far the most important part of any fish setup are the books you
keep that provide the basic information you need.
Unfortunately, the texts available from local fish stores can
vary widely in quality- there are books widely sold that tell
you very little, and some that will even
give incorrect information. And then there are those that
everyone turns to, for
they are known for
their accurate and concise information. Characteristics you must
look for, and a list of the favorite
books in my library, with a short overview for each is included
What you are looking for are
those books that properly identify the fish contained inside,
which is not always the case.
also want a reference that covers more than the "bread and
butter fish" sold at most pet shops. For example,
with livebearers you want a text that covers what is available
to you beyond your "basic" pet store fare (Guppies,
Mollies, Swordtails and Platies- most of which are actually
hybrids, and not true species, crossed to develop certain
colors or appearances). Many books will devote a lot of pages to
colorful strains that have appeared in the trade at
some point, glossy pictures of strains that often can no longer
be found. They then neglect to tell you that the original
swordtail these fish are derived came from streams with water
movement and plants, and should be kept in at least
a 20 gallon tank. You need that last bit of information if you
hope to properly keep and breed those fish.
There are many texts available that can be found
at fish conventions, which can be a great place to buy
used books. The American Livebearer Association holds
conventions every year, as does the American Killifish
Association, International Betta Congress and the
Cichlid Association. They are affordable and you can
usually purchase fish, fish you may never see anywhere else,
often very cheaply.
The internet has become a basic source of information for many,
and generally collect information from at least 3
sources before coming to any conclusions. Often, sites may
differ dramatically in the information they present. Most
books offer far more evolved information that has been proven
over time. Whenever possible, turn to a book
first to get the initial proper guidelines, then turn to the
internet for perspectives from others that may currently keep
This literature is heavy with livebearer texts, but many of the
standard books that help with most types of fish available
are mentioned. Occasionally there will be conflicting opinions
even between established texts, and you determine the
best care given your setup. After each selection listed below is
my opinion, and all of the reviews are strictly mine,
unless mentioned otherwise.
Unfortunately, though many are still widely available and still
in print, you may only find a few of the books mentioned
below at most local fish stores. You may need to order them from
an aquarium literature vendor off of the internet, or
Amazon.com, who may have many of these titles. The prices stated
are the most current I am aware of, and be
cautious of stores that charge far more than what the book
actually costs. There are a number of people that sell
used aquarium texts.
This page will
not recommend a single all around book that covers husbandry as
well all species, in part because of
impossibility of that task. There are books that claim to meet
that need whose basic husbandry,
disease information is
adequate for the beginning to moderately experienced aquarist.
The Handbook of Tropical
Aquarium Fishes (Axelrod/ Schultz, TFH
1955-1990, 718 pages) and Aquarium Fishes of the World
Burgess TFH, No Date, 1019
pages) both have fairly complete sections on husbandry, but the
depth of information
is less than
preferred, given their size and cost. But to their credit, they
are probably for today's young fishkeepers
what the Encyclopedia of Tropical Fishes was
for today's fishkeepers in their 50's. These books below those
consulted regularly for their
completeness of information, accuracy, and format so that you
can quickly find what
you are looking
What I use most today:
Atlas of Livebearers of the World- Lothar
Wischnath, TFH Publications. 1993, 336 pages
This is a large, colorful and informative book whose information
is always dependable. It does a great job of
covering most of the livebearer species that even the most
esoteric specialist will run across. Unfortunately, it has
been out of print for awhile and though originally offered for
$26, it has been offered for as much as $300.
It can be found on the internet from individuals that sell
aquarium literature, for as little as $50. You may have to wait
for it, but it is recognized as such a
fundamental text that it should always continue to cycle around.
It's only flaw
today is that it can be
outdated in some areas- claiming certain fish have never
been kept in captivity, or bred, that
now routinely kept and bred. But that doesn't happen often.
Aquarium Atlas- Baensch, Photo Index 1-5,
Mergus publishing, 1997, 1196 pages.
is a great book for basic identification and water parameters.
You can own the full set, but much of what you will
need is in the photo index. Unfortunately, as incredibly
complete as the Baensch atlases are (each volume is nearly as
big as the photo atlas) the specific
species information is occasionally questionable, in my opinion,
parameters etc. seem dependable. Though this should not be your
sole text- be sure to
with other solid books on basic maintenance, diseases and plants
(as well as other books in the
series if you want more information).
and Swordtails- Derek and Pat Lambert, Blandford
Publications, 1995, 124 pages
This is a
smaller concise book that also addresses the species often left
out of the stock commercial literature, as
well as covering the livebearers commonly found in the hobby. It
was written by a highly respected aquarist and close
friend of the aquarium hobby from England that had passed away a
few years back. This book is a great
complement to the larger more expensive literature available.
John Dawes, Blandford Publications, 1991, 240 pages
This is another great but less expensive book occasionally found
at local pet stores. A broad reference book that is
fairly complete and accurate in its coverage of the less often
seen livebearers, as well as the common varieties.
The Proper Care of
Guppies- Stan Shubel, TFH Publications, 1995, 256 pages
This has been said to be the definitive Guppy book. It is still
reasonably up to date (no old stock guppy photos that
seemed to be in every book through the 60's and 70's), and is a
solid primer for dealing with the needs and preferences
of the modern large delta tailed guppies so common in the U.S.
This book is around $25.
Must Haves if You Can Afford
Fishes of Mexico- Robert Rush Miller, University of
Chicago Press, 2005, 490 pages
this is a book for the more advanced hobbyists, but no book is
as complete and thorough as this
for addressing all of the freshwater fish of Mexico. This book
is excellent for explaining the Goodeids
particularly with respect to describing their natural habitat
and proper identification. This book
more expensive, at about $75.
Aqualog/ All livebearers and Halfbeaks-
Michael Kempkes/ Frank Schafer, Verlag A.C.S. GmbH Publishing
(Germany), 1998, 352 pages. This is the
definitive photo atlas of Livebearers. Besides identification,
basic water parameter and
husbandry information. About $75.
American Aquarium Fishes- Robert J. Goldstein,
Texas A&M University Press, 2000, 428 pages
This book covers all native U.S. fishes that can be kept in an
aquarium in a comprehensive, readable manner with
many color and B&W photos. A great book
with much information that cannot be found in other texts within
aquarium trade. About $50.
Oldies But Goodies:
Encyclopedia of Tropical Fishes- Axelrod and
Vorderwinkler, TFH Publications, 1962, 763 pages
Many grew up on this book, and it and the Innes book were the
staples of fish literature for many years. Outdated
in many respects, it is still valuable, particularly with
respect to where information on particular species has drifted
the years. The book approached
breeding as something everyone could do, and addressed many
breeding in mind- a stance
that defines fishkeeping today. They can be found very cheaply
at used booksellers.
Exotic Aquarium Fishes- Dr. William T. Innes, TFH
Publications, 1966, 463 pages
This is the
book most long term fishkeepers cite as their first influence,
and it had a broad effect on the hobby from
its first editions in the 1930s. Lauded for its inclusiveness
and accuracy for its time, this is probably the most highly
respected piece of fish hobbyist literature there has ever been.
Old editions are still often traded and sold.
Generally it can be found used for $10-20. However, for a
nurturing and easier to grasp format and layout some have
preferred the Encyclopedia.
Live Foods- Michael R. Hellweg, TFH Publications, 2008,
This is a much needed recent
publication found to be a good introduction to the
production of live foods.
More solutions to problems that comes from having kept
many of these foods (see Red Worms,
Shrimp or Daphnia at this
site), would have been appreciated, but as an overview I refer
to this text often to
myself on live foods that best fit what I am looking to
How to Keep and Breed Tropical
Fish- C.W. Emmens, TFH Publications, 1974, 250 pages
This is a good "plug in the holes"
book, that gives you information in greater depth than
found in the broader overview books mentioned earlier.This is an
older publication, but can still be found through
used aquarium booksellers. About $10.
Swordtails and Platies- Axelrod and Wischnath,
TFH Publications, 1991
This is a "coffee
table" book with lots of pictures of domestically developed
strains, many that no longer exist.
Recently, a fellow fishkeeper, through the publisher was able to
locate one of the original photographers in an
attempt to locate the all blue mirror platies on pg. 178. They,
like many of teh fish in this text, are no longer in
existence. This book is also plagued with the advertising/ stock
equipment/ plant section inserted into many
TFH books (pgs. 81-100). However, for pics of a variety of wild
swords, especially the helleri, and pics of a
wide variety of domestic lines that still or once existed in the
hobby, it does a good job. About $30.
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