Aquatic Gardener Association Convention 2008- Day 2 & 3


After hardly 5 hours of sleep the previous night, AGA Convention Day 2 started with an early breakfast at the Sheraton’s Cafe. The previous night, at the hospitality suite Luis had told me and Kevin that we would be helping Mr. Amano along with him to prepare the plants and the driftwood for his demonstration today. Luis had been entrusted with the  responsibility to arrange all the plants Mr. Amano needed for his demonstration. This had kept Luis on his heels all day on Friday.

Dr. Benito Tan

Dr. Benito Tan

The second day of the convention kicked off with a presentation from Dr. Benito Tan. Some of us who have been in the hobby for quiet sometime might remember  Low Kwek Leong from Dr.Tan is the “Professor” Mr. Leong mentions quiet often when it comes to aquatic moss identification and taxonomy. Dr. Tan’s topic was “Aquatic Mosses: Taxonomy and its application in commercially sold aquatic bryophytes.”  Dr. Tan started off with a paper he had published correctly identifying the common Java Moss. He then explained the common misconceptions in our hobby in regards to the identity of the “True” Java Moss. Another interesting subject which Dr. Tan bought up was identification of   ” Subwassertang” . Subwassertang was widely considered as a liverwort related to Monosolenium tenerum aka Pellia. Research by Dr. Tan and his co-researchers has found out that Subwassertang is not a liverwort at all. It is a gametophyte of  a fern Lomariopsis lineata. Dr. Tan had a great sense of humor and warned the hobbyist against submerging terrestrial mosses in and attempt to grow them underwater.He finally concluded his presentation with some great pictures of some mosses which will make great addition to our aquariums in near future.

Mr. Takashi Amano

Mr. Takashi Amano

Around 10:30 am Mr. Takashi Amano took the stage. The convention hall was full to capacity at this point. The long awaited moment had finally arrived for a lot of people in the room. Mr. Amano started  with a short introduction  with  a single English sentence ” I am Takashi Amano.”  Mr. Amano does not speak English. So his short introduction in English got a loud applause. Mr. Amano was accompanied by his translator Ms.Tomoko Schum. Ms. Schum did a great job. Mr. Amano’s presentation was titled “Nature Aquarium Layout”.  Mr. Amano started with results of the International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest 2008. He introduced the top 5 layouts and then went into details with slides of some layouts which were not ranked that high. He pointed some flaws in these layouts and that gave a good glimpse into the mind of  an IAPLC judge. I would like to document few of Mr. Amano’s comment on the top 4 layouts.


Mr. Amano’s Comment: The creator of this layout tried to capture the beauty of Mt. Donha. The selection of plants for this layout is perfect giving its a green monotone. The rock used in this layout has a very unique color and texture. Even this layout uses a lot of moss.  The cardinal tetras swimming in huge 3 m tank matches the composition of this tank very well.


Mr. Amano’s Comment: This layout made use of unique slender pieces of wood which were arranged dynamically. The use of  Eleocharis vivipara in the background balances the layout. The use of moss in this layout shows the creators expertise. Aquascapers who use moss properly in their layout will rule the aquascaping contests.


Mr. Amano’s Comment:This layout represents a view resembling a pine tree. The use moss to depict a pine tree is unique. The angle and placement of driftwood shows the highly skillful layout technique of the creator.


Mr. Amano’s Comment:The dynamic placement of the driftwood and stone in this layout is exquisite. The use of open space in this layout is very effective. The creator has been successful in creating a great sense of depth. The only flaw of this layout was it had not matured when the photograph was taken.


After introducing the prize winning entries at the IAPLC 2008 Mr. Amano proceeded to describe some deficiencies in the layouts which could not be ranked higher because of some subtle mistakes in the placement of hardscape or certain plants. The next part of Mr. Amano’s presentation included  a step-by-step to setting a couple of Nature Aquarium Layouts. He did a iwagumi layout as well as a layout with driftwood as the main hardscape. This was a very interesting presentation as we got some great tips from Mr. Amano regarding his hardscape layout technique as well as his planting technique. Mr. Amano also spoke about two of his landscape photos from Sado Island, Japan which were presented during the G8 Working Lunch Sessions at Hakkaido Tokyo Summit in July, 2008. The photos were of the pristine cedar forests on the Sado Island taken using a 8×20 inches large format camera and presented on a 4mx1.5m panel. aga-2008-257-1

The Nature Aquarium Society of Houston group picture with Mr. Takashi Amano after his presentation. After this me , Luis and Kevin slipped out of the conference room with Mr. Yoshinori to start preparing the plants, rocks and driftwood Mr. Amano was going to use for his demonstration later.


The next speaker in the line up was Mr.Jeff  Senske from Aquarium Design Group, Houston. Jeff’s presentation was on ” Effective Design”. I missed most of Jeff’s presentation but I gathered a few great points from it later when I watched it on the AGA Convention 2008 DVD . Jeff’s presentation dealt mostly with the Nature Aquarium Style layouts but he also presented a few layouts where he illustrated how even simple layout consisting of only driftwood and no plants can make a visual impact in someones living room. Jeff’s presentation dealt mostly with the actual maintenance  of planted tanks over a period of time and how selection of certain plants and design can help in its long term survival. Jeff stressed a lot on philosophy behind setting a aquarium weather its a lush planted tank  or a simple bare driftwood layout. This I think is a difference between those thickly planted jungle tanks which we just look at and pass over versus the immaculate and interesting planted tanks we like to drool over again and again.

aga-2008-271-1Mr. Amano’s demonstration started at 3:00 PM. The conference room was full to capacity. Mr. Amano had selected a ADA 90P Cube Garden tank for his demonstration. We had already prepared some rocks and driftwood covered with moss for the demo. Mr. Amano stressed a lot on tying the moss very tightly to the rock or driftwood. Mr. Amano did a detailed explanation on substrate layout and how each additive and component used in the substrate works. For this particular layout he also used decorative sand demonstrating the substrate partition technique. The moss covered rock was then placed along the Aquasoil II and Bright Sand partition. The layout was going to be a concave layout and accordingly the Aquasoil II was divided in a 2:3 ratio. Mr. Amano then started the placement of the driftwood. The driftwood was placed over Aquasoil for this particular layout but its not unusual for him to place driftwood along the substrate partition using it to hide the partitioning border. He next demonstrated the plant tying technique used for tying epiphytes like Anubias and Microsorum to rocks and driftwood using ADA Woodtight. The next step was placement of Anubias barteri ‘nana’ and Microsorum pteropus ‘narrow’.  Mr. Amano was clearly building his aquascape from front to back.

aga-2008-274-1As Mr. Amano proceeded he was simultaneously answering a bunch of questions from the curious  plant enthusiasts. Luis had arranged for a variety of stem plants which we had prepared by trimming them to equal lengths. Mr. Amano planted three stems of a particular specie at a time. He stressed during planting background plants that, its very important to vary the shape and color of leaves. This plays a very important role in creating the final aquascape. Another point to be noted was how thickly the tank was planted when it was finished.


The aquarium was finally filled after all the plants were planted. The lighting used on this aquarium was ADA Grand Solar which was installed on the ADA Grand Solar Stand after the layout was completed. An ADA Super Jet Filter ES-600 Series was used for filtration. This filter is built completely of stainless steel and is a monster.   Just to give you an idea how thickly this layout was planted here is a picture from the back.


Mr. Amano’s presentation went beyond the scheduled time but I am sure no one was complaining. After Mr. Amano’s inspiring demonstration we proceeded to the Banquet Hall for the Banquet.


The AGA Aquascaping Contest 2008 winners were announced during the banquet by Mr. EriK Olson and Ms. Karen Randall. Mr. Takashi Amano was also a judge for this contest and provided his valuable comments on some of the winning aquascape. We had a winner at our banquet table. Jason Baliban won the 2nd price in the ‘ Large Aquarium’ category for his aquascape ‘ Meander‘. The last presentation of the night was by Ms. Karen Randall on ” Collecting in Thailand”. Ms. Randall did a great job presenting  some great pictures of  biotopes and actual collections from Thailand. I found her experience of collecting Cryptocoryne albida very useful. The different pictures she presented of the locales C.albida grew in gave a idea how variable their habitat can be. The night ended with a few drinks later with some friends at the hospitality suite.


The third day started drooling over all the great plants that were up for auction. There were 4 long tables approximately 20 feet long which were full of bagged plants. The highlight of the auction were a single Echinodorus ‘Midifleur’ plant  and the newly launched Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Florida Sunset’ which went for 150 $ each. We left the auction at about 1:00 pm starting our long drive back to Houston. The ride back was uneventful and we reach Houston safely. This was a great convention and I am already planning for the next one.


4 Responses to “Aquatic Gardener Association Convention 2008- Day 2 & 3”

  1. Hey Bhushan,

    Nice write up! I felt like i almost attended the convention.

  2. For some reason my browser doesn’t show this page correctly…Anyway,

  3. Bhushan Dalvi Says:

    Try Mozilla or IE.

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