New World Cichlids
Cichlids from the Americas, known as “New World Cichlids,” include angelfish, discus, Jack Dempseys, and oscars. But these species are just the tip of the “New World” iceberg. One of the largest groups comprises those in the Cichlasoma complex including the salvini, lowland, red head, and firemouth cichlids.
Don Conkel is the owner of Don Conkel’s Tropicals, based near Tampa, Florida, with additional facilities in Costa Rica and Mexico. Don, a leading New World cichlid authority and published author, has been breeding cichlids since 1975 and currently specializes in production and importation of North and Central American cichlids, including those in the Cichlasoma complex. Join us, as we talk to Don about his business, his favorite fish, and what hobbyists need to know to succeed with these species.
Don Conkel was born in 1952 at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, lived for a while in Ohio, before moving to Florida. He earned his AA in Business Management from St. Petersburg Junior College and his Bachelor’s in Business Management from the University of South Florida. In 1976, Don founded Don Conkel’s Tropicals and specialized in African cichlids from Lakes Tanganyika and Malawi. From 1980-1986, he had sole exclusivity of imports into the United States of those fishes. Don made several collecting expeditions to Burundi, Zambia, Malawi and South Africa during those years. In 1983, his interest turned to the cichlids of South and Central America. He made several scientific and collecting expeditions to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama under the tutelages of Dr. Paul Loiselle, Dr. Robert Miller and Dr. George Barlow. Don established a tropical fish farm and holding compound in Jaco, Costa Rica in 1996 for the purpose of exporting cichlids to the United States, Europe and Asian ornamental fish markets. Don has also championed conservation and has developed captive-breeding programs for endangered and locally extinct species, to help re-establish them in their native areas. Don authored the book Cichlids of North and Central America in 1993 which was published by TFH. In 1997, he coauthored the scientific paper Molecular Systematics of Middle American Cichlid Fishes and the Evolution of Trophic-Types in ‘Cichlasoma (Amphilophus)’ and ‘C. (Thorichthys)’, with Dr. Kevin Roe and Dr. Charles Lydeard. Don is currently working on his third and most comprehensive book titled Cichlid Husbandry.