Past Speakers

April 7, 2019

Andrew McAfee - A primer on aesthetic principles; some things to consider when planning or updating a planted composition including balancing positive and negative space, emphasizing complements and contrasts, the importance of tension, and some light color theory.

Andrew McAfee's journey into the planted aquarium hobby began with keeping reptiles and amphibians. After adding a fish to the water area in a toad tank and replacing the plastic plants with Aponogeton bulbs, something new started to click. Further inspiration came from Takashi Amano's Aquarium Plant Paradise, which he ordered back when Amazon only sold books. By 2002, he was using high pressure C02 in a crypt-heavy 45 of African oddballs.

Andrew has a degree in scientific illustration and spends his professional time drawing dinosaurs for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which often includes arranging ancient plants in prehistoric scenes.

October 7, 2018 - Collin Bachert - Praise for Red Leaves

Collin was drawn to the hobby after seeing his first aquascape around six years ago.  Out of this relative obscurity he has risen to a position of power in the PAPAS organization after a “secret not me” vote for the presidency while he was in the bathroom.  With the responsibility given him during his turn wearing the crown, he has attempted to bring a scientific appreciation into the club and its public face.  This interest derives from nearly 26 years as a research technician doing basic science research at Carnegie Mellon University in the field of cell biology focusing on Golgi structure-function, toxin trafficking, manganese homeostasis and, more recently, using this knowledge to develop drugs for issues related to (hyper-)glycosylation which includes a number of cancers and Ebola virus infection among many others.  Check him out on PUBMED along with his whole lab!  This love of science, combined with a childlike sense of wonder for the natural world and a queer appreciation for aesthetics and color as well as a bit of quirky craziness (I mean just look at the reviews of his talk, and don’t get me started on that fan letter to former Pittsburgh Pirate Alex Presley!) has made it inevitable that he would become engrossed in researching a topic such as red plants in the aquarium and giving this crazy talk.  You’ve got to see this one.

April 3, 2016 Jen Williams – “Aquascaping for Average People”


“I got my first tank when I was seven and went through the appropriate array of guppies, barbs and tetras through to my first encounter with keeping Cichlids when I was in high school. Years later, I posted a craigslist ad stating “Firemouth Cichlids, bring a net and a bucket”. I was introduced to something I wasn’t expecting…a formidable former Army Lieutenant in my living room filling his bucket with fish, and telling me about local fish clubs and planted tanks. Armed with a healthy dose of curiosity at what characters would be at a fish club meeting, I attended my first GWAPA gathering and was completely hooked. Serving on the Board in several positions (including President) I have also enjoyed participating in events with the other local clubs and the true friendships I have made in this hobby. I currently sit on the board for the Aquatic Gardener's Association (AGA). To date, I have a stack of ribbons from aquascaping contests, including most recently a repeat win at the 2015 Aquatic Experience/AGA Aquascaping Live! Invitational Competition in Chicago, IL for my 75 gallon entry collaboration with Rachel O'Leary and her daughters. I am also an avid fan of Blue-eyed Rainbowfish (specifically Pseudomugil) and enjoy keeping and breeding them with the rest of my eclectic assortment of fish. To pay the electric and water bills that accompany all of the assorted gallons of aquatic madness, I work as a Graphic Designer…and also enjoy fast cars as a former professional drag racer as well as purring cats as a long-time volunteer/rescuer with the 4Paws Rescue Team.”

March 1st 2015, was the most recent of many presentations for PAPAS when Jeffrey Funk presented a talk on Aquarium Chemistry

Jeffrey Funk’s interest in planted aquariums originated from his love of gardening and plants.  "I consider myself lucky to have a father who also loved to garden so a lot of my early interest in plants was cultivated from him... And my neighbors" says Jeffrey. "When I was in high school," he continues "my neighbor Sandy ripped out her rose garden and put a pond in its place.  I thought it was the neatest thing and told myself that I'd have a water garden as well one day."  

After graduating college with a bachelor of science in biochemistry from Susquehanna University, Jeffrey went to Penn state university where he earned his PhD in chemistry.  While at Penn State, Jeffrey realized that an aquarium can be thought of as an indoor version of a pond.  And this is how he got started on planted aquariums.  

"I moved out to the Pittsburgh area in 2006 to find a job and was very fortunate to find an enthusiastic planted aquarium scene" continues Jeffrey. "I would definitely consider myself more of a plant person than a fish person - I really have no tolerance for finicky fish.  And more importantly, keeping planted aquariums has made me a better gardener in general because you really have to think about everything that goes into the closed ecosystem that is a planted aquarium.  When you grow aquatic plants in an aquarium, you learn to deal with algae and observe how well your plants are growing... Or not growing.  In other words, you develop a sensitivity to your plants and that's often times the difference between success and failure.  There's a wonderful Chinese proverb (supposedly) that says the best fertilizer is a gardener's shadow.  The same is true for aquatic gardens and hopefully my presentation can help people grow aquatic plants better by increasing their knowledge and awareness of what's going on in their planted aquariums."

Tim Gross

I started keeping aquariums at the age of 12.  One of my first aquariums was a 29 gallon African cichlid tank with an abundance of aquatic plants.  Luckily, the cichlids left the plants alone.  They seemed to thrive from all of the excess waste produced by the fish in my overcrowded African cichlid tank.  I really loved the lush growth of the plants and often received compliments from family and friends about my attractive natural looking aquarium.  Since then, I’ve been eager to grow as many species and varieties of aquatic plants as I can, and acquired a deep lifelong passion for natural planted aquariums.

In past years, I’ve acquired over a decade of experience working in and managing aquarium retail outlets, fish rooms and hatcheries.  I was always willing to spread my knowledge of aquatic plants to owners of these shops, which helped some of them build a nice quality selection of live aquatic plants.  Currently, Oddball Pets still has the largest selection of aquatic plants in Pittsburgh.

In 2004, a couple of friends and I considered organizing a club dedicated to the fast growing hobby of natural planted aquariums.  We founded the Pittsburgh Area Planted Aquarium Society (PAPAS) in 2005.  I have held all officer positions within PAPAS and am currently President of this prosperous club going into its tenth year.   I have also been co-chair of the Aquatic Horticultural Award Program (AHAP) with the Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society Inc. (GPASI) since 2005.  I have given numerous lectures on the many aspects of planted aquariums at PAPAS meetings and have written many articles for local aquarium related newsletters and websites on the subject of aquatic plants.

I have also contributed many photos to the Plantfinder identification guide on and have had numerous photos published in the Aquatic Gardener Associations quarterly journal.

At present, I keep over 100 species/varieties of aquatic plants in my eight aquariums at home and have been able to get my hands on and propagate over 300 species of aquatic plants.  I am interested in all aspects of planted aquariums and continue to grow as a hobbyist and contribute whenever I can.

On August 3rd 2014 Eric Bodrock and Regina Spotti presented;

Plants & Planted Tanks from Around the World

The program will take you on a tour of places we have visited in the past few years, including: Tomas Kaliebe’s (ZOOlogiCa) greenhouse in Altlandsberg, Germany. Tomas has hybridized at least 19 Echinodorus sword plants in the hobby today! A visit at the world-leading exhibition;InterZoo, in Nürnberg Germany. We’ll run thru a couple shops & fishrooms in the UK and Norway! Maybe even a few stops here in the good ol’ USA!

Bodrock 2013

Eric Bodrock, I am 52 years old and have been interested in fishkeeping since age 10 when my Mother brought home five Corydoras paleatus, which spawned soon after and started my aquarium keeping adventure! By age 20 I had opened my first retail store, have owned three since then. In addition I have worked in the retail, wholesale, installation and hatchery aspects of the industry. Today I continue to operate All Oddball Aquatics, an aquarium specialty business. I have been active in the Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society, Inc. since the mid 70's and at the end of 2007, finally reached the highest title of "Grand Master Breeder" by spawning more than 450 species of fish, including over 90 species of catfish, and accumulating nearly 5,000 points in the club's Breeders Award Program. Along with my fiancé, Regina Spotti, we currently maintain about 260 aquariums at our home hatchery and continue to work with many species of fish, with Corys still my focus. I have judged dozens of fish shows, had articles published, given many presentations and/or attended events thru out the USA, Canada, Norway, Germany and the UK. My highlight in the hobby has been getting to be good friends with so many great hobbyists thru out the world……looking forward to the next 50 years!!

Regina Spotti


Regina Spotti has been keenly interested in nature since childhood. Aeons ago she persuaded her mother to allow her to bring some goldfish home from, of all places, a grocery store.  These “promotional items” quickly led to an interest in the tropical fish hobby which has lasted over forty years. She enjoys keeping and breeding various tropical fish from all corners of the world. Whether it’s a “lovely” betta, an “awesome” cichlid, a “boring rivulus”, “a plain rasbora”, or an “ugly catfish”, Regina will make room for it in one of her fish rooms.  She currently maintains about 70 aquariums not including the fry tanks, all of which are filled with a wide array of species from cory cats to characins. An active member in the Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society, she quickly attained the status of Master Breeder and enjoys writing articles on species of fish she has worked with. While her hobby may be described as out of control by some of her peers, Regina finds the fish keeping hobby relaxing and rewarding. One of her favorite things about the hobby, other than the fantastic people she meets-watching the expressions on people’s faces when she tells them her hobby is keeping and breeding tropical fish.

Graham Hunt 

Graham Hunt

On June 8th, 2014 Graham Hunt lectured on Carnivorous Bog Plants. 

In his own words:

This borderline obsession with carnivorous plants began with buying a single flytrap at an arts festival.  After finding out that 2 species of Sarracenia (North American pitcher plants) occurred in my home state, and a leading conservation organization was located only 12 miles from home, there was no turning back.  I interned at Meadowview Biological Research Station the next year and still go back to volunteer.  

3 years after that first flytrap and I now grow over 130 species, hybrids, and cultivars of carnivorous plants; have discovered 3 new populations of carnivores in Virginia and possibly one in North Carolina; have work published in 2 international publications; have visited a handful of sites that are home to critically endangered species with TNC permission, and am having a Sarracenia hybrid named after me.

For the lecture I will be giving I will cover the cultivation requirements for these bizarre yet beautiful plants, their ecology, and how they're faring in the wild.  There may even be a chance to take some of these wonderful plants home with you!

Phil Edwards 

on April 6th 2014 Phil Presented;

Under the Cover of Darkness: Substrates and Substrate Processes in the Planted Aquarium

Phil Edwards has been involved with aquariums for over 17 years and planted aquariums for over 10 years. He has earned a BS in Biology with an emphasis in Plant Ecology and Earth Sciences from UNC-Charl
otte and has worked with numerous scientists including Dr. Larry Mellichamp (Carnivorous Plants) and Dr. Craig Allen (Hydrologic monitoring). Later, he went on to earn his Masters Degree in Earth Sciences (Hydrology and Biogeochemistry) from UNC-Charlotte.

Phil has been a volunteer for the Aquatic Gardeners Association (AGA) for over 10 years as well, starting in 2003 after attending the AGA convention in Dallas and currently serves on it's board of directors. He's worked as an environmental consultant and is now working at Brightwell Aquatics doing product R+D and technical support.

Kris Weinhold

On November 3rd 2013 Kris presented on Designing an Aquascape

Kris Weinhold grew up keeping aquariums, but really fell in love with planted aquariums about a decade ago, diving head-first into researching and experimenting with various plants, growing techniques, and aquascapedesigns. Kris is the president of the Greater Washington Aquatic Plant Association, and has published articles in The Aquatic Gardener, Aquarium International, and had his photos appear in several other publications. He also maintains a website/blog ( showcasing his aquarium and nature photography, and his informative articles on aquarium keeping and aquatic plant ecology.

Kris's talk walked through the basic methods for designing, planting, and maintaining an aquascape. His methods will focus on planted aquaria, but are applicable to any beautifully aquascaped tank. Along the way, Kris will impart some of the tips and tricks that he's discovered from his experience in the hobby

Cavan Allan

A founding member of PAPAS and respected figure within the Planted Tank community, Cavan frequently presents a wide variety of topics to the Pittsburgh Area Planted Aquarium Society. On June 7th, 2015 our speaker is none other than Cavan Allen!

Cavan is one of the founding member of PAPAS, an APC Admin, maintains the ever-helpful plant finder on APC, and was a Botany Contractor for the Smithsonian from 2009 through 2014. He currently is a member of the Greater Washington Aquatic Plant Association He has spoken at AGA Conventions, PAPAS, the Milwaukee Aquarium Society, Madison Area Area Aquatic Hobbyists as well as GWAPA.  He will be presenting on the role of organics in bba and tank maintenance practices to help prevent it.

Rachel O’Leary

Rachel O’Leary of Mount Wolf, Pennsylvania has been in the hobby since childhood but has gotten increasingly active in the past decade. She is currently operating over one hundred tanks with interests that range from the micro to monster. She has a special focus on dwarf freshwater invertebrates including snails, shrimp, crayfish, and aquatic crabs as well as all freshwater nano fish. Rachel is currently housing hundreds of different species, most of which are in the nano category. 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 nationally and internationally on her invertebrate and micro fish interests. A big advocate of rallying regional support, Rachel also sponsors many clubs and events around the United States. She is also a regular contributor to Amazonas magazine, and has done a series about traveling the fish scene, where she interviews and photographs peers within the hobby and their fishrooms, as well as several feature articles including monster fish, breeding utilizing outdoor containers, as well as species reports.

She imports 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.

A proud mother of two, she actively donates livestock to schools around her area, and the country.

Recently having finished her first book, future projects include additional writing projects as well as continued travel to conventions and regional clubs to increase awareness of invertebrates and nano fish    

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