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Featured Speakers and Talks
Topics: Banquet - 'the Mad Aquarist' and "The Florida Experience: a nerds eye view"
Hailing from the barren Tundra of the frozen North that is Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: Chris Biggs is a devoted father of three, and court Jester to his lovely and tolerant Queen, Dayna. A life-long Aquarist, his father thrust him into the hobby at a very young age with a small tank they kept in their family den and Chris has never looked back. He is a founding member of the Aquarium Society of Winnipeg, the Canadian Cichlid Association, and most recently, the Dead Fish Order. He achieved in short order the level of Grand Master for both fish breeding and horticulture. He is a classically trained Botanist, passionate naturalist and avid gardener. Master of much, Chris is well known for his colorful tattoos, outspoken mouth, and well-received knowledge on most things aquatic and more. Eager to share and educate, he is a welcome presence nationally and internationally, both as a speaker and as the mouthpiece for Xtreme Aquatic Foods.
Chris has traveled extensively, collecting, studying, and admiring fishes, plants and reptiles in their natural habitats, as well as attending workshops and conventions. He has taken his vast knowledge and experience and applied it to building many dedicated and specialized fish rooms, often referred to as his Lab. They have included such fully automated water maintenance systems, pressure chambers, microscopes and dissection tables including his last fish room which held over 3800 gallons. His frank bravado and charm, as well as his experience make him a much sought after judge, speaker and auctioneer at events everywhere.
He is Tall, loud, and colorful- Chris is an enormous nerd and quite strong with The Force he has an entire room dedicated to Star Wars figures and diorama, many of which he has hand crafted himself! Outgoing and entertaining, Biggs is often found, Guinness in hand, wearing a shirt extolling his mighty gonopodium and sharing his vast knowledge with a sarcastic, yet endearing smile.
Topic: Freshwater Invertebrates: A Primer for the Devoted Hobbyist covering how to breed and keep many freshwater invertebrates for keeping as well as their utilitarian application as feeders, infusoria production, and the algae control.
Rachel O’Leary, from Mount Wolf, PA is a proud mother of 3, loving wife, and an unmistakable personality within the hobby. A life-long fish keeper, her interests range from nanofish to monsters, with a focus on invertebrates and dwarf species. Rachel has spent the last 10 years studying invertebrate husbandry, aquascaping, and breeding practices. Rachel’s fishroom consists of over 100 tanks ranging from 10 to 220 gallons, and her breeding program includes members of the Corydoradinae group, Apistogramma, Ancistrus, Hypancistrus, Pelvicachromis, as well as various Cyprinids and livebearers. One of the leading importers of invertebrates in the US, she breeds and keeps dozens of dwarf shrimp and snail species, as well as dwarf crayfish and crabs, and is regularly bringing in new and hard to find specimens. She also has a passion and interest in gar and polypterids and houses several species.
Rachel actively attends conventions and travels to speak at clubs and conventions on her invertebrate and nano fish interests. A big advocate of rallying regional support, Rachel also sponsors many clubs and events around the United States. She provides freshwater aquarium livestock from around the globe, to redistribute and help share with hobbyists around the country. Rachel is very focused on education and information for her customers, and personally deals with each individual to help them make the best choices for the tank.
Rachel is a frequent contributor to Amazonas magazine with articles featuring her travels and interactions with other hobbyists and breeders, as well as species spotlights and special features. She recently had a book co-authored with Mark Denario published titled The 101 Best Freshwater Nano Species: How to Choose & Keep Hardy, Brilliant, Fascinating Nano Fishes, Plants and Invertebrates.
As dedicated to education and community as she is to her fish, Rachel has served as a moderator in several of the largest online aquatic communities. A member of close to a dozen associations, she can frequently be found at conventions and club meetings around the country and internationally. An invited guest, host, judge, and speaker, Rachel loves to share her knowledge and experiences with like-minded enthusiasts.
Topic 1: Belize, searching for cichlids This talk comprises a travel report to the beautiful country of Belize (just east of México). Visits were made to the rivers and lagoons trying to find cichlids both for filming and collecting. There’s footage of cichlids in many rivers as well as an exciting boatride with a local fisherman on Freshwater Creek.
México, a journey into the world of cichlids In this presentation the places to visit are marked on a map of México. A river drainage will be selected of which pictures and (in most cases) a video will be shown. Together with the (sometimes funny) stories this makes an excellent way of getting to know this beautiful country and its cichlids. The videoclips have also been released on DVD (copies available at the event).
Willem is a 67 years old retired bankmanager and has been keeping cichlids well over half his lifetime. He started out with the firemouth (Thorichthys meeki) and subsequently has been hooked up with Central American cichlids ever since. Having had small tanks at first he moved on to build his "Cichlidarium" containing two 600 gallon aquariums and some smaller ones. After some major calamities (two 600g tanks exploded almost in his face) the Cichlidarium was finally closed down in March 2011.
About 15 years ago he started collecting cichlids in México and other countries in Central America. Most of these trips he made together with Ad Konings and some with Juan Miguel Artigas and Don Danko. On the first trips he focussed on collecting cichlids but on later ones Willem tried his hand at shooting video both above and below the waterlevel. This has resulted in bringing (new) cichlids into the Dutch hobby and a number of films, a compilation of which is available on the DVD "México, a journey into the world of cichlids".
His last three trips were made to Nicaragua. He visited most of the crater lakes in that beautiful country searching for cichlids, concentrating on Laguna Xiloá where he put his diver’s license to good use being able to get video footage from depths of 20 meters or more. This footage was edited to produce the DVD "Nicaragua, cichlids from the crater" which is also available to the public.
No longer keeping cichlids, Willem is now concentrating on writing. He has published a number of articles about cichlids in magazines worldwide and has also co-authored a book on these wonderful fishes. His main area of interest is the evolution and systematics of Neotropical cichlids belonging to the subfamily Cichlasomatinae.
Chuck Rambo - Hydrologic Systems Analyst, Well Compliance Officer
Topic - Poor Man’s Collecting Trip-In 2009 I took a group of aquarists through the everglade swamps of Florida looking for introduces tropical fish species that had escaped from the local fish farms during hurricanes. When we got these we discovered some very cool local native species. As a side trip we went to a few existing fish farms and fish wholesalers to see how fish farming is being done today.
Chuck has been keeping aquarium fish for 47 years. He has been interested in all kinds of aquatic life but his strongest love has always been cichlids. He started with a 5 gallon metaframe aquarium and a pair of convicts then mushroomed at one point into a substantial fish room with 50+ aquariums filled with cichlids from all over the world. He is a two term past President of the Pacific Coast cichlid Association and a two time Chairman of the American Cichlid Association. His work with the ACA earned him a “Fellow” status within the organization. He has been to both rift lakes with renowned cichlid authority Ad Konings. He was also part of the Lake Victoria Cichlid and Conservation Program working with endangered Lake Victoria cichlid species. Chuck also keeps carnivorous plants from all over North America
Ray has been a fish hobbyist for over 48 years and active in aquarium societies since the late fifties. He has been an active member in almost twenty different clubs including local and national ones. For years Ray traveled and entered fish shows around the country, then continued as a speaker on many topics. In the 1980’s Ray worked with Paul Speice (his mentor) on the TV and live shows, “The Aquatic Maestro”. He was inducted into the Tropical Fish Hall of Fame in 1989 and is also a member of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, and Western World Pet Association. Ray worked for General Motors for over 30 years and is now retired. Ray is currently traveling with Kingfish Services, a company he started in 1989 with Python Products and Mardel Labs, promoting their products to fish clubs around North America. He is now representing MARS FishCare North America, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Aquarian Flake Foods, Pond Care, & Rena Products, Python Products, Aquarium Technology Sponge Filters, Cichlid News Magazine, Cichlid Press (Ad Konings), The Fish Factory (Mike & Robin Schadle), Finley Aquatic Books, Diskus Brief Magazine, Discus Hans USA, Eastern Aquatic Blackworms, and Ken’s Fish. Kingfish Services just visited their 400th show in 18 years, as a service to the aquarium societies and manufacturers in the trade! Now over 400 shows bringing hobbyists, aquatic societies and the aquatic industry together. Visit www.kingfishservices.net for images of our past events adventures and check our calendar for upcoming events. Besides fish, Ray loves music, Nascar, grandkids, old cars, and being with great people. Ray has bred over 45 species of Livebearers, 30 different Cichlids and 10 Catfish and still maintains 12 aquariums and 2 ponds.