It’s been almost a year since I first started writing for Reef Builders, and I have to say it has been a blast. Since I never really introduced myself to the readers, I realize that many of you do not know who I am. My name is Joost (pronounced ‘yoast’) I am in high school and I moved to the states several years ago, from the Netherlands, so English is my second language. I started my first little 30 gallon reef tank when I moved to San Francisco after spending countless hours online reading about reef aquariums.
Surprisingly, I was actually able to grow the corals I strongly was recommended against keeping even though I have a limited budget. The system eventually crashed due to a faulty heater and after a bunch of different systems and empty tanks I setup my current 80 gallon azoox system. One of the reasons I started writing for Reef Builders was a certain post about making the hobby more inviting to young people and MACNA’s role in this. Soon thereafter I was enlisted to start writing for Reef Builders and at age sixteen I became the youngest member of their blogging team.
Getting back to the reason I started blogging here in the first place, the lack of kids at MACNA and other major events raises some interesting points and discussions. The reef aquarium hobby appears to be lacking new blood, and older reefers could do more to help more young people get into building reef aquariums. Even at a local shows like BAYMAC, I noticed that there weren’t a whole lot of kids, which was very surprising for a very active community like BAR (Bay Area Reefers). There is a quite a bit of very skillful younguns in the BAR community, and members are generally extremely generous giving advice, giving away coral and giving away equipment. If even a free local show like BAYMAC is not able to attract a lot of younger reefers, what the heck is going wrong?
Along with often being “looked down” upon, keeping reef aquarium is often characterized as something that takes a lot of time, is extremely hard to keep and is extremely expensive which certainly deters a lot of people, especially kids. Many parents are uncomfortable with having a fish tank in the house that might “stink” or might spill water on the floor, or be noisy, or might end up looking ugly. Beside that fish are not exactly “cool”; I hate to admit it, but I personally actually used to think fish were quite “lame”. The good thing is, it is all a matter of ignorance.
The myth that saltwater aquariums are extremely hard to keep and that they are extremely expensive, is just an old way of thinking. Aquariums can be designed as simple or as complicated as you want them to be. Take for example the reef tank we are in the process of setting up at my High School; when the aquarium was still sitting empty plenty of people had strong opinions about how fish are dumb creatures that just swim in circles all day. The same people, once we started adding coral and fish, were completely turned around, one of them is actually setting up their own reef tank.
If the lack of new blood- young ones and old ones alike- is mainly caused by ignorance, try educating people. I know it is great to say “yes” if someone asks if your awesome aquarium is truly as hard to keep as people say they are, but that just spreads the myth. Instead of selling that old system when you upgrade your tank for the third time, maybe consider donating it to a school, or a community center, or anywhere were it will be often seen and asked about. Maybe consider setting up an aquarium in a local school with your local reef aquarium community, allowing members that do not have an aquarium to give away to give their unused powerheads to a good cause. If you see that a kid which want to setup a reef aquarium, maybe consider giving them that fixture that has been collecting dust in your garage for the past three years. Or consider giving them a frag of that seemingly “worthless” xenia, GPS and paly’s instead of throwing it away. Although small things like this might seem unnecesary, it does make an impact in the long run.
MACNA 2011 this year will be free to students 17 and under, which I certainly think is great and should certainly attract more young people to the trade show. However, I am still a bit skeptical as of the major impact of making the trade show gratis. Travel cost can get very expensive and not many parents would be too happy with their child missing school. Quite simply, it is only the die hard youngun reef aquarist that will even consider flying in. Because of this I don’t think it is as important for future MACNA’s to focus on attracting more kids-note I said as, this is certainly a huge step in the right direction-, but rather it is important raise more awareness of the aging hobby and what we can do about it. Personally I’d love to see a talk about what we can do to make a difference. I’d love to see a presentation about efforts of aquarium to setup up aquariums at their local schools. I’d love to see anything that would inspire others to take actions. I’d love to see a short talk by a youngun as well. Lastly I’d love to see something like a complete reef aquarium raffle item, specifically for organizations that would inspire the next generation of reefers.
Beside that MACNA 2011 promises to be a blast, and as my first MACNA I’m quite excited, MACNA hopefully will also be one of the first major steps to getting more the next generation of reefers involved into the hobby. See you all in two days!