Mountain Valley Middle School CARES

One Teacher’s Vision

In the summer of 2009, science teacher Debbie Bumgardner of Mountain Valley Middle School in Sattler, Texas expressed interest in the Hill Country Cichlid Club CARES program. Debbie visualized creating a ‘hands on’ approach to species conservation and integrating it with her curriculum. After a few conversations and a little research the MVMS CARES project was born. Debbie had obtained a 75-gallon aquarium and once the word went out to HCCC members, additional equipment and livestock was graciously given to the program.

Name That Fish!

Although the 2009-2010 school year was to be a learning experience with the main goal of discovering what would work and what would not, the students took an incredible interest in the fish. The livestock consisted of Xystichromis phytophagus, a CARES listed species from Lake Kanyaboli, Neochromis omnicaeruleus and Paralabidochromis chromogynos, both from Lake Victoria, and Synodontis greshoffi from the Congo River. The students increased their knowledge base of these fish through studies and research, and once the cichlids were given names (Bob, Sparky, etc.), the kids were hooked. Each day they would diligently check their fish.

First Successful Spawn

Offspring of MVAS CARES fish have gone to the Vienna Zoo and others went to the Capital of Texas Zoo.

As the first school year came to a close, one of the Xystichromis phytophagus was seen mouth-brooding a clutch of eggs. The first successful spawn! Some of the fry from this spawning was sent off to the Vienna Zoo. Others went to the Capital of Texas Zoo to be displayed in the brand new cichlid exhibit, and the remaining young joined the colony of their parents at the Mountain Valley Middle School for the 2010-2011 school year.

Teacher of the Year

During the first year of MVMS CARES, Debbie had the honor of being voted Teacher of the Year by her peers at Mountain Valley Middle School. In addition, the administration of both the school and district fully supported her involvement in the CARES effort.

Additions to MVAS CARES for 2011

One aquarium houses mbuna which are more colorful as juveniles than the silver tones exhibited by young Lake Victoria cichlids. These helped to spark the interest of students and encouraged them to get them involved in the next step, species maintenance of conservation priority cichlids.

Riding on the successes of the first year of this CARES program, plans were made to expand the number of aquariums as well as the number of species being maintained. Additional equipment was donated though the generosity of HCCC members. Both parents and students came though with everything from needed items to décor such as rocks.

In an effort to retain student interest and enthusiasm, 2010-2011 included one aquarium which housed colorful cichlids such as young Chindongo saulosi, Cynotilapia sp. ‘hara,’ and Pundamilia macrocephala. The beautiful hues shown by these fish, even while juveniles, caught the interest of the students and encouraged them to get involved in the next step, species maintenance of conservation priority cichlids.

In recent years, additional aquariums contained cichlids from Lake Barombi Mbo, Cameroon. Myaka myaka, Pungu maclareni, and additional Lake Victoria species soon called Mountain Valley Middle School home.

Federation of Texas Aquarium Societies Donation

The Federation of Texas Aquarium Societies provided a $250 award to MVMS CARES that went towards the purchase of additional filtration and upgraded lighting.

MVAS CARES began with a 75-gallon aquarium and through the help of the Hill Country Cichlid Club, the Federation of Texas Aquarium Societies, and generous individuals, expanded to a number of tanks housing conservation priority species.


The 2017 school year brought a slight deviation in the MVMS aquariums due to a chance spawning of goldfish which has the kids enthralled. Now the fry are pushing a couple inches and of course all the kids are attached. I have the school’s CARES fish stored at home and we plan on stocking the tanks with them for next year’s classes.

MVMS CARES Acknowledgements

MVMS CARES would like to recognize the following organizations and individuals whose gracious support makes this program possible.

Dave’s Rare Aquarium Fish
Robert Deleon
Federation of Texas Aquarium Societies
Dave Hansen
Hill Country Cichlid Club
Mike Kaaki
Paul V. Loiselle
Pat Mallinger
Henry Rockward Jr.
Benjamin Smith

CARES congratulates and feels great pride in Debbie and her students at the Middle Valley Middle School for their dedication to conservation priority fishes, and in Greg and Lee Ann Steeves for their foresight and efforts in coordinating the MVMS CARES endeavor. Warm and heartfelt thanks to all who have made this possible!