MACNA 2017 was a lot of fun and, as always, very interesting. In addition to the usual frag vendors, acrylic tank crafters, abjectly awful and horrifically expensive brisket sandwich slingers, and a whole slew of professionals and hobbyists, there were some new and interesting trends that I thought I'd share with you guys.
Lots of phytoplankton start-ups. In addition to the established players that have been around for a while like Reed Mariculture and AlgaGen, there were several new vendors showcasing common phyto strains, such as nannocloropsis, isocrysis, tetraselmis, etc., along with diatoms, flagellates and other critters for 'pod cultures, larval fishes and coral feeding. It's a cool trend if their QC is good enough to keep undesirables out of their clients' systems. It's also a positive trend if there are enough hobbyists that need fresh phyto to feed their corals, larval animals and gutload their 'pods and naups.
Grab 'n' Go systems for retailers. These are very simple closed systems with modules that hobbyists can grab and take with them without making a mess in the car or in the store. They're buying the container along with the livestock, ostensibly saving the retailer time chasing that one particular ocellaris in a tank full of 350 Nemos. It's also an innovative marketing display.
Long-term, the system is not built for healthy water and healthy animals, as the bio- and mechanical filtration is a mesh in the outflow trough in the back of each tier and, by design, the turnover in each cell and the system as a whole is pretty poor. However, I thought it was an interesting design. They might be good for bettas but not much else longer than hours of operation. It was also a reminder that this conference is for retailers, too!
Next up, quite possibly the coolest algae scrubber I've ever seen. I spoke with the designer and builder, who blanched a bit when I referred to it as a scrubber but the concept is the same.
It's kinda tough to see but the core of the unit is encrusted with 2-3 different types of high-output LEDs encased in a polymer tube designed to resist crazing from the heat. Inside the LEDs is a sealed tube of water. The water heats up, rises to the top of the sealed tube and heat leaves the system via the heat sink you can see there at the top of the unit. The algae grow on the coiled strands you can see that run the length of the unit. Lots of fancy plastic fabrication and beveling on this thing. Light passes through the logo next to the name for a bit of extra coolness. As you might guess, these things aren't cheap but they appear to be well made. I believe he told me this unit, the biggest one I saw in the booth which stands 30-32 inches high, retailed for around $1,800.00. If I took a chunk like that out of my budget at work, I'd probably lose my job after they re-assembled my employer's head but such is the stuff from which daydreams and deliciously low NO3 and PO4 params are woven. Nice unit. I'd love to build a teaching system around this thing.
PImpyoursump.com. I have to admit, this Bashsea gear is pretty and definitely caught my eye but I was not overimpressed with the gauge of the acrylic. Plus, unless the buyer wants to spend as much time cleaning their sump as they do their display, it won't stay very pretty for very long. Then there's the attendant gurgling, pump noise and salt spray. They're cool, no doubt, but unless you want to showcase it in your living room (and good luck selling that to your SO,) you're better off spending half as much and having a more robustly built custom sump built by a crafty acrylic fabricator you know.
Then there's this, also at the Bashsea booth.
Skimmer or pinball machine? This unit stands around 48" high. The guy evaded three different attempts to get a price. If you have to ask..... I guess. But even still, let's say you have unlimited resources and want to connect this ringtailed screamer to your 1,500-gallon reef system. Sure looks like it could handle that volume. If I bought something that pretty, I'd want to keep it pretty but there isn't enough single malt in the world to get me to disassemble and clean the auger-looking thing in the tube on the left on a regular basis.
Interesting hybrid system. When people find out what I do for a living, they often ask if I have any tanks at home. I don't but this got me thinking about it. It's made by a Canadian outfit called Brio and retails for (yikes!) $500.00.
9.5-gallon FW tank on the left, sump under and growing tray on the right for nutrient export. Small recirculating pump in the sump and LED readouts and controls on a panel in the back to tweak lighting duration and intensity. I had visions of fresh basil, chives and cilantro dancing in my head while I loitered in front of this thing, along with rummies, cardinals and a coupla Otocinclus. I've no intention of spending that kind of money on this system but it got me thinking about building something on a larger scale in my lab further on down the road.
Saw lots of new rolling mechanical filtration systems with paper media, do-it-yourself automated home WQ testing units, 4-5 new rivals to Neptune Apex controllers/monitors and beautifully designed skimmers that also looked impossible for an adult to clean properly .
Another trend was Chinese manufacturers, who I assume have been building pumps, skimmers and other LSS components for name brands for years, who are now trying to build their own brand awareness. Some of the gear looked pretty good, some of it looked pretty cheesy but it probably won't be long before we're debating the merits of an Aquarium Jalale pump versus one made by JIAYU.
Overall, this was another great experience and in a very cool city. If you've never made it to a MACNA, they're pretty much fish- and invert-geek nirvana and well worth checking out to talk to vendors, get lots of free swag, see the newest/latest in gear, food, tank, LSS design and other stuff and generally have a great time. The raffles have uncommonly nice items and are held each of the three afternoons and if you scout stuff you need on Friday or Saturday and linger on Sunday afternoon, you can score some new gear on the cheap, as the vendors usually don't want to pack it back up and take it with them. Also, most of the speakers are very good, as are the workshops, both of which go on all day for each of the three days.
The next MACNA is in Las Vegas in early September 2018. I've never had any desire to visit Vegas but I'm already registered and am looking forward to it. Hope to see you guys there!