Stephen A. Smith, MS, DVM, PhD


Dr. Stephen A. Smith is a professor of infectious diseases of aquatic, wildlife and exotic animals in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.  In addition to being an author of over 140 peer-reviewed journal articles, he has published numerous book chapters and has served as Editor and Issue Editor for several journals. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Fish Health Section of the American Fisheries Society, the European Association of Fish Pathologists and a past President of both the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine and American Association of Fish Veterinarians.


Erica Hornbrook


Collection Manager

Erica Hornbrook is an expert in animals from the Amazon region, especially freshwater stingrays and caiman lizards. Erica is an active member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums where she is the program leader for freshwater rays, the studbook keeper for caiman lizards, bigtoothed river, ocellated, tiger river and white-blotched river stingrays, and the SSP coordinator for three of the four species. She also serves on the AZA steering committee for the Freshwater Fish Taxon Advisory Group. Erica received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology and geology from the University of Iowa and conducted post-graduate work in geology at Bowling Green State University.

Josie Christopher


Josie is the founder and president of Chicago Discus. A hobbyist and discus enthusiast for many years, she decided to take her love of discus to the public in 2010. After planning and building the hatchery, she and her business partner established Chicago Discus in 2012. Besides breeding and caring for the discus, Josie is constantly inventing new and better ways of handling the many facets of aquarium culture.

At Chicago Discus, our goal is to provide the finest discus available in the United States.  Many of the discus that we sell are born and raised in our modern state-of-the-art hatchery located in Chicago.  In addition , we are importers of some of the best discus that the world has to offer.

Ricardo Vasquez


Ricardo Vasquez. I am a 31yr old father who got started with discus nearly 10yrs ago. My cousin had a nice 36g tall tank and had 3 discus in there that he no longer wanted. He gave them to me, but he told me it was very important that I do very frequent water changes, “like at least once a month” he advised. He went on to tell me that I also had to change a lot of the water volume, “about 30%” he said. He was right of the frequent water changes, and he was also right about a lot of water volume, but the frequency in which to do it was way off :). A year after that (I believe it was), I found SimplyDiscus only because 2 of my 3 discus had died. Promptly I realized what a horrible living condition I was providing for my discus, and from there on I tried to give them the best living conditions.

My love of discus has taken me through ups and downs and recently I have finally felt like I have a good grasp on raising them, but I’d be a fool to say that I know everything there is to know about discus. In fact, ask me about breeding and you will see the deer in the headlights look from me. Breeding has never been something I have been interested in. I like raising them and providing a really nice looking tank for them when they are adults. That is it. They are so majestic in their being that it doesn’t take much to make them look good, so it makes my job that much easier.

A few years ago I sold off all my discus and took a short break. There were many contributing factors, but one major one was photography. I initially got in to photography because of my daughter. Before she was born I told myself that I would like to have a lot of pictures of her as she grew up. However, I knew I wanted to take “good” pictures so I bought one of the cameras that I thought were “expensive”. In retrospect, the body and lenses I bought were pretty cheap, but I wouldn’t trade the memories I made with that starter camera. Soon I realized that I wanted an even better camera and better lenses or rather “glass”.

My terminology in photography advanced, and my photography skills soon took the same path. Pretty soon I had a lot of equipment, far more than I needed to take the type of pictures I initially wanted of my daughter, but I was fully invested. Once I passed the $10k mark on gear, I stopped taking note of how much I spent for the sake of my wife, and our marriage. Luckily, my wife saw something in my skills that she stopped minding, and in fact started recommending me to her friends and our family about taking their pictures. Of course many of these times I was slotted to do a photoshoot without me having said yes, but it was my way of giving back with my new found love of photography. I became a moderator on a photography forum and was going out shooting on a daily basis as well as participating in challenges/exercises. I created threads specifically to help out individuals wanting to get better at photography.

On SimplyDiscus, I eventually had the same opportunity. A subforum was created for photography, specifically one that would help you take better pictures of your fish (not just discus) in your aquarium. As a team we have put forth a huge effort to get people to stop by and share their pictures and point them in the right directions as far as how to make their shots even better. One person in particular that I took under the wing was Pat. Pat absorbs things like sponge. I saw in her the same thirst I had for photography so many years ago and she is absolutely flourishing in her own right now.

My goal is simple, help others take better photos and give them these skills for free. In our day and age, you can pretty much learn anything online, I figured, why should you have to pay to learn these things, and my ongoing goal has been to help people with the skills I have acquired over the years.

-Ricardo Vasquez, your local Simply Discus moderator and “Photo Guru”

Dick Au

Dick Au

Dick Au’s fascination with Discus began as a child living close to several ornamental fish farms in Hong Kong.  Each day after school, he would spend hours at a farm watching an only pair of brown Discus nursing fry under a huge Amazon sword plant.  Since then, Dick had never been without Discus,  all through college, raising a family and retired from a career in the computer software industry.  With decades of uninterrupted fish keeping, he accumulated lots of invaluable practical knowledge which he generously shares.  As a veteran speaker and show judge, Dick has given lectures at many aquarium societies in North America, at American Cichlids Association and North American Discus Association conventions as well as at international shows such as Aquarama in Singapore.  Dick has written many articles for various publications and authored two books on Discus – “The Back to Nature Guide to Discus”, and “Trophy Discus – the art of selecting, grooming, and showing discus”. 

Spencer Jack


Spencer has been active within the aquaria hobby since the age of five. A true “cichlidiot”, he had worked exclusively with cichlids for over thirty years. He has since expanded his horizons to include all types of tropical fish.

Spencer has been an active hobbyist within Winnipeg for a number of years. Some of his roles within the fish hobbyist community include:

  • Co-founder of the Aquarium Society of Winnipeg (1989)
  • Founder and President of the Canadian Cichlid Association (2000)
  • Co-founder of the Dead Fish Order (2012)

Spencer now owns and operates a tropical fish business, The aFISHionados, and is still an avid fishkeeper and breeder.

Spencer’s enthusiasm, humour and dedication towards the aquarium hobby is easily witnessed through his lectures. All of Spencer’s lectures are full multimedia presentations using PowerPoint, and almost all of the pictures in use are original pictures taken by Spencer during his years in the hobby and travels across North, South, Central America and beyond.

Spencer is a part of the American Cichlid Association speakers program.

Al Sabetta

Al Sabetta

Al Sabetta holds a BS in General Biology, an AA in Business Management, and has a strong background in the biotech/pharmaceuticals sector. He has been keeping and breeding Discus and other cichlids,reptiles, and critters for over 20 Years. He is the owner of, one of the world’s most popular and respected Discus websites and forum. As an Administrator of the forum under the username brewmaster15, he spends his days helping discus enthusiasts  and novices keep their fish happy and healthy. He is also the owner of, a web business that sells Freeze Dried Australian Black Worms and other fish foods  to fish owners around the world looking for a nutritious fish food for their fishy friends.  When not playing with the fishes, or online at SimplyDiscus, you may find Al taking wildlife pictures, digging in the dirt around the yard, tromping through the woods, or building this or that with his family.

John Nicholson


I started keeping fish when I was 7.  It was a simple goldfish bowl.  I got my first real tank when I was 9.  When I was in high school I was in an advanced biology class and was lucky enough to have several tanks under my care at the school.  I also had several (I think 12) tanks at my girl friends house where I spawned several different cichlids and live bearers.  Her mother must have really liked me.  Of course my wife and I have now been married for 29+ years so maybe it worked out for everyone involved.

I started keeping discus sometime back in the 90’s. I was raising them by 2000.  I became fairly well known on the forums by 2001.  I have a tendency to call them as I see them.  During the early days I managed to get in a few heated arguments with folks but I am much better now….LOL. 

I was a founding member in NADA.  I have had the privilege to serve in several positions for the club. I guess you can say I got in on the ground floor.  Of course when we were trying to pull off the very first NADA show I am sure that Jerry, Jim, and I were all thinking that maybe we should have let someone else do this thing.  I am currently the show chair and I am in charge of the judging (both the show judging and the training of new judges).  I know that gong to a NADA show requires a pretty large commitment of time and money but you get 10 times as much back as you put in.  Being able to sit around and talk fish with other nuts like myself is worth a million.  

I did have a fully functioning fish house.  It houses 24 75 gallon tanks plus a few odds and ends.  Above the tanks I have 7 330 gallon water storage tanks.  I can siphon and change water in all of the tanks in a little over an hour.  At one time I use to try to have every strain that I thought people would want but now I just play with the stuff that I enjoy.  I still raise several thousand discus fry a year.

I have been married for the last 29+ years (not bad for a 50 year old).  We are “blessed” with 3 daughters and 3 granddaughters.  The daughters are 29, 22, and 15 years of age.  I am lucky that my girls share my other love of all things outdoors.  We are avid hunters and also enjoy fishing.