I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in beautiful Orlando Florida and attend America's Largest Saltwater Aquarium Show, Reef-A-Palooza.

Most hobbyists are after the amazing corals that the dozens of coral vendors bring to sell. As a reef nerd, this is the coolest part of Reef-A-Palooza, you can shop hundreds of coral species and coral variations under one roof. Even rare fish are on display and available for purchase.

Reefapalooza Orlando Corals and Fish Some of the amazing livestock found at Reefapalooza Orlando

Industry leading manufacturers are present as well which is a great opportunity for you to get your hands on new products and meet the faces behind the companies you have come to know and trust.

Coralvue made a big splash, showcasing the latest Reef Octopus skimmers and powerheads.

The Reef Kinetics Reef Bot was the most exciting product of the show. It is essentially a water testing robot that provides results to your smartphone or tablet via an app. It utilizes the reagents from all of the major brand name test kits you already have under your tank.

Klir automatic filter rollers have been on our radar for some time and they’ve taken a completely new approach, it really looks like they nailed it. Eliminating all of the confusing plumbing and bulky trays. Units can now slip right into your 4” or 7” filter sock holder with the option of either manual or automatic operation.

The IceCap Digital Refractometer was also on display which is available now at Marine Depot and offers an instant digital salinity reading with no manual calibration required.

Neptune Systems always has an awesome booth to display all of their modules and hardware working with real water and sumps. The new Trident system was on display which is their automatic water testing system. It provides daily testing of the big three reef parameters, calcium, alkalinity and magnesium. Hopefully slated for release sometime this year.

They also showed off the voice command integration with Alexa with a beta version rolling out in a few weeks. They are also rolling out a beta version of AquaIllumination LED support with no extra module required, definitely a cool advancement for AI users.

Now you are able to upgrade your Apex Classic with the newly available Apex Controller Base Unit.

For users of the Neptune Systems Apex Classic, you can now upgrade the base unit to get WiFi and unlock new functionality. It’s also $50 off through the end of April at Marine Depot.

Rod's Food was in attendance with armfuls of bright-colored T-shirts for men and women. Anytime you get a chance to meet the folks at Rod's, be sure to say hello! Definitely some great people behind the name here.

Current USA has new freshwater systems that really are taking all-in-one tank solutions to new levels. The systems featured LED light backgrounds, aquascaping kits, and a lighting system... complete with sound and weather effects!

Zoo Med showed off some cool new LED lights that feature a remote control and built in sound effects.

CaribSea displayed impressive new rock structures consisting of arches and branch rock that will really create some dynamic aquascapes. I am excited to see these structures inside a mature tank full of corals.

Marco Rocks unveiled some of the best-looking shelf rock shapes I have seen to date! They effectively eliminated the geometric shapes you get with cut shelf rock for a very organic looking structure that provides plenty of real estate to layer your corals in the tank.

Speakers @ Reefaplooza Orlando Speakers @ Reefaplooza Orlando

Another great opportunity for RAP attendees are the wonderful presentations. The speakers on schedule this year were Jack Kent, Julian Sprung and Mike Paletta.

Jack Kent is the owner of Brightwell and Continuum Aquatics. He talked about the importance of water changes and why water testing is simply not enough. He made some excellent points in his presentation especially for those of you who struggle with conflicting approaches to aquarium keeping. He discussed some of the modern challenges we encounter such as a wider variety of diseases and parasites and the difference between science and anecdotal evidence. One of my favorite topics he mentioned was closely monitoring and maintaining a stable alkalinity and pH in your reef tank.

Julian Sprung is the owner of Two Little Fishies and is always one of my favorites to hear speak. This year his presentation called "Back-Up Plan" talked about preparing for natural disasters that can leave you powerless. He stressed on preparation with back up power sources such as batteries, generators and even solar power being the most reliable yet costly method. Having quick, short term solutions is just as important as a more permanent long-term solution as natural disasters can be quite unpredictable and you will never know if you will have access to fuel, roads, the internet, hardware stores and various other resources you might take for granite until times get tough.

Michael Paletta is a long-time aquarist and well-known author in our industry. He's written many great articles you can find on this blog. His presentation, titled "The Money of Color," talked all about maximizing coral coloration. In a nutshell, Michael presented that achieving impressive coloration is more than just having blue lights. While we have improved lighting substantially over the years we have also gotten much better at understanding the other factors involved with coral health and coloration including nutrition, trace elements, and general stability in the aquarium.

Robert and Reef2Reef at World Wide Corals Robert and Reef2Reef at World Wide Corals

Reef2Reef is one of the leading online aquarium forums and they held an awesome meet and greet that took place on Monday after the close of the show at the World Wide Corals Farm in Orlando. This was a cool experience because we were treated with the opportunity to cherry pick from the amazing collection of corals at the farm and check out the state of the art facility that is powered by EcoTech Marine and Reef Octopus. The turnout and camaraderie of the event reminded me of a family barbecue, a fun experience all around for young and old alike.

Every time I attend one of these shows I walk away with a wonderful feeling that stems from the joys of meeting all of you and knowing that our hobby is thriving. I want to send a special thanks to World Wide Corals, SCMAS, and all of the show sponsors for working together to create the awesome event that is Reef-A-Palooza.

Be sure to check out the Reef-A-Palooza website because this is only the beginning! The New York show is set to take place in June and the show in California is in October. :-)