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Issue: March 2007

The 2006 AGA Convention

Author: Jay Luto

AMANO T 0307
Photographer: Jay Luto
Aquarium Hobby News: March 2007

The 2006 Aquatic Gardeners Association (AGA) Convention was hosted by the San Francisco Bay Area Aquatic Plant Society (SFBAAPS), which, founded in 1998, is second only to the AGA for the title of longest-running dedicated aquarium gardening group in the United States. My West Coast journey began on Thursday morning with a bag full of camera equipment, a 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’s famous locations. The beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge, the historic waterfront of Fisherman’s Wharf, and San Francisco’s unique architecture made this day unforgettable from a photographer’s perspective.

My official AGA journey began with a visit to a very impressive fish store, Aqua Forest, which is owned and operated by George and Steven Lo and is a premier source of high-tech planted aquarium products in the Bay Area, including sintered glass diffusers, lighting, tanks, substrate, media, rocks, driftwood, and fertilizers. We also visited a store called Albany Aquarium, a leading supplier of exotic aquatic plants in the Bay Area.

The official convention kick-off began on early Friday morning with a field trip and special behind-the-scenes access to the nationally acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium, which features nearly 200 award-winning galleries and exhibits. Among other attractions, we watched 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 barracudas; an octopus den; and a “splash zone” with penguins and hands-on activities.

Friday evening, after brief introductions, the presentations began with a couple of interesting sessions from two well-known hobbyists and personal friends of mine. Eric Do spoke about a fast-growing area of the aquatic plant hobby, freshwater invertebrates, sharing his personal experiences with keeping crayfish, shrimps, and snails. The topic of aquarium photography was covered by author, aquascaper, and co-founder of Aquarium Design Group (ADG) Jeff Senske, who talked about digital photography, camera settings, lighting control, composition, and editing tips.

Saturday’s schedule was booked solid with national and international speakers. Dorothy Reimer, who has been in the hobby for over 41 years, began with her presentation, “Basic Growing and Keeping Live Plants,” outlining her low-tech approach to growing plants. Next in line was a relatively young but extremely tall PhD graduate from Denmark, Troels Andersen, who gave a more technical presentation titled “Plants’ Acclimation to Life Under Water.” Based on his fieldwork and review of the scientific literature, he focused on how plants acclimate morphologically and physiologically to the aquatic environment.

“The Inspiration” was a lighter talk given by another friend of mine, Ricky Cain, who gave a well-received presentation on easily recognized aquascapes from around the world. For those who enjoy more advanced chemistry, George Batten, Research Director for Seachem Laboratories, gave a talk on “Chemistry and the Planted Aquarium.” The presentation portion of the day ended with another international guest speaker from Denmark, Ole Pederson, PhD, whose talk “Aquascaping the Natural Way” focused on natural aquascapes, with examples from cold lakes in Greenland to odd salt-lake vegetation in Australia, and from high-altitude lakes in Canada to Cryptocoryne streams in Laos.

Besides the delicious banquet, announcements, and the presentation of the winners of the AGA Aquascaping Contest that has marked the official end to Saturday’s activities for the past few years, this year the SFBAAPS presented a unique event—the Iron Aquascaper Challenge. Two pre-selected teams (ADG and Aqua Forest) tested their knowledge, skills, and imagination by aquascaping an aquarium within a pre-determined amount of time. I can easily see this challenge becoming an official ending to future AGA conventions.

Sadly, Sunday came too quickly, and after the official AGA auction, a T-shirt purchase, and some quick goodbyes, it was time for the plane ride back to New Jersey. Thanks to SFBAAPS and AGA for another well-organized and very enjoyable convention!

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