Archive for Aquarium Design Group

Aquatic Gardeners Association Convention 2008 – Day 1

Posted in Club Activities with tags , , , , , , on November 24, 2008 by Bhushan Dalvi

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After a long time my wish to attend one of the AGA conventions finally came true. I along with a bunch of friends from Nature Aquarium Society of Houston (NASH) decided to make this trip as a club event. NASH was represented at the AGA convention by me, Luis, Kevin, Thanh and Trung. This years speakers line up was pretty impressive with likes of Mr. Takashi Amano, Mr. Jeffrey Senske, Dr. Benito Tan, Greg Morin, Dr. Michael Kane and Ms. Karen Randall. The biggest inspiration for me to attend the convention was to get a glimpse of Mr. Takashi Amano and to see him do a presentation and a demonstration on Nature Aquariums. My wish not only came true but I got more than I expected. I will talk more on this later. This years AGA convention was held in Atlanta, Georgia from 14th Nov- 16th Nov 2008. Me, Kevin and Thanh decided to drive all the way to Atlanta while Luis and Trung were going to fly there. The drive through the night went smooth and we reached Atlanta on Friday morning. The convention venue was Sheraton Hotel, Atlanta.

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The AGA had arranged for a Georgia Aquarium Field trip which was scheduled for 9:00 am on Friday morning. We missed that trip as we were too tired after a night of driving. So after a quick nap we decided to check out the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) at the Georgia Aquarium on our own. This is one of the only three places in the world where you can see the whale shark in captivity.

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Georgia Aquarium is considered the largest in the world with 8.1 million US gallons of holding capacity. Other notable specimens at the aquarium are the three Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) and a manta ray (Manta birostris). Watching these beauties cannot be explained in words. The exhibit which housed the whale shark and the manta ray is called the “Ocean Voyager”. After a quick jaunt through the aquarium we headed back to the hotel for the official registration and to the start of the convention at 2:00 pm.

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The convention started with the opening of the vendor room and the registration. The vendor room was dotted with stalls from The Aquatic Gardener Association, Seachem, Aqua Design Amano, Invertz Factory and a aquarium store (whose name I cannot recollect). The AGA registration table was quiet tempting with a lot of goodies for the planted tank enthusiast. The table had a lot of back issues of The Aquatic Gardener (TAG) and Planted Aquaria for sale. I could finally pick up the last missing TAG issue from April 2007 for completing my collection of TAG from 2002-2008. They also had all the 2001-2007 Convention DVD’s for sale.

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The Aquarium Plant book from Oriental Aquarium,Singapore was also available for sale along with Ms. Diana Walstad’s book “The Ecology of Planted Aquarium”. After spending quiet a bit of cash at the AGA table we moved on to the Invertz Factory stall. They had a bunch for rare Neritina sp. and Tylomelania sp. for sale.

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Aqua Design Amano (ADA) stall this year launched their Do!Aqua brand of product for the planted tank beginners. This line of Nature Aquarium products is going to be slightly cheaper than the regular ADA brand products. Mr. Yoshinori Kondo (ADA Marketing and International Marketing Department Section Manager) was kind enough to answer my question about some of the Do!Aqua products on display.

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Seachem stall had their entire product on display including the ones for cichlid aquariums. I was rather impressed by their representatives (read beautiful girls) who were pretty helpful in enlightening me how Seachem Flourish fertilizers can help my planted tanks. As I strolled around the vendor room Kevin and Thanh rushed to the airport to pick up Luis.

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The AGA convention was officially kicked off at 4:00 pm with a presentation from Seachem CEO Dr. Greg Morin. “Foliar vs. root-zone uptake for ferric and ferrous iron” was the subject for this interesting presentation.

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Dr. Greg Morin

Greg did a great explaining the mechanism for iron (Fe) uptake in different types of plants. He explained how plants like to obtain their iron in ferrous (Fe+2) state and when it is offered to them in ferric (Fe+3) state it requires additional energy from the plants to convert these to usable ferrous form. He also explained how Seachem has performed laboratory experiments on different plants like Cryptocoryne wendtii, Egeria densa (Anachris) and Echinodorus bleheri to determine the best form of iron fertilization.

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They used ferrous gluconate fertilization in water column as well as in the substrate to determine which was received well by different plants. Foliar fertilization was found advantageous for stem plants while the root uptake of iron was considerable for heavy root feeders like Cryptocoryne and Echinodorus. The presentation finally concluded with a note from Greg explaining how this area is still undergoing research to better understand the aquatic plant needs.

The next presentation in the line up was “Tissue Culture for Aquarists” by Dr. Michael Kane from University of Florida. This was a pretty interesting talk as Dr. Kane specifically focused on educating the people attending the lecture on tricks to tissue culture aquatic plants at home DIY style.

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Dr. Michael Kane


Tisssue culture is widely used by aquatic plant nurseries though out the world for propagating plants in large quantities in short time. As per Dr. Kane the biggest challenge for an everyday aquatic gardener is to find a sterile source plant for propagation. He explained some easy ways to do it using ethanol, water and bleach. After this first hurdle has been passed the next step is to obtain a growing medium for the isolated plant cell. Commercially pre-mixed media can be used for this purpose but is expensive.

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Dr. Kane also gave tips on some great websites like Kitchen Culture Kits, Inc which can be a source of tissue culture material for the everyday hobbyist. This particular presentation was the second most popular during the convention following Mr. Amano’s presentation and demonstration.

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Dr. Kane used an example of Cryptocoryne wendtii to explain the various stages of tissue culture with some pretty impressive slides.

The most awaited event of the evening was the Iron Aquascaper Contest which began at 8:30 pm. The Iron Aquascaper Contest was generously sponsored by Aquarium Design Group (ADG), Houston.

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Jeff Senske did a great job of hosting this event. The competitors were Jason Baliban of Project Aquarium and John Ciotti of ADG. This event was judged by my good friend Luis Navarro. The other judges were Ghazanfar Ghori, Phil Edward and Takashi Amano.

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John and Jason

After a rather exhaustive hour John Ciotti’s aquascape was judged as the winner. Mr. Amano specifically pointed out the use of 2:3 ratios in John’s aquascape. Jason’s aquascape was also good but the judges pointed out the lack of open spaces in this scape for point deduction.

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Jason's Aquascape

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John's Aquascape

The first day at the convention ended spending a couple of hours at the Hospitality Suite getting to know other enthusiasts from around the country.

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