Joe Yaiullo, a hobby trailblazer, was honored with this year’s MASNA Aquarist of the Year award. Joe follows a great list of other notable aquarists to have won the award in the past and will officially receive his award at the MACNA banquet on Saturday night.
As MASNA noted in the AOTY award announcement, Joe Yaiullo “received this award due to his continued support of the hobby as well as his pioneering efforts in establishing public aquaria outreach through his 20,000-gallon reef tank at the Long Island Aquarium. Joe remains actively involved in promoting reef keeping and working with hobbyists, he also served as president of the Long Island Reef Association (LIRA) for 12 years.”
Having had the privilege to run into Joe at various events, he is always eager to chat about coral, the hobby, his 20,000-gallon reef tank and more. In fact, we had some fun and ran seven questions past Joe in 2014 and got some great responses. He is one of the people you look forward seeing and this is a well deserved recognition.
In case you aren’t familiar with his story, like many of us he got the aquarium bug early, maintaining an aquarium at home and exploring the marine life all around him in Long Island, New York.
According to the official MASNA announcement, he would earn his bachelor’s degree in marine science from LIU Southampton College’s marine science program, and later worked for eight years (1987-95) at the NY Aquarium in Brooklyn as Senior Aquarist.
Back then, around 1987 Joe pioneered what is now common practice in reef keeping today and upped his game in 1993 with the establishment of a 1,400-gallon reef tank (at the time was the largest successful reef tank in the Western Hemisphere).
In 1992, he began to shape his plan for a world-class aquarium on Long Island’s East End. In 2000, after toiling for eight long years, his plans and vision became a reality with the opening of Atlantis Marine World Aquarium in Riverhead (now known as the Long Island Aquarium).
One of the most impressive parts of the new public aquarium was his pride and joy, a 20,000-gallon reef tank, which was the largest closed system reef tank in the Western Hemisphere, and second largest in the world at that time. In 2003, Joe was awarded The Distinguished Alumni Award from Southampton College for his contributions to the community.
Joe, an admitted “Coralaholic”, currently feeds his ever increasing addiction with nurturing his 20,000 gallon reef tank, which contains corals that date back over 26 years. While he has admitted his addiction, he has no plans of seeking a cure and enjoys talking with reef keepers from around the world. Now he gets paid to basically do what he did as a kid and has been keeping reef tanks for over 29 years.
Joe has been featured in many reef keeping books and magazines, and has presented lectures in Canada, Germany, Sweden, Finland, England, Fiji, Monaco, France, The Netherlands, and Italy and throughout the USA including several MACNA’s dating back to 1994.
The Long Island Aquarium is a world-class aquarium, so even though it’s on a larger scale, Curator and Co-founder Joe Yaiullo still considers it his entire “DIY” project.
1995 Martin Moe, Jr.
1996 Tom Frakes
1997 Bill Addison
1998 Dr. Bruce A. Carlson
1999 Scott Michael
2000 Larry Jackson
2001 Dr. Ron Shimek
2002 Eric Borneman
2003 Anthony Calfo
2004 Julian Sprung
2005 Bob Fenner
2006 Dr. Sanjay Joshi
2007 Dr. Randy Holmes-Farley
2008 Charles Delbeek
2009 Matt Pedersen
2010 Dr. Matt Wittenrich
2011 Dana Riddle
2012 Kevin Kohen
2013 Todd Gardner
2014 Richard Ross
2015 Terry Siegel