After Amano died in 2015 I suspected that the product design would take a dive. His aquatic design principal was truly unique, bringing materials like glass and metal to products that were usually only mass-produced in plastic.
Before Takashi Amano and his company Aqua Design Amano there was no low-iron glass, stainless steel filters or glassware. Tanks were rimmed, plastered in thick, visible silicone and European style was the order of the day, with faux wood grained cabinets and matching tank trim.
ADA offered rimless clarity, form above function, and became the first aquatic designer label. With Amano’s passing I worried about that product design legacy. How many designs did he leave for future release, and would any coming ADA products ever live up to his legacy ones?
The fact that nothing would ever be touched by the man himself devalued the brand as a whole for me. He was aquascaping. Before Amano Japanese zen inspired aquascaping didn’t exist, and after him, the whole aquatic world, both marine and freshwater, have been directly influenced by his layout philosophy and product designs.
So when ADA’s entry level brand DOOA launched its first terrarium I was predictably disappointed. Looking like a Chinese copy of an Exo Terra I asked myself if Amano would ever have let the first incarnation be released. China had a field day ripping off all the ADA products and it looked like the company had given up and picked this one from a trade show, wholesale.
I switched my allegiance firmly to the “I was there,” camp, collating my ADA product collection to all pre-2015 products – the ones that I knew Amano himself had designed and used. And I shunned the new stuff.
Other companies then achieved the unthinkable and out-designed ADA. The original Aquasky led light unit was beautiful, but it had its issues. The acrylic frame could mark and damage in transit, and the spectrum was all a bit yellow, not enhancing the greens like the famous NA-Green metal halide lamp. It could only light small tanks and a 90cm version and larger never launched.
The Twinstar 600S was just such an example of competitor evolution. Beautiful, durable and functional it not only looked better than the ADA Aquasky, it performed better, with way better colour rendition and better plant growth. It became the aquascaper’s lighting of choice. Until now.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see three of the latest releases from the ADA design stable looking so handsome and Amanoesque. The Twinstar threat has been met with the new Aquasky RGB. Enhanced reds and greens, and now a metal frame instead of an acrylic one, the diehard ADA collectors who crave the sacred badge over their tanks can now have it. Available in either black or silver the new light not only looks as good as a Twinstar, it should also arrive in one piece on its way to your tank.
Match the Aquasky RGB to a new Metal Cabinet 60, and it looks like ADA are firmly back on the product design track for 2020. Again available in either black or silver, this steel stand blends the metallic, industrial Garden Stand with the Plain Cabinet, enabling filter and CO2 bottle (and electricals,) to be hidden out of view by angled front panels. Note I referred it to a stand, as from personal experience here in the UK, people expect a cabinet to have a door. Its short too, at only 70cm high and available in just one size, to accommodate the best-selling 60x30x36cm Cube Garden 60-P aquarium. But the matching angles of the stand and the light frame made me sit up, and once again distances ADA from the generic design pack.
But the coolest release for me has got to be the FC Tool Stand. ADA invented tool stands that were good looking enough to be placed pride of place next to the tank in minimalist, bare-floored apartments, and the new FC Tool Stand doesn’t disappoint. Made from smoothed, actual concrete, the stand looks to have material influence from Amano’s own mega tank in his house, then lined with a backdrop of earthquake proof concrete.
So the obvious next step for me is the concrete tank stand. They must have considered it, and I know the weight and shipping will be obvious negative factors, but I think it’s right up Aqua Design Amano’s street, at least for the smaller aquarium models. And whoever it is who has taken up the design reigns from the legend (apart from the Power Cord S-70,) they seem to be doing alright.