Thirteen years ago, I attended MACNA 2000 in Ft. Lauderdale. I had just finished my undergraduate studies, and happened to be in the area for other reasons. It was a memorable event for me, my first MACNA experience, and I had a memorable conversation with the late Peter Wilkens. Fast forward to 2013, and once again I found myself in Ft. Lauderdale at another MACNA. A lot has changed, most notably the scale of the event. This was the largest MACNA ever and yet, with thousands of hobbyists attending, it was still a very personal and memorable event.
The Westin Diplomat was quite the majestic backdrop for this year’s MACNA. The hotel was stunning inside and out. And to host a MACNA 100 yards from an actual reef is pretty fitting. I didn’t get a chance to make it out to that reef, but I did have a juvenile porcupine pufferfish come say hello during a quick swim.
There was plenty of coral inside as well! I have never seen so many livestock vendors at a MACNA. You could have easily checked off every coral on your wish list in one place. The coral vendors added a lot of color and sound to the event. Nothing like hearing some reggae while perusing LED-lit frag tanks with a coffee in hand. My only lament was that almost every coral vendor had their lights tweaked heavily to the blue end. I would have liked to see many of the corals under 10-14k spectrum.
The vendor display tanks were stellar as well. Aqua Illuminations had several amazing carpet anemones on display, which drew a lot of attention. Proaquatix had a circular tank with look downs shoaling in a loop. It was impossible to pass by it without stopping in a short trance. The EcoTech tank was one of my favorites. It was evident that the corals were loving the current from the Vortechs as well as the Radion XR30 Pro. The tank representing the Coral Restoration Foundation was top notch as well. I particularly enjoyed the small ray on display, as well as Matt Wittenrich’s Koran angel hybrids in a nearby system.
While I didn’t get a chance to attend as many talks as I wanted, I enjoyed the ones I did see. Our own Jake Adams had a great talk that differentiated the coral aquarium versus the reef aquarium. And for those that attended the banquet, I think everyone agrees it will be hard to top it at future MACNA. When you start with Richard Ross juggling swords(while balancing on a piece of wood resting on a large cylinder) and end with Richard Pyle talking about his dives with Ceolacanths… Well who will ever forget that evening!
As I said earlier, it still felt like a very personal and intimate event despite being the largest MACNA ever. I think it relates to everyone having the same passion and same reason for being in one place. It was really great to put faces to names, as well as getting to know the people behind the great companies in this hobby. I flew home tired as a person, but recharged as a hobbyist. A million ideas are still swirling in my head, ranging from changes to home aquaria to things happening on the other side of the world. It’s been a week, and I’m still in the decompression stage of the dive.
So now, all eyes are on Denver. The Colorado crew has a big act to follow but I trust they will do it. As a former resident of Colorado, I can tell you they have one of the greatest reef keeping communities in the country. And while you may not encounter any native reef life outside the hotel, the mountains have so much to offer. I hope to see you there. If you make it next year, come say hello and share a story!