Over the past 20 years, Julian Sprung has been and still is one of the most influential figures in marine aquaria. From his original and inspiring 15g SPS nano reef , to his three part The Reef Aquarium series he wrote with Charles Delbeek, Julian is truly a pioneer in both the hobby and industry. […]
Over the past 20 years, Julian Sprung has been and still is one of the most influential figures in marine aquaria. From his original and inspiring 15g SPS nano reef , to his three part The Reef Aquarium series he wrote with Charles Delbeek, Julian is truly a pioneer in both the hobby and industry. Today, most of his time is dedicated to his company Two Little Fishies–which has some exciting new products on the horizon. Most often hobbyists can find Julian at trade shows, both speaking and representing TLF, or in the waters of Florida. I’d like to thank Julian for penning those great books, sharing his knowledge, and taking the time to sit down with me.
Everytime I speak with Julian I find, his amiable personality and genuine passion for these animals causes us to slip into a deep reef geek discussion. There’s always so much to learn when talking with him–and I particularly feeled schooled in the literal sense when identifying corals. However, I always find Julian is just as keen to listen and learn from others as he his talk about his own experiences.
It’s not until we’re interrupted by reefing fans who ask to take his picture or sign a copy of one of his many books that I realize Julian is Julian Sprung–an author whose books I could never put down, and greatly influenced me during my early stages in the hobby. Like many of us, he is in this industry because he loves these animals, and it shows.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Julian and chat a bit about the hobby’s progression and where he sees it going in the future. Here’s some of that dialogue, we hope you enjoy.
What major strides and progress have you seen in the hobby over the past 10 years?
I think one of the largest changes is in the expertise level of hobbyists. We now have a much larger group of hobbyists that are very dedicated and highly educated about their hobby. I am glad to see this; it’s helping push the hobby forward. No doubt the publication of books like The Reef Aquarium series, among others, has helped, but the change can be largely attributed to the free information exchange occurring online at aquarium websites. It’s not just the availability of information, but also the exchange that occurs so easily internationally via the forums that have been set up all over the world. We are much more connected now.
The connectedness has helped to bridge the skill and knowledge gaps that once existed (and still do in some places) between the private hobby and public aquariums. In addition, many advanced hobbyists now work professionally at public aquariums.
We’ve also made large steps in captive breeding. People like Robert Brons, Frank Baensch, Iris Boenig, Tom Verhoeven, Matt Pedersen, Matt Wittenrich and MOFIB members are taking on new challenges and succeeding. Businesses like ORA and C-Quest are also a testament to this movement. They’re able to survive as a business, meet customer demand and still try new species. The development of new color varieties is exciting too, and while it is not the bread and butter for such companies, the price per fish achieved is remarkable. A South African aquarist, Marcel Triessl, recently produced an albino variety of Amphiprion ocellaris. A lot has happened with the marine ornamental captive breeding industry past 10 years, and here I only point out fish breeding. More could be added about the developments in the past 10 years in the culture of corals and other invertebrates, seaweeds and seagrasses.
You have traveled to many places over the years, what influences and trends has the U.S. established that can be seen abroad?
That’s a good one. Nano reefs and nano aquariums are an interesting trend. They’ve really started to take off in Europe and Japan now, but the concept and popularity was developed here in the U.S. Now it is an entire subset within the industry. There is still resistance to the idea in some circles, mainly due to opponents believing that aquarists are too stupid to know that they can’t fit everything in a small tank. I have always had faith in the intelligence of aquarists, and I believe that smaller aquariums are better for new marine aquarists to get acquainted with the marine aquarium hobby. They are an affordable entry point for young hobbyists, and so many things can be kept in them, but not all things of course!
Another USA export is the craze for colorful SPS corals. Hobbyists in Europe were the first to successfully grow SPS corals, but here in the U.S. it really exploded– with the availability and culture of colorful specimens. Using technology borrowed from Europe (mainly as developed and promoted by Peter Wilkens, Dietrich Stüber, and Alf Nilsen) Steve Tyree and others began collecting and propagating some very unique SPS corals. In the mid 1990s Charles Delbeek and I showed a photo of Steve’s tank in The Reef Aquarium Vol 1, and the appetite for colorful SPS took off. Information exchange via the internet helped this passion spread quickly and created a lot of demand for these colorful corals. The same thing has occurred the past few years with colorful LPS corals. I believe the USA is also the origin of the crazy, ever-evolving naming system for the latest coral and zoanthid flavors. I’m not sure whether that even translates to other regions. Maybe some of the names do, but…
I also believe that passion for Ricordea and the use of Chaetomorpha / Refugia filtration were established and popularized in the U.S. Chaetomorpha and the Refugia concept is everywhere now.
Where do you feel coral / fish care improvements will be made in the future?
Improvements will continue to be made in diets and food for both fish and corals. This trend is over 10 years long and will continue.
New trends and methods in filtration are coming. I foresaw some of them when writing The Reef Aquarium Volume 3 with Charles. New “bacterioplankton” and phytoplankton filtration methods have started to be used on the hobby level and are being marketed or developed as products by some manufacturers. Some methods may change the hobby as they could help facilitate the keeping of non-photosynthetic creatures. The idea is a combination of filtration and food production within the system. Some of this was predicted by Craig Bingman back in the days of the publication Aquarium Frontiers.
Sounds like you have some first hand experience, any more information you can share on that?
(Laughs) That’s all I can say for now.
Thanks for your time Julian, we’re looking forward to what rolls out next from TLF.