Taking the trip to Atlantic City, N.J. for the 21st MACNA was well worth my time and effort.

Not everyone has a chance to go to a big aquarium industry trade show. There are several shows here on the West Coast, including Reef-A-Palooza, the Marine Aquarium Expo and IMAC West.

However, the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA) is the granddaddy of them all. If you haven’t been, and you’re considering making the trip in the future, I highly recommend it.

The show was held in the Atlantic City Convention Center from September 25 to 27. With over 90 exhibitors and a very impressive speaker line-up, this MACNA had something for every marine and reef aquarium hobbyist.

My First MACNA
This was my first MACNA, so I can’t compare my experience this year to that of years past, but based on my experience with other shows, MACNA does a great job of emphasizing its speakers and their contribution to the show.

Most discussions were given in a separate assembly hall, with multiple projector screens and HD TVs set up so everyone could get a glimpse of the material the speakers were presenting.

The speaker lineup included several well-known names in the hobby, including Julian Sprung, Steven Pro, Frank Marini, Scott Michael, Bob Fenner, Martin Moe and Charles Delbeek, among many others.

I attended Julian Sprung’s talk on the first day of the show. Julian lead off the speaker list, and his talk didn’t disappoint at all. He discussed a topic that many aquarists and biologists find controversial: hybridization.

Julian showed many pictures of naturally occurring hybrids that were collected from the wild, including clownfish species hybrids and angelfish species hybrids. Julian made the point that interbreeding between species within different genera is actually much more common than we think.

He suggests that this interbreeding actually occurs mainly because of the interaction of sperm and egg from different species when they come in contact through broadcast spawning.

Julian also pointed out that generally, it is the rule rather than the exception that hybrids are capable of producing offspring themselves, rather than being sterile, as is often assumed.

Other speakers covered a wide range of topics. Steven Pro spoke about what it takes to succeed in the aquatics industry. Ken Feldman gave a presentation on protein skimmer efficiency and total organic carbon. Frank Marini emphasized the need to captive-breed more marine fish species. These are only a few of the presentations given at MACNA XXI, and many other topics were covered by prominent hobbyists and researchers.

Show Floor
The wealth of information available to those who attended the show is enough to justify attendance. But MACNA XXI had a lot more to offer. Throughout the show floor, vendors discussed the hobby with interested aquarists, frags were bought and sold, and deals could be found around every corner.

Also on tap were several workshops hosted on the main showroom floor. Various booths were set up where presenters gave hands-on discussions and demonstrations on a variety of topics. Justin Credabel demonstrated fragging techniques. Kelly Jedlicki discussed how to effectively feed fishes that refuse to eat.

Many other workshop presenters covered a wide range of topics. In fact, it was hard to decide which workshop to attend, as three were going on simultaneously whenever workshops were scheduled.

My words can only do so much justice to MACNA XXI, so I’ll end with a slide show of pictures I took while in Atlantic City. If you haven’t been to a trade show, you should get out and go if you can make it. You’ll learn far more in just a few hours than you would if you spent weeks researching a topic on your own.

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