Please note that this is a re-published article written in 2009.
Arrived To Houston!
I had scheduled my flight to arrive to Houston, TX a day early, as my flight safely landed, I became more anxious as I could not wait to enjoy the upcoming weekend planned events. After being picked up by Thanh, my host, from the airport, he took me for a cruise around the city of Houston. Later that evening, I was given some time to unpack and settle down for a bit. However, Thanh insisted that we go out for dinner at a sushi restaurant–Bhushan and his wife were also present.
Morning Breakfast and Welcoming Other Guests
Early next morning, Thanh and I went out for breakfast at Cracker Barrel along with a couple NASH members, Luis and Kevin. It has been a while since I’ve eaten there, and I must admit, their French toasts were awesome. After breakfast, we headed out to a tool supply store to grab some materials that we needed for Luis’s planted aquarium. Once we arrived to Luis’s home, I was shocked to see that there were NO PLANTED AQUARIUMS! Normally I would expect to see his house filled with many, but I guess I was wrong. We got a brief tour of the home and finally found our way upstairs where there were two empty aquarium setups, an ELOS rimless aquarium and an ADA 60-P rimless aquarium. That afternoon was spent working on getting the ELOS rimless aquarium hooked up and ready to go. Kevin did a great job with organizing all the gadgets and equipment that occupied inside the stand. After a few hours have passed, we were getting phone calls that the other guests have arrived to Houston. Thanks to Ricky Cain with the awesome GPS, he went to go pick up the guys from airport, knowing that their ride back to Luis’s home would be quite a journey. Later that day we all went out to try Texas style food at a restaurant called Potatoe Patch. Most of the guys settled for the chicken fried steak, however I settled for a burger.
San Marcos Plant Collecting Trip
Waking up at four ‘o clock in the morning is not something that we do everyday, however since it was for a plant collecting trip, it became an exception. Thank you to Thanh who drove the three-hour road trip, we arrived safely to our collecting point, San Marcos. As soon as we arrived, I was able to get my camera set up and ready to start taking photos of the place. To my surprise, the river water was crystal clear and aquatic plants like Hydrocotyle verticillata, Hygrophila polysperma, Riccia fluitans, and Fissidens fontanus were easily noticeable in the river and along the bed rocks.
A Visit to Houston Aquarium Warehouse
Dan, owner of Houston Aquarium Warehouse, was generous enough to host a small get together for all of us hang out later that night. The entrance lobby area displayed two large aquariums; one was a fully planted aquarium setup and the other was a driftwood only angelfish setup. As I walked in further, the warehouse contained many rows of aquariums filled with many species of fish. Dan is also known for his expertise in keeping Discus, and I must say that the strains of discus he had were very nice and healthy looking. It is not often that I am to see stores like HAW, so I had a great time there scoping out the whole place.
We packed up our gear and head on our way back to Houston. Jaime, owner of Fish Gallery graciously hosted a get together for us with delicious food and beverages. The front entrance of the gallery was quite amazing. Walking in, to the right was a room filled with aquariums, but the 4500-gallon aquarium was what caught my eye and it looked unbelievably awesome. The aquarium was absolutely amazing and filled with many varieties of fish. To complement the large aquarium, there were also several other neat looking aquariums that filled up the room. Throughout the store, there were isles of aquariums that contained saltwater and freshwater aquarium fish and plants. Their selection was nice and they seemed to do a great job of keeping their aquariums healthy and clean. During the time at Fish Gallery, I spoke with Eric Do and Paul Higashikawa about dwarf shrimp, one of the many critters that make our planted aquariums lively and appealing. We shared what our setups were like, the types of dwarf shrimp we kept, and tips to ensure the health and quality of our shrimp. It was great to be able to finally put the face to their names after knowing them on through the planted communities online.
A Visit to Aquarium Design Group
ADG has been one of my “must check out” places and when I was finally able to visit the place, I was amazed! Even though my interests focused based on planted aquariums, they had several other non-planted aquariums that looked just as beautiful. The gallery was filled with many aquariums and beautiful art pieces which created a peaceful atmosphere.
After greeting Mike Senske, I talked to him about his aquarium inside his office. He directed me to where his office was at and as I walked in, I could not believe how awesome his aquascape was. The way he laid out the rocks and how the plants filled in nicely was just amazing. Due to some limitations, I cannot say too much or post any photos, so you will have to see in the upcoming International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest competition. As soon as more people arrived, Mike began his presentation. It was interesting to hear about how ADG started, the trials and tribulations they have gone through, and how they were able to overcome them to become a successful aquarium business catering to high-end clients with beautiful aquariums. I was able to soak in a lot of information behind ADG and their philosophy. Following his speech, he began his aquascape demonstration with an ADA 90-P.
After Mike had finished his aquascaping demonstration, there was a mini auction of left over aquarium plants from the demonstration. During the auction, a couple of us did a small plant swap inside the conference room. I was able to find many nice plants that I haven’t had before, it was a great time to try out new plants.
Lastly, there was a raffle for ADG’s prototype of their new line of rimless aquariums, which of course, I did not win.
Lake House Texas BBQ
After the whirled fun of events at ADG, Valerie and her husband invited all of us back to their lake house for some fun, delicious food and beverages. Valerie gave us a tour of the entire home and surprisingly there was an elevator inside the house! How cool is that? After all of our fun eating, drinking and shooting pool, time was winding down to an end. We said our goodbyes to new and old friends and the wonderful hosts.
Late Night Aquascaping
After enjoying the company with food and drinks at the lake house, we headed back to Luis’s home to finish aquascaping his ELOS aquarium. After going through four different hardscape attempts between us, we finally narrowed down to one that we all agreed that looked best. By that time, the rest of the guys were starting to get tired and wanted to call it a night for some rest before their flight back home the next day. However, Thanh and I stayed back to help Luis finish his aquascape. There was a lot of work put into it, but at the end of the day, it was all worth it.
Saying Our Goodbyes
After a couple hours of packing up and only an hour or so of rest, my schedule to fly back home was coming near. Thanh drove me back to the airport where I said my goodbyes and thanked him for hospitality and generosity throughout my weekend in Houston.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of the NASH members, Ricky Cain of Seachem, Dan of Houston Aquarium Warehouse, Jaime of Fish Gallery, Mike Senske of Aquarium Design Group, Valerie for hosting such a great get together, Kevin’s father for the delicious food, and everyone else who made this event possible and enjoyable. I really enjoyed this event and I hope to come back to visit Houston soon.
I’ve also attended the Aquafest 2009 event hosted by GWAPA, did you read the Aquafest 2009 Recap ?