Lawrence Kent

Aquarist, naturalist and author

BAP Expert Lawrence Kent

Lawrence Kent is from New Jersey but currently lives in Seattle, United States, where he maintains 30 aquariums hosting an assortment of tropical fishes from Africa, Asia, and North America, many of which he collected himself.

Lawrence’s job at a humanitarian foundation requires him to travel frequently to Africa and Asia, and these trips give him the opportunity to look for interesting fishes in local freshwater streams, swamps, and lakes.

He has collected and photographed fishes in 27 countries, made presentations in 22 cities in Africa, Europe, the U.S., and Canada, and published in Tropical Fish Hobbyist, the Buntbarsche BulletinDATZ, American Currents, and Amazonas, where he works as associate editor.

Since joining the North American Native Fish Association, Lawrence has grown increasingly interested in freshwater fish native to his own country. He has made good use of his nets in Mississippi, North Carolina, Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.  He keeps his native fish tanks in the garage, which is cool.

Expert in the following geographical regions:
  • North America, Africa, Asia

Lawrence Kent about biotopes:

My “comparative advantage” in the aquarium hobby always has been the international travel required for my job at a large humanitarian foundation fighting hunger and poverty.  Between 6 and 10 trips to Africa and Asia every year have been the norm for me for over two decades, and those trips have afforded me the opportunity to look for interesting tropical fish in many places in my free time.  I’ve become an avid “fish watcher” keen to find new species, learn where they live, and either photograph or collect them.  Although I haven’t been using the formal word ‘biotope’, I’ve nonetheless been visiting and studying fish habitats for a long time, ranging from the vegetation-rich, tannin-stained acidic waters of Borneo to the rocky, ultra-hard, and alkaline waters of Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

When I’ve kept these tropical species at home – I have 30 aquariums – I’ve tried to mimic their places of origin by adjusting water parameters and incorporating plants, wood, and stone like those found in those environments – biotope aquariums, sort of.  I say “sort of” because back in my home in Seattle I don’t have easy access to the exact kind of rocks or wood found in the Congo or the Philippines, so I substitute something similar, and sometimes I’ll include wood or plants that aren’t biotope-correct simply because they are easier to obtain and care for, like java fern in an African tank (sorry!).

Over the past few years, my interest in North American fish has grown, which has made it easier to create biotope-correct aquariums, because one can collect gravel, rocks, wood, and plants from the same location one is collecting fish, or very similar locations, and bring them home. I’ve also found it relatively easier and safer to swim in North American streams and ponds, allowing more snorkeling and underwater filming with a GoPro camera.

I currently maintain four biotope aquariums out in my garage, where they can be kept appropriately cool.  I have two with northwestern species, including the Northern Pike Minnow, one with fish from Ohio, including Green-sided Darters, and one with fish from Mississippi, including Rough Shiners and Brindled Madtoms.  I collected the Mississippi fish at the last convention of the North American Native Fish Association, which was held in Jackson and afforded opportunities to collect in local rivers with other fans of freshwater fish.

The Covid pandemic has shut down international travel, but hasn’t kept me from spending time in local streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes here in the Northwestern United States.  So my interest in native fish is growing. My biotope aquariums are good, but not really works of art, like the ones I’ve seen submitted in the annual Biotope Aquarium Contest.  Those are truly beautiful, and they are inspiring me to try to upgrade my biotope tanks this year so that I can enter, instead of judge, the contest next year!