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Tangled Up in Cichlids
Tangled Up in Cichlids
Gerald started keeping fish at age nine and by ten bred his first species, Colisa lalia. He was hooked and soon after bred three more Colisa species (chuna, fasciata and labiosa). At age twelve, he read All About Bettas by Walt Maurus and instantly knew that wild Bettas were in his future. However, it being the 1970’s and living in Oklahoma, the future would be a long time in waiting until he would enter college in the 80’s. From there he was able to use the library’s resources to research articles on wild Bettas and establish connections in the hobby. Gerald would soon join the International Betta Congress (IBC) and finally procure his own wild Betta stock. It wouldn’t be long before he would be writing his own articles on his own observations and experiences. In the meantime, Gerald was also busy with the domesticated Betta splendens and their genetics. From there, Gerald would establish and become the President of the Oklahoma Betta Breeders Association.
In 2000, Gerald’s passion for fish was reignited as family and career responsibilities were settling, and would jump head-first back into domestic and wild Bettas. Since the world was quickly changing and wild habitats were being destroyed before science could observe and record, Gerald would help establish the IBC Species Management Program to identify keepers and breeders of wild Bettas worldwide in an effort to share knowledge, stock, and information before species would disappear from the wild forever.
Today, Gerald is running 80 plus aquariums dedicated to all types of fish both fresh and saltwater but his first love will always be Bettas and Anabantoids. Gerald is currently President of the Oklahoma Aquarium Association and has served as the BAP, HAP, and Presentations chair. Also, he is currently the President of the multistate Betta Chapter SCUBA, President of the Oklahoma Betta Breeders Association, Treasurer for the American Labyrinth Fishes Association, and editor of the IBC periodic magazine, FLARE. In all this, he is also currently the Judging Board Chair of the IBC having just rewritten the international judging standards for show Bettas.
Brandon has a background in Biology and water ecology and worked for Kentucky State University’s College of Agriculture and Sustainable Systems before joining the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection as an Environmental Scientist in 2015. He has been a hobbyist for over 30 years primarily focused on ‘nano breeds’ like livebearers, killifish, tetras and dwarf cichlids. Since 2012 he has gotten into keeping a variety of aquarium dwarf shrimp. He lives in Frankfort with his wife and three boys.
Central American Cichlids
Rusty Wessel maintains over 8,000 gallons of freshwater aquariums in a state of the art fish house constructed specifically for fish. The 90-plus aquariums predominantly contain cichlids and livebearers, which he successfully raises and breeds.
Rusty’s specialty is Central American fishes. He has successfully collected fish from the countries of Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Mexico and Uruguay, and the continent of Africa. If it lives in fresh water, chances are that Rusty has either caught it or been bitten or stung by it. He has been collecting since 1983, and is recognized by other experienced collectors as one of the best. He has made over 150 trips, and has introduced many new species to the aquarium hobby. In 1991, Rusty discovered a beautiful and elusive new cichlid in an area that had already been thoroughly collected. In the June 1996 edition of Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine, Dr. Robert Rush Miller, emeritus professor of the University of Michigan, described and named this species Theraps wesseli. (In the recent Rican reorganization, it is called Choritheros wesseli.)
Rusty is also a prolific author and photographer, as his writings and photographs have appeared in a large number of specialized publications, such as Aquarium Fish Magazine, Aquarist and Pondkeeper, Buntbarsche Bulletin, Cichlid News, Ad Konings’ Cichlids Yearbooks, Freshwater and Marine Aquarium and Tropical Fish Hobbyist.
In the organized hobby, Rusty is currently the “Back Issue Sales Person” for the American Cichlid Association and a speaker participant for the ACA/Zoo Med Speaker’s Program. He is past chair of the ACA board of trustees (1990) and chaired the 1992 and 2014 conventions. In addition, he is an active solicitor for the “Guy Jordan Endowment Fund”, set up by the ACA to fund cichlid research. Rusty has been awarded with the greatest honor the American Cichlid Association gives to its distinguished members, the ACA fellowship in 1997. On the local level, he is currently treasurer for the Louisville Tropical Fish Fanciers.
Rusty has lectured and judged numerous fish shows throughout the United States, including the annual “Florida Tropical Fish Farmers” show and several ACA conventions.
*Bio by Raleigh Aquarium Society