Dave Herlong has been keeping fish for over 50 years. He started out with reptiles and native fishes from the creek down the street. He saw his first Malawi cichlids in a pet store in 1969. In the 1980s, he traveled to Lake Malawi twice and held offices in the American Cichlid Association (ACA).  He was also a founding member of the Raleigh Aquarium Society in 1982, when the club was formed to share fish information with other aquarists.

He was awarded the title Fellow of the ACA in 1990.

He has degrees in zoology and entomology (aquatic insects).