The Golden Age of the Aquarium Hobby
Growing up in Elizabeth, NJ, Rosario LaCorte recalls as a young boy collecting tadpoles and watching them grow into frogs, and collecting killifish in the nearby Kill Van Kull. The venerable guppy was the first tropical fish that Rosario kept, leading him to save his pennies to buy other livebearers at the local five and dime. Rosario had no tanks or equipment, and often lost these tropicals to the cold New Jersey winters.
During his four years in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Rosario met his lovely wife, Jeannie. Upon his honorable discharge in 1951, the couple was wed and went on to have three sons and two daughters, and the two are now proud grandparents many times over.
For Christmas in 1951, one of Rosario’s brothers gave him a fish tank, which led to a collection of about a dozen tanks and his first fishroom. Rosario specialized early on in breeding tetras, and gained a respected reputation, with one of his earliest coups being the fabled neon tetra, followed by many others, such as the serpae and glowlight, the offspring of which he sold to local pet shops to pay for additional tanks. By 1960, Rosario had some 200 tanks(!) and had taken over the entire three car garage behind his house.
Rosario made many friends in the aquarium hobby, and at one point was President of the New Jersey Aquarium Society, one of the largest of its day. Through his friend, and Editor of Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine, Bill Vonderwinkler, Rosario met Herbert Axelrod, the founder and publisher of TFH. Rosario brought Dr. Axelrod unusual or new fish for photographic preservation, most of which Rosario went on to breed. He was also fortunate to have a friend, Ross Socolof, who supplied him with new and rare fish to breed through his wholesale business, General Aquatics. Rosario’s successes in breeding cemented his growing reputation in the hobby.
Rosario remembers his own chance to collect in the tropics extended by Herbert Axelrod in 1958 as a significant event in his aquarist career, and feels gratitude to Dr. Axelrod for the resulting opportunities. Through this trip, Rosario made contacts with Harald Schultz and Alan Fletcher, and brought back some wonderful fish such as Cynolebias whitei and the black phantom tetra. These current day aquarium standards were new and exotic at the time. From 1977 to 1988, Rosario returned to South America five times, once with Dr. Stanley Weitzman, and collected many new and beautiful fish, two of which were named after him, LaCorte’s emperor tetra, Nematobrycon lacortei, and LaCorte’s killifish, Maratecoara lacortei.
In 1969, upon a visit to Rosario’s fishroom with a group of friends, Dan Carson, Editor of Modern Aquarium, the publication of the Greater City Aquarium Society, wrote, “the widest variety of spawns that any of us had ever seen in a hobbyist’s hatchery.” Rosario is one of the world’s leading authorities on breeding fish and he has written numerous articles and books, contributing greatly to our understanding of fish and their habits.
To Rosario, the most important aspect of his contribution to the hobby has been integrity, always openly sharing his insights with others. Rosario and Jeannie’s home, where they keep a special guest book, and are gracious hosts, has been visited by many aquarists from all over the word. He continues to be active in local clubs, lecturing, judging, and breeding fish. It was a special moment for all when, in 2007, Aquarium Federation if Independent Societies and Hobbyists proudly honored Rosario as a legend of the hobby with the first AFISH Award of Special Recognition. If they ever erect an American Aquarium Hall of Fame, I am certain that Rosario LaCorte would be elected to its gallery.
It brings us great pride and joy to have Rosario as a part of the CARES Team!
Authored by Joseph Ferdenzi
The C.A.R.E.S. Preservation Program is about our fish,
and it is about people.
We are one team, working together. Please, clear a tank ~ save a fish!
Because of you, we are making a difference!