I still remember vividly how, in 1994, the manager of my department shoved a book under my nose, with the title, “Nature Aquarium World”, by Takashi Amano. I had been working in that pet shop in my home town of Karlsruhe, Germany, for 6 years then, after having successfully completed my training for retail merchant in the pet trade three-and-a-half years before. However, this day back in 1994 proved decisive of my further carreer. During my lunch break I literally devoured the book, unaware that I exceeded my break time – I found it hard to believe what I saw. Incredible underwaterscapes with aquatic plants hitherto relatively or even totally unknown to me. The designs the Japanese artist Takashi Amano displayed in his book totally fascinated me. They were a great incentive for me to keep doing what I was doing, and, whats more, to try out underwaterscapes like these myself in the shop I was working at.

A mere 4 years later, I had another decisive experience. It was in 1998, I decided to accept a new challenge and became the store manager of a large pet shop in Karlsruhe. Towards the end of that year, I saw an advert in a trade magazine that announced that from then on, products of the Japanese Aquarium designer Takashi Amano would be available in Germany under the label ADA (Aqua Design Amano).

Only two weeks later I had the great pleasure of holding the first ADA products in my very own hands – and the catalogue, too. We were one of the first German pet retail traders to offer these to our customers.

The new millenium, the year 2000, held a special highlight for me – Takashi Amano himself was paying a visit to our shop in Germany. This was six years after I had held my first Amano book in my hands, and now the moment had come for me to get to know the master in person. Takashi Amano brought along his personal assistant Nozomi Hayakawa, who translated for us. I cannot say that I was able to remain totally calm when he said he would come by. At about noon, the moment had come, I met the master aquascaper in person for the very first time. He was a highly charismatic person, to this day reminding of Tom Cruise’s movie, “The Last Samurai” and particularly of the samurai, and of the samurai Moritsugu Katsumoto (played by Ken Watanabe). By the way – I owe the tattoo on my right forearm to this movie, I also owe the tattoo, which says “Bushido” (way of the warrior).

We took him around our shop, showing him the display aquaria and the ADA product presentation. I was on cloud nine when Takashi Amano said he liked our setup, this made me very proud. The Japanese delegation was highly amused when they discovered a large tank with an enormous Buddha statue inside – I‘ve always had a lot of fun doing “special” designs.

After a while, we said goodbye, yet I had a hunch that we might meet again in the course of the years to come.

In spring 2003 I travelled to Bologna, Italy, where I attended a Takashi Amano workshop and visited the International Exhibition of Products and Accessories for Pets, Zoomark. There, Takashi Amano created a live layout in a show tank in a hotel in Bologna. After the workshop, I was invited to dinner by Mr. Amano in person and the ADA Team Italy, where I met my friend and translator Nozomi Hayakawa again, too. During this dinner and after my third glass of red wine, I suddenly had the idea to ask Nozomi Hayakawa to inquire with takashi as to whether I could do an internship in Japan at ADA. Without much hesitation, Takashi Amano agreed.

And the rest is history.

taken from “Training days in Japan. My Journey”


  • You have imagination, creation and inspiration. You put soulfull in all what you are doing. Your work is appreciation in all the World. For many times you inspire me and give me, in the same times, many, many idea's in setup aquarium. Your gift give joy and happiness to the World and this is the Secret of Life. Congratulation

    Alex Alexandrescu
  • Beautiful tank Oliver. I am surprised by the low wattage you were able to use. And what a striking bright green the submersed graminifolia brings to the tank! Very inspiring work...

  • Dear Oliver! You have caused a big impression! Very wonderful!

    Tamara Yalta

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