The ADA Ambassador program was my first
experience with a Bootcamp. Obviously, I was
very excited and I was looking forward to
meeting fellow hobbyists. What was great
about the program was that it was very hands
on – right from day 1, when we made a DOOA
terrarium. This was my first terrarium and it
was an interesting exercise. It was also my first
experience with working with a team on an
aquarium project – presenting our ideas for the
terrarium and brainstorming over the best way
to do it was inspiring. We put in our all into the
terrarium; in fact, we were all curious about
how it was doing even after the Bootcamp got
And it got even better. The very next day, we started off with tank and gallery maintenance which is
a morning ritual at ADA. I really liked how the office followed the Japanese etiquette of having
employees clean the whole place with people taking turns to do the task, regardless of their position
in the company. This was something unique and showed respect and dedication to the gallery and
demonstrated how much effort goes into maintaining the beautiful looking display tanks.
I had never collected water from local water bodies – especially for water testing. Going around
Bangalore carrying bottles of cloudy water would have felt silly in any other context. The test results
showed us how delicate our core natural resource, freshwater, is. Oh, and we still had fun: right
from having meals at places like MTR to trespassing closed off areas for the task. :) Visiting the
government run aquarium and watching all the depressed fishes in poorly maintained tanks was a
harsh reality check of what mainstream understanding of the hobby.
I didn't know people like Shimamura-san
existed, especially in India, till I met him. I got to
see what a high ranking IAPLC tank would be
like. To be honest, we went in there with very
high expectations since he was Japanese and
was so engaged in the hobby, but looking at his
house full of equipment and tanks of all sizes
and his main tank towards the end of its life, it
hit me that even someone as experienced as
him faces the same issues I am trying to combat
– long term sustainability of the hobby and
maintenance. It was work with a lot of physical
labour. That day gave me a better
understanding of the fact that aquascaping is a team job. Regardless, it was fun exchanging a few
phrases with him in Japanese.
My idea to make a completely maintenance-free aquarium got reinforced on the job at the Medico
Pastoral Association centre when I saw how badly a tank can go wrong at a place where it doesn't
get the daily attention of a hobbyist. It was a simulation of a team. We split up with a couple of
people handling each function right from cleaning to procuring material to preparing plants.
Between our work at Mr. Shimamura's house and here I had figured out a rough manpower to
squarefoot ratio required to do projects. Too few and you have problems moving things around and
too many and you will have them spoiling the broth. It is important for people to realize that not
everyone needs to be the main guy. And that
creative work in teams is best done with the
vision of one trust worthy person.
Sessions with Adip on ADA products were very
candid. He patiently listened to our queries and
answered them all. By the end of these sessions
my respect for ADA products grew dramatically
because they are designed to be easy. I love
how there is a story behind each product and
how Mr. Amano himself went through the
process of building each one of them from his
The program was full of fun activities, right
from creating an interesting Facebook post
with Gagan to a session on sales with Harshal and to a session on verbal communication with Roger.
I took home many things from all of these interactions for eg., I learned a very important mistake I
used to make when speaking publicly and that is I would plan my entire agenda in a linear, bulletpoint
fashion. But public speaking is also a conversation and it is more effective if you talk to a group
of people as you would talk to one person. That was the most hard-hitting learning for me that day. I
liked how all of these were essentially soft-skills training sessions disguised as activities without
making us feel schooled or bored.
Our trip to the farm was
exciting. I had never seen so
many aquatic plants in one
place. We got to see Dr Unni
Krishnan on the job at the farm.
I enjoyed my interactions with
Dr Nataraj, he is such a patient
knowledgeable yet humble
person. I guess people need to
be down to earth to flourish in
this business. (Get it? Down to
earth - near soil? :P). Over-all
we got to know how & where
our plants come from.
Coorg was a new level of adventure. Interestingly, I had visited Coorg just a few months earlier but
the parts of Coorg that we explored during the Bootcamp was a world apart. Unlike my previous
experience which was at a resort with manicured gardens and trimmed trees; the experience at
Coorg during the Bootcamp was with pristine, untouched nature. The experience wouldn’t,
however, have been as wholesome if we did not have Adip as a guide pointing out different types of
aquatic plants and their functions and how all these plants worked together in a natural system.
While Adip focused on flora, Gagan, guided our attention to the fauna in the area. We also managed
to learn the difference in quality of water in natural rivers as opposed to tap water. We found and
christened Microsorum Sp. Mathias and managed to see some interesting plants and fishes from
the wild. Also, coming across wild elephants and deer was fantastic.
I have a huge collection of great pictures from the trip – including some underwater ones! These
pictures are great for not just sharing with my family but also as reference points for inspiration for
my future aquascapes. In fact, during a session on hardscape, Adip made a very valid comment
about aquascapes and the inspiration from nature. He said, "The best aquascapes are the ones that
depict an underwater environment... not a landscape." And the Coorg experience has given me a lot
of inspiration and food for thought around the way I want to shape my upcoming aquascaping
All in all, Coorg was a bonding experience for
the whole team. We also got to know each
other up close and personal. In addition, Adip
shared a lot of personal stories and his journey
with ADA and how much time and effort he
took to get where he is today, including his
association with Mr. Amano and team ADA.
In addition to all that, the Bootcamp really got
me moving! Walking and exploring really kicked
the lethargy out of my system and I saw
Namma Bangalore from a new perspective. I
definitely want to thank Gagan for helping me
explore my own city – including trying out
popular local eateries – each with their own history.
This hobby is as much of an art as it is a science and I have a lot to learn yet. This bootcamp has
accelerated my learning process and has given peers who will help me in my journey. I conclude this
write up with something I reflected over and realized towards the end of our trip…
Photographs show you real places and paintings show you surreal places…
Aquascapes bring those places to you.
Copy Right of these pictures belongs to Huzaifa Arab..