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Wayne Leibel

We have all kinds of people in the cichlid hobby, from every country on every continent. Most of us are simple hobbyists, keeping a few tanks, sometimes more than a few, but to us it's still a hobby. There are others who do more, want more and need more. They need more tanks, more fish, more information, more everything. Among that group are the men and women who explore and collect, either professionally or as part of their recreational time. Oliver Lucanus and Larry Johnson are in that group, and we are lucky to have them as speakers at our Convention in July. Another group are the scientists, those men and women who do the research, the writing, the teaching and often the collecting, that push this hobby into new directions. Most of them are hobbyists as well, which makes them almost like us, and often just like us, except they know a lot more. Not all scientists explore and collect, but become the people who find ways to spawn the unspawnable, who write about those events, and who give us all the knowledge we need to keep and breed these rare and difficult species.

Among this last group is Dr. Wayne Leibel, Kreider Professor of Biology; at Lafayette since 1983, who teaches General Biology, Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Genetics, and Behavioral Genetics. But the important thing about Wayne is that he is one of the great hobbyists in the world.

While the majority of cichlid aficionados were captivated by the African Rift Lake revolution in the ‘70s and ‘80’s, Wayne swam against the flow and immersed himself in the then little known cichlids of South America.., an interest he maintains to this day. He has several first time and ‘only time’ breeding achievements to his credit and is the author of over 250 articles that have appeared in a number of hobby magazines including regular columns on New World cichlids in AFM and TFH. He continues to share his knowledge as editor of the quarterly publication Cichlid News. His presentation at this year’s convention will be:” South American Acaras: Holy Grail cichlids you never knew you wanted…..and why you do”


For us the most important thing to know about Wayne is that he is a humble, funny and totally accessible human being, and one you'll all want to meet. He's smart as hell, but as down to earth and easy to talk to as anyone you'll meet in this great hobby. Make a point to be in Cromwell, CT in July to see and hear Wayne, and the other great speakers.

Adrian Indermaur

Adrian Indermaur was born and raised in a tiny village located high in the Eastern Alps of Switzerland. Growing up in this rural and sparsely populated area, he developed a strong affection for the outdoors and the natural world. This led him to pursue a degree in biology at the University of Basel, where he began his lifelong quest to visit as many wild places as possible. Several of those trips were to Mexico and Costa Rica, where he had his first opportunity to observe cichlids in their natural environment. This experience set him on his career path: working with cichlids in the laboratory and visiting every natural cichlid habitat he could get to.


As a graduate student, he was part of a team that sampled and analyzed the ecology and genetics of Lake Tanganyika cichlids, focusing on their patterns of speciation. During the next 10 years he took well over a dozen trips to Lake Tanganyika, where he continued to participate in his team’s extended sampling efforts. As a result, he has developed a truly remarkable understanding of the diversity and natural behavior of cichlids in the wild.

After completing his MSc and PhD degrees Adrian was offered, and accepted, a position in the same University of Basel laboratory where he now serves as the Head of The Animal Facility. In this position he is responsible for maintaining and supervising a 250-tank fish facility, which is used primarily for breeding and behavioral experiments; maintaining the fish specimen collection; and organizing fieldwork.


Continuing to expand his cichlid horizons, Adrian joined an ongoing project studying the Crater Lake cichlids of western Cameroon. As part of this project, his team has conducted seven trips to different lakes and rivers throughout that country. Over the past few years he has had the opportunity to examine the aquatic fauna of other West African countries, such as Ghana and Burkina Faso, as well as Uganda and Malawi in East Africa, where he had his first experiences with the famous cichlids of Lake Victoria and Lake Malawi.


NECA brought Adrian to the U.S. last year after seeing his amazing programs at the Ohio Extravaganza the year before, and we were again blown away by the quality of his presentations and the charisma he brings to them. He’s a “don’t even consider skipping his talks” kind of guy, and his two presentations will almost certainly give you cause to reconsider your cichlid hobbyist focus. They are titled “When All the Endemics are Holy Grail Species: Cichlids of the Cameroonian Crater Lakes” and “Holy Grail Cichlids of Lake Tanganyika.” See you in July!

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Lawrence Kent

I cannot recall the first time I saw a talk by Lawrence Kent, but I do recall that it was funny, engaging and extremely interesting, just like the man he actually is. Lawrence has the rare ability to share his knowledge and experience with an audience and never bore them. Never!


Lawrence is going to be our Keynote Speaker at the 2019 ACA-NECA Convention, giving his talk " “An Amateur in Search of the Holy Grail" soon after the completion of our banquet dinner on Saturday night.


Lawrence works for a charitable foundation fighting hunger and poverty in Africa and South Asia. He hails from New Jersey, lives in Seattle, and travels frequently for his job. Lawrence takes advantage of those international trips to find and photograph interesting tropical fish in places as diverse as Cambodia, Borneo, Ecuador, Mozambique, and Benin. Lawrence has collected fish in 14 African countries and knows the continent well, having lived for 10 years in Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Egypt. In recent years, he’s had a chance to collect frequently and familiarize himself with the cichlids in Lake Victoria and various Nigerian rivers. At home, Lawrence keeps 25 aquaria, many stocked with cichlids he collected abroad (He pays his son $9 a day to feed the fish when he travels). A regular contributor to the Buntbarsche Bulletin, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, and the Cichlid News, Lawrence is fascinated by all types of fish, birds, and reptiles, and the challenge of correctly identifying and breeding them.

Dr Paul Loiselle

There have been numerous recordings of the song "I've Been Everywhere, Man;" the most familiar one to us in the U.S. was recorded by Johnny Cash in 1996. What is the relevance of this song to cichlids? Well, among the speakers we are featuring at the 2019 ACA-NECA Convention are several men who actually have been everywhere. Among them, and perhaps the most traveled of them all, is Dr. Paul Loiselle, an extraordinarily accomplished scientist and hobbyist. He has an amazing background.


During the course of his career, Paul has had the opportunity to study cichlids in Madagascar, West Africa, Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika, Haiti, Mexico, Central America, and the Peruvian Amazon. Emeritus Curator of Freshwater Fishes at the New York Aquarium, he is actively involved in conservation programs focused on the fishes of Madagascar.


Paul is co-chair of the I.U.C.N.’s Madagascar Region Freshwater Fish Specialty Group. He represents the New York Aquarium on the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Freshwater Fish Taxa Advisory Group, and serves as a scientific advisor to the Lake Victoria Cichlid Species Survival Program and the Madagascar Faunal Interest Group.


A founding member and Fellow of the American Cichlid Association, an Honorary Fellow of the Association France Cichlid and a Life Member of the North Jersey Aquarium Society, he is an internationally published author of numerous articles on the care and breeding of ornamental fishes and such books as The Cichlid Aquarium, Your Garden Pond, and The Fishkeeper’s Guide to African Cichlids.


The inspiration for the creation of CARES and an eminent and highly respected ambassador for fish conservation, Paul has served as CARES Technical Editor of Freshwater Fishes, Madagascar Regional Coordinator, and CARES Speaker and Consultant since its inception in 2004.


Is that enough? His program, appropriately enough, is titled "Searching Across Time and Geography for my Holy Grail Cichlids.” I expect Paul will have something of interest to everyone who keeps cichlids, and a lot for those who either don't yet or haven't for a while. And for those who end up at the convention and don't like fish but LOVE cats, Paul is your guy too.

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Oliver Lucanus

The 2019 ACA-NECA Convention is featuring a group of extraordinary speakers, among whom is Oliver Lucanus. Many of you already know Oliver, or have read one of his numerous articles in Cichlid News or Amazonas, or attended one of his talks, or read his book, and seen his numerous posts on various Facebook sites, or purchased fish from his company, Below Water. But it's always nice to read about someone in their own voice, and here is Oliver writing about Oliver. For those of you who have never been asked to write a short bio, it is a very difficult task. It isn't easy to brag about you and your accomplishments without seeming to be..................well, bragging.

"Oliver Lucanus has been keeping and catching fish for over forty years. His main interests are understanding the habitats of our fish in nature and photography. His company "Below Water" specializes in rare and new species. Many of the new species in the hobby first arrived at his fish house in Canada, He's been importing fish from around the world for over 30 years."


His talks at the Convention will be:

“Holy Grail Cichlids of Lakes Kivu, Mweru, Fwa and the Congo in their Natural Habitat and In the Aquarium & "Holy Grail Crenicichla in Their Natural Habitat and In the Aquarium"

Larry Johnson

Another one of our terrific speakers at the 2019 ACA-NECA Convention is Larry Johnson. Larry was first introduced to Lake Malawi cichlids in the early 70’s and has been keeping and breeding them since then. The fish room has got bigger over the years and was consumed by these beautiful fish.

Larry has been travelling to Lake Malawi since 1999, diving, exploring and photographing the fish. He has been importing fish from Lake Malawi since 2006.


Larry's photographs have been used in Cichlid News, TFH and Ad Konings books 'Malawi Cichlids in their natural habitat'.


Larry's talk will be on Sat, July 20, at 2:30 PM and is titled “Diving Lake Malawi: Finding the Holy Grail Cichlids.” We are looking forward to see you there!

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Jim Cumming

A little over 5 years ago, NECA invited the then relatively obscure Canadian hobbyist, Jim Cumming, to come down to New England and give us a talk on Madagascar cichlids. Jim had a respectable presence on the internet at that time, and based on his posts and beautiful photographs, it was obvious to us that he was an unknown treasure, and we wanted to be the first to get him into the U.S. hobby. Well, he came, he blew our group away with his incredible program, and the rest is history. Today, Jim is everywhere, and it’s all well-deserved for a guy who is simply one of the best hobbyist/breeders in the world.


Jim hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and has been keeping tropical fish for 65 years. Other than a fifteen year sojourn into the world of killifish (his online name is ‘notho2000’) he has kept and presently keeps Central and South American cichlids, and currently devotes about one third of his 40 aquarium fish room to Madagascan cichlids and the Etroplus genus from India. Jim has made presentations to over 30 cichlid and generalist aquarium societies throughout the US and Canada over the last three years and in the Spring of 2018, was invited to Berlin and Dresden, Germany where he presented on Madagascan and South American cichlids to the German Cichlid Association (DCG). Other speaking engagements included the International Cichlid Conference in Brisbane, Australia in November, 2018, the upcoming Nordic Cichlid Association in Uppsala, Sweden in March 2019, and the ACA-NECA Convention in Cromwell, Connecticut, in July 2019. Jim has never turned down an invitation to speak other than for a conflict of dates.


Over the last 10 years, Jim has become captivated by the magical cichlids from Madagascar. They have certainly ‘supercharged’ his passion for the cichlid keeping hobby. Jim has had extensive collecting experience in Mexico, Belize, Cuba, and Brazil as well as the Southern U.S. He maintains a very active YouTube channel with around 700 videos as of January, 2019, highlighting the fish he keeps or has kept. The emphasis is on maintenance and breeding, along with social interactions, both con- and heterospecific. Jim has been a moderator for several on-line forums and several Facebook aquatic interest groups and maintains a Facebook site solely devoted to fish and their conservation. Jim has had articles published in Amazonas and Cichlid News magazines. He is also is an American Cichlid Association Speaker, as well as a Madagascan Cichlid Species Specialist and speaker for the CARES Preservation Program. He also has been actively involved in the local Aquarium Society of Winnipeg, where he served for many years as Program Chair, Journal Editor, and President. He enthusiastically looks forward to spreading the word on Madagascar and its cichlids, as well as on variety of other hobby-based topics wherever and whenever he can.
By the way, Jim will be giving two talks at the Convention, titled “From the Hobbyist’s Perspective: Keeping and Breeding Neotropical Holy Grail Cichlids in the Home Aquarium,” and “From the Hobbyist’s Perspective, Keeping and Breeding the Holy Grail Cichlids of Madagascar and India.” I can’t wait!

Dr. Leslie Kaufman

Lectures by academics – that is, individuals whose profession is college/university professor or professional researcher – are not confined to the campus (though perhaps they should be). At some point in your life, you may have attended such a lecture and found it challenging to sit through, because the speaker’s language was replete with unfamiliar academic jargon and the subject (contrary to your expectations) was not terribly interesting. You may even have found it difficult to stay awake through the entire lecture.

NECA has scheduled two academics to speak at our convention, but they are not of the sleep-inducing kind. I’ve already written about Dr. Wayne Leibel, a man of great knowledge and even greater humor, and now I’m going to introduce Dr. Leslie Kaufman, known as Les to those in the hobby.

Les Kaufman is an evolutionary ecologist specializing in the biology and conservation of aquatic ecosystems. He has special expertise in coral reef biology, the evolution and ecology of tropical great lakes fishes, and ecosystem-based management of marine resources. He currently holds the positions of Professor of Biology at the Boston University Marine Program and Faculty Fellow at the Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, where he leads interdisciplinary work on Coupled Human and Natural Systems.

Les received his Bachelor of Science and Ph.D. degrees in evolutionary ecology from Johns Hopkins University. From 1980 to 1983 he conducted post-doctoral research at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, where he remains an Associate in Ichthyology. He worked full-time with the New England Aquarium from 1983 through 1994, serving successively as Curator of Education, Curator of Exhibit Research and Development, and Chief Scientist. Since 2005 he has worked as a senior marine scientist and principal investigator for the Marine Management Areas Science Program (, and since 2012 as Marine Conservation Fellow at the Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science. Since 2010 he has also served on the advisory board of Healthy Reefs for Healthy People.

Les is not only an internationally renowned scientist on the subject of coral reefs but is also one of the world’s leading experts on Lake Victoria and The Victoria Basin. For many years he has been directing research to understand the biology and ecosystems throughout the region, in the course of which he has helped train a new generation of African scientists living lakeside. As a result of Les Kaufman’s work, the Lake Victoria Environmental Management Project was established, a comprehensive research program on native fishes was launched, and Les produced a field guide on cichlids of the Lake Victoria region. He also helped conceive a major exhibit on the efforts of African scientists at Lake Victoria. That exhibit opened in April 2000 at the New England Aquarium, subsequently traveled to several other major aquariums in North America and is now a key component of educational outreach efforts in East Africa.

The title of Les’s talk at the convention is “Holy Grail Cichlids and Their Roads to Salvation: Revelations from Recent Surveys of the Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga Systems.” He is engaging, accessible, and an inexhaustible fount of knowledge. I urge you to attend the Convention to benefit from his (and the other speakers’) willingness and capacity to share what he knows and loves with us.

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