7-9, 2014 | Schaumburg Convention Center