Past Speakers

Chris Carpenter

Chris Carpenter is the vice president of the Grand Valley Aquarium Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Chris has won awards such as Breeder of the Year, Aquarist of the Year, Master Breeder, Old World Cichlid Specialist, and Master. Chris became serious about the world of fish when he gave up drugs and alcohol almost 11 years ago. He has learned a lot in the last ten years and focused a great deal of his time in the hobby on the cichlids from Lake Tanganyika, particularly the shell dwellers. Chris has kept and bred many of these species and is honored to have the chance to share what he has learned with you. “My fascination with Lake Tanganyika and its cichlids started early on in my journey into the aquarium hobby. Many of the cichlids have one-of-a-kind behaviors and appearances. The lake itself holds many wonders. One of its distinct features is the unusual water chemistry. For a freshwater lake, it has an extremely high pH and high mineral content, leading to a unique phenomenon: the shell beds of Lake Tanganyika," he says. Snail shells wash into the shallows where they’ve collected for thousands of years, creating piles of shells miles long and anywhere from 10-30 feet deep. In any other lake, these shells would slowly dissolve, but in Lake Tanganyika they become harder and encrusted with calcium.

Pat Hartman

Pat Hartman has been keeping fish for over 40 years. Although not a founding member, he has been a member of the Southwestern Michigan Aquarium Society (SWMAS) in Kalamazoo, MI since early 1979, and is active with the Grand Valley Aquarium Club (GVAC) in Grand Rapids, MI. In the early 1980’s he developed a special interest in livebearing fishes, and rapidly became involved with the American Livebearer Association (ALA) where he served in various capacities including Chairman.

Pat is involved in most every aspect of the ALA, having won several major Show Awards at the ALA Convention, participates in the Species Maintenance Program, serves as auctioneer, and has finally reached the elusive magical level of 150 species in the Breeder’s Award Program. Pat was also instrumental in the formation of the ALA Vern Parish Fund where he served as Co-Chairman from 1996-2007. Today he specializes almost exclusively in wild species of Livebearers. Pat was honored by being named “Fellow of the ALA” in 2006.

Pat is also active with the North American Goodeid Working Group (NAGWG), and finally made his first trip to Mexico in Nov 2014 for the 4th International Symposium on Viviparous Fishes, along with the GWG Meeting, visit to the Fish Ark, and collecting goodeids in the wild. He is making his second trip to Mexico in February 2017 as a part of the first ever NAGWG Goodeid Study Tour.

Pat’s talk, “A Rookie Goes to Mexico, Part II: The NAGWG Goodeid Study Tour 2017,” was a recap of this trip including sampling of fish at 7-8 native habitats, visiting the famed Fish Ark in Morelia, and learning about the Reintroduction effort with Zoogoneticus tequila at Teuchitlan Springs, plus some cultural education and Pat’s personal observations along the way.

Pat has also shared some of his experiences & expertise with a program entitled “Wild Livebearers I Have Known." This talk covered various aspects of keeping livebearing fish, including what is a livebearer, biology & breeding, importance of species maintenance, collection locations, & examples of wild habitat. Detailed descriptions of various species of Goodeids and Poecilieds were also presented.

Michael Liu

Michael has been keeping tropical fish since 1983. He quickly developed an interest in cichlids and one tank turned into two, then three, then four, then 5... you know the story! It turns out there are a lot of cichlids and Michael wanted to keep them all! His interest narrowed to New World cichlids and the first cichlid he successfully spawned was the discus, King of the Aquarium, as they were known back then. The second cichlid he spawned was the convict. He took a big step back to the bottom of the cichlid ladder. It turned out he really liked the convict and for many years he primarily kept Central American cichlids with the aim of spawning every species he acquired. Michael has also kept African Rift Lake cichlids, some West African species, and a few Madagascar species. Since 2013 his interest has shifted to the cichlids of the Lake Victoria basin. Virtually all of the cichlids from this region are threatened by conditions in their waters. Keeping Victorians resulted in his trying to find other rare and endangered fish from little-collected locations in Africa.

Michael is currently the President of the New England Cichlid Association. It is through this cichlid club that he and other members have been able to acquire some species of rare and unusual cichlids from Africa, the topic of his presentation. Now most of Michael's fish tanks are home to many species of these cichlids. What started as one tank for rare species turned into two, then three, then four, then 5... you know the story!

Josh Cunningham

Josh Cunningham has been keeping and breeding African Cichlids for almost twenty years. He started with African Cichlids from Lake Malawi and a couple for Lake Victoria in a 400 sq ft basement. During this time, he was mainly breeding four to five different kinds of cichlids and trading the fry back to the pet store for food and filter media. At some point a decision was made to move to a different area and a bigger house. Once the move was completed he was without cichlids for a couple of years and then acquired a 55 gallon tank. Once the tank was setup and stocked, Multiple Tank Syndrome kicked in again. He then expanded on some different species and kept a few tanks on the main floor of his house. At this point, he decided he wanted a fishroom in the basement, designs were made, tanks, and fish were purchased and a 'Fish-oholic" was born. His fishroom today has 94 tanks ranging from 15 to 180 gallons and in total is over 5,000 gallons.

To date he has spawned over 140+ kinds of African Cichlids from all three rift lakes and has achieved Master Breeder status in the Michigan Cichlid Association and Ohio Cichlid Association. He was also named the Grand Champion breeder of the American Cichlid Association in 2015 for most spawns in a year. He spends his time in the fishroom doing water changes, tank maintenance, and working with different species. In addition, he also run a business called Cunningham Cichlids, LLC. Josh served fours years on the Michigan Cichlid Association Board of Directors while holding the title of President for three years and was Co-Chairmen of the 2017 American Cichlid Association Convention that took place on July 13-16 in Novi, Michigan. Before that Josh also served on the Board of Directors for the Ohio Cichlid Association for two years and now serves on the Board of Directors for the American Cichlid Association and is also the Data Coordinator for the CARES Preservation Program.

Dale Ernst

Dale has been keeping and breeding fish since he was a child. Now at 44 years old, his love for fish has blossomed into owning one of Metro Detroit’s most premier fish shops, Fantastic Fins, with his hatchery located next door. While Dale enjoys keeping and breeding all fish, he has a special love for plecos, especially the spawning and distribution of Brazilian Hypancistrus sps. endemic to the Xingu River. Always willing to help out fellow hobbyists, he has been a member of all Detroit’s local fish clubs and readily available at his store and hatchery.

Mike Monje

Mike Monje is an avid and lifelong aquarist. He is a past president of Grand Valley Aquarium Club, and has earned both Masterbreeder level and Horticulturist level in his home club. He considers his proudest moment in the hobby when he was made a Fellow of GVAC in 2016. Mike has been lucky enough to travel to various locations around the world to collect and photograph aquatic life. At various stages in his hobby (obsession) he has worked with wild-type livebearers (specifically Limias) and cichlids (specifically Victorians). His current obsession is Cyprinids (specifically barbs). Mike maintains a fishroom which houses over 1300 gallons of freshwater and 400 gallons of saltwater in various-sized tanks, allowing him to work with many different species of fish, plants, and invertebrates, both freshwater and marine.

Paige Filice

In 2014, Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development developed an aquatic invasive species education program alongside leading retailers in the pet and water garden industry to raise awareness of proper plant and animal disposal to prevent their introduction into the wild. The Reduce Invasive Pet and Plant Escapes (RIPPLE) campaign works closely with independent retailers and organizations across Michigan to raise awareness of aquatic invasive species through the distribution of educational materials and information articles. Paige's talk will include an overview of RIPPLE, identification tips for prohibited and restricted species in Michigan and her masters research on pet and garden retailer attitudes and behaviors regarding invasive species.

Paige Filice is a master’s student in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at Michigan State University where she is also an Extension Program Coordinator. She currently coordinates the RIPPLE education campaign aimed at increasing hobbyist and retailer knowledge of invasive species in the aquarium and water garden industries. Since 2011, she has been at MSU working as an Outreach Program Assistant. The majority of her work has involved aquatic invasive species education programs for boaters, anglers, and lake associations as well as the development of two online courses. She was previously employed by the Clinton Conservation District as a Watershed Technician and worked closely with the agricultural community to increase water quality of local rivers. She currently serves as a reporter for East Lansing Info, a citizen-run local news cooperative. She earned her undergraduate degree from Lake Superior State University in Conservation Leadership.

Rick Borstein

Rick Borstein is the Webmaster of the Greater Chicago Cichlid Association (GCCA), President of the Chicago Livebearer Society (CLS) and President of the Federation of American Aquarium Societies (FAAS). Rick was the Chairman of the successful 2006 American Cichlid Association Convention held in Chicago, IL. Rick has spawned over 200 species of cichlids and is one of only fourteen people to hold the title of Master Breeder in the GCCA. Rick’s basement fishroom has 44 tanks ranging in size from 5 gallons to 240 gallons. Rick is primarily interested in cichlids and livebearers.

Livebearers are an interesting and diverse group of fish that go far beyond guppies, swordtails and platies. In his talk, Rick Borstein will review livebearer anatomy, incubation, nourishment of the fry, and techniques for saving the most fry from your spawns. This talk is ideally suited to beginners.

Juergen Kasprick

Juergen will give a talk on “The Care and Breeding of Killifish.” He’ll reveal most of his secrets in the identification, rearing, and general husbandry of one his favorite topics. Juergen started breeding freshwater tropical fish in his teens. He didn’t get serious about the tropical fish hobby until 1967, when he totaled up to 120 tanks in his fishroom He was one of the founders of the Motor City Aquarium Society and the Michigan Killifish Association. He is a lifetime member of the American Killifish Association and served as Chairman of the club in 1992. Juegen has bred more than 75 different killies and will be giving us an overview on how to care for these beauties, as well as some tips and tricks for beginning breeders. He currently maintains 90 tanks with a variety of dwarf cichlids, blue-eye rainbowfish, catfish, and killifish.

Jim Cumming
Jim Cumming hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and is a lifelong fish keeper, having been involved in the hobby for over 60 years. Other than a 20 year sojourn into the world of killifish where he maintained over 100 species in 160 aquariums (his online name is ‘notho2000’), he has kept and presently keeps mostly Central and South American cichlids, and at one time operated a Discus and Angelfish hatchery out of his home for several years.

However, presently about one third of his 40 aquarium fish room has been set aside for Madagascan cichlids and the Etroplus genus from India. He has for the last 8 years been deeply committed to maintaining and breeding Madagascan cichlids and distributing them wherever and whenever he can. His passion for Madagascan cichlids has resulted in his speaking on them and their plight. Prior to this year, he presented to the Winnipeg and Saskatoon Aquarium Societies, the New England Cichlid Association, the Bermuda Aquarium Society, the Dead Fish Order, the Ohio Cichlid Association, the Greater Chicago Cichlid Association, the Durham Regional Aquarium Society, the Great Salt Lake Aquarium Society, the Rocky Mountain Cichlid Group in Denver, the Aquarium Club of Edmonton, and the San Francisco and Sacramento Aquarium Societies.

In 2018, he will be presenting to the Capital Cichlid Association, the Motor City and the Grand Rapids Aquarium Societies, the Columbus Area Fish Enthusiasts, the Rocky Mountain Cichlid Association, the Aquarium Club of Edmonton, the Tulsa Oklahoma and Cooper Arkansas clubs, the NEC Convention, several aquarium societies in Berlin and Dresden, Germany, the Greater Cincinnati Cichlid Association, the Minnesota Cichlid Association, and the International Cichlid Conference in Brisbane Australia. Jim will also be presenting at the 2019 ACA convention.

He has had extensive collecting experience in Mexico, Belize, Cuba, Brazil and the southern U.S. spanning four decades. Get him to tell you how he managed to get Nandopsis tetracanthus and Girardinus metallicus out of Cuba or about ‘Mikey’ the baby Piranha in Brazil.

Jim maintains a very active YouTube channel with 590 videos, highlighting only the fish he keeps or has kept, focusing on behavioral and social interactions, including breeding. He has been a moderator on several Facebook forums, has contributed regularly to other on-line forums as well (CRC, ACA, MFK, and the Winnipeg Fish Forum) and has had articles published in Amazonas and Cichlid News magazines. He is also a Species Specialist and a speaker for the CARES program as well as an ACA speaker. Jim has a goal of ultimately using only photos and videos of his own fish in his presentations. He looks forward to enthusiastically spreading the word on the magnificent groups of fishes with which he has had extensive personal experience.

Tyler Hutchinson
Tyler Hutchinson has been a fairly recent inductee to the world of aquaculture. With a background in biology and medicine, fishkeeping and planted tanks provide him a way to put science to work for relaxation and fun. His special interest areas are high-tech planted tanks, aquascaping, and doing things the hard way.

Les Wilson
Guest speaker Les Wilson is one of the founding partners of Cobalt Aquatics, overseeing marketing, product development, and sourcing for Cobalt. Prior to founding Cobalt, Les spent 17 years with United Pet Group - Aquatics serving as an aquatic biologist for Marineland aquarium products and as the director of marketing for the equipment and consumables group, responsible for Marineland, Tetra, Instant Ocean, and Jungle Labs brands and private label projects in those categories.

Les and his two partners started Cobalt International with the goal to get back to their roots as fish geeks and give back to the hobby the lessons they have learned. Over the last six years Cobalt has taken off with innovative fish geek products like Cobalt Premium Flakes with probiotics, egg rockers, MJ pumps, and Neo-therm heaters to name a few! Les is also active in the aquatics industry, speaking at clubs and events like ACA and ALA, as well as serving six years on the World Pet Association board of directors where he creates and chaired the aquatic sub-committee that started Aquatic Experience, and is currently serving on the MASNA board helping with the MACNA Conference and other conservation efforts.

Birger Kamprath

Birger Kamprath has been keeping fish of one form or another since the age of ten. Forty-five years later this childhood hobby persists as strong as ever, and you will find many aquariums in his home. Most are dedicated to the Mochokid catfish of Africa, a fascinating group of species that offer challenges in understanding the care and breeding of this family of fish.

Supplementing his fish keeping, over the past few years Birger has turned amateur writer and photographer, writing catfish related articles as another expression of his interest in these fascinating creatures. His interest in catfish brought him to the on-line world of in the mid 2000's, where he sits as a moderator and spends many hours conversing and sharing insights. His first nervously accepted speaking engagement was to the 2012 Catfish Study Group Convention in the United Kingdom but is now excited to continue to share knowledge on the fishes of the often mysterious continent of Africa.

You will find Birger living in the Canadian Rockies, self-employed as a log-fitter and timber-framer in the Bow Valley town of Canmore, Alberta. You will also find him practicing and teaching karate as the head instructor of a non-profit karate club, where he engages community youth in age-old teachings focused on self-improvement and humility. Many hours have also been spent getting to know the lakes and streams of Western Canada, with both a fishing rod and dip net.

Ervin Daniels

The Michigan Koi and Pond Club was founded the March of 1996 after the founder, Gil Orris, took some advice from a pond supply store on how to get rid of algae in his pond which resulted in the death of every fish in his pond except one. After losing 15 mature koi he felt that there had to be a better way to learn about the hobby and that others in the area were probably also experiencing “learning pains” and may want to join in. Seventeen people attended that first meeting at his home and the club has met continuously since then, enjoying, seeing and learning about the many members' ponds and gardens.

The MKPC is one of the oldest and largest koi and pond clubs in Michigan and is member of the Associated Koi Clubs of America (AKCA). The club has produced an annual pond and water garden tour since 1998 with homes representing at least 20 communities and have had well over 5000 people learn a little about the hobby through these tours. They have also produced three different educational programs using slides, video and computer technology on our hobby that have been presented to various groups and are available to other groups at a modest fee. They have members just learning about the hobby that have yet to have their first pond to members with decades of experience in the hobby. Some members have very small ponds with either a few or even no fish to one of the largest being a beautiful garden with half a dozen ponds from 1000 gallons up to one of 25,000 gallons and more koi than you can easily count.

Ben Van Dinther

Ben is the owner of the Water Colors Aquarium Gallery. He started keeping fish when he was eight, but it was not until he saw a picture of Psuedepiplatys annulatus, the Clown Killi, that the hobby became an obsession. He is a fellow of the Grand Valley Aquarium Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan and holds top honors in the Horticulturist Award Program.

Ted Judy

Ted Judy is an addicted aquarist with over 30 years of fish keeping and breeding experience. He is a generalist who enjoys all types of fish from anabantids to tetras, but always finds plenty of room in his fish room for fish from West Africa (especially the dwarf cichlids). Ted’s club affiliations are the American Cichlid Association, the Madison Area Aquatic Hobbyists, and the Milwaukee Aquarium Society. Ted is a former high school science teacher who now dabbles as a fish importer, retailer and wholesale distributor. He is a prolific speaker, proficient writer, and wants to be a better photographer. See more of Ted’s hobby by visiting his video blog at

Jeff Cardwell

Jeff Cardwell visited MCAS to share his 2015 collecting experiences in Brazil. Jeff has been active in the aquarium hobby for more than 50 years. He maintains over 60 aquaria and his interests and expertise extend to catfish, killies, rainbowfishes, and cichlids. Jeff has traveled extensively to collect aquarium fishes on more than 40 trips to Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Surinam, Uruguay, Mexico, El Salvador, the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. An enthusiastic keeper of North America's native fishes, his collecting trips have also taken him to many parts of the United States. Both as a speaker and a judge, Jeff has been a familiar figure at shows throughout the Midwest for more than thirty years. He is an active member of the American Cichlid Association, the American Killifish Association, the American Livebearer Association, and the Circle City Aquarium Club.

Gary Mousseau

Gary Mousseau has been raising guppies since the age of nine, and has been an International Fancy Guppy Association (IFGA) competitor since 1987. He is one of the best guppy breeders in the country. His program discussed his beginnings as well as his accomplishments in over thirty years of showing IFGA show guppies. Gary has also kept and bred Corydoras with his son, Tim, since 2001.

Jeremy Basch

Jeremy Basch lives in Columbus, OH but is originally from Westlake, Cleveland, OH. He started keeping fish around twenty-two years ago when his father took him to a pet shop. At around sixteen, Jeremy started working at one of his local fish stores and started to acquire various-sized aquariums and fish. He became hooked.

This continued until 2004, when he setup his first fishroom. Currently, Jeremy is on his third modified fishroom design which now contains over 100 aquariums ranging in size from 2.5 to 150 gallons. Over the years he has bred over forty species of fish, including many cichlids, catfish, rainbows, killifish, livebearers, and invertebrates. He was also the first person in the world to have the Jaguar Catfish, Liosomadoras oncinus, spawn and give viable offspring in his tanks!

Jeremy's main foci are the cichlids and catfish from South America and the killifish from West Africa. He is a current member and the Chairman of the Columbus Area Fish Enthusiasts (CAFE). Other fish associations he has belonged to include the Ohio Cichlid Association, the Greater Cincinnati Aquarium Society, the American Killifish Association, and the American Cichlid Association. Jeremy has written a few articles which have been published in the 'Buntbarsche Bulletin' (ACA's quarterly journal), his hometown club's newsletter the 'CAFE Menu,' and in 'Amazonas Magazine,' the latter sharing his first successful breeding of Liosomadoras oncinus, the Jaguar Catfish. Jeremy can be seen at many fish shows and conventions throughout the Midwest.

Heather Burke

Keeping fish since the age of 12, Heather Burke has a keen interest and passion for the aquarium hobby. She has kept fish for over ten years and has been active in aquarium societies for most of that time, successfully keeping and breeding a combined 40 species of freshwater fish and invertebrates. Heather comes from Lansing and currently associates with the Grand Valley Aquarium Club. Her interests are broad and range from nano species to cyprinids to wild-type livebearing fishes and dwarf cichlids. She is obtaining a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University. She is also a current Preuss Pets employee in the freshwater fish department.

In the summer of 2014, Heather engaged in a double-internship that spanned May-August. This started off for her in the Preuss Pets breeding room and ended at the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan, MI. This talk, previously performed for GVAC last year, takes a look at insights on captive fish management from the two gained perspectives; that of the pet trade and that of the Department of Natural Resources.

Christopher Newell

Chris Newell has kept fish and plants for thirty years. He first joined the Motor City Aquarium Society in 1995 and has since held many positions with us before his current role as our Program Chair. His biggest passion in fishkeeping is keeping wild-type livebearers, but he maintains a good assortment of other fishes, including dwarf cichlids, and has recently begun to keep a wide variety of dwarf freshwater shrimp.

Chris enjoys having plants in his aquariums and is a known "plant nut." An example of this is his collection of immersed-grown Cryptocoryne plants, which flower regularly. His fishroom is mid-tech and has grown to include over a hundred aquariums. Faced with an ever-growing electric bill, Chris looked into plant-friendly LEDs in order to ease the cost of lighting his aquariums. His fishroom has gone through a complete lighting overhaul and is now equipped with DIY LED lighting that is easy on the checkbook and keeps his plants lush and healthy.

Robert Lupton

Robert Lupton is the owner of Flip Aquatics, LLC based out of Warren, Ohio. His business focuses on American-bred and tank-raised shrimp, fish and propagated plants. Robert is known all across the country for his freshwater dwarf shrimp. Since 2010 he has worked with multiple genuses of shrimp to gain a better understanding of their care, breeding and other environmental factors that lead to successful keeping.

Robert graduated from Westminster College with a double degree in accounting and business administration. After graduating Robert started a medical weight loss clinic in Pennsylvania but after a year decided to pursue his dream of making a business out of his passion for the aquarium hobby. In July of 2014, Flip Aquatics, LLC was formed. Since then, Robert has acquired a 4,000 sq ft breeding facility equipped with over 300 tanks.

Robert's dream is to provide the US market with US bred and tank raised shrimp. He believes that breeding shrimp in captivity and indoors will help reduce the spread of disease and parasites amongst the hobby. Flip Aquatics plans to help reduce the amount of shrimp taken from the wild. The shrimp Flip Aquatics produces spend less time traveling and therefore lead to better results amongst hobbyists.

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