By Ted Judy
I am often asked what I like best about the aquarium hobby. I suspect that the expected answer is “dwarf cichlids” or “all the cool tetras.” What I enjoy most about the aquarium hobby, however, is the personal connections I have with other hobbyists. Almost all of my aqua-friendships began at an aquarium club meeting, workshop or convention.
Let me get out my soapbox… If you really like the aquarium hobby and want it to stick around forever, you should join your local aquarium society and participate in its events. If you do not have a local club (I drive 90 miles to participate in one of my local clubs), start one. If you do not want to start a local club, join a national club. Why are clubs so important? They are the ONLY organizations in our hobby that are owned and operated by and for hobbyists. When you join a club, get selfish about it. Work for it. Support it. Help it grow. Make it your club. Take pride in it. Because, if you do, the club will pay you back with interest. To steal a famous thought: I stand on the shoulders of giants… and those giants are all club members generous enough to give me their knowledge for free.
Around my house we joke that my version of “going clubbing” is taking off for a weekend at a club event either locally or somewhere around the country. I also joke that the aquarium hobby keeps me off the golf course and out of the bars (but my favorite après-club activity involves microbreweries). I have been fortunate that for some reason people like to hear me talk, and the advancement of digital photography has enabled me to be able to support verbosity with decent imagery. The result is that I get to go to a lot of club meetings and have had access to a lot of fish that I would not have access to outside of clubs.
So here are some of the species I have been able to work with in this contest that I owe to club connections. Some were purchased directly from hobbyists, others in auctions, a few were gifts (thank you very much) and some are loans from friends in my local clubs (Poseidon protect them from my aquaritorial mistakes).
Nanochromis teugelsi: this west African dwarf cichlid is uncommon in the hobby. Wild fish appeared in 2008 on the lists of importers who specialize in west Africa, but they disappeared from those lists after only a few months and we have not seen them since. I had a few pairs when they first became available, but I was not able to spawn them. A friend in the Milwaukee Aquarium Society loaned me his wild pair for the contest.
Melanotaenia sexlineata: this small rainbow from New Guinea is not one that you will probably ever see in a store. I am not sure why, because it is as easy to breed as any of the other farm-raised rainbows, beautiful, and stays small. M. sexlineata is a perfect community tank fish. My fish came from notable rainbow authority Gary Lange when he visited the Milwaukee Aquarium Society to do a talk and donated a bag of these beauties to the club to auction. No club, no Gary coming to speak, no rainbows to buy…
Chromidotilapia melaniae: The American Cichlid Association 2004 convention was hosted by the Rocky Mountain Cichlid Association in Denver. Dr. Anton Lamboj was one of the speakers. I went to the convention with a few west African cichlids to sell. At this point in my hobby I was not writing or speaking about fish at all. Dr. Lamboj bought some of my fish and we became friends. We started emailing each other about cichlids (and other fish), and did not see each other again until four years later at another club event, the Ohio Cichlid Association’s Cichlid Extravaganza (held each year in November). Anton invited me to visit him in Austria and then travel to Cameroon in 2009, which I did, and he also helped me obtain C. melaniae while in Austria. None of this would have happened without the American Cichlid Association.
All the killifish I have (and have had) in my fish room: Try to find any killifish other than golden wonder killies at your local store. There are a few that sell them, but those stores usually get them from a local breeder. The Wisconsin Area Killifish Organization (yes… WAKO) is one of the most active killifish clubs in the country, and almost all of my killies have come from one WAKO member or another… mostly as gifts or in trade for other fish.
Pelvicachromis sp. aff. subocellatus: Is an Internet forum a club? In many ways they are. I run a forum at www.apistogramma.com, which is dedicated to the hobby of dwarf cichlids. P. sp. aff. subocellatus is a rare cichlid from Nigeria that used to be common in the hobby. Wild fish only arrive as contaminants in shipments of P. pulcher. 25 years ago this was a common occurrence, but P. pulcher is not exported and frequently anymore, and when they are there are fewer P. sp. aff. subocellatus mixed in. I have had the species for a few years, but they are line bred from wild fish that arrived in the hobby many years ago. Over the years the strain has become weaker. A few months ago a contact on the apistogramma.com forum found two fish in a tank of wild kribs at a store near him. He recognized them immediately and knew that I would want them. He purchased them and mailed them to me to work into my tank-bred line.
My latest additions to the fish room came from a trip last weekend to the Columbus Area Fish Enthusiasts convention. Some of the species were bought from breeders, others in auctions and some were gifts from friends. I came home with 10 species, including a rare cichlid Aulonocara aquilonium, barbs (Puntius erythromycter, P. bimaculatus), a new danio Danio tinwini, some young catfish (Scleromystax barbatus), a blue-eye rainbow species Pseudomugil ivantsoffi, some killifish (Aplocheilus panchax, Aphyosemion marmoratum ‘Mundemba’), a very cool yellow form of the new red emperor tetra Inpaichthys sp. and a dwarf puffer Carinotetraodon travancoricus. Had I not gone to the club event I may not have found these fish.
If you are not involved with a club, give one a try. A local aquarium society will always provide a lot of value to its members. National societies are important to the hobby also and need our support. Many national organizations maintain lists of local chapters or clubs that have members interested in the national club’s focus. Here are a few clubs and resources that may help you find a local aquarium club:
The Meeting Place page in Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine… Thank you TFH for supporting local clubs with this free service.
Google.com – Most clubs has websites now. A search for your city’s name and “aquarium club” may find it.
Federation of American Aquarium Societies (FAAS) – www.faas.info
American Cichlid Association (ACA) – www.cichlid.org
American Livebearer Association (ALA) – www.livebearers.org
American Killifish Association (AKA) – www.aka.org
Aquatic Gardeners Association (AGA) – www.aquatic-gardeners.org
International Betta Congress (IBC) – www.ibcbettas.org
Midwest Cichlid Association (MCA) – www.midwestcichlid.com