Damian Pogorzelski
Damian Pogorzelski

From a pickle jar to the most stunning sps

My adventure with aquarium hobby began when I was still a child. I’m not sure if we should call this an aquarium, because I kept my first swordtails in… an emptied pickled cucumbers jar. When I was 7 I got my first aquarium. I changed the fish cast every week, because I had no idea what conditions I should create in the aquarium.

My passion for aquariums was slowly growing, I joined the Aquarium Association in Zabrze, the largest in Poland at that time. I was the youngest there, but we participated in aquarium exhibitions every year. With time, I gained knowledge and experience, and when I was still a kid, I started breeding angelfish in my basement. Together with a friend, we supplied the whole Silesia with them. We sold and spent the money earned on aquarium gear.

The beginnings in marine aquariums

In those days, no one in Poland had even heard of marine aquariums. I saw my first marine aquarium in Germany when I was visiting my family. A few years later, at the age of 15, I started my own. It looked… let’s say – far from perfect. I kept there a coral rock, coral gravel and two fish – a blue hummingbird (who had been with me for 15 years) and a painted comber, which grew to 40 cm over time. All the other fish that I let into the aquarium were sooner or later eaten by the comber, which – having no idea about its eating habits – I fed it with chicken fillets and earthworms. At that time, I was using German aquarium salt, which – due to its high price – I mixed with a usual table salt. I tried to read about reef aquariums, but the info was not as widely available as it is today. I gave up the hobby for a while and moved to England.

The first ‘serious’ marine aquarium

After returning home, I set up a pet store, well a few stores actually. I also stared my first ‘pro’ marine aquarium. A friend from Nowy Targ was helping me. He also ran a pet shop and had one of the most beautiful saltwater aquariums I have ever seen at the time. He helped me set up my own, advised on gear and cast. He shared his knowledge with me at every stage.

After I gained some experience, I set up my first coral farm. At its peak, my farm had 36 tanks of 700 liters each. I imported corals, prepared frags, waited for them to grow up a bit and sold them to stores in Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and even Italy, to the Rosario’s store, who later became our first Italian distributor.

Creating my own formulas

With so many liters in the whole system, I needed a lot of saltwater. I knew that the main factor responsible for the condition of my corals was salt and the frequency of water changes. The salt imported from abroad was expensive, but also did not fully meet my expectations in terms of quality.

It took me 5 years to create my own salt recipe. 5 years of tests and mistakes, preparing, drop tests, ingredients weighing and further research. Due to my education, I knew chemistry, which made the whole process much easier and faster.

Probably, mastering the technique of grinding magnesium took me the most time.I spent a good few years on it, but the results exceeded my expectations. I started selling salt according to my formula, initially only to friends who ran coral stores and farms.

I was gradually developing recipes for other products, the AF Amino Mix, popular today all over the world, is a product that I created for my own purposes and use in coral farm. Similarly, with the Component 1+2+3+ recipe, micronutrients and everything needed for coral breeding. I had several aquariums to test, hundreds of coral species, and a lot of friends in the hobby. Friends who shared their opinions and knowledge with me. This is how the Aquaforest brand was created, with a mark that I registered in England. At the time I was also producing substrates and freshwater fertilizers.


Damian’s home aquarium

Today’s Aquaforest

I met Debora before the Aquaforest in its present shape came into existence. She had problems in the aquarium back then. A friend from Tarnów advised her to ask me. She contacted me and, as she lived near my mother, I decided to go and visit her. I advised her to introduce some changes to the aquarium, including replacing the lamp and pumps. After a few months, there was a significant improvement, and after a year she had probably the most beautiful aquarium in Poland.

Later I met Seweryn, who came to me for coral frags, he once bought salt from me, and also introduced Tomek, who was also an aquarist, and later became our CEO. However, before that happened, I went to Tomek to help him manage his aquarium, changed his skimmer, got some mess sorted and the tank started to thrive. This is how it started. A ‘new’ Aquaforest was created, in its present form. We have created a company made of aquarists and for aquarists.

The stupidest mistake in the hobby

In the shop I was running, I had this beautiful display aquarium stocked only with premium LPS corals. About corals I knew almost everything, about fish—nothing. On Friday, I let a tiny Pomacanthus navarchus into this aquarium. On Monday I found it twice as thick as I had bought it. He ate all the LPSs, leaving only skeletons. I guess then I realized that I have to learn more about fish as well.