Houston Plant Fest 2009
Getting to the Houston Plant Fest 2009
The Houston Plant Fest 2009 started after a "smooth" flight, a fight with a GPS and a tight car ride, we all ended up at Luis’ house. Luis and the others that had arrived before us met us with a warm welcome. After a quick tour of Luis’ beautiful home and his extensive aquarium collection, we all headed out to the Potatoe Patch for some dinner. Now it must be said, I love food! Luckily for me, I was about to be introduced to Texas-style eating!! I sat next to Ricky, who is one of Texas' professional eaters. He gave me a quick rundown of what should be ordered. Within minutes, I was eating chicken fried steak...all you can eat style.
Eating with the crew!
Chicken Fried Steak!
After eating more than a normal person should eat, we made our way back to Luis’ house for the initial setup of his new planted aquarium layout. He carefully added the substrate and leveled it using his right angle and an iPhone substrate leveling app made specifically for planted aquariums. After the substrate was in the aquarium, it was time to head to the Houston Aquarium Warehouse.
The very famous Luis Navarro
Tools of the trade
iPhone planted aquarium substrate leveler
Jay video documenting
Houston Aquarium Warehouse
The front waiting room boasted two large aquariums. One was a beautiful Angelfish setup while the other was a nice ADG style planted aquarium. The owner was generous in talking with all of us and explaining his business and his store philosophy. We all used this time to continue to catch up and admire some great fish and some nice planted aquariums.
Houston Aquarium Warehouse
"Did you see these Gobies?!"
Back to the hotel for a quick night-cap, and then off to bed for our 4 o'clock wake up call to collect plants in San Marcos.
Houston Plant Fest 2009 San Marcos Plant Collecting Trip
We all gathered in the hotel lobby waiting for the road warrior drivers, Thanh and Bhushan, to arrive with the vans that would take us on our 3-hour trek to San Marcos for some wild plant collecting.
Ready for Houston Plant Fest 2009 some collecting
Waiting for our ride
Thanh - "Houston Plant Fest 2009 Road Warrior"
The ride to San Marcos was fun and good spirited, we all entertained each other, bringing together all of our personalities to create a very funny ride.
Arriving in San Marcos, we all got out of the vans and headed right to the river. Now, I am from Pennsylvania and our water is brown and cloudy at best. So, the clarity of the San Marcos River was very surprising. The San Marcos River is spring-fed and literally crystal clear. The clarity allowed one to see right to the bottom, where many species of plants including hydrocotyle verticillata, hygrophila polysperma, and riccia fluitans were just growing like they would in our planted aquariums. It was actually quite breathtaking to see these plants in the wild, scaped by nature.
Dave had to jump right in
Ricky had enough!
Thanh and Preetam
Jay the bush master
Taking a break
Back in the van, we all returned to Houston for a gracious event held by Jaime De Pujadas of Fish Gallery. When walking into Fish Gallery, you could tell they are taking aquarium stores to the next level. All the aquariums were beautifully kempt and stylishly placed around the store. There was a large gathering area with an amazing 4500 gallon, 4x10x18 foot aquarium that demanded gazing! The livestock aquariums, which included freshwater, saltwater, and planted aquariums were all extremely clean, well-kempt and matched the style set by the show tanks throughout the gallery. We all enjoyed more great Texas hospitality, which of course included fantastic food and drink!!
It was time to say goodbye to our new friends at Fish Gallery and head back to the hotel to rest after a very long day of great food, inspiring sites, and generous people. ...but first, another quick night-cap that provided a great summary of the day and great spirits for the next.
Saturday morning or the Houston Plant Fest 2009 was the one I most anticipated. I have known the guys from ADG for a couple of years, but this was going to be my first time visiting their gallery. After a huge and filling breakfast, of course, we all headed over there.
ADG is beautiful!! The whole space is utilized in a way that shows a focus on interior design and the complement between space, art, and aquaria.
The fusion of art and aquaria
Conference Room - ADG style!
Mike Senske was so generous to us all, showing everyone around and catching up on things with his guests! He showed us his current layout that is slated for release in the ADA contest. I cannot include a picture at this time, but I think Mike is pressing the boundaries of the hobby with this one!! I wish him the very best of luck with this layout….it was an inspiring tank to say the very least!!
Mike Senske Planted Aquarium Demo
Mike gave us a great demo on setting up a planted aquarium. He was knowledgeable as well as gracious, taking time to tell us the story of ADG, thank his employees, family, brother, and his esteemed visitors. There was also a brief ceremony for Luis Navarro, a sort of lifetime achievement award!! He really is famous!!
Goodies from Seachem
Luis' Lifetime Achievement Award
After the demo, there was an auction for the unused plants as well as a raffle for some great Seachem stuff and a rimless tank donated by ADG!! I did not win:(
Mary Beth - Winner of the Rimless tank raffle!
After the mind-spinning time at ADG, it was time to pack up again and head north for a Texas BBQ on Lake Houston.
Lake House TX BBQ
Valerie and her husband were so generous to invite us all for a smorgasbord of food, fun and drink. We all ate more than we thought possible, laughed, played pool, and shared stories of our time in Houston.
John Dinh ruling the table
It was now time to say goodbye to many of my new great friends. A truly great weekend was coming to an end, but not without a fight!
After leaving Valerie's we headed over to Luis' to finish what we had started, his aquascape. The remaining warriors of the weekend gathered at Luis' and all took turns at working on a hard scape. We all “encouraged” each other with digs and friendly banter. After 4 different hardscapes, we all agreed on one (Luis’ original layout). By this time, it was very late and time to get the plants into the aquarium. Luis and Dinh began the process, while the rest of us watched. Time was against us, and most of us had to get back to our hotels for early flights. We all said goodbye to Luis, Dinh and Thanh who stayed to help Luis finish. I really don’t believe they ever did get to sleep that night; now that is iron aquascaping!!
Mr. Seachem himself
After a couple of hours of sleep, it was time to head to the airport and leave my new friends and my new love for Texas.
Special thanks to NASH, Luis for having us at his place, Thanh for driving our van, Mike Senske and ADG, Jaime and Fish Gallery, HAW, Seachem for sponsoring, Valerie for hosting the BBQ and Kevin's father for cooking, Ricky for showing me chicken fried steak, Shane for his great laugh, Paul for the early ride to the airport, and everyone who made it a warm and fun Houston Plant Fest 2009!
See you guys soon!!
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