On April 23, 2017, I had the good fortune to attend the 5th Annual Ocean State Reef Aquarium Society Conference, in Rhode Island. This is a bit self indulgent, but I thought I would share my experience with you. If you have ever thought about going to a reef aquarium conference, but weren’t sure what to expect or if you are on the fence about whether or not to join a local reef club, let me share with you a behind-the-scenes look at the OSRAS annual meeting that I recently attended, so you can see for yourself.
The night before
The night before is when a lot of the hard work happens. There was a function at the hotel that evening that didn’t wrap up until 11pm—so the OSRAS gang had to get the hall and displays ready between the hours of midnight and 9am. Ooof…
Not exactly my preferred hours of operation. But I can tell you, first-hand, that operating an event as large-in-scale as the OSRAS annual meeting is certainly a labor of love. The gang was dedicated to making this a great event.
You want to get to the conference early
The doors opened at 9 am. Those who got there early had first dibs on the best corals in the building. There were some deals to be had and a few show-stopping corals.
For example, I spent some time chatting with Dr. Art Salomon, who had an entire display tank filled with $5 frags. How can you beat that?
Veteran tip: Most of the vendors at a show like this will let you pay for and put aside a coral, so conference/frag swap veterans got the benefits of shopping early, without starting the clock on the transportation risks associated with your new purchase. The corals were happy and temperature controlled until picked u at the end of the day.
Getting there early also gave some people a chance to catch up with Jason Oneppo, from San Francisco Bay Brand or Chad Clayton from Reef Nutrition to learn about the latest and greatest products.
Mid-day…having the talk…
After getting the cherry corals and great-priced frags, a bunch of attendees relaxed in the afternoon and got some education.
OSRAS had two speakers in the afternoon: Al Ulrich, author of the Reef Aquarium Book Series and Saltwater Aquarium 101 (ever heard of him? notice how I tried to make a parenthetical joke here to distract you away from the shameless plug for my books…:)) and Chad Clayton from Reef Nutrition
My talk was about one of most dreaded saltwater aquarium troublemakers—Saltwater Ich, where I discussed the lifecycle of the parasite and described in detail the various methods of treatment as covered in peer-reviewed journals—meaning what was demonstrated in a controlled study—vs. what is speculated by the observations of hobbyists. In the process, I challenged a few of the conventional assumptions and (hopefully) dispelled a few myths.
Chad Clayton, from Reef Nutrition gave an excellent presentation on Live Feeds and their use in aquarium and breeding operations, covering an overview of the major species and the aquaculture needs (rotifers & copepods, etc.)
I was honored to be included in the event as one of the speakers and had a blast.
The main event
Some people come for the great deals on livestock. Others come for the education, but “The big draw”, with any of these meetings is the raffle.
Suppliers like Marineland, Ecotech Marine, Coral Magazine, Reef Hobbyist Magazine, Instant Ocean, Coralife and even livestock venders like Sustainable Aquatics and Sea & Reef Aquaculture donate products and animals to the reef club (which is a non-profit, educational entity, after all) as a way to help support the program, draw attendees and ultimate drive the purchase of raffle tickets, which is one of the way the non-profit tries to offset the costs of the event.
All of those who bought raffle tickets had a chance to win some big prizes. From the looks of it, almost everybody who entered the raffle left with something. There was a lot of great stuff that was won.
The evening came to an end with a buffet dinner and final presentation Rick Correria, who shared with us his secrets to success in breeding some highly desirable clownfish.
Whether you are within driving distance to the Ocean State or some other area with a strong reef club, I can’t tell you enough how much fun, information and great gear and livestock can be acquired at a reef aquarium conference.
If you’re on the fence…just do it. I am excited that we’re less than a year away (hopefully) from the 6th annual OSRAS Conference. A special thanks to OSRAS for being an awesome host. A particular shout out to Brenda and Rich Hogan, Deb and Joe Lawton, Art Saloman, Steve Allen, Chad Clayton, Rick Correira and Jason Oneppo. It was great to spend some time with all of you.