The 2022 MASNA Aquarist of the Year and MASNA Award Recipients

by | Aug 22, 2022 | MACNA | 0 comments

MASNA is proud to honor Michael Paletta of Pennsylvania, USA, as the 2022 MASNA Award recipient for his lifelong involvement in promoting the marine aquarium hobby. Throughout the past 40 years Michael has devoted his time and knowledge to educate all interested in the hobby.

MASNA is also excited to announce Alyssa Gabriel of Maryland, USA, as the 2022 MASNA Aquarist of the Year in recognition of her success in seahorse aquaculture. Alyssa has successfully reared over 10 varieties of seahorses since 2014 after noticing a lack in quality stock availability.

Annually, MASNA awards the prestigious MASNA Award and Aquarist of the Year Award to deserving individuals for their work in helping shape and influence the marine aquarium hobby in a way that positively contributes to the ongoing sustainability of the hobby to the future marine environment. Together with MASNA, previous recipients of the MASNA Award confer to decide who has given the most to the hobby and industry to be deserving of that years’ awards from a selection of nominees.

Award Recipient Biographies:
Michael Paletta – MASNA Award, 2022

Michael Paletta’s love for fish developed when he was a child before progressing onto marine and reef tanks in the 1980’s. He first attempted to keep corals after sourcing his first reef by German author Jurgen Lemkemeyer. After some back and forth translations, Michael and Jurgen started a wonderful friendship, sharing knowledge on their trials and errors. Michael and Jurgen had the same goal of passing on their knowledge and assisting fellow hobbyists.

What followed is an accumulation of 40 years educating hobbyists via 350+ articles on reef tanks, marine fish and invertebrates. Michael has been published in many magazines including Coral Magazine, Aquarium Fish Magazine, SeaScope, Practical Fishkeeping,  Aquarium Frontiers,  Freshwater and Marine Aquariums, UltraMarines, ReefBuilders and Reef2Reef. He has enjoyed speaking at over 300 marine societies, national conferences, Zoom calls and radio shows globally.

Michael has published two books, titled “The New Marine Aquarium” and “Ultimate Aquariums”, which focus on simplifying marine fish keeping for beginners, and the advancement of the hobby.

Outside of his day job, where Michael worked in marketing, sales and research in oncology,  Michael has aided in the set-up of over 200 tanks throughout the US, with several over 2,000 gallons in capacity. He has also consulted for various companies. Michael currently maintains a 500-gallon sps dominated tank, two 120-gallon tanks, (one a soft coral sunlit tank and the other a sps non-Acropora tank, a 90-gallon propagation tank and a 40-gallon lps dominated nano tank. These tanks enable him to keep numerous types of corals, whilst running tests to learn what conditions are most suitable. He is currently working on the factors that cause tissue necrosis in corals and how to cure it on a tank wide basis.

Back in the 80’s Michael and fellow hobbyists never expected the hobby to be what it is today. Due to the copious amount of information to learn and share, and despite his experience, Michael classifies himself to be a beginner in the hobby. Over the past 40 years it has been Michael’s goal to make this very complex hobby accessible to all intrigued. Other than his family, it is his one true passion which has enabled him to meet great life long friends.

Michael’s tip: Patience is key, don’t be intimidated.

Alyssa Gabriel – MASNA Aquarist of the Year, 2022

Alyssa is the founder and owner of Seahorse Savvy LLC, a Maryland based seahorse farm and hatchery established in 2014. Alyssa and her team are working on the propagation of captive bred seahorses and other Syngnathid species. Her interest sparked in high school where she began her first aquarium, she then went on to complete her B.S majoring in Biology at Sailsbury University.

Initially, Alyssa worked in coral propagation for the aquarium market at Pacific East Aquaculture before she went on to being a laboratory technician at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Water Chemistry Laboratory.  Through knowledge accumulated via both her hobby and professional setting, Alyssa found the gap in seahorse and pipefish aquaculture – the availability of quality stock. Despite being one of the first marine fish to be bred in captivity, many are sold prematurely (small sized), wild collected or net-raised – factors not favorable to the average keeper.

Since 2014 the company has grown fourfold, having maxed out the current space and prompting the construction of a new state of the art facility. Her current facility will be utilized for production and broodstock, whilst the new facility will be used for both the juvenile and fry grow-out. With both facilities totalling 7000 gallons of production space, Alyssa is able to produce a fivefold yield, with this capacity she aims to propagate another 10 varieties of seahorses and pipefish and continue being one of the largest producers of captive bred seahorses in the US.

Alyssa has refined the aquaculture of seahorses by developing new aquaculture techniques. Many of the rearing methods used are applicable for other fish species as well. These include developing in-house protocol for Artemia enrichment, innovative fry rearing systems which maximize survival rates, designs for optimizing biosecurity and system design to optimize breeding success.

Alyssa aims to continue expanding her propagated varieties, while producing high quality animals. She places a high importance on sharing her knowledge, stemming not only from her passion as a hobbyist, but her success with Seahorse Savvy LLC for generations to come.

To learn more about the MASNA Aquarist of the Year visit:

To learn more about the MASNA Award visit:

  • xeniaforever

    As senior editor here at reefs, I get to work with scientists from all over the world, and have made some wonderful friends in the industry! I also write for the site, and am the office manager at FRESH New London and the mother of two brilliant, talented young women.

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