Joining an aquarium club offers opportunities that few even realize. First there are dozens of organizations all around the country and the world. Some clubs have a wide focus and discuss both freshwater and marine fish while many will chose one or the other. Still others are species specific for those who are crazy for one sort of fish… say Betta splendens for example. Whatever you’re into, aquarium clubs are a great resource for anyone interested in the hobby. What a lot of people don’t know is that what happens at those club meetings is a lot more then a bunch of people sitting around sharing aquarium geek-speak. Frequency of meetings vary but monthly is pretty common and often clubs are able to bring speakers in from all over to discuss a topic for that month. Photos are frequently shared and questions and discussions occur creating an invaluable learning opportunity.
There is even more though then lectures and discussions. Auctions are very popular at club meetings. At these auctions, regular members bring in old (or sometimes new) equipment, live fish, tons of live plants, books, magazines and almost anything you can think of that is fish related. It’s not uncommon to go home with armfuls of amazing things at a tiny fraction of the price you would pay at retail. Even better, you can often find species that are virtually impossible to find at local fish stores.
Bowl shows are another popular addition to regular aquarium club meetings. Depending on the type of club you join, showing opportunities vary. At species specific clubs there may be dozens of categories in which to enter your fish. Most even have categories for novices. For more competitive aquarists there is plenty of opportunity to show your stuff among other big-time breeders. General aquarium clubs tend to take a more laid back approach, choosing a category for each meeting. Sometimes there is a call for a specific species of fish to be shown and other times the categories are more fun. (I.e. Red fish only, ugliest fish, aggressive species, etc) Since voting requirements rarely go beyond “pick your favorite” everyone has the opportunity to win.
Here’s a few misconceptions about Aquarium Clubs.
1. Everyone’s an expert. Not true. Most aquarium clubs are comprised of all levels of experience from the newbie fish keeper to the old guys who have keeping fish their entire lives. The mix is what keeps it interesting. There are two things for certain. 1. No one person is an expert on every species and 2. Everyone there has a love for aquaria. Whether you are on your first tank or have been breeding for 30 years you will surely find others to teach and to learn from.
2. Clubs take up too much time. You get out what you put in. Few if any clubs require attendance. You go when you feel like it and you only become as involved as you want to be. If you’re the shy type, you can listen to lectures and participate only to the capacity you feel comfortable. If you want to be more involved start by volunteering to bring snacks, donate to the auction or run for an official position.
3. I can’t afford the membership. Membership costs vary by club, but very few are expensive. You can almost always attend a meeting or two for free to decide if you want to join. Dues typically very from $10 to $30 per year. Some clubs are free.
4. There isn’t a club in my area. Well, I’m not familiar with your area so this may be true. Still, don’t discount it. In the U.S. there are probably hundreds of clubs. There are several dozen larger clubs listed too. Visit the back of Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine for a listing of the most popular or visit this link to a partial listing of clubs by state.
So you want to join a Betta splendens specific club? Well it just so happens that there is a terrific one. The International Betta Congress or IBC is a Betta club dedicated to the hobby of Betta keeping and breeding the species. There are chapters all over the world and it offers something for everyone. It also happens that you’re reading this just in time to book a spot a the IBC’s annual convention in Indianapolis for June 21st – 24th, 2007. You can show the bettas you have bred or if you are just learning about Bettas you can go to all the great learning workshops. Maybe you’ll even see me there frantically taking notes and smoozing with other aquarists. Hmm… that reminds me I have to go book my ticket.
So that’s the low-down on aquarium clubs. They’re a lot of fun and a great resource. If you are already a member of a club say hi in our comments sections and let us know what club you’re a member of. Got ideas for great club activities?… let’s hear ‘em.