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Aquarama 2011

Posted: July 22, 2011, 2 p.m., EDT

By John Dawes

Aquarama 2011, held from May 26 to 29 in Suntec, Singapore, was undoubtedly the Aquarama of nano aquaria and LED (light emitting diode) lights. Both types of product were everywhere.

Nanos and LEDS

Click to enlarge.
Suntec Singapore (centre of picture)--home of Aquarama 2011…and 2013.
Photo by John Dawes
As I’ve predicted, the spread of nano aquaria has been relentless over the past couple of years, to the extent that aquarium manufacturers no longer appear to consider their product range complete without at least one nano model. Interestingly, the shape of nano tanks--once so varied--is now virtually restricted to the cube. In fact, I only spotted one other shape (in a tank that not everyone would consider a nano) and it was rectangular. All the fancy shapes of the past appear to have vanished.

Again as predicted, the development of nano equipment has continued apace. Notable among these this year was the introduction of a carbon dioxide diffuser by German company Dennerle GmbH specifically designed for these small aquaria. Lighting and filtration equipment for nanos has also witnessed similar development and were widely exhibited at the event.

The so-called nano cubes (which began making an appearance some years back, but are not true nanos, since they are quite large) were also very much in evidence, along with their supporting equipment. These days, such equipment includes UV sterilizers specifically designed for such systems, thus facilitating the keeping of marine species, which seems to be the latest trend with regard to these cubes.

LED lights were displayed in numerous booths, either as independent units or, as in the case of some of the setups exhibited by U.S. company JBJ, incorporated within complete aquarium systems. Some of these lighting units claim to have a lifespan of 50,000 hours and to emit spectra suited for low-to-mid light-requiring corals, and for those species with high-light demands.

This year’s aquaria in the Marine Tank Competition were also illuminated with LED units, this time from the Chinese company Maxspect, thus giving the promotion of these systems a further sizable boost.

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Numerous booths displayed nano aquaria, all cube-shaped.
Photo by John Dawes
Water Treatment

Away from lighting, Aquarama exhibitors provided a wealth of products and livestock of every description. Among the new exhibitors,  the Coral-Shop located in Kominska, Czech Republic, had an interesting range of super-accurate dosifiers for use in marine aquaria. These units can be programmed manually or automatically to administer appropriate doses of selected minerals and trace elements essential for marine organisms. They can be set to do so up to a rate of 24 cycles per 24 hours, and come complete with alarm and sleep modes. Easy to set up and use, these dosifiers attracted a great deal of interest throughout the show.

So did two filtration systems that denitrify aquarium water using very distinct approaches. The system from the Japanese company Bio Labo Totto Co. Ltd., uses a series of in-line filtration chambers that, first of all, nitrify wastes in the normal way, (i.e. they oxidize ammonia to nitrites, then to nitrates), and then denitrifies them with anaerobic bacteria. Once the medium in the denitrifying chamber is consumed, you simply re-fill it with fresh medium.

The Hydra Internal Filter range from Qian Hu based in Singapore uses an approach involving a very low electric current passed through a catalyst to produce hydroxyl ions that will oxidize ammonia directly into free nitrogen gas, bypassing the usual nitrification process altogether. The company claims that this “world first” system can enhance natural filtration processes “by as much as a few hundred percent.” Interest in this brand-new product was very high, especially during the 2 1/2 trade-only days.

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LED lights were everywhere, including on the Marine Tank Competition aquaria.
Photo by John Dawes
Bowls with a Difference

Another Singaporean company, Zian Koi Paradise Pte. Ltd., displayed a beautiful range of hand-painted porcelain fish bowls (not in any way whatsoever, resembling traditional goldfish glass bowls) that look certain to be a hit. The bowls come with an in-built filtration and water circulation system, and sit on an ornate carved wood or ceramic pedestal that makes them genuine decorations either for indoors or outdoors.

It took a great deal of time and expertise to create the central hole and sump that lie at the heart of these “mini-ponds,” owing to the delicate nature of the porcelain and the need to fire it in high-temperature kilns. Undoubtedly, the effort and expense were well worth it.

Other Product Highlights

With ornamental fish disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment being ever-more-prominent in the trade, partly as a result of Dr. Gerald Bassleer’s many international publications and workshops on the subject, there is also heightened interest in the use of microscopes in shops, wholesalers’ premises, fish farms, etc. Not surprisingly, therefore, German exhibitor Aquarium Münster had a busy show taking orders for microscopes with attached cameras and computer links, along with Gerald Bassleer’s latest book, The Practical Guide to Fish Diseases in Ornamental Tropical, Pond Fish (and Shrimp).

On a totally different note, Italian company Sicce did a roaring trade, selling out of its two new products, the Wave Surfer and the Voyager H.P. The former allows multiple wave/surf and current settings for marine aquaria, including night and feeding modes, and can be used “with any recirculation and stream pump up to 100 watts total for each of the two outlets.”

The Voyager range can be used for either freshwater or marine tanks from 265 to 4,000 gallons. These pumps can create spiral, as well as straight, flows and come with a flow regulator. The units are mounted on magnetic holders and can rotate through 360 degrees, while the pumps themselves can move vertically through 180 degrees.

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Mr. Shigeyuki Takada alongside his revolutionary nitrifying-denitrifying filter.
Photo by John Dawes
Livestock Novelties

Aquarama is not just a products show. In fact, it’s as famous for its live fish, invertebrates and aquatic plants as for its dry goods. This year was no exception. There was something for everyone.

Perhaps the most unique organism on show was the tadpole shrimp (Triops longicaudatus). This freshwater crustacean is becoming all the rage in the Far East and could well catch on in the West.

The tadpole shrimp is a living fossil with a record dating back some 200-million years. Surprisingly though, these interesting creatures have a very short lifespan of just 20 to 90 days. They are easy to hatch and feed and are undoubtedly an aquatic pet of great interest, particularly for children. A Taiwanese company, Uan Biotech Co. Ltd., had live specimens on display, as well as Triops kits for sale, complete with eggs, a rearing bowl and magnifier.

Another spectacular novelty was the winning entry in the new species category of the Aquarama International Fish Competition: the golden or clouded archer fish (Toxotes blythii) from Myanmar, entered by Qian Hu. Although this fish has been occasionally seen in shops in the West, it was new to Aquarama in the sense that all fish entered in this section of the competition must have been “discovered” or developed by the trade, in the intervening two years between Aquaramas. The attractive markings on the body of this fish could make it highly desirable, so long as the price is kept within reasonable bounds.

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The competition area (minus planted, nano and part of the marine tanks section) just prior to opening.
Photo by John Dawes
Dragon Trend

The 46 judges from 23 countries involved in this year’s competition had their work cut out for them, owing not just to the high number of entries, but also to the closely matched quality of the best fish of the show.

However, one team of judges faced a particularly stiff challenge (and I speak as one of these judges): those involved in judging the Dragon Fish Category. As usual, this was divided into four classes: Small Red, Small Crossback Golden (up to 17.7 inches), Large Red and Large Crossback Golden (above 17.7 inches).

Not only were the top fish of outstanding quality, but many of the golden crossbacks reflected a trend that has been becoming evident in recent years. Breeders have been selecting for golden coloration, to the extent that we now have golden crossbacks with hardly any or no black pigmentation on the scales, head or back, and with a lighter, more-golden sheen on the body. This has resulted in exceptionally spectacular golden fish with golden heads…giving the judges a real headache in choosing the winners and, especially, the Grand Champion: a truly magnificent golden head from Qian Hu Fish Farm Trading.

Planted, Nano and Marine Tanks

Once more, these were a feast for the eyes. This year also marked the launch of the Freshwater Nano Tank Competition, reflecting the growing interest in these small setups.

Added to the already-established Planted and Marine Tank Competitions, the aim is to show both the trade and the public what can be achieved with a little creativity, thus stimulating interest in both the freshwater and marine hobbies. Going by the large crowds that were drawn to these aquaria, both during the trade and public days, there can be no doubt that the aim was well fulfilled.

In order to stimulate interest in nanos even further, Stefan Walter of Dennerle GmBH presented two talks: one within the Trade Seminar Programme and the other within the Public Seminar Programme. Both presentations were very well attended, confirming the current elevated status of nanos.

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Exquisite porcelain fish bowls, complete with filtration system.
Photo by John Dawes

And speaking of seminars, this year’s crop of international speakers from 11 countries (Trade Seminars) and six countries (Public Seminars) presented what was probably the best package of talks ever staged at Aquarama. Everything from the European Union and Epizootic Ulcerative Syndrome legislation, to the care of Triops, taking in invasive species, biosecurity in commercial premises, “green” aquarium fish, eco-friendly mariculture, climate change, pre-export quality assurance, quality management, captive care, Multiscan fish disease diagnosis, the Indian ornamental aquatic industry, the meeting between science, industry and aquaria, and much more besides.

As ever, the Fish Farm Tour was fully subscribed, with visits to a dragon fish farm (Raffles Arowana), a marine exporter (Coral Farm), a large multi-faceted breeding/exporting company (Qian Hu Corporation) and two ultra-modern farms (Apollo Aquarium and Sanyo Aquarium), which employ the latest technology. Reports from those who attended this tour were all extremely positive, including the feedback from several trade delegates who were participating for the second or even the third time.

Aquarama in Good Shape

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Demonstrating recent trends, the Grand Champion dragon fish had an ultra-gold body with a golden head.
Photo by John Dawes
With close to 120 direct exhibitors, plus a host of indirect ones, from around 25 countries (the official stats were not yet available at the time of writing) Aquarama justified its reputation as the ornamental aquatic industry show of note on the international calendar.

Attendance was high, especially on the second trade day, despite the ongoing economic crisis in Europe and U.S. The organizers were therefore well pleased, not just with the support received from exhibitors, but also with the wide-ranging international mix of visitors. a mix that was patently obvious at a glance.

Every exhibitor I spoke to expressed satisfaction with the results, both in terms of sales and contacts. I also saw quite a few of them reserving booths for 2013, a sure sign that the Aquarama formula retains its pulling power.

Click to enlarge.
The beautiful golden or clouded archer fish, winner of the New Species Category.
Photo by John Dawes
There had been a rumor of unknown origin prior to this year’s event suggesting that this would be the last edition, that Aquarama was “in trouble”…and so on. All of this was emphatically dispelled in the Opening Ceremony address given by Chris Eve, Senior Vice-President of UBM Asia Trade Fairs Pte Ltd, who, without making reference to the rumor, commented on the tremendous trade response to Aquarama 2011, and announced the dates and venue for 2013 (May 30 to June 2 in Suntec, Singapore). This news was welcomed by those who were aware of the rumor and couldn’t see the logic of such a successful exhibition being wound up.

There can be no doubt that Aquarama 2011 fully lived up to expectations,  looked to be in perfect health…and is well and truly ready for the 2013 challenge what awaits round the corner.

Click to enlarge.
Triops, thefascinating "new" pet.
Photo by John Dawes
NOTE: Virtually by definition, I have only been able to refer directly to a small selection of the products and livestock exhibited at Aquarama 2011. The inclusion of these does not, in any way, imply personal endorsement or commercial interest. I have merely selected a sample that struck me as being of particular personal and professional interest.



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