Please note that this is a re-published article written last year (2009).
Road Trip to Maryland!
This October, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the Aquafest 2009 event in Laurel, Maryland. A local plant friend of mine Joshua and I decided to take a road trip instead of flying. The drive went smooth and took us less than 11 hours (including stops) to arrive at the hotel where the event was being held. Upon our arrival, I went inside to check in, got our luggage, and then headed our way to the room to catch up on some rest.
Let the Aquafest Begin!
After a couple hours of rest, I headed down to the lobby area where I met up with Dave Williams, also known as “ingg” on the planted aquarium forums. Along with Dave, I met up with Kris Weinhold, president of the Greater Washington Aquarium Plant Association, and he introduced me to a few new faces. I went over to the registration table and picked up my registration packet, inside included the agenda for the weekend, name badge, and wristbands that are for the lunch and banquet. Furthermore, Kris gave me a tour of the fish show room, the vendor rooms, and the clubs display room. There were a total of 4 vendor rooms and each vendor offered many different types of fish, plants, food, equipment, and other aquarium products. The fish show room contained many tanks ranging from 5.5g aquariums to 20g aquariums and displayed fish such as cichlids, catfish, livebearers, anabantoids, and other freshwater aquarium fish. Even though I am personally not too into fish as I am into aquascaping, it was very cool to see the many types of fish that entered the show.
Heading to Kris Weinhold’s Place
During my time in Maryland, Kris invited me to his place to check out his planted aquariums. As I entered into the house, the first aquarium I spotted was a native planted aquarium with Blue Spotted Sunfish. We then proceeded to the basement where the remaining of his planted aquariums were set up. He first showed us his 75g planted aquarium that was which he recently aquascaped earlier this year. The aquascape contained many stem plants, some, if not all, that you normally wouldn’t find available for sale at your local pet store. The foreground of the aquarium was filled with Glosstigma elantoides, a common and fast growing foreground plant which is readily available. Kris then walked us into another room in the basement to show us his the rest of his planted aquariums. Inside the room was a 50g breeder that was also recently aquacaped, a 30g breeder farm tank, two 2.5g planted aquariums, a 20g riparium display, a 20g long low light planted aquarium, and two immersed plant setups.
Planted Aquarium Photography by Jason Baliban
The next morning I overslept and sadly missed the first presentation, “The Fishes of Uruguay” by Ken Davis. However, I was certainly prepared for the next presentation in line, “Planted Aquarium Photography” by Jason Baliban. As I sat down, Jason went ahead and began his presentation on photographing the planted aquarium and his method of creating the amazing “white background”. After his presentation, Jason showed us a few of the tricks he uses to enhance his final shot images without majorly altering the images itself. These tricks were applied in Adobe Photoshop and you had to be there in order to see for yourself, sorry it’s a secret! Overall, the talk was pretty helpful and hopefully I can apply some of the tricks I learned to my future photos.
GWAPA Aquascaping Demo
After lunch, I volunteered to help out GWAPA with preparing plants and hardscape materials for the upcoming “GWAPA Aquascaping Demo”. Just like the Aquatic Gardeners Association Iron Aquascaper Competition, this demo featured Jason Baliban and Jeff Ucciardo as the two aquascapers going head to head. Each aquascaper was given a one hour time limit to fully aquascape a rimless aquarium setup. Both aquascapers finished within the one-hour time frame and next followed the judging. I was one of the three judges that judged the final aquascapes of the competition. I will admit that this was my first time judging and speaking in a large audience, but overall I think I executed fairly well. As the other two judges, Ghazanfar Ghori and Ben Belton explained their explanation and decision, Jason’s aquascape turned out to be the favored, but in all fairness, both aquascapers did what they could within the one hour time limit and both deserve to be winners.
Banquet with Ray “Kingfish” Lucas
The day ended with a delicious banquet and a guest speaker, Ray “Kingfish” Lucas who focused on three things on his speech, Fishfood, Fun, and Friends. After the banquet, I walked to the vendor rooms and did a last minute purchase for fish and plants before they closed down. I ended up buying a trio of wild caught Blue Rams, a lot of Anubias coffefolia, and a bag of school of Vietnamese White Clouds.
The last day of the Aquafest was the large auction. As I made my way down, people were bringing in many boxes filled with plants, fish, decoration, etc… you name it, and it was there! Unfortunately I was not able to stay for the whole auction, but I did however, ended bringing home a bag of Cryptocoryne parva, a crypt that I’ve been searching for quite a while. I went to say my goodbyes and made my way out the door and took a last trip to the Baltimore National Aquarium before heading back home.
My Last Thoughts
As always, I had a great time attending the Aquafest, being the first one I have ever attended. It was definitely great to see old friends and meet new ones. My thanks go out to all of those who participated in the Aquafest and especially to the three clubs; GWAPA, PVAC, CCA, and those who invested so much time and energy to make it such a great weekend. I look forward to seeing you all next year at AGA 2010!