Have you ever tried explaining the complexity of your reef aquarium system to a non-reefer?

Chances are you were met with a blank stare or caught your friend staring vacantly into space as you described how utterly fascinating it is to behold the circle of life from the comfort of your couch.

Perhaps you've proudly presented your $100 frags of Superman or Sunset Monti to an aquarium layman only to have them respond with what a beautiful “Nemo” you have.

You are not alone.

There are tens of thousands of us out there: men and women with common interests not understood by our peers. If you've tried enlightening and enlisting your current group of friends to no avail, what's next?

Find some new friends, of course!

Aquarium clubs are a great place to connect with a fun group of people who will really get you.

Before I dive into my Top 7 Reasons to Join an Aquarium Club, you might be wondering how in the heck to even find a club to join. It's easier than you think, Young Skywalker.

  • Club directories in aquarium magazines. Pick up a copy of Aquarium Fish International (AFI) or Freshwater & Marine Aquarium (FAMA) magazine at your local fish store (LFS) or bookstore and skip to the back of the mag. You'll find a handy dandy directory of some of the more popular aquarium clubs throughout the United States and around the world. The first club I joined I discovered in the back of an aquarium hobby magazine.
  • Marine Aquarium Societies of North America. MASNA is “a non-profit organization composed of marine aquarium clubs and individual hobbyists from North America and abroad, totaling several thousand individuals.” MASNA aquarium clubs are listed on their website with bios and hyperlinks to each individual club's website.
  • Your favorite search engine. Search for keywords that will retrieve the most relevant results for you. Try “your city” (or “county” or “state”) + “aquarium club” (or “society”) and take it from there (“Boston Aquarium Club,” for example).

And now, without further ado… the Top 7 Reasons to Join an Aquarium Club!

7. You'll meet new people who share your passion for aquaria and soon discover you have a lot more in common.

My local club participates in fantasy sports leagues and we recently had our first annual golf outing. From cars and paintball to radio controlled helicopters, you'll be amazed by how many interests you'll share with local club members. You may even find people who work in the same industry that you can network or share horror stories with.

6. You'll have your very own aquarium support group.

If you've read this deep into the article, chances are you're developing an aquarium addiction or are already a full-blown addict. As I said before, you are not alone: this hobby is highly habit-forming. One of the best things you can do is bond with a group of like-minded individuals who invest as much time, money and energy into their aquatic obsession as you. These are people who genuinely care about animals, using the right equipment and are willing to pass along their knowledge to help you become a better reefkeeper (or planted tank enthusiast!). Experienced members will have travelled the same roads and can offer tips on how to rid your tank of nuisance algae or pesky pest anemones, for example.

5. Like a good neighbor, your reef club is there.

When you need help lugging that new 220 gallon monster tank into your home or a tank-sitter while you're on vacation, aquarium club members are usually willing to lend a hand. Just be prepared to pony up a 6-pack of their favorite libation or promise them a future frag from your tank as payment. You should also seize these kinds of opportunities to ask your reef buds for advice while they're in your home: “How do you think I should run this plumbing?” or “Do you think this fixture will work for my setup?” Eventually you'll be called upon to help a member in need. Perhaps you'll be able to pass along all your newfound knowledge and score a 6-pack or a frag for your efforts.

4. Get discounts from your favorite online retailer and your local fish store for club purchases.

Many LFS offer livestock discounts to club members and you'll be happy to hear—if you didn't already know—that we offer discounts on aquarium supplies to clubs, too! If you're interested in learning more about aquarium club discounts at MarineDepot.com, contact us today and we'll get your club rocking and rolling.

3. Trade, swap or buy frags/aquarium supplies from people you trust.

Most aquarium clubs have yearly frag swaps where members can buy, sell and swap frags and equipment. Some clubs even have swaps at every club meeting. Frag swaps are perfect for picking up rare and/or expensive corals at great prices. You can also trade some of your fast-growing or not-so-desirable pieces for something new. The exchange of tank-raised animals lessens our impact on the world's reefs and encourages conservation through propagation(something most aquarium clubs advocate in their mission statements).

2. Attend or participate in local, regional and national aquarium conferences.

Many clubs organize yearly conferences that draw in speakers, product manufacturers, retailers, other clubs and hobbyists for a day or weekend full of aquarium-related activities. Mingle with aquarists, share ideas with product manufacturers, score exotic frags from coral farmers and listen to experts share their decades of experience and hobby know-how. There are a few large aquarium conferences each year, like Reef-A-Palooza (October 24-25, 2009), the Marine Aquarium Expo (April 10-11, 2010) and the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (September 3-5, 2010). Aquarium conferences also have raffles and giveaways with prizes provided by the event's sponsors so you may end up coming home with some unexpected goodies or a whole new aquarium system.

And the #1 reason to join an aquarium club:

1. You can meet aquarium experts at a local club meeting.

Hollywood has their stars. Sports teams and the music biz each have stars of their own. And we've got ours, too: Anthony Calfo, Eric Borneman, Dr. Ron Shimek, Julian Sprung and Charles Delbeek, to name a few. We've read their books, follow their forum postings and may have even caught their presentations at an aquarium conference. But nothing beats having a little face time with the pros. Some of the stars of our industry are members of aquarium clubs, too, so perhaps you've got a star in your local chapter. Many clubs invite experts to speak at yearly frag swaps. The difference between meeting an actress or professional athlete and an aquarium expert is that the stars of the aquarium hobby will happily shake your hand, answer your questions and will never balk when you ask them to sign your copy of their book.

If you are not currently a member of an aquarium club, I hope I have inspired you to begin exploring whether membership may be right for you. Being a member of an aquarium club adds so much more to a hobby that is already very rewarding and you may even make some lifelong friends in the process.

If you do not have a club in your area, you may consider founding one yourself. If you need assistance locating a club in your area or want advice on how to start one up, drop me a line and I'd be happy to help out in any way I can.

If you're already a member of an aquarium club, please leave us a comment below and share which club you're with and what kind of activities your group does in case I've forgotten anything here in my Top 7.

Until next time, happy reefing!