Ronald L. Shimek, Ph. D.: I am invertebrate zoologist/marine ecologist who has kept marine animals in aquaria since the invention of water. My scientific work has been mostly with animals that live in soft-sediments (muds or sands) and often in the deep seas, although I have worked in pretty much all marine environments. I have close to 30 peer-reviewed scientific publications, the latest in 2007.

I started keeping marine aquaria in my home in the late 1980s and have had “reef” aquaria ever since. I have been answering questions online since 1994, when I was one of the moderators of the old “Compuserve” Fishnet. Since then, I have been online more or less continuously ever since, and my career has turned from deep sea researcher to “aquarium consultant.” I still teach though, both online (through my forums- which have been well supported by MD, I must add!!) and at universities.

I have written 2 books, and 3 pamphlets for the marine hobby, and maybe about 120 articles in just about every venue.


  • Shimek, R. L. 1999. The Coral Reef Aquarium, An Owner’s Guide to A Happy Healthy Fish. Howell Book House. New York. 126 pp. ISBN: 1-58245-117-6
  • Shimek, R. L. 2004. Marine Invertebrates. 500+ Essential –To-Know Aquarium Species. T. F. H. Publications. Neptune City, New Jersey. 448 pp. ISBN: 1-890087-66-


Pamphlets Published:


  • Shimek, R. L. 2001. Host Sea Anemone Secrets. A Guide to the Successful Husbandry of Indo-Pacific Clownfish Host Sea Anemones. Marc Weiss Companies, Inc. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 24 pp. ISBN: 0-9664549-5-2
  • Shimek, R. L. 2001. Sand Bed Secrets. The Common-Sense Way to Biological Filtration. Marc Weiss Companies, Inc. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 36 pp. ISBN: 0-9664549-6-0
  • Shimek, R. L. 2001. How to Get There from Here... Hints and Techniques to Make Reef Keeping Easier. Marc Weiss Companies, Inc. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 32 pp. ISBN: 0-9664549-7-9

MD: What do you feel are the 3 biggest innovations to hit the aquarium hobby since your humble beginnings at age 12?


  1. Keeping organisms in a more natural environmental setting (with all aspects of an “ecosystem” – sand bed, rock, water, etc.
  2. Good foam filtration as a means to remove some of the organic problem chemicals.
  3. One or two good salt mix formulations.

MD: What advancements in the hobby do you foresee being introduced in, say, the next 5-10 years? What products/solutions do you see (or want to see) push the boundaries of what is currently possible?

RLS: Possibly better salt mixes; most of the present brands leave a lot to be desired. Hopefully, a reduction in the use of unnecessary and toxic additives. We will need to start to breed animals, otherwise we will see the beginning of the end of the hobby within 10 years as coral reefs start to fade out all over the world.

This breeding will only be feasible with better salts, and with reduction in the use of toxic additives.

MD: Share with us one of Montana’s best kept secrets or local legends (sorry, we don’t get out much).


RLS: Jackalopes. And it is a truly nice place to live.


MD: (starting egg timer) Quick, name your top five favorite inverts!

Any of the scaphopoda, but particularly my old friends Pulsellum salishorum, and Antalis pretiosum. Also, the venomous snails: Oenopota levidensis, and Ophiodermella inermis And finally the sea pen: Ptilosarcus gurneyi.

From aquaria...
Stomatella varia; Sabellastarte magnifica, Eunice species; Scleronephthya species; Fungia fungites.

MD: What’s the good doctor got planned for 2008? (so we can clear our calendars!)

RLS: I will turn 60, given that age, I hope to live through the year! I will be at the IMAC; don't know about MACNA (they haven't really asked). I am doing research on feeding in gorgonians in reef tanks and will present those data. Also I hope to do some online teaching through the MD forums; possibly on sand beds, and invertebrate biology.