Matthew L. Wittenrich is highly-respected marine biologist who has been deeply involved with the aquarium world since the age of 15. Working in various capacities as a researcher, consultant, and private aquarist, he has traveled extensively throughout Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Central America studying coral reef fishes.
A native of western New York, he began breeding saltwater fish in his parent’s basement, successfully raising 13 species by age 18. During this time, information on breeding marine fishes in captivity was rare, so Matt began documenting his success in TFH magazine at the age of 16. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from Long Island University, Southampton College, he worked in commercial finfish aquaculture and collaborated on various research projects, before pursuing a Masters degree Florida Institute of Technology. He has been involved in diverse research projects from sex change strategies in pseudochromids, examining if larval clownfish can hear the natal reefs where they hatched, and understanding how larval fishes feed.
After earning a PhD from Florida Institute of Technology, Wittenrich moved to Tampa, FL to help develop a research program aimed to breed and raise marine aquarium fishes in captivity as part of the Rising Tide Initiative. As a senior scientist at the University of Florida’s Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory he is tasked with developing rearing protocols for small egg pelagic spawning species such as angelfishes and butterflyfish.
Wittenrich’s current research focuses on the early life stages of marine fishes, which address both ecological questions about how tiny larvae survive in the wild, as well as developing novel methods suited to rearing them in captivity. This is primarily achieved through understanding the functional design of the feeding apparatus and how it changes through the early life history stages. Through this research he has been successful in identifying stage and species specific criteria that lead to successful feeding.
Matt has also earned widespread recognition outside of the academic & scientific communities. Wittenrich is the author of The Complete Illustrated Breeder’s Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes. The Breeder’s Guide, published in 2007, has since become a cornerstone publication for the breeding of ornamental marine fish, and provided a much-needed compendium covering the first 40 years of private and commercial marine ornamental aquaculture, bolstered by the release of extensive new information discovered by Wittenrich during his research. Within the community of ornamental marine fish breeders, The Breeder’s Guide has become the must-read first book for any aspiring marine fish breeder.
While Matt is well known for his marine fish breeding successes, he perhaps gained the most notoriety within the commercial and private aquarium realm by demonstrating that large-scale culture of mandarin dragonets (Synchiropus spp.) was a viable commercial possibility. This forever changed the outlook for this species group, which are among some of the most challenging fish to keep in captivity, but also some of the most-harvested as well. Wittenrich received MASNA’s Aquarist of the Year Award in 2010 in recognition of his vast impact on the future of the aquarium hobby and industry.
Wittenrich is also a skilled photographer; his work features prominently in The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, Marine Aquarium Handbook Beginner to Breeder, The Marine Fish Health and Feeding Handbook, and 101 Best Marine Invertebrates. As an author, Matt continues to keep the aquarium community updated through regular contributions in CORAL Magazine.
Wittenrich will be looking at the potential to encourage mariculture of the species by native peoples in the Banggai Islands, as well as setting up an experimental Banggai Cardinal breeding facility in Florida. Wittenrich hopes to examine potential resistance of wild populations to BCIV and explore selective breeding of resistant strains based, and will write about his findings in Banggai Rescue.