Nothing is worse than being invited to a great party and not being able to attend. If you did not go to this year’s Reefapalooza in New York, that is definitely the case. Since I know you already feel bad if you did not get to go, I will try not to rub it in, but you did miss a great time.
Instead I will share what were some of the high points for me and hopefully the enjoyment I had attending it will cause you to plan on going next year. As usual Victor and Lou and their staff from World Wide Coral did a masterful job of organizing the event and making it fun from the start on Saturday, Friday night for the vendors, to the close Sunday.
I have been to several of these including the Orlando one and the grandfather of them all in Orange County, but going to the one on the East coast is special to me since I have been to so many clubs there over the years, and it allows me to catch up with many old friends.
I also got to chauffeur my twin brother Sanjay up from State College, so we got to spend six hours talking about the state of the hobby and where we see things going. It is always good to compare notes and see the things we agree as well as the things we disagree about. Despite our being friends now for over 25 years there was still enough that we disagreed about that the trip went by quickly.
Once we arrived it was impressive to see how many people were already surrounding the vendors even though we were there only 30 minutes after the opening. Once we started walking around it was easy to see why, this event really was geared to hobbyists and having fun. I believe there were more unique and beautiful corals from more vendors being displayed for sale here than I have seen at any other venue.
The vendors had just about every coral imaginable for sale and there were a lot of vendors that I had not seen at any events before. Of course Jason Fox, Cherry Corals, Unique and World Wide Corals were there as well as Pieces of the Ocean, Two Guys Coral, Ultimate Corals, ReefGen, JoeKnowsCorals, The Coral Shoppe and even ReefRaft came all the way from California for a first time visit to the East Coast.
There was everything from Acanthophyllias to zoanthids available in virtually every color and from whole colonies to single frags. What I especially like about going to these events is that here you can see the what the true color for every coral is before you buy it, there is no manipulation.
Granted most of the corals are shown under blue lights for maximum effect, but most vendors will allow you to adjust the light to a more normal white color so that you can see what the coral will likely look like in your own tank. This is a big advantage over buying a piece that is possibly photoshopped online.
Most attendees seemed to like the opportunity to view the corals directly as well as being able to ask the vendors the conditions under which they were growing these corals. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you are buying expensive Montipora, or Acropora it is nice to know when specific ones you bought prefer subdued lighting versus those that prefer bright lighting.
It was also an opportunity to ask how fast they grow to compare growth rates in your tank. One funny thing that we noted though, is that despite there being literally thousands of corals on display, not a single brown coral was to be seen as far as the eye could see. Not only is this markedly different from the early years when corals were displayed, but it is also markedly different from what is seen on most reefs.
It confirmed my belief that our tanks bear only a slight resemblance to what corals look like on an actual reef. Next year I may set up a display of brown corals and sell them as “rare” since seemingly no one in hobby appreciates their beauty any more. I know I am just as bad as most, but I actually do still have a couple of brown corals in my tanks.
There was also something new at this show in that for the first time in a long time I actually saw a fair number of fish being displayed as well. Most of these were rare or high end, but it was nice to see them displayed and offered for sale nonetheless, especially since some of the hobbyists that attended do not have ready access to these types of fish other than through the internet.
Just as there were no brown corals, so too were there virtually no metal halide lamps to be seen. It is amazing that in just a relatively short time the hobby has shifted so dramatically over to LED lamps. While I did so a couple of years ago, it is nonetheless impressive to see how wide this switch has been. Having said that, there were several new LED fixtures to take the halides place.
Chris from Coralvue showed the new Giesemann hybrid fixture that utilized a very thin powder coated reflector that not only produced an impressive amount of light but was also aesthetically quite pleasing. Tullio and Joy of ReefBrite also showed off a new LED fixture that produced enough light that it lit up the ceiling nearly 40 feet above us. Tullio also devised a new electronic ballast for those of us who still love our halides that ran as cool as any halide ballast I have ever come across.
Also for the first time three German companies, FaunaMarin, GHL and CM distributors shared a large booth and after a long conversation with Claude Schumacher of Fauna Marin I am confident that they are also planning on having a more significant presence here in the states. This is good news for us, as the products these companies produce are top notch and having them warehoused here with support staff should provide us with greater access at better prices.
Having used products from all of them I am very happy that they have realized the potential the US market has for quality products. Other new products that impressed me were the new larger sized gyre pump that CoralVue previewed as well as their new controller which will allow for much easier coordination of two pumps at once.
The power of the Abyzz pump was also on display and was impressive in how much water it could move. I also spoke with the folks at Ecotech, and while I can’t talk about the new products they are working on, I am pretty comfortable in saying that when they come out, they will be impressive additions to the great products they already have.
All of the things I described above would have been reason enough to go to Reefapalooza, but fortunately there was much more. Unlike some events I have been at, there really was the sense that this was more like a party in that everyone seemed to be happy and having a good time. The aisles were packed and loud both days, but it was not overwhelming.
And because the East Coast people are a relatively close knit group it was great not only for me to see lots of old friends and share stories, but as I watched the other attendees I saw that they too were rekindling old friendships and sharing stories. And while there were speakers, they were not back to back to back, so if you wanted to see them you could and still have time to visit most of the vendors.
In terms of the talks, which I always try to attend wherever I am, I thought they were great in that they were fun, informative, and as usual I learned something new. Jake talked about one of his dive trips in Indonesia and not only did he show that there are still a lot of beautiful corals that we have yet to see, he also showed something that I know want to replicate if or more likely when I do an another new tank, he showed several beautiful coral bommies.
While I had not really appreciated how interesting and beautiful in their simplicity these structures were, seeing them in the wild was eye-opening. Now when I do another tank I will try to do one where there are only 4 or 5 different species of coral, like a mixture of stags and tables like he showed with only a couple of different species mixed in, and where the beauty comes from their growing and interacting together.
I also learned from Sanjay’s talk on the 10 year history and development of his tank things I need to do to try and reduce the likelihood of encountering some of the problems he has had to overcome over the years. More impressive than his talk or how quickly he has regrown his tank after these calamities was how into the hobby he still is despite these numerous setbacks.
While I learned from these talks I also appreciate that I was able to learn a lot talking to vendors and old friends alike. Chatting with Julian, Bob Stark, Joe Yaiullo or Randy Donowtiz among the many other long-timers there always provides invaluable insight and information. We are lucky that despite the number of old friends that I have had leave the hobby, there still are a lot of people that have been in this a long time who are still willing to share their knowledge.
When I got home I happily shared all of this information with my daughter, who honestly was less than interested, but then she asked a simple question:” So what was your favorite part of the show?” After thinking a minute, it was simple: I was most excited by watching Sanjay finally feeling the same excitement I have when I go to these shows as he actually became as impulsive as I am.
That is for the first time he actually came home with as many corals as I did, even after swearing he was not getting anything. And more importantly he was just as excited as I usually am as he placed the almost 30 bags in quarantine and started thinking of making room for them, and I look forward to watching them grow out in his tanks over the next few years. However I should point out that it did make me laugh that when I asked him he no more remembered the names of all the corals than I do.
I am already looking forward to next year’s Reefapaloozas, and while each one is different, they all seem to be growing in both stature and attendance. Now they just need to plan one in the Midwest as if I recall correctly there are still a lot of hobbyists there that are missing out.
I hope you all enjoy the long weekend and do more than work on your tanks.