“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 from Journal Editor, Convention Chair, and Publicity, and did speaking engagements around North America. The diverse people I met, and the friendships I 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, 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-per-month meetings.

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 (e.g. BAP, Bowl Show, Library), simplified to require few and mostly ad-hoc volunteers. We have a small perpetual Board of Trustees that meets annually or only when needed. Gary Jones, Founder of the Bucks County Aquarium Society, provided wise advice: “If it’s not fun, don’t do it.”

We then incorporated SAWGG as a non-profit social club under Federal 5017c guidelines to discourage the undesirables and rabble-rousers that plague traditional clubs. This means our meetings are not open to the walk-in public, and attendance is limited to Members and invited guests. This status also prevents club contagion: a focus on making 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 and the format has proved popular. 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 and fill out our contact form.

%d bloggers like this: