1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself (your CV).
I am a husband, father of two wonderful girls, and grandfather of four grandchildren. I've almost always been self-employed and believe strongly in the principles of hard work and "giving back
" to our communities, whether those are our neighborhoods, towns, churches, or
in today's internet age, communities like the Aquatic Plant Central. Where many of us find our "online planted aquarium home
". 2. How did you get involved with aquarium plants?
I've been an avid aquarist since childhood when my parents gave me a 5 gallon metal frame, slate bottomed aquarium with guppies. Decades later, my wonderful wife, one by one, slowly took over my beautiful passive community tanks. Turning them into Cichlid tanks. She didn't
even realize that "my
" tanks had become "her
" tanks until an old friend of mine asked if I was still into aquariums. I explained that I no longer had any tanks of my own and that my wife had converted all of my nice passive community tanks into Cichlid tanks. At that moment of "realization
", my wife made the mistake of telling me I could go buy my "dream aquarium
". Thus, the birth of a 180 gallon planted Discus tank. 3. What are your favorite books? Movies? Music? Games? Foods? Beverages? Vacation spot?
My favorite book is "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
" by Douglas Adams. I often feel like Arthur Dent. Unfortunately, life does not come with a nice electronic guide with a friendly cover that says "Don't Panic
", but I really think it should (Hey Art, how about a nice Don't Panic button on the APC homepage? It could hotlink to an introduction to plants thread in the forums.)
Sorry about that, you were asking about favorite books and vacation spots…
My wife and I are partners in every sense of the word. We live together, work together, and play together. I personally wouldn't want it any other way. For years, we both shared the same office, two desks in the same room. I couldn't ask for a better life partner or business partner. However, when it comes to vacations, my wife wants to be on the go all the time, places to see, places to go. Personally, I prefer a quiet beach with a cabana bar nearby and a stack of aquarium books and magazines. My favorite vacation readings are "antique
" aquarium magazines. For example, I have a complete set of "The Aquarium
" magazine include the first years in 1932. 4. What do you consider as your accomplishments up to this point? Any failures you'd like to tell us about?
Success is usually the result of many failures. If we think about watching our children learn to walk. First, they fell many times. It is rare that we can accomplish new things if we are unwilling to fail many times. However, as adults, we often are unwilling to risk failure. Something that I think is a shame.
My wife and I start a new business almost every year. Since we are in the hospitality business (hotels), it usually involves a travel related or real estate related business. We do take a risk and give new ideas a try. Sometimes those ideas succeed, and sometimes those ideas fail.
There are also "consequences
" of choices we make, both positive and negative. Years ago, I set a goal to take "month long vacations
" every year. Inevitably while we are gone, a CO2 tank empties and I return to an algae infested tank, almost an annual reminder of what life is often like for those new to planted aquariums. While it may be frustrating at times, it is also a good reminder of "what it was like when I first started out
". It is easy for those of us with more experience to "forget
" what it was like to first get started. What seems like "obvious
" information, concepts, facts, was usually not so obvious when we first got started. Nor is it obvious to the many new hobbyists entering the planted side of the aquarium hobby. Returning home to an algae infested tank is a good reminder. So when we see "new
" questions posted by those new to the hobby, we need to remember what it was like when we were first in their position. How much help did we receive when we asked those very same questions. 5. You are well known for helping aquarists everywhere get the nutrients necessary to properly take care of their aquariums. Why did you decide to start www.gregwatson.com?
It was an accident. When I first got started with planted aquariums, it took me over three months to find all of the various "ingredients
" that I needed. I ended up ordering them from three different suppliers (which included three different shipping charges). Almost a year later, when I was close to running out, I called the supplier to place an order and found out he was no longer in business. I ended up having to buy in bulk. Not a month later, when I ran out of the second ingredient, that supplier would no longer sell to individuals. Thus I bought in bulk again and started sharing with my friends at my costs.
Soon, I started finding "friends
" to share ferts with that I had never met or talked to before. Then I setup the shopping cart on my personal website. We each "give back
" to the hobby in different ways. We have some great hobbyists who fund wonderful online aquatic resources like APC right out of their own pockets. Ferts are just my way of "giving back
" to the hobby.
In 2004, when I "accidentally
" made a profit, I contacted numerous online forums and asked about donating those profits back to the hobby. Thus today, you will see me listed as a "sponsor
" on numerous forums. 6. How has the aquarium plants market changed in the last 10 years?
Sadly the United States still does not have Tropica plants available to us in the commercial retail market. Recently we lost an Icon in the commercial side of the retail plant market. However, we also have an increasing number of hobbyist who are doing a wonderful job of helping us supply the "non-commercial
" retail market. If it wasn't for these great hobbyists the variety of plants we have available would be much more limited. I also attend about a half-dozen aquarium club auctions every year and it has been exciting to see an increasing number of plants appearing in the auctions.
One of the most challenging adaptations we have faced is the change in lighting. When I first got started, we thought anyone with over one watt per gallon of light was on the cutting edge. Today, 2-3 watts seems to be the norm and 4-5 watts is increasingly common. These higher turbo charged light levels are increasingly challenging the hobby.
Personally, I am a big fan of Diana Walstad and her low-light aquariums. My favorite aquarium book is "The Family Aquarium
" by H.D. Butler, published in 1858 (almost 150 years ago). Chapter III is titled "The Tank - How to Fit It Up Picturesquely
", an 1858 primer on aquascaping. Chapter V is titled "The Fresh-Water Aquarium - Its Vegetation - Where To Seek For It, and How To Recognize It
", an 1858 primer on stocking and maintaining the planted aquarium. Nearly 150 years ago, our hobby was talking about the importance of plants in a balanced aquarium. In the natural lighting of the time, algae was rarely an overwhelming concern.
There is a lot we can learn from a study of our history. Many of the things that we talk about today, have been discussed repeated in aquatic literature over the last 150 years. Today, the internet makes it easier for us to form communities where we can share information much more easily. 7. How do you see the aquarium plants market in general changing over the next 5 to 10 years? Do you have any thoughts about the US aquarium plants Market?
Currently, we have several US hobbyists that are working hard to help bring new plants into our market. The US market seems to be about a decade behind Europe but I believe our market is potentially much larger and thus I am optimistic and hopeful that these hobbyist efforts will be successful. One of the challenges though, is communicating the cost of bringing these new plants into our market. So while at first glance a price of $10, $25, or $120 for a plant may sound high. It is often only a fraction of the cost a hobbyist incurred to bring that plant into the US. Over time, our hobbyist community will be able to cultivate these plants and bring the prices down. So when you see a hobbyist retailer advertise these kind of prices, we need to understand that they have often invested a lot more just to bring these plants in. 8. Tell us something about yourself that we don't already know.
I have alluded already to my passion for aquatic literature. I have recently acquired the domain name AquaLibrary.com
under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Over the next ten to fifteen years, I plan to continue to build an aquatic reference library dedicated to the preservation of our aquatic heritage. For the last two years, summer interns from the Library Sciences department have been cataloging and archiving my personal library. Eventually, I hope that this non-profit organization will be able to provide an "inter-library loan
" type service through aquarium clubs to preserve and make available aquatic literature to club members. We have a wealth of history, heritage, and knowledge in our aquatic literature, publications, magazines, and newsletters. It is my dream to help preserve that heritage and literature for future generations.
Each generation passes on its knowledge and heritage to the next generation. Great online aquatic resources like the Aquatic Plant Central portal and other forums are an invaluable part of our hobby.
My thanks go out to Art and his team of volunteers, including Edward,
Gnatster, and Laith just to name a few.