AGA 2008 Contest: Large 200-400L

November 16th, 2008

At the AGA Convention banquet tonight, the winners of the 2008 Aquascaping Contest were announced. For more information, better pictures, and runner ups, please visit the AGA convention website. Without further adieu, here are the top aquariums in this category.





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AGA 2008 Contest: Medium 70-200L

November 16th, 2008

At the AGA Convention banquet tonight, the winners of the 2008 Aquascaping Contest were announced. For more information, better pictures, and runner ups, please visit the AGA convention website. Without further adieu, here are the top aquariums in this category.




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AGA 2008 Contest: Paladarium

November 16th, 2008

At the AGA Convention banquet tonight, the winners of the 2008 Aquascaping Contest were announced. For more information, better pictures, and runner ups, please visit the AGA convention website. Without further adieu, here are the top aquariums in this category.




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AGA 2008 Contest: Small <70L

November 16th, 2008

At the AGA Convention banquet tonight, the winners of the 2008 Aquascaping Contest were announced. For more information, better pictures, and runner ups, please visit the AGA convention website. Without further adieu, here are the top aquariums in this category.





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Catfish Convention Auction

October 19th, 2008

After an extremely busy couple of days preparing for and attending a family wedding, I managed to carve out some time to attend the All-Aquarium Catfish Convention auction. I was very pleased to be able to catch up with Dr. Devon Graham, who runs and operates Margarita Tours, which is the company I traveled to the Peruvian Amazon with in August 2007. In addition, from everyone I talked to, it sounds like the convention itself was a tremendous success. I’m very proud of GWAPA participating on Friday night with a workshop about planted-tank-friendly catfish, and representing with a beautiful informational display table. That was all made possible by the work of some very dedicated members.

The auction was huge, consisting of 10 lots of items. I brought 15 bags of plants and fish, and I suspect everyone else did similarly because there could be no less than 1000 items there. Plants, catfish, killies, cichlids, tanks, tools, equipment, it was all present. My only buy of the day was a fantastic grab, pulling 20 Bristlenosed Pleco juveniles for only $14. I have no idea what I’m going to do with all of those if they reach adulthood, but I’ll enjoy raising them up, possibly breeding them, and passing them onto other aquarists. I’d love to hear what everyone else in attendance came away with.

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All-Aquarium Catfish Convention 2008

March 12th, 2008

All-Aquarium Catfish Convention 2008PVAS is once again hosting the bi-annual 2008 All-Aquarium Catfish Convention on October 17-19. If you’ve never been to a fish convention, this is the premier event to do so, renowned speakers and guests traveling large distances to attend.

This year, the theme of the convention is Expedition Amazon, which will cover a wide array of topics, including both fish and habitat in the Amazon River. Workshops and field trips will further the experience, culminating in what should be an enormous auction on Sunday.

Registration is now open, with an early-bird discount of only $30. GWAPA will also be involved in the convention on Friday night, giving a short workshop on what catfish are appropriate for a planted aquarium. And, on a personal note, I’m very much looking forward to seeing Devon Graham, a fantastic tropical biologist, and leader of the Amazon expedition my wife and I took last August. It’ll be great to see him again.

Finally, you can have a 1 in 50 shot of going to the Amazon yourself, as Margarita Tours has generously donated a trip to Peru. $50 per ticket, for the trip of a lifetime. (I know, I’ve been there.)

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Aquafest 2007 – Aquascaping Demo & Auction

October 24th, 2007

Aquafest 2007 was much more than just a set of lectures. In addition to being a fun, social event, CCA also hosted a fish show, showcasing over 100 top-quality fish from around the area. As you can see below, there was no lack of tanks. Cichlids seemed to be the most prominent type of fish on display with discus the size of dinner plates, gorgeous Africans, and even a few apistogramma making appearances. There were also a number of catfish showing.

Fish Show - Aquafest 2007

In addition to the fish show, Ray “Kingfish” Lucas had a number of displays setup, touting products from a number of great aquarium-related manufacturers. Tony Orso was also setup, with a few other vendors, such as Anubias Design, at the festival.

Vendor Displays

Besides introducing Eric Do, GWAPA’s big event of the weekend was the aquascaping demonstration, led by myself and recent APC tank-of-the-month winner, Jeff U (bigstick120). Aaron T, Dave W., and Eric Do also helped field questions while we were presenting.

Creating the Hardscape

We gave a pretty straight forward aquascaping demonstration, trying to mimic Amano’s demonstration at the 2004 AGA convention that GWAPA hosted. Jeff added some brand new Seachem Flourite Black to our 37G Oceanic tank, and began setting up the hardscape. I did my best to explain that you often want to group rocks into odd numbered groupings, and avoid symmetry when possible.

Dual Planting

Once the hardscape was in place, Jeff and I started planting HC in the foreground, along with some Blyxa japonica, anubias barteri var. nanaand downoi in the midground.


We explained how you want to plant the tank mostly dry, with just enough water to compact the substrate for easier planting. After planting all of stems it was time to fill up the tank.

Nearly Done

Eric Do helped out with the chore of filling up the tank, using the empty Flourite Black bag as a shield to disturb the substrate as little as possible. (I mentioned yesterday how Eric is a great guy, right?) I continued planting, and also added some Java moss to the branches of the manzanita.

Eric Do Helping Out

Finally, with the help of a H.O.T. magnum micron filter, the water cleared, and we were left with the aquascape below. It didn’t come perfectly, but it was enough to inspire plenty of questions from the folks attending. This entire setup was raffled off the next day, with lucky winner Rodney C., winning the raffle.

Finished Aquascape

The auction itself was a HUGE event. Registration started around 9:00am. All items were auctioned off by 7:45pm. Yes, the auction ran non-stop from 10:00am to 7:45pm, selling at least2000 individual items by my estimate. Some club members believe that it may be the largest aquarium auction ever in the history of the three clubs participating. If you missed it, you missed an opportunity to grab anything from books, tanks, equipment, fish, plants, invertebrates, substrate, etc. at great prices.


I didn’t come away empty-handed, either. I won the following:

Nannochromis nudiceps
Ancistrus sp. L279 “Huaco Mayo”
Corydoras Paleatus

Crypt. wendtii “Dewitt”
Anubias sp. “Gasser”
Anubias barteri var. ‘nana eyes’

I’ll post more about where all of those things went later this week.

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Aquafest 2007 – Speakers

October 23rd, 2007

On Saturday, three local clubs, GWAPA, CCA, and PVAS put on a great aquarium festival. Over 100 hobbyists attended, and the fish show was stocked with the best fish of the area. Three key speakers were present, each giving very insightful presentations about their area of expertise.


Tony Orso gave the first talk about West African Fish. Tony and his wife breed many exotic fish, and also had a vendor table setup with many for sale. During his talk, Tony rattled off facts about more West African fish than I could scribble notes about in my notebook. He ran through nearly all of the Hemichromis jewel cichlids, spent quite a bit of time on the Tilapia, and many other genera. As it turns out, he talked about Nanochromis nudiceps, which I ended up snagging in the auction on Sunday. Ultimately, I have a long list of species names that I need to start chugging into the web to learn more about after this presentation.

Rusty Wessel

Next on the bill was Rusty Wessel to talk about experiences collecting in Honduras. Rusty has been to the country over 18 times, and noted many differences between his visits. He mentioned how much more accessible the rivers became after Dole corporation built paved roads all throughout the country to transport their produce from the fields to port. Unfortunately, deforestation by slash/burn, generally poor infrastructure and pollution throughout the country, and introduced Tilapia still threaten the native fish population.

Liberty Molly - Rusty Wessel

Above is a brand new fish discovered in Honduras called the Liberty Molly. Rusty was nice enough to bring a pair of these to auction on Sunday. He talked about many different river systems, including the Rio Choluteca that flows toward Nicaragua, and is home to many convict cichlids and a native anableps livebearer, shown below.


The Honduran Red Point Convict Cichlid is another excellent fish from the country. It is easy to breed, producing up to 75 fry per spawn, and only grows to 3-4 inches in length. In addition, it’s not very agressive, and is pretty too, as you can see below. This species was just described about a week ago, and is distinguished from other convicts by the broken vertical line above the head.

Honduran Red Point Convict Cichlid

Rusty went on to cover a number of other native fish such as the Rainbow cichlid, Black-belt cichlid, Jack Dempsey, cuteri, and many others.

Eric Do at Aquafest 2007

Finally, GWAPA’s speaker, Eric Do gave his presentation about “Freshwater Invertebrates in Planted Aquariums.” I was fortunate enough to spend most of Friday with Eric and a few other GWAPA members as we gave him a brief tour of Washington D.C. Not only does Eric know his invertebrates and plants, but he’s a great guy. Eric gave an updated version of the same presentation I saw him give at the AGA last year. He went through a huge list of shrimp that we know in the hobby — Cherry Reds, Amanos, Snowball, Red Dragons, Tigers, Greens, etc…

Crystal Red Color Morph

New to his talk were many pictures of some of the color morphs breeders are creating with the crystal red shrimp. Above is a very valuable anomaly of a crystal red where half of its body is red and the other half is black. He also noted that although uncommon, crystal reds and cherry shrimp can hybridize so they should be kept separately. In of tank of many females of one species, and only a few males from the other, nature will find a way.

Aegla platensis

Finally, Eric introduced the Aegla platensis freshwater dwarf crab. It really looks more like a cross between a crayfish and a crab, but is a crab nonetheless. It only gets to 2″ in length. Neat!

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Aquafest 2007

October 9th, 2007

GWAPA, CCA, and PVAS are co-sponsoring a regional (mid-atlantic) fall aquarium festival and show, Aquafest 2007, on October 20th and 21st. The show will have some excellent speakers including Eric Do, talking about invertebrates in the planted aquarium, Tony Orso, speaking about West African fish, Rusty Wessel, recapping his adventures collecting in Honduras, and of course, Ray “Kingfish” Lucas providing plenty of excitement during the banquet. Registration is only $10. If you want meals included, it’s very minimally more. If you do want to register for meals, the deadline is this Friday, so don’t wait! You can register at this URL:

In addition, GWAPA members, myself included, will demonstrate how to setup a planted aquascape. If you have questions about how to grow plants in an aquarium, please come and ask your questions. If you have trouble turning a design in your head into a real aquascape, please come by. If you can grow plants, but grow lots of algae too, please come. If you still can’t pull off an aquascape, don’t worry; we will be raffling off our final aquascaped tank on Sunday, so all you have to do it take it home and set it back up.

If you have some beautiful fish that you would like to show off to fellow hobbyists, please consider entering them in the fish show.

Finally, if none of this interests you, and all you want is an opportunity to buy fish/plant/dry goods that you can’t find at your local fish store, come to the auction on Sunday, the 21st. Admission is free and I guarantee that there will be items there you haven’t seen before.

I hope to see you there! Register now!

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Rocks Around the Christmas Tree

December 4th, 2006

This is a story of what can happen when too many compulsive obsessive aquarium keepers gather at a conference, full of ideas and full of support for other outrageous ideas that somehow don’t seem so outrageous at the time. I’m not really sure exactly how I became involved with this particular expedition, but nevertheless, I find myself fully involved and responsible for what went on. I’ve got 750 lbs of rock sitting in my basement right now, 500 lbs for myself, and 250 for another co-conspirator. How did it get here?

I was attending the second day of talks at the AGA conference in California, and during one of the breaks, I walk over to start talking to a group of folks, among who were Ghazanfar Ghori, Jay Luto, Jeff Ludwig, Ed Greenberg, Jeff Senske, and others. Ghazanfar starts talking about this California “gold” that a couple of the local SFBAAPS club put him on to. Apparently, Ghazanfar and crew were at a local member’s home admiring one of their tanks, when they asked the host where the rock featured in their tank came from. The host replies that he bought it from a local rock yard, and would be happy to take them there.
So, they go to the rock yard, and right next to the rock they were seeking are five pallets of this other amazing rock labeled “mossy porous rock.” The group scouts out a few of the pallets, and manages to exchange some choice pieces from the five pallets, consolidating them into one prime set. Ghazanfar inquires the staff about the cost of the rock, a few local folks purchase a handful of pieces, and they leave the rock yard.

Back at the convention, I meet up with the group, and they tell me their rock adventures, and say that they’re interested in figuring out how to get some back to the East coast. They start seriously talking about the ludicrous idea of shipping a pallet of rock back home. Again, when 2 or more obsessive aquariums meet, no idea is too outrageous, even when it involves shipping 1500 lbs of rock coast-to-coast. Without doubt, I volunteer to go in on the purchase, hoping to first see the rock in person. Luckily, one of the local members, had a few pieces of rock in the trunk of his car. So, we file into the garage, check out the rock, and proceed back to my hotel room to figure out freight.

“Wonderful,” I think to myself, the rock costs 5 times as much to ship as it does just to purchase the pallet. I start thinking rationally for a moment with thoughts like, “how will I ever explain this idea to my wife.” Shortly thereafter, those thoughts turned to, “how can I best explain that this might be my only chance in my lifetime to obtain this rare and Amano-esque rock.” Luckily, she didn’t have an objections, so everything was set. The rock was to arrive at Ghazanfar’s house sometime after Thanksgiving, but we come to find out that a pallet actually weighs 2600 lbs, not the 1500 lbs we originally thought!

Exactly one week after Thanksgiving, Ghazanfar emails me saying that the rock has arrived, and we arranged to pick it up the following Sunday morning. On Sunday morning, another GWAPA member, Rob, myself, and Ghazanfar start evaluating the rock pile in front of us. Unfortunately, the rock isn’t in nice manageable pieces that you can just throw into an aquarium, let alone lift in some occasions. We were faced with the task of breaking up the rock.

Now, I’ve never been to prison, and don’t plan on trying it out, but in the movies you see hard-time inmates spending their days quarrying and breaking up rock. Let’s just say that I’ve been scared straight by these endeavor. First, we tried using a chisel split the rock. Unfortunately, we probably spent more time trying to dislodge the chisel from the rock, then actually splitting rock with that method. Then, Rob decided to try his incredible hulk method of lifting the rock above his head, and slamming it down on a bed of rocks below. That surprisingly worked pretty well for some pieces, but we found that it had the unfortunate side effect of sending large pieces of rock flying everywhere, including our shins. Yes, that does hurt, a lot! Finally, more out of frustration than anything, we just started wailing at the rock with the sledge hammer itself. Surprisingly (and quite satisfyingly), we started splitting rock at a pretty decent pace this way. After about 4 hours, we finally split the pallet into manageable pieces.

After sorting, and shifting the rock into equal piles for all of our members, we were finally done. Bloody shins, arms, and all, we loaded 750lbs of rock in my little Toyota Corolla, and I headed home. Was all of this worth it? A large box, rubbermaid, and two buckets full, say “hell yeah!”

PS: I fully apologize of for the terribly corny title of this post, but deal with it, okay?

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