“In building a society it should always be remembered that a congenial membership is more important than numerical strength.”  – William T. Innes (1935)

By April 2019, I had been involved with the aquarium hobby for over 35 years. Through college, grad school, marriage, career, and parenting, I kept my feet wet with various fishrooms, ponds, and clubs. I wrote a couple books and magazine columns, held various aquarium society positions, chaired a national convention, and did speaking engagements around North America. The diverse people I met, and friendships made around the globe, have been the best part of my hobby journey.

There was one thing left in my “water change bucket list” however: a club for hobbyists right here in my ruburban New Jersey Skylands. That April I learned of the passing of three local hobby friends – two within days of each other from rare diseases. Those tragedies pushed me to stop waiting for “when I have the time” and create SAWGG.

A New Kind of Fish Club

Over the years I noted the clubs I admired most, and the ones that held the most loyal following, prioritized 4 things:

  1. fun over finances
  2. social time over speakers
  3. simplicity over complexity
  4. adhocracy over bureaucracy

I also wanted SAWGG to provide an antidote to our increasingly isolated and anonymous culture by creating a sense of belonging and connection for local hobbyists. Thus our name, Skylands Aquarium & Water Garden Group and our twice a month schedule. This is unique among the nation’s Aquarium societies.

To achieve this, SAWGG is modeled after the small group format churches use, and the simpler, laid-back killifish and plant clubs. We then bolted on the best parts of traditional aquarium societies (BAP, Bowl Show, Library), and simplified processes to require fewer and ad-hoc volunteers. SAWGG has a small perpetual Board of Trustees that meets annually or only when needed. To quote BCAS Founder Gary Jones: “If it’s not fun, we don’t do it.”

We incorporated as a non-profit social club under Federal 5017c guidelines to discourage undesirables and rabble-rousers that often plague traditional walk-in clubs (and their Boards). This means our meetings are not open to the general public, and attendance is limited to Members and invited guests. Social club status also prevents a common club contagion: a focus on money. SAWGG must be funded primarily through dues, donations, and assessments (removing the burden of tiring auction fundraisers and nagging 50-50 raffles). Auction assessments and dues are kept as low as possible to meet expenses. We are poor by design.

SAWGG’s first meeting was Friday, September 6, 2019 to a welcome audience. New friends are made quickly at SAWGG and we keep it “simple, fun and friendly” per our charter’s governing principle.

If the keeping, cultivation, or conservation of aquatic life interests you, and you want to meet other hobbyists in a safe, friendly environment to share ideas, hear a Speaker, and acquire new species, click here to read more and fill out our contact form.

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