The idea of a local planted tank club started on an international planted tank forum by people located in and around Southern California as a discussion about trading aquatic plants locally. As the discussion thread progressed and people located in and around Los Angeles and Orange Counties started trading plants, it was mentioned that some locals ought to create their own club. The ideas and suggestions started flowing with what a local club should look like.
There were a few enthusiasts that had the time, resources and knowledge to create an online forum and come up with a club name. It was discussed that the club should serve those in the ornamental fish hobby whose focus is on planted tanks and reside in the Southern California area.
This is how the Club Name Southern California Aquatic Plant Enthusiasts was created. This name turned out to be quite synonymous with the art aspect of creating a Scape, which is short for Aquascaping.
The club did not fair too well in the beginning and its leaders became disinterested. It then changed hands in February 2008 and the membership dues were dropped. This is when the new SCAPE started to flourish with activity and the membership sky rocketed. There are currently 321 active members from all over California with monthly meeting averaging 70 people in attendance.
The membership geographical locale covers areas as far North as San Jose and as far South as El Cajon and Tijuana Mexico all points West with some members attending meetings as far East as Phoenix, Arizona.
Members gather every third Sunday of the month where there is some sort of educational presentation or demonstration followed by a live auction where members can get a multitude of rare and exotic plants including fauna and inverts at bargain basement prices. The clubs success is primarily based on its Vision and statement of purpose. SCAPE is a local, non profit group formed of the most dedicated Aquatic Plant Enthusiasts in Southern California who, together, form a movement to promote awareness and knowledge of the science, art, and beauty of planted tanks among both hobbyists and retailers.
If hobbyists support their communities through education and the local retailers, the community and retailers will support the club!
Promoting the Hobby
SCAPE is always looking for ways to promote awareness and education about the hobby. In April 2007 a display booth was procured during the Americas Family Pet Expo at the Costa Mesa Fairgrounds. It turned out to prove quite successful by introducing ourselves into an environment where people love and care about their pets including fish. It was there where SCAPE was visible to thousands of people in a single weekend.
One of which was the assistant coordinator at Centennial Farms which is located at the Costa Mesa Fairgrounds. He felt the Clubs educational purposes aligned with theirs and invited the Club to display planted tanks in their floral building.
It was a good match! The public paraded through the floral building in amazement as they gazed at the planted tanks. Many did not realize they could bring the same beauty and techniques from their flower gardens into their fish tanks.
It is best to plan the tank months in advance so that the tank has a chance to mature and all the plants settle in nicely. Tanks 10 gallons or less are much easier to transport and set back up. The process entails draining the tank as much as possible to eliminate sloshing during transport. Water sloshing back and forth will ruin many hours of plant placement and rooting.
Remove as much equipment as possible and cover with plastic wrap to trap moisture and air. Ambient temperatures need to stay consistent with no direct sunlight while in a car. Setting them back up is pretty tedious and takes delicate care.
Focus of the Exhibits
The exhibits focused on style and ease of setting up and maintaining a planted tank. We tried to cover the basic tanks set ups with as little tanks possible. We had a 10 gallon high tech Malaya Biotope, a half gallon all natural Dutch style aquarium, a 5 gallon medium tech Iwagumi , a Wabi-kusa and a one gallon low tech Betta paradise. Below each tank was a descriptions of each tank on display discussing the type of aquascape, flora and fauna names/scientific names, maintenance, lighting, etc.
Visitors were very impressed by the planted aquariums beauty. Some had no idea there was such a thing as tropical aquatic plants. Others were interested in the design aspect, while more were interested in the science aspect. As their education about the symbiotic relationships between the flora and fauna increased, the more they wanted to transform their own fish tanks into planted aquariums.
For those first timers who just loved the tanks usually asked, how much would it cost to set up these types of aquarium? People with previous aquarium experience asked about where to buy such beautiful plant specimens and the equipment that was used. Are they easy to take care of? How often do you do water changes?
The ones with more technical and detailed questions asked to join our online forum where we gave them SCAPE cards with our online information.
For most SCAPE members, it was an amazing experience to talk about something they really love to do. Sharing information with people who are complete strangers enlists them to want to get involved because they see and can even feel your passion.
Future of SCAPE and the Hobby
Events such as this one allow us to promote the hobby and get more people involved in planted aquariums and aquascaping.
I would say Southern California is already trying to catch up with the front lines of the hobby with the likes of Japan, Germany, Taiwan, China and the rest of the world. The geographic location of California being nearer to Asia is an advantage for us hobbyists specifically with the influx of new and existing species and technologies to our existing market.
We continue to pursue excellence in aquascaping designs, plant cultivation and breeding by being more active in our monthly meetings. We try to hold more How To seminars especially to new recruits. We seek the help of sponsors by reaching out to big and small entrepreneurs in our areas who are directly or indirectly related to the hobby.
SCAPE has been invited back to display exhibits and educate fair goers in 2011. Other planned events have not been inked yet, but we look forward to connecting with the San Diego community in some capacity in 2011.
SCAPE has roving meetings every third Sunday of Month. Club membership is free and all information about SCAPE and upcoming meetings/activities and events can be found on the SCAPE forum (www.socalaquascapers.com).