Jake Adams in Golden, Colorado, celebrating his 40th birthday in September, 2021. He was 41 at the time of his passing. Image courtesy Windsor Adams.
Jake Adams in Golden, Colorado, celebrating his 40th birthday in September, 2021. He was 41 at the time of his passing. Image courtesy Windsor Adams.

Jake Adams has been a perennial nominee and finalist for the MASNA Award, and as part of that process, nominees are asked to furnish a biographical response to better inform the committee’s decision-making process. What follows is Jake Adams’ own autobiographical account of his life as an aquarist through the summer of 2022, submitted as part of the MASNA Award process, now shared publicly with the blessings of Jake’s wife, Windsor Adams, and MASNA.

By Jake Adams

My name is Jake Adams and I have been living the aquarium life pretty much since I got my first proper aquarium in 1995 when I was 14 years old. Within a few months I had a dozen tanks, volunteered at a local fish store, and pretty much became resolved to always have a lifestyle and career which revolved around all things related to aquatic life both in an aquarium and in nature. While I may be better known for my work in the saltwater side of the aquarium hobby I’ve always been an avid freshwater aquarist, keeping and studying a wide variety of species and I believe that cross-pollination of ideas has always been an important part of my reefing ‘style’.

In my teenage and young adult years, I continued to work at more progressive aquarium stores where I developed an intimate knowledge of the relationship between the retail aquarium store and the rest of the hobby, from the manufacturers to the wholesalers and especially the hobbyists. I believe that the aquarium store is the backbone of our hobby and industry which I’ve supported by starting the #LFSSaturday campaign, promoting a kind of ‘LFS Holiday’ every year to strengthen the LFS as an institution in the aquarium world.

I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Science, doing independent research on the relationship between coral photosynthesis and water flow which were among some of my first articles in the saltwater aquarium literature. It was around this time that I introduced ‘Gyre Flow’ as a technique for better water movement in our aquariums.

My first job after college was in coral spawning research in Puerto Rico where I developed an intimacy with Caribbean corals which primed me to write articles specifically about these ignored species from the tropical western Atlantic. This first coral identification project evolved into CoralDEA which was a free guide to the identification of aquarium corals for iPods and PDAs before the advent of smartphones, which was also available online and soon followed up by FishIDEA for aquarium fish identification.

Around this time I traveled to reef clubs all over the country, speaking at early events like the Rockford Frag Fest which inspired me to start the ReefStock conference in 2008 in Denver which has grown to become an annual event, as well as a sister event in Sydney called ReefStock Australia. I was on the board of directors for the 2014 MACNA in Denver where I oversaw one of the most diverse panels of speakers from all over the world, and created a program whereby all of the presentations could be recorded at no cost to MASNA and preserving the talks to watch for free to everyone.

In 2008 I joined ReefBuilders.com, eventually becoming the Senior Editor overseeing the publication of nearly fourteen thousand articles on every aspect of the reef aquarium hobby. The Reef Builders YouTube channel was started in 2006 and we doubled down on the video format starting around 2016, publishing more than 700 videos with 29 million views and over 100,000 subscribers. In 2018 we invested in building a dedicated Studio of reef aquarium keeping with 20 reef & saltwater aquariums to showcase reef aquarium animals, equipment, techniques and ideas to enrich the hobby. In 2021 Reef Therapy was started with Mark van der Wal to have in depth conversations about reef aquarium ideas, elaborating on the topics of our articles and videos on Reef Builders.

In addition to speaking at major reef events in the United States, I’ve been invited to share reefing ideas in England, Italy, Dubai, Australia, France, China, Mexico, Singapore, and South Africa. I’ve also participated in coral farming workshops and surveys in Mauritius, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines and the Marshall Islands to try and promote sustainable aquaculture of stony corals to benefit coastal communities living around corals reefs. Last but certainly not least I’ve traveled to coral reef areas all over the world not only to better understand these ecosystems for myself, but also documenting corals, clams, fish and the habitats to share with reefers on the various Reef Builders platforms.

If I had to boil down my reef aquarium career to just one paragraph it would be the following: Through the blog, articles, videos, podcasts and conferences I’ve tried to be a clearinghouse for promoting every aspect of the aquarium hobby and showcasing the work of other people. My bread and butter might be announcing new products but I have been early in promoting the accomplishments of progressive and sustainable companies like SECORE, CRF, ORA, Sea & Reef, Biota, RVS Fishworld, Cairns Marine, Bali Aquarich, as well as individuals like Kevin Kohen, Frank Baensch, Tom Bowling, Vincent Chalias, Jamie Craggs, Todd Gardner, Karen Brittain, and countless others.

It’s an honor to be considered for the MASNA Award and I plan to continue participating in the reef aquarium hobby in every capacity for many more years to come.

Jake Adams, 1981-2022.
Jake Adams, from a video in 2019 talking about visiting LiveAquaria.com’s facility in Rhinelander, WI. Screenshot courtesy Kevin Kohen.

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