Nov 20, 2020

Publications - updated Nov 2021

Species Spotlight: Goniopora June 1, 2022 CORAL Magazine

Species Spotlight: Torch Coral January 1, 2022 CORAL Magazine

Species Spotlight: Acanthophyllia Nov 1, 2021 CORAL magazine

ICP OES Water Testing: A Reefkeeping Revolution in the Making May 1, 2020 CORAL magazine

Xenia & Xeniids Jan 1, 2020  CORAL magazine

Hardy Sea Fans Nov 1, 2019 CORAL magazine

Ugly Duckling Corals Discovering Pectinia Jul 2019  CORAL magazine

Reef Dosing Simplified May 2019  CORAL magazine

Rockstar Acropora Oct 2018  CORAL magazine

Hats Off to Monti Caps Sep 2018  CORAL magazine

Pocilliporidae: Pocillopora, Stylophora, and Seriatopora Jul 2018  CORAL magazine

Micro Reefs - Bowling for Corals Jan 1, 2018  CORAL Magazine - Original article and photos detailing my micro reef vase

Standing Watch: Coral Guard Crabs and Other Symbionts Jul 17, 2017  CORAL Magazine - A sidebar complementing Dr. Ron Shimek's Acropora article

Seahorses, Syngnathids, and the Scourge of Vibrio Mar 1, 2016  Tropical Fish Hobbyist

Aquarium Portrait: Dan Rigle's Acropora Obsession Sep 1, 2012  CORAL magazine

We are not Plecos! Captive breeding of Gobiesox punctulatus Mar 1, 2012  CORAL magazine

Seahorses - tank bred vs captive bred Mar 1, 2010

Jul 13, 2020

Women in Reefing Part 2: A Trail Blazer, A Love Story, A Content Creator, A Whisperer, A Writer

      By MetroKat

 I had no idea that Part 1 of our Women in Reefing blog would become the most shared blog on this website. In a time of disheartening news, focusing on the good in the world, and on ladies that bring that good in their own way to everyday people has been a journey of self discovery for me. It has taken longer to write Part 2 because I wanted to be sure to do justice to the incredible ladies that have allowed me to peer into their personal and professional lives.

We begin with a Trail Blazer, the incredible Dr. Amanda Vincent.

Amanda Vincent: World’s Top Conservationist Prize Winner

In May 2020, Dr. Amanda Vincent became the first marine conservationist to win the prestigious Indianapolis Prize. Cataloging Amanda’s extensive experience needs more than one article but hopefully this truncated blog about her accomplishments will inspire our readers to learn more about her work. It’s an honor to feature this trail blazer.

amanda Vincent Indianapolis Prize
Dr. Amanda Vincent. Image credit Matt Mays

The Indianapolis Prize is the world’s leading award for animal conservation. Every other year, the Indianapolis Prize recognizes animal conservationists whose heroic work has helped save vulnerable and endangered species from extinction. The Indianapolis Prize Winner receives $250,000, and five Finalists are each awarded $10,000. Since 2006, the Indianapolis Prize has administered more than $1.3 million in unrestricted cash awards to support the work and livelihoods of animal conservationists around the world.

Project Seahorse

Amanda is the director and co-founder of Project Seahorse, an international organization committed to conservation and sustainable use of the world’s coastal marine ecosystems. Project Seahorse is an alliance of University of British Columbia and the Zoological Society of London and represents a lot of people; collaborators in countries across the world, students and volunteers. Everyone has a constant desire to build the number of people involved in conservation by exciting and influencing projects in 6 continents.

Amanda holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and a Hons. B.Sc. from the University of Western Ontario. She was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, England and on faculty at McGill University, where she was named a William Dawson Scholar in 2000.  The same year, Amanda was named a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, the world’s pre-eminent award in that field.

From Indianapolis Prize

Amanda considers this prestigious award as the closest she can come to a Nobel Prize so she is absolutely thrilled to be the recipient of the “biggest best boldest prize for animal conservation“. She feels happy to be able to have a platform to talk about ocean conservation issues. Seahorses are riveting subjects – a story of male pregnancy and gets your attention. Seahorses are flagship species for the ocean, according to Amanda and Project Seahorse. What threatens them threatens everything, and consequently, what saves seahorses, saves everything. They have a saying at Project Seahorse; Save the seahorses to save the seas, save the seas by saving the seahorses.

Philippines Marine protected area
Marine Protected Area in the Philippines. Image Credit Mai-Yasue

Amanda is most proud of the collaboration in the Philippines with social workers and biologists that has resulted in 35 marine protected areas under community management. These are ‘no take zones’ and fish are recovering their populations.

Amanda Vincent CITES
Amanda at CITES 2002. Image Credit Bayne Stanley

Another proud accomplishment has been getting the United Nations convention, CITES, to regulate the global export for marine fishes. CITES had categorically refused to get involved in marine fishes. With persistence, Dr. Amanda and her team have now got 182 countries committed to regulating the export of seahorses, limiting it to levels that will not damage wild populations and that are legally sourced.

That breakthrough opened more doors to a new international instrument that allows sharks, rays, European eels, and other reef fish that are now experiencing the same controls so that there is global sustainable export.

From Project Seahorse

Amanda was the first to study Seahorses under water and has set the standard of conservation for people all over the world that care about the animals in our oceans. When asked what she would do with the prize money, Amanda replied, “I want to swim with the Seahorses.

“Dr. Amanda Vincent’s determination to protect our oceans and the species that inhabit it is nothing short of heroic. Dr. Vincent brings a collaborative, culturally sensitive and solutions-focused approach to ocean conservation.She inspires people to action and drives positive outcomes for marine species. It’s our privilege to recognize and reward her for her immeasurable impact on ocean conservation and the future of seahorses around the world.”
-Dr. Rob Shumaker, President/CEO of the Indianapolis Zoological Society

Felicia McCaulley: A Writer Extraordinaire

Felicia McCaulley coral magazine

Felicia is a long-time aquarium hobbyist who has been working in the industry for 15+ years. Her experience working in retail, wholesale, aquarium maintenance, aquarium photography, fish and coral aquaculture and livestock purchasing gives her a 360 view of the hobby and the industry that powers it. This hobby has been her raison d’etre for most of her life (besides her children). She started her journey in the hobby in 2001 working at a PetSmart in Pittsburgh. Felicia got her “big break” working for Kevin Kohen at Liveaquaria first as a customer care agent in 2006, and then as the Diver’s Den photographer and marine life identifier in 2008.

Felicial Mccaulley cover
Felicia’s son on the cover with her Micro Reef

Felicia has been interested in breeding marine fish and propagating corals for many years. With the help of Kevin, Steve Krogh, and Paul Poeschl, she started breeding and raising H. erectus seahorses in 2009. In 2011 Felicia was one of the first to raise the Clingfish species Gobiesox punctulatus, which was documented in the March/April 2012 issue of CORAL magazine. She has successfully kept more than a dozen species of Syngnathids, and kept or worked with nearly every saltwater fish species available in the aquarium hobby today – even the rare Dr. Seuss fish and some little known oddballs like Red Brotulids Dipulus caecus and other coldwater or subtropical species.

Felicia Mccaulley shrimp
Gnathophyllum americanum

Felicia has been an aquarium photojournalist for over 10 years, providing content for magazines like CORAL magazine and websites like She has been a writer for CORAL magazine since 2012 with 12 articles published. You may have read some of them like Hats off to Monti Caps (Sep 2018), We are not Plecos (Mar 2012), Hardy Sea Fans (Nov 2019) to name a few. Her articles have also been published in other magazines like Tropical Fish Hobbyist, and a college level microbiology textbook.

felicia mccaulley

Felicia’s specialties are aquarium husbandry, seahorses, taxonomy/identification, disease treatment, and chemistry. She has managed or worked in 8 different local aquarium shops, most notably House of Fins in Greenwich, CT in 2013 where Robert Bray graciously let Felicia experiment with her aquatic medicine knowledge with a generously sized quarantine and hospital system in the basement. She teamed up with friends to form a facebook group dedicated to hobby fish and coral disease diagnosis and treatment called “Fish Doctors Reef and Aquarium Health.” She has continued to experiment with different medications advocating for proper quarantine and prophylactic Cryptocaryon treatment.

Felicia mccaulley richard ross
Richard Ross & Felicia

Felicia enjoys attending reef shows and conferences. She has worked in the booths of Boyd Enterprises, CoralVue/ICP- Analysis, CORAL magazine, and Iconic Aquariums as well as given presentations to many aquarium clubs about seahorses and photography. She has spoken in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, New Jersey, New York City, Virginia, Connecticut, and Texas. Felicia was also part of Bob Fenner’s Wet Web Media Crew about 10 years ago.

Felicia is currently a part of the Marine Depot family and works in the customer care department helping customers solve technical problems. She also writes articles and video scripts for Marine Depot. She co-authored Part 1 with me and continues to be a part of this blog series. She considers herself lucky by being able to turn her passion into a career that has changed her life. Felicia’s  passion and love for the aquarium hobby only grows with time.

Felicia mccaulley
Callianassa armatus

“I had the pleasure of working with Felicia as her manager and mentor for several years. Her passion, enthusiasm and fascination with Syngnathids, unique invertebrates and unusual fishes was inspiring. I always went out of my way to point out unique hitchhikers and other unusual marine life which she appreciated, as we would then research the genus and species of animals not seen very often.” Kevin Kohen, Live Aquaria

Hilary Jaffe: Educational Content Creator

hilary jaffe

Hilary is the thoughtful woman behind the educational content for @Waterlogged1313 on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Even at a glance, her wealth of information and knowledge spans many topics and yet her heart belongs to the aquatic animal industry. She is passionate about aquatic ecosystems and teaching others how to protect and care for them. Her training and experience have paved the way for her to work in animal training.

Hilary graduated from the Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, SC. As a Marine Biologist, Hilary was able to bring the ocean with her when she left the coast and moved inland to Charlotte, NC. Using her degree and the experience she gained as a hobbyist she worked as a service technician and a social media manager for Fintastic, a local fish store before moving to Nevada and becoming a fisheries biologist. Hilary currently works as a biologist at an aquarium where she takes care of nearly 25 systems. 

hillary jaffe scuba

Hilary was one of the speakers at the first Women in Reefing meeting at MACNA 2018. She has been a familiar face at reef shows and enjoys the chance to meet people that she has interacted with online. She has worked professionally in the industry as a social media manager and as a biologist. She has trained animals such as fish, stingrays, sharks, and…a pig! She has an inherent instinct for animal training but learnt a lot from amazing trainers like Lara Joseph from The Animal Behavior Center to train her pet pig, Piggles. Hilary applied the same principles and techniques to working with other animals.

Initially she started working with a Spot Fin Puffer- Diodon hystrix. When the other species of puffers were becoming aggressive and biting the divers, Hilary brought them into the training routine and rapidly saw the biting behavior disappear. Because of her success, she was selected to train stingrays for different feeding techniques. Her training not only provides enrichment for the animals, but it also helps to build trust and during the training sessions, allows the public a glimpse into how intelligent animals can be. 

Hilary is also a content creator for her website along with her channels on YouTube and Instagram. Some of the well known people that Hilary has interviewed include Dr. Jamie Bursa about her research on Weddell Seals in Antarctica. Josh Munoz, a photographer and videographer, who studied and sailed through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Dr. Margaret Miller Research Director at SECORE and most recently, Warren Carlyle founder of the largest octopus fan club – OctoNation. 

Frank the cowfish


A freshwater puffer fish captured her interest nearly 15 years ago. Since then she has had a mix of saltwater, brackish, and reef tanks. In addition to the tanks she takes care of at work, Hilary personally has 5 saltwater tanks including a nano reef and FOWLR system that is home to her comical cowfish, Frank.

Hilary’s advice to hobbyists is not to be afraid to fail or to admit you don’t know something. The times she has experienced failure are the times that she has learned the most. This field is full of amazing people who are always willing to help teach you- take advantage of that. 

Piggles the pig

“I have had many people that reach out to me for various help over the years. One that truly stands out to me is Hilary. She was bit uncertain in regards to putting herself on social media platforms. Through our conversation, I saw how passionate and knowledgeable she was. In my opinion, her personal educational blog called waterlogged is easily one of my favorite blogs in our hobby. Her live streams with museum professionals has brought a different perspective of reef keeping that was sorely missing until her arrival. I am extremely happy and blessed to call her a friend and I am excited to see how she continues to educate and inspire other people with her love of animals and our oceans” – Richard Back

Kristine Turnier: A Typical Love Story

Kristine grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She went to Feather River College to work with horses, where she met Chris Turnier and this love story begins.  

Kristine has been fortunate to be a part of this industry in so many aspects over the years. She followed Chris to Los Angeles in 1996 for his first job out of college, working for a fish and coral transhipper before they were married. Just by luck, a new company, Flying Fish Express, the first online fish and coral retail store, was renting office space above the transhipper and within about six months both Chris and Kristine started working for Flying Fish Express. She knew nothing about saltwater aquariums back then, but she learned on the job and did everything from customer service over the phone, to packing orders, to picking out fish at the local wholesalers. Flying Fish Express pioneered the WYSIWYG and Cleanup Crews, and Kristine wrote the shipping and return policies, which became standard in the industry and are still commonly used today. After a few years, the company was purchased several times and eventually dissolved.

The Turniers moved back to Southern California and opened Reefer Madness, an online coral website, in partnership with Walt Smith International. The business was small but well known for their WYSIWYG corals and beautiful photography. At Reefer Madness, in addition to managing the office, online orders and shipping, Kristine also glued frags of some of the most beautiful Acroporas. Kristine credits her husband for starting the trend for crazy coral names.

Walt Smith, Deb Smith Kristine Turnier
Walt & Deb Smith with Chris & Kristine Turnier

By then the Turniers had known Walt and Deborah Smith for years through visiting the local wholesalers to pick out fish and corals for Flying Fish and Reefer Madness. When the manager of Walt Smith International’s supply station in the Fiji Islands left, Chris was offered the job, and the family moved to Fiji. The farm at Walt Smith International was truly impressive, with dozens of racks of aquacultured frags growing up into larger corals that were then exported to the US. As Kristine did not hold a work permit, she home-schooled her kids; Bryce who was five when they moved there, and Roxy, who was three. Kristine continued to learn about corals and aquaculture as she had many opportunities to visit the farm and see the process first hand.

Kristine Turnier family

Living in the Fiji Islands was an adventure. The highlights of her time there was snorkeling in pristine, dense coral reefs, getting her SCUBA certification, and swimming with a Manta Ray. Fiji had many challenges too, such as hurricanes and tropical depressions, water shortages, power outages, feral dogs barking all night, and the chore of shopping for food in high heat and humidity. Kristine then worked for the Smiths’ for a short time filing paperwork and helping with billing for Walt Smith International. 

Kristine Reef-A-palooza

After four years in Fiji the family moved to Tennessee and then Florida where she was offered a position to manage Reef-A-Palooza Orlando and New York as Chris began working for World Wide Corals. Her position has expanded and grown and now also includes managing the new Chicago show. She is the friendly face that exhibitors see as soon as they approach the desk for their badges. Her work includes helping exhibitors sign up for booths, working with the web and graphics designers to create sponsorships, print and social media graphics, make arrangements with the hotel and expo companies, manage ticket sales, and keep every aspect of the show organized and moving forward. 

Although she is not directly working with fish and corals, she continues to learn about the industry through the companies that exhibit at the shows. Kristine says she loves helping to bring people together who all have a common interest, and it is exciting to see an entire year of planning and hard work come together for just two days of Reef-A-Palooza.

Fiji reef
Fiji Reef

She has seen the online retail sector grow from its humble beginnings. Perhaps the biggest change she has noticed is the desire for aquacultured corals over colonies. When she started, the availability of aquacultured corals was so small. Big, bright wild colonies were all the rage. Indeed, it is amazing to see how aquacultured corals are now the mainstream, and how new varieties, patterns and colors continue to capture people’s attention and become so desirable.

Kristine has noticed more women attending Reef-A-Palooza every year which is exciting. Her advice is to utilize the resources out there, such as reefing clubs, forums, frag swaps, trade shows, and local fish stores, and to keep learning. One of the women Kristine admires is Keri O’Neil, Senior Coral Scientist at the Florida Aquarium’s Center for Conservation. Keri will be one of the key-note speakers at Reef-A-Palooza Orlando.

Kristine is a nature girl at heart, and she feels protecting the ocean for the health of our planet and future generations is vital. Her favorite quote is by the person she admires most, Sir David Attenborough, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.

“Kristine has an amazing affinity for coral reefs, the ocean, and all of its inhabitants. She is one of the hardest working individuals I have ever worked with. She is selfless, kind and always has the best interest of customers & co-workers in mind.”
-Lou Schiavo, World Wide Corals

Kelly Delavergne: Seahorse Whisperer

Wine Wednesdays with seahorse whisperer

If you’ve been searching for women that host livestreams, there aren’t that many so when a livestream with Wine came into the hobby, it immediately got attention. Kelly is the fun lady behind the weekly livestream called Wine Wednesdays on YouTube channel Seahorse Whisperer where hobbyists of all experiences gather to share, help each other and promote a community atmosphere. Kelly is the founder of the Women in Reefing group that was first recognized at MACNA 2018.

Kelly grew up in a fur-baby loving family and when asked about what led her to the hobby, “In one word: Fascination. I was literally hooked before a splash of water hit my first aquarium.” Her life was changed by an Angel…fish. See what we did there. She never expected to be taken in by the first sight of her mother-in-law’s seven year old Angelfish that seemed to follow her every move with her eyes and it was then that Kelly decided to keep and care for her own aquarium species.

Kelly delavergne reef tank

Like many of us, her first foray into the aquatic hobby was with freshwater. After a few years of keeping planted discus aquariums and breeding angelfish, she was introduced to saltwater, coral and seahorses. Keeping difficult fish like Discus, NPS corals and macroalgae successfully provided such a sense of accomplishment that it seemed obvious to Kelly that her next steps should be to learn how to culture coral and macros and eventually to breed seahorses.

Seahorse baby

Kelly has kept various Syngnathidae like Ghost Pipefish and DragonFace pipes. The seahorses she bred were h. Erectus, h. Kuda, h. Barbouri, h. Reidi, and a hybrid erectus-reidi mix. The most difficult were fry, and breeding the seahorses. Discussions on her live stream range from all kinds of topic for seahorses and macroalgaes such as building a seahorse fry nursery, growing macros that are appropriate for seahorse tanks, setting up a dwarf seahorse tank.

sea horse on branch

Kelly was fortunate to have some amazing mentors like Cruz Arias in reefing, Dan Underwood, Tom Hornsby and Cheryl Taylor in Seahorses. She was pleasantly surprised when her macro algae tank was noticed by Reef Hobbyist Magazine. The article about her seahorse-macro tank helped Kelly realize that she could help other hobbyists who wanted to learn about these salty subjects. Ten years later, Kelly says she has been honored to share her experiences and knowledge events such as the Marine Breeding Initiative (MBI), Midwest Aquatic Convention and MACNA.  Kelly creates videos and articles on YOUTUBE and FACEBOOK, to help anyone interested in keeping seahorses, macro algae or reef tanks.

Macro algae tank kelly delavergne

Kelly considers her ultimate accomplishment to be contributing to the Women in Reefing movement. Teaming up with other great women to promote and hold the Women in Reefing events at MACNA. Seeing the number of women succeeding in the hobby and industry makes her proud. She is more determined than ever to support women who venture out into the hobby and industry.

Women in Reefing Macna meeting

I have had the opportunity to work with Kelly and she is dedicated to providing state of the art information in regards to keeping and caring for seahorses and pipefish. Her dedication to helping others become successful shows in everything she does.
-Cheryl Taylor m

May 12, 2020

The Unforgettable Bob Fenner – One of the Founding Fathers of the Hobby


Bob Fenner  1952 – 2020

bob fenner
“To you, the aquarist. May your brush with captive marine fishes and invertebrates enhance your appreciation of the living world, inspire you to share your experiences with others, and foster stewardship of our planet.”  –  the Dedication page in Bob’s celebrated book The Conscientious Marine Aquarist.

Co-authored by Metrokat and Felicia McCaulley

One of the greatest reef aquarium and diving legends we’ve ever known unexpectedly departed this world on May 7th, 2020, and the entire aquarium community is grieving. Bob Fenner is best known for what many call the “saltwater aquarium Bible” – his book The Conscientious Marine Aquarist and his website He received the prestigious MASNA award in 2005 and was an avid book writer/photographer and a regular contributor to many magazines including CORAL magazine, FAMA, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, and many more. Most aquarium hobbyists today can trace their “roots” back to Fenner in some way – he either inspired you directly, or he inspired someone who inspired you. 

The Connector

Bob loved people. Hobbyists and friends all have similar stories about their first time meeting him. He was superbly friendly, upbeat, and smiling, and usually invited his new friends to go diving by the end of their first conversation! He loved to collect friends, taking note of their interests and introducing compatible friends to one another. If you ever met Bob, he remembered your name. He likely remembered small details about your aquarium and your life. Maybe he even remembered your birthday. He was passionate about humans as well as the natural world. 

Bob Fenner diving
Picture courtesy Michelle Lemech

In his WetWebMedia bio, he said, The central thread to everything I have attempted in writing, presentation or action in the interest has been/is “to enhance people’s love of their own lives through an appreciation of the living world.’” – a lofty goal, certainly achieved over a lifetime of passion and patience.

The Maven

There is no denying Bob Fenner’s brilliance and genius. We in the marine aquarium hobby are lucky he chose our field to focus on and that he graciously shared his knowledge with us. He spent 25 years painstakingly and patiently answering countless emails from hobbyists on his site WetWebMedia. He was the “go-to guy” if you had a question about aquariums that no one else could answer, but he never resented answering beginners’ tedious questions, too. 

His first job was as a local fish store employee, and he started an aquarium maintenance business that helped him through college. After receiving his Zoology BS from San Diego with a minor in chemistry, he went on to teach high school science and then was an instructor at University of California San Diego. He also worked in aquatic wholesale, Betta culturing, and later started his own business, Nature, Etc. Inc. designing habitats. 

The Innovator

The first thing many people noticed about Bob was his charisma and infectious excitability. He was known for being “socially contagious” with a unique laugh and sometimes “off color” sense of humor. Able to express empathy and relate to others sincerely, he built excellent rapport with many in our community over the years to collaborate on projects and form bonds with other industry leaders and hobbyists.

bob fenner book conscientious marine aquarist
Revised second edition

Bob was a prolific writer with a copious body of work. He produced more than a dozen books in print and an uncountable number of web and magazine articles over his lifetime. His writing style can be described as “stream of consciousness,” but easily understandable with visual imagery and philosophic inspirations. He was a staple at frag swaps, trade shows, and conventions like the International Marine Aquarium Conference, Marine Aquarium Conference of North America, and Interzoo, often attending as a speaker or person of honor. Bob was the Vice-President of Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and presented at eleven MACNA events between 2001 – 2018. He also recently helped set up a marine ornamentals collection station with Walt Smith in Fiji. 

The Representative

There are some who believe you can’t be a defender of reefs and a defender of the aquarium hobby at the same time. Bob set out to prove that idea wrong. He believed that responsible and conscientious aquarium keeping (and diving) fostered a love and respect for aquatic species and reefs; he knew that humans were more likely to protect what they love. He has been on thousands of dives, observing, documenting, and reporting on the health of the world’s natural reefs. 

Bob strived to be the best human that he could be while responsibly pursuing as much enjoyment and excitement as he could fit into his life. He called for all of us to make more responsible decisions to help mitigate and amend the destruction caused by humans to coral reefs and other natural habitats. 


Bob led an extraordinarily active, energetic lifestyle. He lived for adventure! Close friends referred to him as “the most interesting man in the world.” He had a full and colorful life, vacationing in tropical locations, diving, and visiting beloved friends all over the world. He was a talented underwater photographer with a vast collection of photos from nearly 40 years of diving. He’d recently been attempting to catalog them with the help of friends, and he posted beautiful, educational photos of fish, corals, and inverts on his facebook page each day. When he was home from his dive trips, he didn’t sit still for too long – he was a Hash House Harrier, comically referred to as a “drinking club with a running problem.” In his downtime, he enjoyed playing guitar, drums, and reading science fiction (even writing some himself). He was always up for a beer or some quality sushi with a friend to talk fish or philosophy. 

Bob Fenner’s passing is a devastating loss to our hobby and to his friends and family. We at Marine Depot want to extend our deepest condolences to all who loved and looked up to him. 

Thanks for all the fish”.

MACNA. Image courtesy Michelle Lemech

Bob was a dear friend and mentor to me.  He played an influential role in the story of my life.  My life would not be as full or rich if he were not a part of it.

The first couple of times I met Bob, he invited me and my former husband to Hawai’i to stay at his house. I thought it was a gracious gesture but didn’t really take him seriously till he inscribed my copy of his book, “come to Hawai’i and get SCUBA certified.” Since I had it in writing, I did. We arrived in Hawaii with Bob’s phone number, e-mail address, and no other contact information. With great anticipation, I called his number. There was no answer. I left a message at the beep. As I hung up, panic started to seep into my thoughts. Maybe my friends were right. What kind of hare-brained idea was this? About twenty minutes later Bob called to let us know he was on his way to pick us up. Thus began the first of many adventures with Bob.

Bob invited me to be part of the crew responding to the daily FAQ’s on WetWebMedia. I was pretty new to the hobby and didn’t feel I had much to offer, but he encouraged me and I found my niche. He encouraged me to write, though that was/is not my strong suit. I much prefer photography. He mentored me there as well, allowing me to use his secondary underwater photography gear when we dove together. 

Most people who have met Bob know him as full of energy and charisma. He most certainly was, but he could also be quirky and moody. I learned not to talk to him before he was at least half-way through his morning vat of coffee, frequently in a 4 cup measuring cup. He would read queries, and if they had a lot of spelling or grammar mistakes, he would send them back telling the writer to fix it and send again. “Alot” was a pet peeve of his. He had a distinctive writing method which can be seen on every query on WWM, which he carried over into email, occasionally confusing people.

michelle lemech craig bingman bob fenner
Michelle & Craig with Bob and his sister Donna

Bob enjoyed cooking and never met a processed meat he didn’t like. His home was decorated with all things fishy, yet I have never seen more than a freshwater set up there. His library is astounding. I doubt there is anyone with a more vast collection, at least in the US. For leisure he enjoyed reading sci-fi’s. He was particularly fond of Frank Herbert and read his Dune series many times over. At conferences, you could always find him at the hotel bar, beer in hand, speaking to any number of friends new and old. Had I not met Bob, I would not have met my significant other, Craig Bingman, or had our son, Kai. I am greatly saddened by the future opportunities lost I had looked forward travel and dive adventures when our now 3 year old son might remember them. I am disappointed that Kai will never have the pleasure of knowing Bob or having him as a teacher. Bob touched lives all over the globe and he will be deeply missed by me and so many others.

So here’s to you, Bob. Cheers, mate!
 – Michelle Lemech

Felicia mccaulley bob fenner and friends
Felicia with Bob and friends

Bob was easily the biggest titan of the reef aquarium hobby, but he was so down to earth and cool. He felt like a celebrity to me, but he was also my friend. One of my favorite memories of Bob is when we went to the Reef Conservation Society frag swap in 2012 and met a little boy, maybe 9 years old, who was a big fan of Bob Fenner. That little boy was completely star struck and even brought his copy of Conscientious Marine Aquarist for Bob to sign. Bob was so sweet and gracious, he chatted with that boy for a long time and made him so happy. He took the time to get to know the boy, and when we all left, I bet that boy felt like Bob Fenner was his friend, too. That is how Bob made us all feel. Like we were friends with our favorite rock star. He never acted like he was better than anyone else, though, in my opinion, he was.” – Felicia McCaulley

“Bob was so many things, but what made him so truly remarkable (in my mind) was how effortlessly good and kind he could be. He made it look so easy. It made you want to be a better person.” – Sara Allyn Liva, OG hobbyist, diver, and very good friend of Bob.

walt smith deb smith bob fenner
Walt & Deb with Bob and Long Beach Aquarium curator, Sandy Trautwein

“Yes, Bob Fenner was one of the most genuinely sincere people I have ever known. How many times have we all seen Bob surrounded by a crowd yet focus on one in need or his deep style of greeting by putting his hand on your shoulder and looking you straight in the eye (head tilted) and wanting to know how you are? I mean really wanting to know how you are. That was Bob Fenner.   

It is hard to sleep tonight as I keep hearing his unique voice and humor in my head. I can’t believe he is gone. He was a great and instant friend to almost anyone he met and he never stopped giving of himself until his last hours on this planet. His quiet and peaceful passing can be seen as a gift we all hope for when it’s our time to join him. 

Rest in peace Bob. The choir of aquatic souls sing praises in tribute to your full and dedicated life. You had more fun doing what you loved than anyone I know. 

Our many times together, over the past 40+ years, have given Deb and I memories that highlight our lives and your friendship, generosity and advice always came from deep in your heart. The many that knew you know this to be true and you have touched so many. Your books and continuous contributions to our aquatic world as well as your encyclopedic memory have marked you as one of the most memorable “characters” we were lucky enough to know. 

I know you will always be with us … always!”
In loving memory of Mr. Bob Fenner ~ Walt and Deb Smith

“I don’t know how to open this; it seems like there should be something epic to say, but there’s no statement that sums up the immensity of loss that is the passing of Bob Fenner.  There isn’t a way to say it right, so I’ll just say it.

A few days ago, my friend Bob died.

If you’re reading this, he was probably your friend as well.  There are likely hundreds of people mourning as deeply as I am right now, and thousands upon thousands of others that are touched by this loss.  You know what I’m feeling, because you’re feeling it, too.

Bob was…  (Was.  I can’t get over the use of past tense, here; this is a real struggle.) Bob was just amazing.  He was a charismatic presence stronger than any other.  To say he was the life of every party is inadequate; he knew everybody, and everybody knew him, and he had a sort of an inescapable gravity that drew people to him.

It’s an odd and magical feeling when you meet your hero, and he turns into a friend almost instantly.  I know I’m not the only one who has felt this with Bob; it was just his way.  To meet him was to befriend him.  He tried to include anyone and everyone around him in conversations.  He was constantly engaging; put a hand on your arm, or an arm across your shoulders, anything to be close and in contact with any friend, new or old.

Bob Fenner
Image courtesy Michelle Lemech

One of my fondest memories is when I spent a few weeks at his house in Hawai’i; the mornings we spent working on WetWebMedia.  Once he’d gotten about halfway through a cup of coffee, it was the right time to ask a simple question.  Any question.  About anything.  It would spark a two hour conversation that touched on every topic imaginable, from fish to science to science fiction to life.  I learned more from him in those mornings than I can convey.

Bob changed my life.  It was because of him and WetWebMedia that I became a SCUBA diver; I travelled to Egypt and dived the Red Sea with him and other friends.  It was one of the highlights of my life to date.  For you fellow fish geeks, get this: on one of our dives in the Red Sea, I even saw a colony of Anthelia spawning.  I know a lot of us had once-in-a-lifetime experiences that went on to become twice-in-a-lifetime, three times, more….  Bob set me on a course to try more, do more, change more.  To live more.

portrait bob fenner sabrina celeste sharpe foxx
Portrait by Sabrina

I can’t believe how different my life has been since Bob entered it almost 18 years ago, derailed it, and set it on a more lively course.  I can’t believe how so many others have experienced the same.  I can’t believe how one single person can make such wide-reaching, enormous waves that have changed so very, very many lives so dramatically.  I can’t even begin to conceive of the innumerable, countless lives of fish and invertebrates he bettered through his books and writings and correspondence via WetWebMedia.  And I can’t believe he’s gone.” – Sabrina Celeste Sharp-Foxx

james fatherree bob fenner
Red Sea 2019

“Bob was a world traveler, diver, photographer, aquarist, author, and speaker; both of us Army vets and science teachers, too. He was a genius, a living encyclopedia, as friendly as friendly gets, and always looking for opportunities to help others in any way he could. We were friends, and being vastly more knowledgeable and experienced, he was also a mentor.

Today, rolling back the tape of memories, I’m thinking about all the conversations, advice, and encouragement. Trips, dives, eating, drinking, and joking around. Thinking about just how much of an influence he had on me and countless others, personally, and through his books and articles.

james fatherree bob fenner in egypt
Egypt 2019

It’s far from exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be who I am today, where I am today, if it wasn’t for Bob. I’m one of many people lucky enough to have known him.

My condolences go out to his family and other friends. We’ll miss him.”
-James W Fatherree

scott fellman bob fenner
MACNA with Scott

“Bob’s greatest gift was his ability to relate to people. He had a genuine affection for people, and was amazing at facilitating relationships. If you were trying to find out some information, or accomplish something in the industry, he was an amazing resource… he’d freely introduce e you to the right people, and they’d always be eager to help. Many aquatics industry careers- including my own- were started with his encouragement, advice, and connections.” – Scott Fellman

Bob was an excellent mentor and an incredible human, he had a knack for making you feel like family.  He picked up like not a day had passed, no matter how long it had been since you’d seen him last. – Josh Solomon

“Today, we lost a valuable asset to the saltwater hobby. Bob Fenner was a friend of mine, one of the first speakers I ever heard way back in 2002 (MACNA – Fort Worth). He loved SCUBA diving, traveling the world to photograph underwater creatures. He was always willing to explore various locales on land as well, and learn their history. 

His passion for the hobby was well known, and he was literally loved by many for his sharp wit, his friendliness, and his willingness to help anyone that had a question about our hobby.  He also wrote articles for the freshwater hobby, and was an avid writer for the travel industry. His reviews, his insight, that’s what people wanted.

marc levenson bob fenner
Always a hoot

Bob wrote many articles, and ran his own website WetWebMedia that he updated on a daily basis. His book “The Conscientious Marine Aquarist” is a must-read for anyone that loves saltwater aquariums.  I’ve been seeing his daily posts on facebook for the past couple of years where he shared a picture (or three) of something he photographed in the ocean during one of his many trips. 

We dove together a couple of times. He told me “No matter what, always know that I know where you are.”  That’s what a dive buddy does.  However, he merely meant that he knew I was somewhere in the ocean. lol Our dive last year was on an island called Bonaire. We dove a total of 14 dives that trip, and enjoyed food and drink late into the night.  The next day, he was quick to get his camera gear ready, as well as his scuba gear, to see what else we could find.

bob fenner marc levenson bonair 2019
Bonair 2019

This is personal to me, as he was my friend. I’ve stayed in his home, I’ve borrowed his car, I ate his cooking, and we’d meet up at least once a year at one of the major marine events.  Bob spoke to DFWMAS several times over the past 18 years, and his infectious love of aquatic life was invigorating. He knew what he was talking about, as he’s as seasoned as they come. He’d answer any question, and he had the best stories. He told me back in the 90s he was a LFS owner. Later, in 2005, he received the MASNA Award, which recognizes someone who has been exceptional in furthering the marine hobby. He excelled at this then, and never stopped; not for a single day.

Marc Levenson Bob Fenner 2010
Marc with Bob, California 2010

This generous man would help anyone. He never turned down an opportunity to hang out with others, he loved to drink, his humor was constantly at the ready.  Based in San Diego, he was an active member of the SDMAS club, but also was a constant volunteer with the Hashers running club, providing food and beverages for their members at their weekly meet-ups. Today (5/7/20), he died in his sleep. One thing I’ll never forget was how he’d tell me was that he “was ready for his next dive.” Why? Because he was dry.  For him, that was much too long. I hope he’s found a perfect reef and will be “blowing bubbles” there forever.” – Marc Levenson

“If you met Bob even once, once was enough. That is pretty much all it took to never forget the vibrant person that was Bob. You can be sure he remembered you, and some detail about you. Quick to laugh, even quicker to make you laugh, Bob was an extraordinary human. Liked by everyone, respected, and certainly loved by many, Bob made the time for every one of his countless friends. Every photo he posted on Facebook was great, I commented on so many over the years and he never forgot to like the comment or reply back.

marine depot tribute to bob fenner
Marine Depot logo change to honor Bob

I got a chance to chat with him about the love of his life – diving – and some of his favorite diving spots for an article I wrote about him in 2017. He shared pictures from Fiji. Chatting with him always felt effortless, no matter the topic. If you had an odd critter in your tank or a strange reef curiosity, Bob had the answers. I remember offering to help him update if he needed someone, he said it was going to be near impossible to catalog the sheer volume of information on the website. Indeed, you can fill several books with the information on the websiteHe was a walking aquatic encyclopedia and we are lucky to have his knowledge at our fingertips.

As Felicia and I reached out to Bob’s friends for this article, there were many for whom his loss is still too raw. He is missed deeply.

Hope the oceans are deep blue and endless where you are. Happy diving Bob.” – Kat

autographed book bob fenner
Richards copy of Bobs book

“Like many other’s first encounter with Bob, I met him online via his website Wet Web Media, seeking his expert advice when I still in college, just starting to get into the hobby in the early to mid 2000s. Like many new hobbyists, I had tons of questions and looking back, some of them were just down right silly, but he was patient with me and shared his knowledge and made the learning experience enjoyable with his easy going attitude and jokes. His passion and enthusiasm was obvious even through the screen and I was extremely grateful for his help and bought his book to support his work and to learn more. 

A few years went by and while I was doing my reef press full time, I ran into Bob at Super Zoo. Even though we had just met, he treated me like an old friend. We had an absolute blast while we sat, drank, and talked about various fish, their behaviors, natural habitats, corals, and scuba diving. He invited me to his scuba diving group where we shared photos (I just mainly watched and asked questions), stories, and grew our friendship through our mutual love for the ocean.

Throughout the years, we would bump into each other at trade shows and almost each time, he would tease me that he could take better photos with his cheap underwater digital point and shoot camera… so I should just buy one of those and join him on one of his scuba trips. Looks like I will never get that chance and I am heart broken about it. He like many others in this hobby embraced me fully when I was just a minnow and helped me grow on my reefkeeping journey. I just want to say thank you and that I will miss him. I still can’t believe that he’s gone. It was just a few days ago that we were talking about Genicanthus semifasciatus. I and many others will miss his knowledge and jokes, his infectious laughter and his positive outlook on life.

Richard Back bob fenner
Superzoo 2015

Here’s to you Bob. May you rest in peace and may you be surrounded by the amazing sea life that you loved so much. “ – Richard Back, Afishionado Channel

“Circa 2002 I found a website called wetwebmedia where I gathered a lifetime of new information in quick succession. Eventually I started exchanging messages with a moderator named Bob, who miraculously had an answer for every damn question. These initial interactions were the catalyst to my never ending search for more salty knowledge, which led to the launch of my first business. – Bob had such a dramatic impact on so many lives personally and professionally. My life would look very different without Bob and WWM, and for that, I am forever grateful.
We love you, Bob. Rest easy.” – Austin Lefevre

“My first introduction to Bob Fenner was an interesting one as Bob apparently preferred them that way. I had started my first Coral farming company and the name I came up with was Dynamic Ecomorphology. Thought the name applied real well to stony corals as they can dynamically adapt to changing environmental conditions, within limits. Well, Bob was a strict evolutionists and he did not take well to any suggestions outside that point of view. So here I am at a small conference with at least 100 other people in San Diego. Bob singled me out of the crowd. He was talking about fish as he typically did, and he was referring to a fish that did not do too well. So Bob says, “the fish was obviously not dynamic and not ecomorphologic.” He always got some laughs, and he knew I wasn’t talking about a fish. But even I chuckled.” – Steve Tyree

Bob was a gentle aquarium giant who’s love and passion for the hobby will reverberate forever. The sheer number of people he educated through wetwebmedia, forums, blogs, books and talks cannot be quantified. His love for others and the aquarium hobby was that of legends. He will be missed for countless generations.” – David Hammontree, R2R

bob fenner jake adams house of fins
Image courtesy Michelle Lemech

It’s often said that someone lives hard and plays hard, but for Bob, that really was the truth. Few people lived life with the passion he did, whether sampling sushi, cross-country running, or diving in the Red Sea. But he had applied that same level of passion to his work, educating hobbyists and promoting the fishkeeping industry across the world. Working with Bob on the WetWebMedia site for fifteen years was both inspirational and tremendous fun, and the gap he leaves will be impossible to fill. – Neale Monks

Bob, loved the sea and all the creatures that dwelled there. He never met a stranger and especially loved talking to others who shared his passion for sea creatures. He worked tirelessly to educate the public and the hobby with information on the animals we keep. He will be missed by everyone in the hobby.” – Ed Wiser

“The things I will remember most from my times with Bob Fenner include his boisterous, gregarious warmth, always an arm around your shoulders, and his unique voice. I consider myself very lucky to have had him in my life, and I will miss him. Bob was simply one of those people who I always looked forward to seeing. He was also always eager to lend a hand, to support a fellow aquarium writer. His profuse amount of writing is obvious in WetWebMedia.” – Matthew Pedersen, Coral Magazine

“If the aquarium industry was a corporation, we would consider Bob Fenner a founding member. His love for all things aquatic was beyond apparent and his willingness to share the vast vaults of knowledge he had was unprecedented. Bob Fenner was so much more than an Aquatic media giant; to so many, he was an undeniable source of information but more importantly a friend.” – Peter Cherrick, RNN

From the Marine Depot Archives

Blog: Catching up with Bob Fenner.
Blog: Where in the world is Bob Fenner?

marine depot reefapalooza parking lot
2006 Reef-A-Palooza with Bob as a speaker

The 3rd Reef-A-Palooza California was held in 2006, in the parking lot of the old Marine Depot office building. Bob was a speaker at the event and has been a friend of Marine Depot ever since.