Aqua Journal Online Review – winner or doomed to fail?

Art PennomBlog, General2 Comments

New AquaJournal Online

Aqua Design Amano is giving another go at the English version of their famous magazine, Aqua Journal. It's now available as an online publication through CoverLeaf.  The first attempt at an English version ended in failure within a year's time. So, will this attempt also end in failure? Is it worth the money?

Online versus full-color glossy

Shortly after the turn of the century (I love saying that), ADA partnered with Vectrapoint, based in Singapore, to publish the English version of their Aqua Journal magazine. It was a copy of the Japanese version in beautiful full-color. Unfortunately, they only printed #33-38 before going out of business. They subscriptions did not come probably because they ran $120 for the annual.

The new version of the English Aqua Journal is online only and, I assume, published by ADA rather than through a partner.  You can see it online via the CoverLeaf viewer or you can download it to your computer as a pdf. The annual cost is $36 and an issue is $5. That's a huge discount from the initial print version.

Having owned the print version of the Aqua Journal, both the Japanese and English, I can tell you that a print magazine is better than an online magazine. It's easier to look through, carry around, etc. There's also something to be said about holding it in your hands that the online version can't give you. I know I sound a bit old school or traditionalist but I feel it's certainly a valid point.

However, the online version is visually just as well designed as the print version. The pictures are beautiful and high resolution. You can argue that it's easy to carry around because you can transfer it to your eReader, tablet or smartphone that can show pdf files.  Everything is there except for the physical feel of a print magazine. The kicker is that it's one-third the cost of the original print.

I also think the timing is right for an online only version.  The hobby has grown in the English-speaking world and it's now easier to get the message out to hobbyists by way of the forums or sites like this humble blog and podcast. 

People are also used to reading books and magazines on digital devices. Heck, I have all my magazine subscriptions through Zinio on my iPad.  I don't get print magazines any more.  Ten years ago, pre-Kindle, the only way to see an online publication was sitting in front of your computer. Now, you can read it anywhere and its what people are accustomed to doing.

Contents of the new Aqua Journal

The first issue of the new Aqua Journal is 50 pages long and has a featured article entitled, Nature Aquarium Therapy, that discussing the therapeutic effects of nature aquariums. I found the article interesting and beautifully illustrated with full-color pictures. It also contains the following:

  • Travels in Tasmania – Amano travels to Tasmania with his awesomely huge cameras and takes fantastic pictures of nature
  • Vida Cafe – A segment on Amano's way of life. This issue talks about Amano's encounter with the Pirarucu, the largest freshwater fish in the world
  • Nature Aquarium Notes – Making aquatic plant colors more attractive
  • Nature Aquarium Q&A – Amano answers common questions; kinda like a FAQ for the Nature Aquarium Concept and products

I found the English to be much better than what I'm used to from ADA. It looks like they've contracted with some editors that are fluent in English and can translate the meaning of what Amano writes rather than just doing a literal translation as was done in the past.  It's not perfect, but it's much better and definitely very readable.

Overall, I'm happy with the amount of content, how visually appealing it is and the information is top notch.  For $5, it's definitely worth it.


I started this post asking whether the new online Aqua Journal is a winner or is doomed to fail like its print predecessor.  The answer, in my opinion, is that ADA has a winner here IF they properly promote it. The price is right, the content is good, the online only is acceptable today because of digital devices. However, if ADA does what ADA tends to do and not promote it extensively, the magazine won't get the traction it needs to reach a critical mass of subscribers. My fear is that, if they don't reach a critical mass relatively quickly, ADA's motivation for consistently putting new issues out will be gone and the magazine will stop.

That, my friends, will be a bad thing for all of us that love this hobby and are trying to get it to grow in the English-speaking world.  I know times are tough, but if you have some disposable cash, I highly encourage you to subscribe to the new Aqua Journal. You won't be disappointed and you'll be helping to keep a new, valuable resource available to others and, hopefully, helping to grow the hobby.

All the best

Have you subscribed to the new Aqua Journal? What do you think about it? Let me know in the comments below!

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2 Comments on “Aqua Journal Online Review – winner or doomed to fail?”

  1. Juri

    Hi Art,
    the price is right, the content is right, but I do not fancy with coverleaf – I want it to be in iTunes book store. On the other hand I would pay extra to have a hard copy, reading printed stuff gives you an other feeling than from your i-device.

    1. Art

      Hi Juri,

      I don’t like the CoverLeaf interface very much also. What I did was download the pdf and then moved it into my iBooks so I can read it in my iPad. It works great.

      Perhaps if they get enough subscribers they will consider a print version. I just don’t think they can do it right from the beginning.


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