Conventions / Aquatic Gardeners Association November 2006

* Below article was published in Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine - March 2007 issue *
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2006 The Aquatic Gardeners Association, Inc was hosted by “old-time” San Francisco Bay Area Aquatic Plant Society. SFBAAPS has been around since 1998 and only the AGA has been around longer as a dedicated aquarium gardening group in the US. This group is full of hobbyists who are well known nationally and/or internationally. Few key founders and current members include: Erik Leung, Steve Dixon, Jeff Kropp, Jim Lockhart, Tom Barr and Dave Gomberg. Just between individuals mentioned above you can find a winner in the AGA aquascaping contest, a founder of well known and widely used “Estimated Index” fertilization approach, a pioneer of using macro nutrients, a grower of endless number of aquatic plants and a publisher of Planted Aquarium Magazine.

My “west coast journey” began on thursday morning with bag full of camera equipment, map of San Francisco, two friends and a rental car. Since we left our hotel relatively early, we had plenty of time to visit some of San Francisco “prime” locations. The beauty of Golden Gate bridge, delicious seafood and historic waterfront of Fisherman’s Wharf, uniqueness of Lombard Latitudes made this day unforgettable from photographer perspective.

My official AGA journey began with a visit to very impressive fish store – Aqua Forest. This place, which is owned and ran by George and Steven Lo, is a premier source of ADA products in the Bay Area, including sintered glass diffusers, lighting, tanks, substrate media, rocks, driftwood and fertilizers. Albany Aquarium, owned by Guy Oei, was another place that we visited. This store has been called a leader for selection of exotic aquatic plants in the Bay Area.

Official convention kick off began on early friday morning with a field trip and special behind-the-scenes access to the nationally proclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium, a place with nearly 200 award winning galleries and exhibits. We had a pleasure to enjoy delicate jellies pulsing and drifting through the largest exhibits of their kind in the world, a million gallon exhibit with sea turtles, tunas, sharks and barracuda, an octopus’ den, splash zone with penguins and hands-on activities, etc.

Friday evening, after brief introductions, presentations began with a couple of interesting and relatively unique sessions from two well known hobbyists and personal friends. Eric Do spoke about a fast growing area of aquatic plant hobby – freshwater invertebrates. He shared his personal experience with keeping crayfish, shrimps and snails which in his opinion are effective tool against algae. “Aquarium Photography” topic was covered by Jeff Senske, a co-founder of Aquarium Design Group and author of “The Inspired Aquarium” book. Jeff talked about the use of digital photography, camera settings, lighting control, composition and editing tips.

Saturday schedule was booked with national and international speakers. Dorothy Reimer, who has been involved with the hobby for over 41 years, began with a presentation “Basic Growing and Keeping Live Plants.” Aquatic hobby does not have to be all about equipment, newest gadgets and “hi-tech” approach so she spoke about simple and basic ways of growing plants. Next in line was relatively young but extremely tall PhD graduate from Denmark – Troels Andersen, who gave us more scientific presentation “Plants’ Acclimation to Life Under Water.” Based on fieldwork and review of the scientific literature, his presentation focused on how plants acclimate morphologically and physiologically to the aquatic environment. “The Inspiration” was another fairly “light” talk given by another personal friend, Ricky Cain. Presentation of well recognized aquascapes and their artists from around the world along with personal opinion and experience is a recipe for well received talk. Those who enjoy more advanced chemistry, George Batten, Research Director for Seachem Laboratories, gave a talk on “Chemistry and the Planted Aquarium.” Presentation portion of the day ended with another international guest speaker from Denmark – Ole Pederson PhD “Aquascaping the Natural Way.” His talk focused on natural aquascapes with examples from cold lakes in Greenland in the north to the odd saltlake vegetation in Australia in the south; from high altitude lakes in Canada in the west to Cryptocoryne streams in Laos in the east.

Delicious banquet, announcement and presentation of AGA Aquascaping Contest’s winning entries has been an official ending, for past few years, to saturday activity schedule. This year SFBAAPS presented a unique to AGA ending – Iron Aquascaper Challenge. Two pre-selected teams were to test their knowledge, skills and imagination by aquascaping an aquarium within pre-determined amount of time. I can see this challenge becoming an official ending in each AGA convention.

Sunday is always a “sad” day. An official AGA auction, T-shirt purchase (created by Bill Harada), quick good bye and plane back to New Jersey.

Thanks to SFBAAPS and AGA for another well organized convention.