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About The Inventor

Paul Baldassano: Inventor of The Majano Wand

I got into the salt water hobby the month salt water fish became available in Manhattan. This was approximately in 1971.

In 1969, I was out of high school, drafted and quickly sent to Viet Nam. There I became a Sergeant and lived the entire year in the jungle, never seeing a village, hamlet or real road. Helicopters were the automobile of that war, and I flew a few times a week – even managing to crash in one of those two rotor Ch 47s. Surprisingly, I did happen to see fresh water red tailed sharks in a small pond there, which was exciting for me as I had been keeping these very fish for many years.

Generally, fish watching is not a safe activity in a war: after I saw those sharks, the LZ I was on was attacked by 400 NVA troops and I was awarded two Bronze Stars for Valor. That was actually the precise battle that allowed the U.S. to go into Cambodia. I am not sure if those red tailed sharks survived.

Anyway, near the end of my tour in Viet Nam, I was lucky enough to go on R&R in Sydney, Australia, where I experienced my first SCUBA dive, which was not a common activity in 1971. We were anchored off a tiny atoll in the middle of nowhere; and as soon as my head went underwater, I was in total awe! Very few people at that time had seen saltwater tropical fish, except in books. Although I grew up on Long Island, NY and spent many hours on the water, this first real sight underwater in a tropical location began my lifelong love of the sea.

When my service time was finally over, I had to look for a job, as my job as an auto mechanic for Oldsmobile was over. (I learned then that the dealership had gone out of business while I was away.) While searching for new employment, I came upon a large aquarium store in Manhattan a few blocks from the World Trade Center. That’s where I saw my first captive saltwater tropical fish. They were blue devils, and I just had to have a few. Although I have had freshwater fish from the time I was born, I didn’t know anything about keeping salt water fish…but neither did anyone else. There were no books or magazines on the subject, and of course, computers were not yet a common commodity.

I gradually learned everything I know by trial and error (and a lot of money to replace fish).

In 1972, those blue devils spawned for me; and as more fish became available, I bought them. Eventually, I learned to keep Ich from killing my fish and artificial saltwater became available so I did not have to collect water from the Long Island Sound as often.

Years later, corals and other invertebrates became available, and my tank turned into a reef. Being an inventor at heart, I built some of my own rocks, and I have always used objects in the tank that I myself collected in the sea using SCUBA.

My paying job is as an electrician, and I managed to incorporate some of that knowledge into my fish hobby. From the time I first set up the tank, I experimented with small lights that I positioned in caves and bottles in the aquascape. I just wanted to highlight darker areas. Eventually, the seals on some of these lights deteriorated, releasing small amounts of electricity into the water. I noticed bubbles emanating from these leaky seals, causing me to research the nature of these gases.

I discovered that if you pass DC voltage through salt water, you generate hydrogen and chlorine – the water actually splits and becomes these gases. That discovery spawned my first inspiration to use those gases to eliminate animals in my tank that I did not want. That was the beginning of the Majano Wand.

During the first years of the hobby, Majanos, or Rock Anemones, were thought to be a welcomed addition to a salt water tank, advocated by my mentor, Robert Straughn, author of “The Salt Water Aquarium in the Home”. He called them “anemone rocks” and thought of them as some sort of water purifier. He was partially correct except it was not the Majanos but the rocks they were on that helped purify the water. Realizing that these “helpful” Majanos were actually stinging my corals, I set out to eliminate them.

Most people know that there is not much that will kill them. I tried injecting them with all sorts of things, including battery acid, lye, bleach, boiling vinegar, and copper sulfate – all things you really do not want to add to your reef. These things failed or were too dangerous. Then I remembered those gases that I used to accidentally add to my tank. I tried a crude version of the Majano Wand connected to an almost dead car battery and to my amazement, the Majano disintegrated. The device causes the water in the tissues of the animal to turn into hydrogen and instantly disintegrates the animal. I used this makeshift device occasionally to eliminate these pests.

As the years went by, I would notice some majanos or aiptasia and then would take out this crude device; when I could not find it, I would build another. One day, after many prototypes, I built a more compact model, which worked flawlessly. I showed some people and they wanted the device, so I built a few more. Eventually it dawned on me that this tool would really benefit the hobby and encouraged me to apply for a patent. The Majano Wand is my second patent for an aquarium-related device. (The first one was a seahorse feeder.)

This hobby, along with just about anything related to the sea, has been a lifelong passion of mine for 60 years. That first tank in 1971 has gone through many changes and has grown much larger, but it is still running. It has never been emptied, except for a short move in 1979 to a new home. My reef is and always has been an ongoing experiment to try to offer these beautiful animals the best possible living conditions outside of the sea. I have spent my life searching for answers and it normally occupies much of my time even when I should be sleeping.

I have always wanted to keep Moorish Idols; however, like most people, I did not have much luck with them – that is until I took a trip to Bora Bora to dive with them. I seem to have learned some of their secrets and now can keep them much longer.

In the summer, you can usually find me knee-deep in a tide pool looking under rocks or becoming friends with the local hermit crab population, which I find fascinating. Boating and SCUBA diving are an extension of my love of the sea. I also went to school and became a licensed boat Captain.

I have recently retired from the electrical business and keep myself busy by writing aquarium articles, speaking at reef clubs (okay only twice so far) and working on my projects – many of which involve marine life in one form or another.

In the winter, I play Santa Claus at a few places, including a hospital in Manhattan, which has a children’s cancer floor. They cater to the most severe cases of childhood cancer and/or diseases.

Luckily for me, I married my childhood sweetheart; and she shares my interests by accompanying me as Mrs. Claus and by being my favorite dive partner. One of her favorite pastimes is eliminating Majanos, which is fine by me. Our daughter, now an adult and married, became a certified diver when she was just 13 years old. Although she does join us in a dive or two on family vacations, her passion for the sea is not anything like mine. However, there is one major problem with her diving. She is terrified of large barracuda. Go figure…