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2024 Convention Speakers

We are proud to feature the following guest lecturers at this year's AGA Convention:

Dennis Wong

Dennis Wong is the creator of The 2hr Aquarist brand of planted aquarium fertilizers/additives and also the main writer for the The 2hr Aquarist website, which focuses on many technical aspects of the planted aquarium hobby. He is an enthusiast in propagating difficult and rare plant species.

He is a strong believer in relying more on practical experimentation than theory crafting to get results. His experiments stretch from running tanks with exotic DIY garden soil mixtures to commercially made custom aquasoil blends.

Dennis also participates frequently in the aquascaping sphere, playing the role of judge for many major aquascaping competitions. (AGA 2018, Aquajaya 2018, PAC 2022, ITAC 2023, EAPLC 2023, AIAC 2023). Eager to support craftmanship in the aquascaping sphere, Dennis also sponsors competition aquascapers frequently through the 2hr Aquarist brand, and its list of aquascapers include prize winners such as Matthew Manes (IAPLC 2022 1st Prize) and Ryan Noel (IAPLC 2023 13th - best rank for USA in 2023).

Dennis' talk is titled Islands of Stability - How different planted aquariums styles use different techniques to defeat algae: There are many approaches to maintaining a planted aquarium. Aquascapers completing competition layouts take a very hands-on approach with water changes and tweaking parameters to get their tanks into a certain look, while other folks may choose a slower approach that espouses a planted tank system with minimal intervention, no fertilizer dosing or alteration of water parameters and no/minimal water changes. Both approaches approach algae management from diametrically different angles, and both can be effective. How? Why? What is actually effective? This talk will extract useful algae management techniques from the different approaches, and the pitfalls to avoid when adopting a certain approach.

Dennis will also present a mini-talk, Cultivating difficult aquarium plant species and universally applicable techniques to maximize success with difficult aquarium plants. What makes some species more difficult to grow than others? Is throwing more light, CO2 and nutrients at an aquatic plant the guaranteed way to get results? The modern aquarist has no shortage of powerful tools, yet success with many difficult species still eludes the average hobbyist. This talk focuses on key variables to maximize success rates when introducing a difficult or unknown new species to your planted aquarium.

Jen Williams

Jen Williams is a known aquascaper, through participation in national and international events, speaking engagements, and competitions. Her unmatched passion and talent have earned her recognition as one of the most decorated in US live events. Since 2008, Jen has won numerous awards in these competitions, such as Aquafest, Aquamania, The Big Fish Deal, The Aquatic Experience, and Aquashella.

Not only is Jen an esteemed aquascaper, but she is also a dedicated fish keeping enthusiast. She keeps and breeds a diverse array of fish, with a particular fondness for biotopes and native species.

Jen has served on the board of the Greater Washington Aquatic Plant Association (GWAPA) since 2007, in addition to serving as an Aquatic Gardeners Association (AGA) Board Member since 2015. Eager to grow the hobby in the US, Jen enjoys traveling to clubs nationwide to give presentations, aquascaping demos, inspiration, and encouragement to future ‘scapers. A respected member of the industry, with a mission to inspire and educate, Jen’s passion and enthusiasm make her a perfect OASE North American ambassador.

Jen's presentation, Aquascaping for Anybody, is stuffed full of information to give a broad view of aquascaping—from beginning basics, to an overview of principles and practices, to learned tips and tricks. Attendees will gain a solid foundational knowledge and be on the right track set for success and (hopefully) inspiration to go forth and create your own slice of nature.

Jurijs Jutjajevs

Jurijs Jutjajevs has been designing aquariums since 2008 and has traveled the world to master his aquascaping skills by working on projects such as the 40m Lisbon Aquarium with Takashi Amano. He is constantly sharing his knowledge via social media and in numerous workshops and demonstrations. Before joining the Dennerle Plants marketing team, Jurijs worked as a Social Media Manager for Tropica and was a contributing author to the German magazines Aquaristic, Caridina, and Aquaristik Fachmagazin. After his time at Dennerle Plants, Jurijs transitioned to being a full-time self-employed aquascaper and content creator. He has also been the host of the My-Fish and Scape-Fu podcasts for several years, producing hundreds of podcast episodes. And if his face looks familiar to you, that's probably because you've seen him on his successful YouTube channel.

Jurijs will do an aquascaping demo on the main stage Friday night. And during the banquet on Saturday, he will do a special presentation How Building the 40m Forests Underwater Aquarium with Takashi Amano Has Changed My Life. This talk offers a diary-style insight into Takashi Amano's last great aquarium project in Lisbon, highlighting the impressive materials used, personal lessons from Amano, technical maintenance details, and concluding with transformative personal takeaways.

Patrick McMillan

Dr. Patrick McMillan is a well-known fixture in the horticultural, taxonomic and conservation circles. He is the author of several books including A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina (2022). For over 32 years, he has worked as a professional botanist, horticulturist, naturalist, biologist, and educator. His explorations of the globe have added hundreds of new species and cultivars to the horticultural world. His transformation of the South Carolina Botanical Garden including the development of the natural heritage garden exhibits were formative in the development of the gardening style he has coined as “natural community gardening.”

His horticultural research interests lie in the maintenance and generation of diversity using our managed landscapes and the conservation of rare species both in their native habitats and in gardens. He has over 40 years experience in the exploration of the wetlands of the Carolinas and constructing and cultivating bog plants. He has also worked extensively in the introduction and evaluation of plants from the Chihuahuan desert ecoregion as landscape plants in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest. His range of experience has concentrated on botany, though he is also well-respected through his work in ichthyology, herpetology and mammalogy.

Patrick is perhaps best known as the Emmy Award-winning host, co-creator and writer of the popular nature program Expeditions with Patrick McMillan distributed by APT and seen on PBS stations around the country.

Patrick's talk is The Most Remarkable Plants in the World - "Bog" plants of the Carolinas and the Southeast. The Carolinas boast a huge diversity of plants that most hobbyists and horticulturists refer to as "bog" plants--including what Charles Darwin referred to as the most amazing plant in the world, the Venus Flytrap. These plants include the highest diversity of carnivorous plant genera found in any part of the world. Join me for an overview of the amazing flora of the nutrient-poor wetlands of the Carolinas, their habitats and incredible adaptations and how to grow them in your garden, terrarium or aquarium.

Ryan Chan

Ryan Chan enjoys breeding shrimp and South American tetras, including Cardinal, Neon, and Rummynose tetras. He has spoken about his experiences across the country including Philadelphia, Sacramento, and San Francisco Aquarium Societies.

Ryan is the founder of Avatar Aquatics, a YouTube channel dedicated to connecting his biologist background with fishkeeping, creating methodical and easy to follow tutorials on breeding fish and the maintenance of planted tanks.

Biology BS in-hand, Ryan is now working on a PharmD which will be his 3rd UNC Chapel Hill degree.

Ryan's presentation is Breeding Amano Shrimp - a Detailed Walk-through. He says: I will take you through the entire breeding process of Amano shrimp, Caridina multidentata (aka Caridina japonica), from male/female selection, breeding setup, and development timeline to common challenges and best practices to ensure success. All media are from my personal experiences and delivered in a scientific, evidence-based presentation that will ensure easily replicated experiments. The presentation will include expert tips that are not available anywhere else and plenty of time for Q&A.

Sudipta Shaw

Sudipta Shaw is a protein scientist with specializations in protein chemistry and enzyme kinetics. He is currently working as a Researcher at the St. Paul campus of University of Minnesota. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in microbiology from India and he earned a PhD in biochemistry from Utah State University in 2017. His research experiences include biological nitrogen fixation, bacterial high-affinity phosphate uptake system and biological CO2 reduction to form value added products. Apart from lab research, he enjoys visiting parks and forests to photograph wild birds and animals. Despite keeping fish and growing plants since his youth, his planted tank journey only started in the summer of 2018. While he does run a CO2-injected high-tech tank, he absolutely loves growing plants in non-CO2 supplemented soft water tanks and is constantly learning new things about these systems.

Sudipta's presentation is Non-CO2 Supplemented High Light Planted Tanks, and he describes it thus: It is widely accepted in the hobby that high light levels (100+ PAR) would inevitably lead to algae outbreaks in tanks without CO2 supplementation, and many consider pressurized CO2 injection essential for achieving vibrant and lush plant growth. There is no denying that plants grow more vigorously and attain rich colors and form with CO2 supplementation, along with the fact that some species don’t survive long in non-CO2 supplemented tanks. However, it is possible to maintain a healthy, lush and vibrant planted tank without CO2 injection. I will discuss how substrate and water parameters (pH, KH and temperature) play critical roles in these systems. I will further discuss why high light is required in these low CO2 tanks. Finally, I will share some data about the microbial diversity in my tanks and discuss about their importance.

Ted Colletti

Dr. Ted Coletti is a hobbyist, writer, and speaker from New Jersey’s Skylands Region. An aquarist for 40 years, he regularly presents programs around the United States and Canada, and has written over 200 articles and 2 books for the hobby. In the 1990’s, Ted specialized in Biotope Aquariums and low-tech planted tanks. He penned FAMA’s Aquarium Geographic column, and created one of the first hobby-related websites. He founded his local club’s Growers Award Program, one of the first in the country, at this time.

Ted kicked off the “summer tub” craze in the late 90’s. He continues to evangelize “taking it outside.” He formed the Northeast Fish Tub and Water Garden Study Group, and locally, the Skyland Aquarium & Water Garden Group. He currently maintains a collection of over 100 species and cultivars of hardy aquatic plants, from waterlilies to marginals, and 30 tubs and ponds. His book, The Tub Pond Handbook, is in its 3rd edition-revised 2.0.

Ted’s other specialties include a long appreciation for livebearing fish. He was the Editor of the ALA Journal, and the livebearer columnist for FAMA and TFH magazines. He authored Aquarium Care of Livebearing Fish for TFH-Animal Planet. Ted is a Master Breeder and Senior Grower at the North Jersey Aquarium Society. A hobby historian, Ted founded the Aquarium Hobby Historical Society in 2002, which archives discussions and writings, on their Facebook Group.

Born and raised in New York City’s Bronx County, Ted is a psychologist by training and works in Oncology (new products and M&A). At home, he maintains a small fishroom, a dozen guitars, a large library, 30 tubs, and one very, very patient wife.

Ted's Talk (I'm sure he's tired of that) is Take it Outside! Tub Ponds for Aquarists and Water Gardeners. Learn to enjoy and cultivate ponds plants and tropical fish up close and closer to nature! Tour a whole new world of waterlilies, marginal, bog, and floating plant options, too.