Aquarist of the Year

The Award

Each year at the annual MACNA conference, MASNA presents an award to the person who is considered to have made an outstanding contribution to the marine aquarium hobby. This person is nominated by marine aquarium hobbyists around the world.

The History

AOTY Winners

Previous MASNA Aquarist of the Year Award winners on stage at MACNA 2010.

The MASNA Aquarist of the Year Award started in 1995, when industry leaders recognized the need for an award to honor those who are helping shape and influence the marine aquarium hobby.

The first Aquarist of the Year Award was presented to Mr. Martin Moe, Jr. for his continued dedication and service to the marine aquarium hobby. It was awarded on September 15, 1995 at MACNA VII, hosted by the Louisville Marine Aquarium Society (LMAS) in Louisville, Kentucky.

A list of all the MASNA Aquarist of the Year award winners can be found on the left side of this page.

The 2016 MASNA Aquarist of the Year

In 2016, Joe Yaiullo was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.Joe Yaiullo AOTY 2016

Joe received this award due to his continued support of the hobby as well as his pioneering efforts in establishing public aquaria outreach through his 20,000-gallon reef tank at the Long Island Aquarium. Joe remains actively involved in promoting reef keeping and working with hobbyists, he also served as president of the Long Island Reef Association (LIRA) for 12 years.

As a kid, Joe spent much of his childhood maintaining home aquariums and exploring the marine life surrounding Long Island, New York. Now he gets paid to basically do what he did as a kid and has been keeping reef tanks for over 29 years.

Joe earned a B.S. in Marine Science from LIU Southampton College’s marine science program, and worked for 8 years (1987-1995) at the NY Aquarium in Brooklyn, New York as Senior Aquarist. Starting in 1987, Joe pioneered what is now common practice in reef keeping today and upped his game in 1993 with the establishment of a 1400-gallon reef tank, which at the time was the largest successful reef tank in the Western Hemisphere. In 1992, he began to shape his plan for a world-class aquarium on Long Island’s East End. In 2000, after toiling for eight long years, his plans and vision became a reality with the opening of Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Riverhead, NY (now known as the Long Island Aquarium). On that day, the public was able to see his 20,000-gallon reef tank, which was the largest closed system reef tank in the Western Hemisphere, and second largest in the world at that time. In 2003, Joe was awarded The Distinguished Alumni Award from Southampton College for his contributions to the community.

Joe, an admitted “Coralaholic”, currently feeds his ever increasing addiction with nurturing his 20,000 gallon reef tank, which contains corals that date back over 26 years. While he has admitted his addiction, he has no plans of seeking a cure and enjoys talking with reef keepers from around the world.

Joe has been featured in many reef keeping books and magazines, and has presented lectures in Canada, Germany, Sweden, Finland, England, Fiji, Monaco, France, The Netherlands, and Italy and throughout the USA including several MACNA’s dating back to 1994.

The Long Island Aquarium is a world-class aquarium, so even though it’s on a larger scale, Curator and Co-founder Joe Yaiullo still considers it his entire “DIY” project.

The 2015 MASNA Aquarist of the Year

In 2015, Terry Siegel was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.TS1

As both editor and author, Terry strived to publish scientifically accurate content regarding reef aquaria. Siegel says, “I have always insisted throughout the many editorials I wrote that we present to the public information that is more than the smoke from somebody’s opinion pipe or simple anecdotal observations, but information rather that was quantifiable, repeatable, and scientifically accurate. Creatures that we keep in our reef aquariums deserve no less.”

In addition to insuring that accurate data was being presented in his publications, Terry was also instrumental in the development of many of the authors and speakers that we rely on today. If one were to look back on early publications, they would find that these hobby elite published their early works in one of Terry’s many publications.

Terry is also an active aquarist, maintaining both fresh water and marine biotopes. His 500-gallon marine reef was featured in Sprung and Delbeek’s “The Reef Aquarium” series. Siegel commented, “In that aquarium most of the corals had grown considerably, over approximately a dozen years, from coral fragments. Many of the fish including seven surgeonfish managed to stay together in that aquarium for at least a dozen years. In fact one fish, a tomato clown fish, spent 25 years in various reef aquariums of mine.”

“Terry’s accomplishments as an editor (and aquarist) are unparalleled in North America. He has tirelessly advanced the hobby by identifying and cultivating authors… Terry deserves a good deal of credit for bringing several past AoTY authors to prominence…” – Craig Bingman

“Seminal figure dating back to the early days of the North American hobby. Still active today founder and editor of Marine Aquarist, Aquarium Frontiers, and Advanced Aquarist magazines. ” – Randy Donowitz

The 2014 MASNA Aquarist of the Year


Richard Ross, the 2014 MASNA Aquarist of the Year Award winner.

In 2014, Richard Ross was named the MASNA Aquarist of the Year.

Richard Ross is a Senior Biologist at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences where he cultures and cares for exotic cephalopods, fish & coral, participates in ongoing field work on coral spawning, animal collection & transport, and manages tropical saltwater displays including the 212,000 Philippine Coral Reef exhibit.

He is a prolific writer and speaker, authoring academic papers and a catalogue of articles on aquarium and reef related educational topics including his Skeptical Reefkeeping series which focuses on critical thinking, responsibility and ethics of aquarium keeping.


How to Nominate

MASNA members can post their nominations below for the 2016 Aquarist of the Year.  Entries will be tallied and the winner will be selected by a panel of previous recipients. MASNA members may nominate up to three individuals for this award.

The voting process will be open June 1st through June 30th, 2016.  Please complete the entire form for each submission. Incomplete forms will not be accepted.

The 2016 nomination period is now closed. Come to MACNA 2016 to meet the winner!