Over the past few years I have watched the slow decay of our hobby, the ending of regional shows and the loss of membership in the AKA as well as the overall tropical fish hobby. It saddens me greatly.
I don’t believe there is any one reason for this, but without a doubt our aging membership as well as the passing of some of the great hobbyists is a part of the problem. That, along with the new generation of younger people focusing on different aspects of entertainment (computers in paricular), our hobby has been hurt considerably. This is not specific to the tropical fish hobby, but instead affects nearly all forms of collecting and building interests have seen the same slide in membership.
Is there a cure for this?
I do not believe we can stop the current loss of interest in hobbies that actually require a combination of self-education and physical effort, not when there are alternatives as simple and silly as Pokemon Go which is literally the most popular activity out there today. Who knows what is next for young people to invest their time in.
What can we do?
I think the only way any of these hobbies can continue to exist is through education of very young children. We need to find a way to access their minds while they are still young enough to be fascinated with tropical fish. In the past a few of our members have been teachers who set up biology programs in their rooms as a tool to teach children about various topics. It is my opinion we need to find ways to become “educators” — to find places where we can talk about out hobby that are not inside clubs, but instead to approach the outside world. We may also want to contact local newspapers and see if they are willing to do an article on our ‘fishrooms’ or hobby. Clubs need to make appearances at local and/or regional events, fairs or commercial shows. Get a booth, set it up and simply promote to whoever might be interested.
Having a monthly meeting is no longer enough, but instead we need to take what we do to the public. The AKA needs to find someone seriously committed to advertising, but not in the traditional ways (fish magazines and maybe a classified ad in a newspaper), but instead proactively get out there and find people.
Is this the answer? I don’t know, but I do know if we do not make an attempt, 10 years from now there will be no A.K.A., very few clubs and the hobby will essentially be dead.