Question: How many aquatic-life enthusiasts—afishionados, if you will—call landlocked metro Denver home? Answer: Heaps. But no one really knew until the Colorado Aquarium Society came calling.
Local aquarists looking to share their love of rare saltwater fish with other collectors and hobbyists had found the comrade search all but difficult in an area with no reputable bodies of water. Enter the CAS, born in 1947 when a handful of Denver’s aquatic devotees started gathering privately in homes to discuss ornamental fish, breeding tactics, saltwater plants and home aquarium designs.
Word spread of the society’s meetings and, by 1951, the founding members were far from alone. Fish enthusiasts flooded in from across the state to attend CAS gatherings and annual fish shows until the group outgrew members’ homes and relocated to its first public venue: the Bird Room in what is now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. By 1965, membership exceeded 200 locals, and one of the ideas that would secure the group’s historical significance floated to the surface for a second time: Denver should have a public aquarium.
That’s where some of the most involved members come in. The group watched, waited and, as the occasion arose, fought for an institution that, for this club, would make the metro area complete. In 1999, Colorado’s Ocean Journey (now the Downtown Aquarium) finally opened its doors.
Today, CAS meetings are held monthly at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, where speakers focus on sharing their experiences with ornamental fish collecting and educating newbies about ornamental fish and how to care for marine habitats at home. CAS hosts yearly spring and fall auctions as well.
Hobbyists with home aquariums can also win awards and “auction bucks” in fish and plant growth contests, as well as awards for successfully breeding rare ornamental fish. Once all competitions have concluded at the end of the year, the member with the highest points earned from all competitions combined is crowned Aquarist of the Year.
Anyone, including kids, of any experience level can become a member for free.
“We’ve really tried to make the Colorado Aquarium Society inclusive for everyone, especially children and families,” says Tory Brown, CAS treasurer and former president. “We even have separate fish auctions for kids so they aren’t intimidated by the more senior aquarium hobbyists or fish store owners who come to our auctions—it’s all about sparking an interest in kids so they can form a lifelong hobby alongside others in the community. No matter how old you are, where you come from or how much you know about marine life, if you love fish and want to learn more about them, this is the place to be.”